Biryani is perhaps the king of all Indian dishes. Done in a traditional manner on the stove top, it is a true labour of love (much like making a lasagne from scratch is) and is certainly a befitting recipe for high days and holidays.
A layered dish of rice, meat, vegetables and even paneer, it is a one pot meal which is often the star dish at weddings, served with a few flourishes and garnishes to show it off even more.
Along with pressure cooker cheesecake, biryani was one of those dishes I longed to perfect when I got my Instant Pot and I think I’ve achieved that now! My Instant Pot Chicken Biryani mightn’t be the fastest nor the least hands on of all the IP recipes there are but I promise, the flavour more than makes up for devoting a little more effort to making it!
The thing with biryani which I really love, is that each and every recipe is unique. Do a quick Google for it and you’ll be overwhelmed with choices and techniques. Each region of India has it’s own preferences for how to do it and I’m sure each family also has their own ideas of how perfect looks like.
I know many a food lover who would kill to have been born into an Italian family to learn the wonders of their magnificent home cooking – for me, I so wish I’d had an Indian mama, even if she’d whacked me over the head with her roti rolling pin for adding too much cumin or not even salt!
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My biryani uses tender pieces of marinaded chicken thighs which you need to cook almost fully before layering up with the rice, herbs and spices. I like to add a few cashew nuts for texture and I adore that thin layer of ever-so-crisp rice you get on the bottom of a perfect biryani. I use a few basic spices in the marinade but I’ve recently discovered a new homemade spice blend called “biryani masala” that I absolutely adore.
You can buy mixes in the Indian/international sections (not the mainstay spice sections) of most UK supermarkets but you know I love making my own whenever I can. The recipe I use is from an Indian coking Facebook group I’m part of and just look at how interesting and aromatic it is! I love the use of caraway and star anise which aren’t flavours I’ve seen a lot in Indian food. But oh my, how well they work!
It takes perhaps 20-30 minutes to get this dish prepped up and ready for the 5 minutes of pressure cooking it receives but if you were making it on the stove, you’d be kissing good by to perhaps a couple of hours (and every pan in your kitchen would be dirtied!).
You’re rewarded with an aromatic, richly spiced chicken and rice cooked to perfection that would be an amazing treat to whip up if you’ve got friends coming over! It’s a little bit rich but this is a feast day dish, not one for fast days.
I’ve eaten many a biryani topped with hard boiled eggs, a thin omelette, mint raita (yogurt with mint and salt stirred in) or as is often the case in the Balti houses of England, a bowl of curry sauce, catering to us Brits and our apparent legendary refusal to eat things without “gravy” lol.
If you want a great curry sauce, I’d recommend making a batch of Shari’s curry base. It will need seasoning with salt, lots of fresh coriander and perhaps a squirt of lemon juice but it’s base flavours work superbly well with this biryani. I always keep some in my freezer in 1 cup portions! Don’t forget a few roti, a garlic and coriander naan and of course, a jar of mango chutney to go alongside your Instant Pot Chicken Biryani!
Biryani is a labour of love (think homemade lasagne) but it's so worth it. Not the fastest or the least hands on Instant Pot recipe but it's very, very good and a *lot* faster than making on the stove!
Serves two for a filling meal or 4 as part of an Indian feast.
- 300 g chicken thigh fillets, chopped in 1.5 inch pieces (3-4 small ones)
- 60 g Greek yogurt (full fat is best)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp dried methi leaves
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cashews (blanched not salted)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 rounded tsp biryani masala (recipe in post to make your own)
- 2/3 cup white basmati rice
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 1 tsp dried mint
- A few small pinches of saffron
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Start by mixing all the marinade ingredients together. Cover and chill for an hour in the fridge. If preferred, you can do this overnight but leave the lemon juice out until you are ready to cook and just mix it in at that stage instead.
Put the Instant Pot onto Sauté and lightly toast your cashew nuts for a minute or two until they are lightly browned in places. Remove and reserve for now.
Add in the butter and oil and when melted, add the onions and bay leaf. Cook, stirring regularly until the onions are well browned. This is an important step and it does take some time.
Add in the ginger and garlic then cook until fragrant. Scrape in the chicken and all of it's marinade, and cook until almost fully cooked. You'll need to stir this regularly and again, takes a bit of time but it's worth it!
Sprinkle over the biryani masala and mix well. Cancel the Sauté mode.
Take out half of the chicken and spread what's left in the pot evenly. Sprinkle over half the rice. Add back the remaining chicken. Sprinkle over the rest of the rice.
Sprinkle over the coriander, mint, a few little pinches of saffron and the toasted cashews. Mix the sea salt into 1/2 cup (125mls) of water and pour gently over the biryani, trying not to disturb the layers.
Put the lid on, set to Manual High for 5 minutes and do a QPR. Scoop into a serving dish, including any little bits of crunchy rice on the bottom - that's one of the best bits of a proper biryani!
- It's really important to brown the onions well - this maximises the flavour of the finished dish, given that you are diluting the flavour by adding the rice and water and cooking everything as one dish. Deep fried, sticky and brown onions are a frequent (and delicious) addition to many a biryani!
- It's also really important to ensure that the chicken pieces are almost fully cooked before adding the rice and water as with such a short pressure cooking time, there isn't enough time to cook chicken which has only just been "sealed. If you have a thermometer, you can check your chicken has reached at least 70˚C before serving.
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