Instant Pot Chicken Biryani is a one-pot Indian chicken and rice dish, in which marinated chicken is steam-cooked with aromatic basmati rice and flavored with herbs, saffron & ground cardamom.
In this simplified and easy Instant Pot Chicken Biryani recipe, I create authentic biryani flavors using my electrical pressure cooker, the Instant Pot. And it’s all done in under an hour, from start to finish!
What is Biryani
Traditionally, Chicken Biryani is slow-cooked by steam-cooking basmati rice, with chicken that has been marinated in yogurt and fragrant Indian spices like garam masala.
The process of cooking the meat and rice in steam is called Dum, where the cooking vessel is sealed with wet dough and an airtight environment is created for cooking.
In this easy chicken dum biryani recipe, I mimicked that ‘Dum’ cooking style using my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot.
Biryani rice is typically made with long grain Basmati Rice and has many variations all over India. It is traditionally made with chicken or lamb. The vegetarian biryani is typically made with paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and fresh vegetables.
There are many theories about the origin of ‘Biryani’. From what I’ve read about it, I believe that it originated in Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. As per this this theory, Biryani is an Indian adaptation of the Persian Pilaf.
Here’s a detailed article on Sukhi’s Indian Cuisine, that explains the origin of Biryani and the different Biryani variations throughout India.
Two Styles of Dum Biryani: Kachhi & Pakki
There are two basic ways of cooking a Biryani– Kachhi (meaning ‘raw’) Biryani, in which marinated meat is steam cooked with partially cooked rice.
The rice is 50% cooked when I add it to the biryani pot. The rice finishes cooking in the juices released by the meat and marinade. The result is a perfect infusion of flavors. The rice often turns out multi-colored, depending on what it was closest to in the pot– the meat, fried onions or saffron.
The other way of making biryani is Pakki (meaning ‘cooked’) Biryani, where I prepare a meat curry first, and then cook the rinsed rice in that curry.
I find that between the two, the Kacchi Biryani seems to be the more popular one and is served in restaurants world over. Traditionally, this is a slow-cooked recipe that takes a couple of hours to make. I made a 45-minute version of it using my electric pressure cooker- the Instant Pot.
Making the Biryani Masala Marinade
In this Instant Pot Chicken Biryani recipe (see video recipe), I use a non-traditional ingredient, Paprika. Paprika, adds a smoky-peppery taste and color, which infuses in the meat when the biryani is steam-cooked. You can use Kashmiri Red Chili Powder instead of paprika if that’s what you have on hand.
Occasionally, I also add a teaspoon of Chaat Masala to the biryani masala marinade. Chaat Masala adds a nice zing to Chicken Biryani, which my family really enjoys.
How to Make Instant Pot Chicken Biryani
Here’s how I make Chicken Biryani in Instant Pot in about 45 minutes, from start to finish:
✓ Wash and soak rice: I start by soaking basmati rice in water. Set is aside for 15 minutes, while I do the following prep-work.
✓ Start the onions: If I am making fried onions from scratch, I add them to the Instant Pot, on Saute mode. They continue to saute and get brown while I prepare the marinade and rice.
✓ Marinate chicken: I marinate chicken by mixing all ingredients listed under “marinade for chicken”. Toss chicken in it and keep aside.
✓ Partially boil rice: Rinse the rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. Then, I partially cook the rice in fresh water in the microwave for about 5 minutes, till it’s 50% done, and then strain it.
✓ Layer Biryani: Now onto layering biryani in the Instant pot. Add 1/2 cup water (for 6 qt). This helps avoid a burn message. Layer the chicken evenly. I layer the rice on top of that in an even layer. Add 1/4 cup water over rice.
✓ Top with fried onions and herbs: Then, I sprinkle fried onions on top followed by chopped cilantro-mint. Add cashews and sprinkle 1 teaspoon garam masala. Pour the saffron-milk evenly followed by melted butter.
✓ Pressure cook: Close the lid. Press Manual (High pressure) for 6 minutes, sealing position. When done, manually release the pressure with quick release (QR), or, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes (NPR 5) and then release the remaining pressure manually.
✓ Rest Biryani: Open the lid and using oven mitts, I remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot base, to stop the cooking process. Let it rest for 5 minutes, uncovered. This allows for any excess moisture to evaporate.
✓ Serve: Carefully fluff up the biryani with a fork, without breaking the rice and enjoy with a cucumber-yogurt dip called Cucumber Raita!
How to Double Chicken Biryani Recipe for a Party
Multiplying this recipe is easy. To double up this recipe, I create alternate layers of chicken and rice, basically repeating step 3 in the order mentioned. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water in between each layer of rice.
How to Make Chicken Biryani in a Stovetop Pressure Cooker
Before I got my Instant Pot, I used to cook it in my stove top pressure cooker. Here’s how:
- Follow all instructions and assemble the biryani in the pressure cooker. Close the cooker and place it on medium-hi heat.
- As soon as the first whistle goes, reduce heat to medium. Place a flat skillet(frying pan) on the stove and place the pressure cooker on top of that. This will ensure that your chicken doesn’t burn at the bottom of your pressure cooker. Continue cooking on medium-high heat for 6 minutes.
Homemade Garam Masala
In this recipe, I use a popular Indian spice-blend, called garam masala, for flavoring the chicken, as well as the rice. You can find garam masala at most grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own garam masala blend.
It takes under 15 minutes to make enough to last me a month, and the end result is so worth the little effort. If you have the time to make yours at home too, try this easy recipe for Homemade Garam Masala.
Making Fried Onions for Chicken Biryani in Instant Pot
I feel that fried onions are a huge contributor of flavor in any Biryani. I mostly make it them at home, but that takes a bit of time. When I’m short on time, I use store-bought fried onions from Trader Joe’s, and those work great for Biryani. When I am preparing them at home, I use one of these two ways:
Sautéing in a Skillet or Using the Saute Feature in Instant Pot
I slice 2 medium onions thinly. Then, I heat the Instant pot on SAUTE (high), or, a griddle on medium high heat, and add 2-3 tablespoons ghee or oil and add the onions. I add a pinch of salt to the onions to speed up the process.
It is important to keep stirring every 3-4 minutes till the onions are golden brown, which takes around 12-14 minutes, depending on the size of the cooking pot. The wider the surface area, the quicker they brown.
In the Oven (my preferred way)
Alternatively, I toss thinly sliced onions with melted ghee or oil. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F and cook the onions for about 20 minutes, till they are golden brown.
This is a nice hands-off way of making fried onions. I typically make mine using this method, and while the onions are cooking, I do the prep-work for Biryani.
What to Serve with Chicken Biryani
I like to serve Chicken biryani warm, with a Cucumber Raita (cucumber-yogurt dip) and a garden salad, drizzled with fresh lime vinaigrette.
More Biryani Recipes from my Kitchen
Chicken Biryani in Instant Pot
MARINADE for CHICKEN:
- 1.5-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste 1 inch ginger + 6 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro & mint
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder adjust to your spice level
- 2 teaspoons Paprika or Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
- 1¼ teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
FOR PARTIALLY COOKING RICE
FRIED ONIONS(If making your own)
- 2 medium onions thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons ghee oil for sautéing
Fried Onions (skip this step if using store bought fried onions)
- Instant Pot or Stove top method: Slice 2 medium onions thinly. Heat the Instant pot on SAUTE (high), or a griddle on medium high heat, and add 2-3 tablespoons ghee or oil and add the onions. Add a pinch of salt to speed up the process. It is important to keep stirring every 3-4 minutes till the onions are golden brown, which takes around 12-14 minutes, depending on the size of the cooking pot. The wider the surface area, the quicker they brown.
Oven method: Toss thinly sliced onions with melted ghee or oil. Pre-heat the oven to 425F and cook the onions for about 20 minutes, till they are golden brown. This is a nice hands-off way of making fried onions. I typically make mine using this method, and while the onions are cooking, I do the prep-work for Biryani.
- Prepare marinade by mixing together yogurt, olive oil, lime juice, ginger-garlic paste, salt, spices, 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro & mint. Mix well. Add the chicken thighs and coat well with marinade. Keep aside while you partially boil the rice.
Partially Cooking the Rice
- Rinse basmati rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. Soak them for 15 minutes in warm water. Strain rice. You can partially cook the rice in a microwave or stove-top. Microwave: Place rice, water, salt, ghee and garam masala in an oven safe bowl, and cook for about 5 minutes on high, or till they look 50% done. Strain the rice and keep aside. If using the stove-top method, boil 4 cups of water in a sauce pan, add rice, salt, garam masala and ghee/oil. Bring back to a boil and cook rice on high-heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and strain the rice.
Cooking the Biryani
- Turn on the Instant Pot. Add 1/2 cup water (for 6 qt). This helps avoid a burn message. Layer chicken evenly. Top with the remaining marinade. Layer the partially boiled rice evenly all over the chicken. Add 1/4 cup water over rice. Sprinkle fried onions on top followed by chopped cilantro-mint. Add cashews and sprinkle 1 teaspoon garam masala. Pour the saffron-milk evenly followed by melted butter.
- Close the lid. Press Manual (High pressure) for 6 minutes, while the vent is set to sealing position. You can manually release the pressure (QR) right after, or, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes (NPR 5) and then release the remaining pressure manually. Open the lid and using oven mitts, remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot base, to stop the cooking process. Let the biryani rest for 5 minutes. This allows for any excess moisture to evaporate. Carefully fluff up the biryani with a fork, without breaking the rice. Enjoy with a cucumber-yogurt dip!