Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

October 10, 2019 (Updated: October 11, 2019) By Aneesha |

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Vegetable Biryani is a classic Indian dish made with a medley of vegetables and aromatic basmati rice, flavored with yogurt, toasted garam masala, fresh herbs and saffron. Now you can make a restaurant style Vegetable Biryani at home with this easy Instant Pot recipe.

Bowl of Indian spiced vegetable biryani with a side of yogurt

What is Biryani

There are many theories about the origin of ‘Biryani’ (pronounced bee-riya-nee) .  From what I’ve read, I believe that it originated in Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals around the 16th century. 

The word Biryani is derived from the Persian word Beriyan, which means ‘to fry or roast’ before cooking, and Birinj, the Persian word for rice. So, one can say that Biryani is an Indian version of ‘fried rice’.

Traditionally, Biryani is a casserole dish built with alternate layers of marinated vegetables (or meat) and long grain basmati rice, seasoned with toasted Indian spices like garam masala, coriander and cumin.

It is topped with fried onions, fresh mint and cilantro, saffron soaked in warm milk, and ghee. The cooking vessel is then sealed with wet dough, creating an airtight environment for cooking, called Dum

Easy Recipe for a Restaurant Style Biryani

Typically, a biryani is slow cooked for an hour or longer, so the flavors and aroma can mingle and infuse in one another.

But, in this easy vegetable biryani recipe, I mimicked that ‘Dum’ cooking style using my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot and made this restaurant-style dish in just 40 minutes, most of which is hands-off cooking time. This can be achieved in any comparable electric pressure cooker, like Mealthy Multipot as well.

There are many variations of Biryani, like Chicken Biryani, Lamb Biryani, Paneer Biryani, Chickpeas Biryani (vegan).

Is Biryani the Same as Pulao

Biryani and Pulao (pull-aa-o), or Pulav (pull-aa-v), are both made with a combination of rice with meat, or rice with vegetables. That is why many people, including restaurants, confuse the two dishes. There are three main differences in the traditional recipes that set the two dishes apart.

Cooking Technique & Time: Biryani is prepared by layering rice with vegetables, or marinated meat, and then steam cooked slowly to infuse everything. This takes anywhere from 30 mins to an hour, depending on the ingredients used.

Pulao on the other hand is a simpler preparation with no specific layering requirements. It cooks in about the time it takes to cook rice.

Spices: Traditionally, Biryani is made with a longer list of warm spices than what’s used in Pulao. Most of those spices can withstand the longer cooking time and release their aroma and flavor slowly.

Everyday spices like garam masala, coriander and cumin are what it takes to flavor a Pulao. It is much milder than Biryani in terms of warmth.

Topping: In Biryani, the final layer of rice is topped with fried onions, chopped mint and cilantro, melted ghee and saffron soaked in warm milk. It ain’t biryani without these toppings 🙂 Nuts and raisins are often added too.

On the other hand, the only garnish that goes on top of pulao is chopped cilantro, and even that is optional.

Indian spiced rice and vegetables, called Vegetable Biryani, served in a bowl

Customize the Vegetables

This is a very flexible recipe and you can customize the vegetables you add to it. The only thing to remember when picking vegetables is to pick something that can withstand a 6 minute pressure cooking time.

I wouldn’t recommend adding zucchini or squash as they would turn to mush in that time. If picking cauliflower, I would recommend cutting the florets large, like about 2 inch pieces, so they would hold their shape.

Any root vegetables would be perfect in this recipe, like parsnips, white carrots, beetroot, sweet potato. You can add green beans or corn too.

How to Make Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

Here are the step by step instructions and pictures for Vegetable Biryani using an Instant Pot.

Prep: Rinse and soak rice for 15 minutes while you chop vegetables. After 15 mins, rinse and drain the rice.

Step 1: Saute aromatics and vegetables (Picture 1)

Turn on saute mode on high and wait till the display reads ‘hot’. Add 2 tablespoons ghee or oil, add the onions and green chilies.

Saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring in between till they become light golden brown. Remove half the onions and keep aside.

Add cubed potato, sliced peppers, carrots, cashew and 2 tbsp chopped cilantro. Saute the vegetables for 2 mins. Add crushed ginger and garlic and saute for another minute.

Add the spices- salt, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, cumin and beaten yogurt. Stir well and use the yogurt to deglaze the pan and scrap-off any brown bits at the bottom of the pot.

Step by step photos of how to make vegetable Biryani in an instant pot
Picture 1: Sautéing onion, chili, vegetables, ginger, garlic with spices and yogurt

Step 2: Add rice, water and pressure cook (Picture 2)

Turn off Saute. Add drained rice, paneer and water. Stir and gently push the rice under the water.

Spread the saffron-milk mixture over that. Top with reserved sautéed onions and chopped cilantro. Top with remaining 1 tbsp of ghee or oil.

Close lid and pressure cook at Manual/Pressure Cook for 6 mins at LOW pressure.

step by step pictures showing how to cook vegetable biryani in pressure cooker
Picture 2: Adding water, saffron, cilantro and pressure cooking Biryani

Step 3: Release pressure, fluff biryani (Picture 3)

After cooking, carefully release the pressure (QR). You can do that by turning the pressure knob from sealing to venting position in DUO models, or, pressing down the pressure knob in ULTRA model.

Open the lid after the pin has dropped.

Using silicone mitts, remove the stainless steel insert from the base and place it on a heat-resistant surface (I place it on the stove). This prevents the biryani from over cooking. Let it sit uncovered for 5 mins, which helps evaporate excess moisture .

After 5 mins, fluff the biryani gently with a fork. Serve warm with your favorite raita (yogurt dip).

Releasing pressure , then fluffing rice with a fork
Picture 3: Release pressure manually after 5 mins, fluff biryani with a fork

Make a Meal: What to Serve with Vegetable Biryani

Biryani and Raita (yogurt dip) is a match made in food heaven 🙂 The cool and refreshing yogurt adds a contrast to the warm spices in the rice, and ends up balancing the flavors really well.

I love to pair all biryani dishes with a Cucumber Raita . It’s chunky and combines the crunch from cucumbers and creaminess from the yogurt. Get the recipe for Cucumber Raita.

If you’re enjoying a Vegan Biryani, skip the yogurt and pair it with a simple garden salad dressed with salt, pepper and fresh lemon drizzle.

Rice cooked with vegetables and served with yogurt

How to Make Vegan Vegetable Biryani

To make Vegan Vegetable Biryani, replace ghee with any clear oil, and paneer with tofu, or skip that.  Instead of using regular yogurt, add 2-3 tablespoons of plain cashewgurt. 

How to Prevent the Dreaded Burn Sign

It is extremely important to deglaze the pot before pressure cooking. Yogurt helps us scrape any brown bits at the bottom of the pan that may have formed while browning the onions. This will prevent the burn sign in this recipe.

Tips for a Perfectly Cooked Biryani:

  • Start with long grain basmati rice, it makes a huge difference in texture and presentation. I use Kohinoor XL.
  • Soak the rice for 10-15 minutes.  Any longer and I find the Biryani to be mushy.  You can suit your taste and soak for up to 30 mins.
  • Using low pressure is key in this recipe.  Since vegetables tend to over cook in pressure cooking, low pressure prevents that and maintains a nice texture for vegetables.
  • Adding paneer is totally optional, but highly recommended.  It adds protein to this dish and makes it a well balanced meal.
  • To make Vegan Vegetable Biryani, replace ghee with any clear oil, and paneer with tofu, or skip that.  You can skip the yogurt and add 2-3 tablespoons of plain cashewgurt. 
  • If you have store-bought fried onions on hand, skip the onion saute step in the beginning and use that instead. 
  • Quickly releasing pressure is the ideal option, it prevents the rice and vegetables from over cooking. 
  • Removing the stainless steel insert after cooking also prevents the rice and vegetables at the bottom from over cooking.
  • Letting the biryani sit uncovered for 5 minutes helps evaporate any excess moisture.  This leads to a light and fluffy biryani. 
  • Saffron is a key ingredient in Biryani.  It adds a nice floral aroma and crimson color to the rice.  However, if you do not have in on hand, you can skip it.  
A spoon full of Indian Vegetable Biryani

More Biryani Recipes from my Kitchen

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Bowl of Indian spiced vegetable biryani with a side of yogurt

Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani

An easy Instant Pot recipe for Vegetable Biryani, a classic Indian dish made with assorted vegetables & basmati rice, flavored with herbs, spices & saffron.
4.25 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 5
Calories: 439kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp ghee or oil, to be split in 2 steps
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced, about 2 cups
  • 2 tbsp cashews whole, about 15
  • 1 tbsp ginger 1/2 inch piece, grated or crushed
  • 1 tbsp garlic 3-4 cloves, grated or crushed
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup basmati rice soak for 15 mins, rinsed and drained
  • cup water
  • 1 pinch saffron about 10-12 strands soaked in 2 tbsp milk
  • ¼ cup cilantro Chopped (can use cilantro + mint too)
  • 1 cup paneer sliced thick, (optional ingredient)

Vegetables

  • 2 green chillies Serrano or jalapeno, whole
  • 1 cup potato 1 medium gold potato cubed
  • ½-¾ cup carrot 1 medium carrot, sliced thick
  • 1 cup red pepper sliced

Spices

Equipment

Instructions

  • Rinse and soak rice for 15 minutes while you chop vegetables. After 15 mins, rinse and drain the rice.
  • Turn on saute mode on high and wait till the display reads 'hot'. Add 2 tablespoons ghee or oil, add the onions and green chilies. Saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring in between till they become light golden brown. Remove half the onions and keep aside.
  • Add cubed potato, sliced peppers, carrots, cashew and 2 tbsp chopped cilantro. Saute the vegetables for 2 mins.
  • Add crushed ginger and garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Add the spices- salt, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, cumin and beaten yogurt. Stir well and use the yogurt to deglaze the pan and scrap off any brown bits at the bottom of the pot.
  • Turn off Saute. Add drained rice, paneer and water. Stir and gently push the rice under the water. Spread the saffron-milk mixture over that. Top with reserved sautéed onions and chopped cilantro. Top with remaining 1 tbsp of ghee or oil.
  • Close lid and pressure cook at Manual/Pressure Cook for 6 mins at LOW pressure. After cooking, carefully release the pressure (QR). You can do that by turning the pressure knob from sealing to venting position in DUO models, or, pressing down the pressure knob in ULTRA model. Open the lid after the pin has dropped.
  • Using silicone mitts, remove the stainless steel insert from the base and place it on a heat-resistant surface (I place it on the stove). This prevents the biryani from over cooking. Let it sit uncovered for 5 mins, which helps release excess moisture .
  • After 5 mins, fluff the biryani gently with a fork. Serve warm with your favorite raita (yogurt dip).

Video

Notes

Tips for a Perfectly Cooked Biryani:
  1. Start with long grain basmati rice, it makes a huge difference in texture and presentation. I use Kohinoor XL.
  2. Soak the rice for 10-15 minutes.  Any longer and I find the Biryani to be mushy.  You can suit your taste and soak for up to 30 mins.
  3. Using low pressure is key in this recipe.  Since vegetables tend to over cook in pressure cooking, low pressure prevents that and maintains a nice texture for vegetables.
  4. Adding paneer is totally optional, but highly recommended.  It adds protein to this dish and makes it a well balanced meal.
  5. To make Vegan Vegetable Biryani, replace ghee with any clear oil, and paneer with tofu, or skip that.  You can skip the yogurt and add 2-3 tablespoons of plain cashewgurt. 
  6. If you have fried onions on hand, skip the onion saute step in the beginning and use that instead. 
  7. Quickly releasing pressure is the ideal option, it prevents the rice and vegetables from over cooking. 
  8. Removing the stainless steel insert after cooking also prevents the rice and vegetables at the bottom from over cooking.
  9. Letting the biryani sit uncovered for 5 minutes helps evaporate any excess moisture.  This leads to a light and fluffy biryani. 
  10. Saffron is a key ingredient in Biryani.  It adds a nice floral aroma and crimson color to the rice.  However, if you do not have in on hand, you can skip it.  
If you are new to the Instant Pot, please read my FAQ on Instant Pot Terminology and Accessories to learn more.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 439kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 798mg | Potassium: 427mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3152IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 277mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: instant pot vegetable biryani, pressure cooker vegetable biryani, vegetable biryani recipe
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HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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