Vegetable Biryani

Prep Time
30-40 mins
Cook Time
1 hour

Here’s a dairy and meat free version of the popular biryani all of us love. The spices and the fried onions, coriander and mint make sure you don’t miss out on anything. Use other vegetables of your choice (the combinations are limitless), soya nuggets, mock meat, soya chaap or tofu to make it even more exciting.


For the garnish and layering

  • 6 large onions sliced thinly
  • Oil for deep frying

For the vegetables and marinade

  • 500 kg cauliflower cut into florets and washed
  • 2 medium sized potatoes peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup peas (50-100 gms) use more if you like green to be more visible
  • 2 carrots chopped into 1-inch pieces (approx. 1 cup)
  • 100 gms French beans chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ cups cashew blended into a thick paste
  • 1-2 tbsp readymade biryani masala
  • Rock salt to taste

For the vegetable masala

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 3-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 6 green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 mace (optional as it has a very strong flavour)
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 medium sized onions chopped finely
  • 5-6 tbsp groundnut or mustard oil

For the rice

  • 3 cups long grain Basmati rice washed and soaked for 30 minutes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp oil

Whole spices for the rice

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3-inch piece cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 1 mace
  • 1 star anise
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg powder (optional as it has a strong flavour)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp rock salt

For the layering

  • 3 green chillies slit into long pieces
  • 1 cup coriander leaves chopped
  • 1 cup mint leaves chopped
  • The crisp fried onion slices
  • ½ tbsp biryani or garam masala
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 10-15 strands saffron powdered with ½ tsp sugar and soaked in 4 tbsp warm water

For the garnish

  • ½ cup cashews (use broken cashews if you wish)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp coconut oil


  1. Before you start with the vegetables or frying the onions, wash the rice and soak it in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes or till it is ready to be used.
  2. Prepare the fried onions. Heat the oil and deep fry the thinly sliced onions till they are golden brown and almost crisp.
  3. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels for the excess oil to be absorbed. This will ensure that the onions remain crisp and do not go limp. Keep aside 1 or 2 tablespoons of onions for garnishing on top and use the rest for layering.
  4. Place all the vegetables and marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix them well so all the vegetables get coated with all the flavours evenly. Cover and rest the mixture for half an hour.
  5. Heat the oil in a thick bottomed steel pot deep enough to add the rice to it later. Add the cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, cardamoms, mace, star anise and bay leaves and sauté till they are slightly golden brown, and all of the spices have released their flavour.
  6. Add the chopped onions and sauté on medium heat till the onion is soft and translucent and a very light golden brown colour. (7-8 minutes)
  7. Add the marinated vegetables, mix gently and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 10-12 minutes or till the vegetables are half cooked.
  8. While the vegetables are cooking, tie all the whole spices in a small piece of muslin cloth into a pouch.
  9. In another pot, pour two cups of water, add the pouch, oil, and salt to it, cover and bring to a boil over medium heat allowing the water to absorb the flavours of the spices. Let it simmer for around 5 minutes. When the water boils, add the rice to it.
  10. Cook till all the water has been absorbed and the rice is half cooked.
  11. Remove the pouch of spices and discard it.
  12. Empty the rice onto a large bowl and separate the grains with a fork. Do not allow the rice to cool completely.
  13. Turn off the heat of the vegetables and remove half of the cooked vegetables into another pot. Add half the rice on top of the vegetables, spreading it evenly.
  14. Add the sliced green chillies, half of the fried onions, coriander, mint and biryani or garam masala.
  15. Spread the remaining vegetables on this and add the remaining biryani or garam masala, coriander, mint and fried onions.
  16. Pour the coconut milk on the surface in circles covering as much of the rice as possible.
  17. Pour the saffron liquid in one big circle so some of the grains get a darker colour.
  18. Poke three holes in the rice till the bottom with the back of a spoon to allow the steam to rise.
  19. Cover the lid with a kitchen towel and place this on the pot with the towel inside so the towel will absorb all the moisture not allowing it to fall back into the pot. Cook on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
  20. While the biryani is getting ready, sauté the cashews and raisins in the oil till golden brown. Keep aside ready to use to garnish before serving the biryani.
  21. Remove the cover and allow the steam to subside. Loosen the rice gently with a fork and dish it out onto a platter loosening the rice and vegetables each time you take out a spatula full. Garnish with coriander and mint leaves, fried onions and the roasted cashews and raisins. Add slices of onions and a wedge of lime on the side for each plate.

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