What Is Biryani?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Biryani is an Indian rice-based dish that can be served with various meats and vegetables. This spicy dish normally contains an array of ingredients. The meat or vegetables and the rice are cooked separately with their own seasonings. The two parts of biryani are combined shortly before serving.

Long-grained rice, usually basmati, is almost always used to make biryani. Spices, such as ground ginger, turmeric, coriander, and garam masala may all be included with the rice. Cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and saffron strands are also frequently added. Occasionally, raisins or blanched almonds are included as well.

Many of the same spices are added to the meat or vegetable portion of the dish. There are small differences, however. The ginger is more often fresh than ground, and garlic, onions, and sometimes cloves are usually added to the meat as well. Yogurt is also usually included.

Lamb, beef, fish, or chicken can be used. Potatoes and tomatoes may or may not be part of the dish. If vegetables are used to replace the meat choice, potatoes are generally added, along with several other vegetables, such as broccoli, green beans, and carrots. When potatoes are used in a meat dish, they are cut and fried before being set aside. Otherwise, they are cooked with the rest of the vegetables.


In both the vegetable and meat portions, ghee is often used to fry the ingredients. Ghee is a type of clarified butter which is common to Indian cuisine. If ghee is unavailable, vegetable oil or unsalted butter may be used instead.

To make the meat portion of biryani, the onion, garlic, and fresh ginger are fried in oil. Then, the other spices are included and fried until fragrant. The meat is added to the mixture and coated in the spices. Afterward, the pan is covered, and the meat portion is allowed to simmer for over half an hour.

Meanwhile, the rice portion is made. The onions and spices are fried just as in the meat portion. The rice is washed and then included in the pan. Once the rice is both toasted and coated in the spice mixture, water or chicken broth and salt are added. The pan is covered and the rice is allowed to steam until the water or broth is absorbed.

When both the rice and the meat are finished cooking, they are combined onto a single plate. Biryani may be garnished with toasted almonds or grated toasted coconut. It also may be served without garnish.


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