Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biriyani is scented rice to which vegetables, beans and nuts are added. (Seafood, chicken and mutton are ingredients regularly added to a biryani.)

It is traditionally served at an elegant meal, at festival time, in combination with many other dishes. However, it is a tasty and nutritious meal in its own right, with a dry texture to which you can add sauces and chutneys at the table.

I have simplified the preparation of this ‘one-pot meal’. For those unfamiliar with Biryani, its preparation is not dissimilar to that of a risotto. (I apologise for comparing Indian and Italian dishes in this way; the flavours and texture are very different. But, for those unfamiliar with biryani, I hope that it is reassuring to know that it can be a simple dish to cook and that this knowledge will encourage you to try it.)

If it is to be a meal, add some protein: pre-cooked legumes; or nuts, either ground and cooked with the onion, or toasted and sprinkled on the dish when it is served (not for Nut Free). Yoghurt (dairy or soya) is also a tasty addition and a good source of protein in quantity. Try a combination of textures, eg: nuts and green peas; soya beans and ground almonds; or cashew nuts and yoghurt.

Similarly, vary the spices and vegetables. If you are including spinach, add it later in the cooking process, as outlined, to ensure it remains bright and is not over-cooked.

Diets for which Vegetable Biryani is suitable:

Diabetic, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Nut Free, Vegetarian and Vegan.


Preparation: 15 mins | Cook: 40 mins | Serves: 2+

1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
5 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 ( 2.5 cm/1 inch) cinnamon stick
4 cups vegetables/fungi, a selection of: mushrooms, cauliflower, carrot, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, green peas, celery and spinach
1 cup water*
1/2 cup coriander or 1/4 cup mint, chopped
150 gm (1/2 cup) cooked lentils or beans (optional)
75 gm (1/2 cup) almonds, cashews or peanuts (optional, not Nut Free)


SOAK the rice in water while you prepare the other ingredients.
PEEL and finely slice the onion.
CRUSH the garlic and grate, or finely chop, the ginger.
HEAT the oil in a frying pan to a medium heat.
FRY the onion, garlic and ginger (and sliced mushroom if including).
CRUSH the cardamom pod in a pestle and remove the seed shell.
GRIND the cardamom seeds with the other seeds.
SLICE all the vegetables into small pieces or florets.
ADD the ground seeds, cayenne, cinnamon, bay leaves and salt to the onion mix and fry for 2 minutes.
RINSE the rice in a sieve, running fresh water through it to remove excess starch.
ADD the rice to the onion and spices and cook for a few minutes. (Mix the ingredients and separate the grains but do not continuously stir; this will release the starch from the rice.)
ADD water, cover and bring to the boil.
ADD the vegetables and cover. (Do not add spinach or quick-cooking leafy green at this stage.)
BOIL for 5 minutes.
REMOVE from the heat and leave for 20 minutes. (Do not lift the lid unless you are adding spinach; this is when it should be quickly placed on top of the rice and vegetable mix.)
CHECK the rice after 20 minutes when it should be cooked. (If it remains a little undercooked – this can happen when steam is released during cooking – add 1-2 tbsp water and return to a low heat for 5 minutes.)*
STIR to ‘fluff up’ the rice.
SPRINKLE with coriander and nuts


– Immediately. The rice will become starchy if kept warm.
– With lemon is tasty.
– Suitable as an accompaniment to many dishes: meat, chicken, fish, bean or vegetable.
– As a delicious salad.


* If adding spinach you may need to add a 1-2 tablespoon of water because you lose liquid when removing the lid half way through the cooking process.


– Prawn Biryani – use the instructions above. When the rice is removed from the heat the prawns are added (ie when you add the spinach). Follow the instructions as indicated to complete the cooking and service. If you are using frozen prawns ensure they are pre-thawed.

Dishes to accompany Vegetable Biryani:

Tofu Steaks

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