This vegetarian paneer biryani has proved to be delightful to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. This paneer biryani may make you forget its meaty counterpart!
Honestly speaking, I was contemplating making a paneer biryani since the longest time; but every time a biryani-making-thought initiates inside my mind, I am uncontrollably drawn towards chicken or lamb biryani! Hence this paneer biryani was never getting its chance!
I agree this is totally unfair. Biryani is once such deliciousness that I believe every human being must taste it once in his/her life. So, how could we deprive our non-meat-eating soul sisters and brothers?
I can’t and hence I made this perfect paneer biryani which would immensely delight every vegetarian. But to my surprise, this paneer biryani freaked out me and my core-meat-lover husband too! Can you believe it?
This paneer biryani is a pure indulgence for the vegetarians. The succulent cubes of paneer i.e. cottage cheese are infused with all the aromatic spices of biryani and mixed with the flavored rice create an amazing combination which you can’t get your mind off from!
The process of making a good paneer biryani is similar to that of chicken biryani. You first marinate the paneer cubes in a yogurt based marinate with all the flavorful Indian spices and leave it for couple of hours. Then your cook the rice halfway through and keep it ready for final assembly of paneer biryani.
Also, you have to keep your crispy brown onions ready which is nothing but sliced onions deep fried until golden and crispy. Next, you cook the nicely marinated paneer in ghee i.e. clarified butter. Cooking paneer takes just minutes which is an advantage over chicken biryani.
Finally, layer your biryani in a heavy pot with cooked paneer, half-cooked rice, golden fried onion, fresh coriander and mint leaves. Cover the pot with tight fitting lid and leave it on low heat for 15 minutes. That’s all you need to do to make a scrumptious paneer biryani at home. Trust me, it’s easier to do than it sounds. Make this paneer biryani soon and let me know how it turned out!
- Basmati rice – 2 cups
- Bay leaf – 1
- Black peppercorn – 5
- Onions – 15 small or 12 large
- Ginger paste – 2 tsp
- Garlic paste – 2 tsp
- Tomatoes – 2, medium
- Yogurt – ¼ cup
- Mint leaves – 1 cup (optional)
- Coriander leaves – 1 cup, chopped (optional)
- Bay leaf – 2
- Black cardamom – 2
- Green cardamom – 8
- Cloves – 6
- Cinnamon stick – 2 inch
- Star anise – 1
- Mace – 2 strands
- Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
- Red chilli powder – ½ tsp
- Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
- Cardamom powder – ½ tsp
- Salt to taste (approximately 2 and ½ tsp)
- Oil – 5 tbsp
- Kewra/screwpine essence – 2 tsp
- Ghee (clarified butter) – 2 tsp (optional)
- Make small cubes of the cottage cheese – about 1 cm big. Keep them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Boil lot of water in a deep sauce pan and add 1 bay leaf and 5 black peppercorns into it. Add the washed rice and cook till half done. Drain and set aside. You can spread it on a plate to cool it down a little.
- Slice all the onions thinly. Heat around 3 to 4 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and keeping aside 1 cup of sliced onion, fry the rest till deep brown. Once done, set aside. They will be used later.
- Now take a deep heavy-bottomed pan and heat 5 tbsp of oil or ghee (clarified butter) in it. Temper the oil with bay leaves, black and green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise and mace.
- Fry them for few seconds. Now add that 1 cup sliced onion which was kept aside before. Add ginger and garlic paste and sauté till onion turns brown.
- Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add it to the onions. Fry them till they are soft and melt well with the fried onions.
- Once the onion and tomato mixture is fried thoroughly and starts separating oil, add turmeric powder, red chili powder and garam masala powder. Sauté them on high adding a splash of water if needed.
- Now beat the yogurt well in a bowl. Add little water if it is too thick. When the masala starts separating oil add the beaten yogurt and stir continuously so that it doesn’t curdle.
- Sauté it for couple of minutes more and add the paneer cubes. Stir very lightly so that the cottage cheese cubes don’t break but are coated well with the spices. Take it off the heat and tip it out on a bowl.
- Now it’s time to assemble the biryani. In the same pan, spread some ghee and then make a layer of the paneer mixture with half of the total quantity.
- Then spread half of the prepared rice covering the paneer mixture below.
- Now sprinkle a layer of the brown onions [which was fried and kept aside before] using half of the total quantity. If you are also using mint and coriander, spread half of it here.
- Next repeat the layer of the paneer saving 2 to 3 tablespoons and then again with all of the remaining rice. Spread the remaining brown onions and mint-coriander leaves if using. Top it off with the saved 2 to 3 tablespoons of paneer mixture.
- Now sprinkle the cardamom powder and the kewra/screw-pine essence all over the rice.
- Take a spoonful of ghee and spread it around the edges of the vessel.
- Tightly cover the vessel and keep it on high flame for the first 5 minutes. Lower the heat after 5 minutes and cook on lowest flame for another 5 to 8 minutes. Maintain the time using a watch; do not do guesswork here as your biryani may burn if you are even late by seconds.
- Switch off the heat. Keep it covered for some time.
- Serve delicious paneer biryani warm with raita and salaan. Enjoy!