Vegetarian Biryani


The cooks of India and Pakistan take their rice seriously. It is in these regions that the humble grain is transformed into some of southern Asia's most delicious dishes, such as biryani, a richly perfumed combination of rice, vegetables, and sometimes fruits, nuts, and meats. Our vegetarian version features potato, carrots, and peas. Plus:  More Vegetable Recipes and Tips 

Vegetarian Biryani
Photo: © Linda Pugliese


  • 1 1/2 cups rice, preferably basmati, rinsed

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

  • 1 baking potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • 2 carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas, defrosted

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced

  • 1 tomato, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves


  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in the rice and boil until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain the rice, return to the pot, and cover to keep warm.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the cumin, turmeric, curry powder, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Add the potato, carrots, water, and salt. Increase the heat to moderately high and simmer until the vegetables are tender and no liquid remains in the pan, about 10 minutes.

  3. Stir the peas into the other vegetables and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the yogurt and rice and serve topped with the jalapeño, tomato, and cilantro.

Suggested Pairing

The sweet, floral perfume of basmati rice calls to mind the similar aromas of Vouvray. A demi-sec will strike just the right balance with the slight heat of the biryani.

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