Basic Biryani Rice

Biryani rice is an interesting, flavorful, Indian dish comprised of rice, vegetables and warm spices such as turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon.  

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This basic biryani rice recipe is a wonderful side dish that can be customized to suit your needs or tastes.  It makes a great side dish to serve with grilled meats or a tasty vegetarian entree. You can also make it a meal with the addition of chicken, pork or beef.

Quick and easy side dish recipe for a basic biryani rice

Reading the ingredient list may give the impression that this is an involved, difficult dish.  Trust me that it is not.  

While the ingredient list is lengthy, each one adds a depth of flavor and complexity to the dish.  Choose quality ingredients and fresh spices and you will be rewarded with a beautiful biryani that has amazing flavor.

The main ingredient in this basic biryani is basmati rice.  Basmati rice is a thinner and longer grain rice that maintains its shape when cooked doesn’t become gummy and fluffs into separate grains.


  • Basmati rice doesn’t come in the plastic bags like other rice varieties.  Look for it in either cloth bags or containers. It is typically on the top shelf of your grocery store’s rice aisle.
  • The grains of rice should be long or extra-long.  The longer the better. Also, the grains should be whole, not split or broken.  The ends should be tapered. If they are flat or jagged, the rice is broken or damaged.
  • Did you know that basmati rice is aged to remove more of its moisture content?  Because it’s aged longer than other types of rice, it takes on a very light golden hue.  It should never be grey or pearly white.


A lot of recipes call for rinsing the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear.  Doing this will remove any debris that may be on the rice. It will also wash away the surface starch so your rice remains fluffy with separate, tender grains.  It helps to prevent sticky, gummy rice.

Rinsing rice is especially important when using medium or long grain rice.  If you are looking for creamy or sticky rice, like rice pudding, risotto, or sushi rice, you’ll use short grain rice and will not rinse it prior to cooking.

While a lot of biryani recipes contain chicken, seafood, or even goat, I like to make this recipe with simple, yet very flavorful vegetables.  This basic biryani rice recipe checks off all the flavor profiles:

  • Sweet from the raisins and cinnamon
  • Sour from the drizzle of lemon juice at the end to finish the dish before serving
  • The kosher salt adds the salty note
  • The bitter taste is from turmeric, which mellows the sweetness of the raisins
  • Chicken stock and wine balances and rounds out the other flavors and brings the umami flavor to the dish

Quick and easy side dish recipe for a basic biryani rice


Umami is the meaty, earthy, savory flavor that adds an almost indefinable depth of flavor.  It is the craveable taste that hits the back of the throat and signals the brain to think, “yum!”

Umami can be reached by using mushrooms, meat, seaweed, tomatoes, aged cheese- any food that contains glutamate.  Glutamate is an amino acid. Glutamate is also one of the ingredients in MSG, which is a flavor enhancer. Now we know why.  But don’t worry. Umami won’t give you that Chinese take-out food headache.

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A quick and easy recipe for a basic biryani rice



A quick and easy Indian side dish that is flavorful and easily customizable.


  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine (I use chardonnay)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut, optional


  1. Make the rice. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water. Use your hands to turn and move the rice, allowing the water to run through all of the grains. Set aside to drain completely.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Slide in the onions, garlic, and ginger. Saute the vegetables until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the raisins, almonds, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add in the rice and stir to combine the spice mixture into the rice.
  5. When the rice is a uniform color, continue to cook, stirring, to toast the rice grains for another 2 or 3 minutes. Keep the mixture moving to avoid burning.
  6. Pour in the stock, wine, kosher salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir well and cover the pot with a lid that has been tightly wrapped with a kitchen towel. Bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat to low and allow the rice to steam until it is tender, about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat. Do not remove the lid! Allow the rice to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
  9. After resting, fluff the rice with a fork. Spoon the biryani onto a serving platter.
  10. Squeeze the lemon juice over the rice. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top and serve warm.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes


  • Serving Size: 1

Try this with Grilled Piri Piri chicken or Perfectly Grilled Moist Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts.  Complete your meal with a little something sweet, my old fashioned lemon bars.

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