Chicken Biryani, a delicious, and satisfying Indian chicken and rice meal, can be made with ease in the Instant Pot . Here is how!
If we were to play a game of word association, and you said the word ‘feast’, I would respond with ‘biryani’! Biryani is poetry on a plate, a dish that is complex in flavour, inviting and indulgent, fragrant and aromatic, a tease to all the senses.
Making biryani may be intimidating to some, with its many ingredients and multiple steps and processes involved, and it does feel like the entire kitchen gets taken up in the process, leaving you with no clean counters, and a sink piled with dishes.
But it all comes down to that moment when the lid of a pot of biryani is opened, releasing the flavours within, a testament to this rhapsody in meat, rice and spices. And that moment is completely worth it!
The traditional method of cooking the biryani is on ‘dum’, a method of sealing the pot with dough, and letting the biryani cook in its own steam. Some versions, like my Malabar-style chicken biryani use the pukka method of making chicken biryani - the rice and chicken are cooked separately and then finished together in the oven.
For a quicker and simpler version, I like to use the Instant Pot to replicate the ‘dum’ technique of making chicken biryani. The Instant Pot is suited perfectly to achieve the right consistency of cooked rice, and leaves each grain intact. The Instant Pot inherently operates at a lower psi (pressure) than a stove-top pressure cooker, and this lets the rice and meat cook well, without reducing either to a mush. You could also make the biryani in a regular pot on the stove-top, but I prefer the IP for its convenience, ease of control and easy clean-up.
How to make chicken biryani in the Instant Pot:
The Instant Pot makes cooking chicken biryani a breeze! I love how convenient it is, considering that traditional biryani involves quite a few steps and more than a couple of dishes are used up in the process. This recipe is simple enough for a family to enjoy chicken biryani during weekdays as well! Other family favorites include my Instant Pot shrimp biryani and Instant pot rice and veggies.
To make this recipe, you need to start by marinating the chicken pieces in a mixture of yogurt, ginger and garlic, fresh mint and coriander, ghee, salt, lime juice and the following spices – garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder and fennel powder (fennel is key for an authentic biryani. You can also add chopped green chilies (or jalapeno) if you like a spicier biryani.
Soak the basmati rice in cold water for 20-30 minutes. This helps in keeping the long grains intact.
Now, onto the Instant Pot. We start in the 'Saute' mode, heat some ghee and add bay leaves and sliced onions. Saute untill the onions are caramelised. Reserve half the onions for later.
At this point, hit 'Cancel', and add 3 tablespoons of water. This part is important - the Instant Pot is hot, and the water might evaporate leaving no liquid behind. Deglaze the pot, and add the marinated chicken pieces (we want 2-3 tablespoons of water to be in the pot before Pressure Cooking). Pressure cook for 4 minutes, and the perform a quick release of pressure.
Open the lid, add the soaked basmati rice, after rinsing and draining the water. Add 1.5 cups of water. You know you have the right amount of water when all the rice and chicken are just under the level of water.
Pressure Cook for 5 minutes, let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then manually release pressure. Open the lid.
To finish, I like to saffron soaked in 1/4 cup of warm milk, a little fresh coriander, and the reserved onions. Mix and serve.
How to avoid the 'Burn' error in the Instant Pot:
After testing this recipe a few times based on feedback from readers, I’ve realized that making biryani in the IP can be compared to baking a cake in the oven – the instructions have to be followed closely and to some extent, the model of Instant Pot you are using also matters.
Just like some ovens tend to have hot spots, older models of the IP can have hot spots that can cause the contents to stick to the bottom and build residue. Older models of the Instant Pot and newer ones work slightly differently. We have noticed that older models of the IP Duo are less sensitive than newer versions. Newer models are designed to trigger the ‘Food Burn’ error quickly (my 2016 model IP Duo never once indicated a ‘Burn’ error).
To avoid the Burn error, you must ensure that there the bottom of the pot is deglazed and that there is enough liquid to cook the ingredients, as the recipe calls for. If you do get a ‘Burn’ error while in ‘Pressure Cook’ mode, you must:
- Release pressure, open the lid and check the bottom of the pot
- If the contents have stuck to the bottom of the pot, take out the contents and keep aside
- Add more liquid and deglaze the pot, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom
- Add the contents back and continue cooking
Tips to make the perfect chicken biryani in the Instant Pot:
- Meat: You can use either bone-in or boneless chicken to make biryani, however I recommend using bone-in chicken pieces as they are a lot more flavourful than boneless chicken pieces.
- Ghee: There is really no substitute to ghee (clarified butter) in a biryani. Use butter if you must, but ghee is the real deal!
- Rice: Use a good-quality long-grained basmati rice for your biryani. To achieve fluffy rice, with each grain intact, soak the rice for 20-30 minutes.
- Marinade: Marination is key to tender meat - try to marinate the chicken for at least 20 minutes. Yogurt and ginger are tenderizers and this recipe calls for a fair amount of these ingredients, for good reason. Don’t skimp on the yogurt or ginger! Make your own ginger-garlic paste by blending together ¾ cup of garlic, 1 cup of ginger, 1 teaspoon oil in a spice grinder or blender. Keep a jar of the paste in the fridge and use as needed.
- Spices: Use fresh whole spices, and preferably, freshly-ground garam masala. It does make a difference. This is my go-to recipes for garam masala: In a pan on the stovetop, dry-roast (without oil) the following spices: 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, 5-6 cardamoms, 6-7 cloves, a 2-inch piece cinnamon, 2-3 pieces of mace. Once the spices are heated, grind them in a high power blender, or coffee grinder. Store the ground spice mix in an air-tight jar and use as needed.
A good biryani is one that is self-sustaining, and doesn’t need anything other than a little yogurt or ‘raita’ on the side. So, get out your Instant Pot and whip up this satisfying, and soul-nourishing meal, a feast like no other!
Instant Pot Chicken Biryani
- 2 cups Basmati rice 1 cup=250ml
- Water for soaking the rice
- 300 grams Chicken legs and thighs 5 pieces, bone-in
For the chicken marinade:
- Start by combining all the marinade ingredients along with the chicken, in a large bowl. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
- Let the rice soak in water for 20-30 minutes.
- Turn on the Instant Pot to 'Saute' mode. One warm, add the ghee, bay leaves and the onions into the IP. Saute for around 6-7 minutes, untill onions are caramelised.
- Take out half the caramelized onions and keep aside for later.
- Hit 'Cancel' and add 3-4 tablespoons of water. Deglaze with a ladle or spatula, ensure that no residue is stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Add the marinated chicken to the Instant Pot.
- Pressure Cook for 4 minutes, followed by a quick release of pressure.
- Add the soaked rice, drained of all water.
- Now add 1.5 cups of water, and make sure that water level covers the contents of the Instant Pot.
- Pressure Cook for 5 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, followed by quick release of pressure.
- Add saffron-soaked milk, fresh chopped coriander and reserved onions. Mix gently before serving.
- Serve with a side of yogurt or raita (lightly seasoned yogurt).