Vegetarian Paneer Biryani cooked with fragrant long grain Basmati Rice and Indian Cheese Paneer. This flavor packed Biryani is so easy to make and absolutely delicious. Paneer Biryani Recipe cooked with Butter Chicken Masala.
This Recipe was featured on ShanFoods Instagram.
What is Biryani?
Biryani is basically a magical combination of some generously spiced Meat or Vegetable and Rice. But, Biryani isn’t only limited to just Meat and vegetables. Love for Biryani makes you want to explore the flavors with different favorite ingredients as well. Paneer(Indian Cottage Cheese) is one of my favorite Vegetarian Ingredients. Making Biryani from this beautifully spongy and slightly sour Indian Cheese can’t get any better than this. That great balance of my favorite carb long grain Basmati rice and Dairy based protein with a tad bit of veggies makes the perfect flavor packed meal.
I grew up on Ammi’s(mother’s) Biryani in India. Any good occasion called for Biryani in our home. I saw my Ammi, khalas(mother’s sisters), Mami(wife of mother’s brother) and other women of my family always experimenting with different proteins and vegetables to make delicious Biryani. This Paneer Biryani Recipe is inspired by my family’s women. They never fail to amaze and inspire me in the kitchen. Instead of using Meat, I have used Paneer for this delicious Biryani. Crispy fried Paneer in a tomato and yogurt based curry layered with Basmati rice and cooked until the aroma of the delicious curry meets the fragrance of Basmati Rice. If you are a Biryani lover, you will know what I am talking about :).
Ingredients for Paneer Biryani Recipe
This recipe is slightly different than a traditional Biryani Recipe. Instead of using Biryani-Masala I have used Butter Chicken Masala blend in my Paneer Curry.
Paneer- Paneer is an Indian Cheese made by curdling the milk with lemon juice. It is firm yet creamy in texture and mildly sour in taste. Paneer is a large part of a vegetarian diet all over India and easily available at any local Indian Grocery stores in America.
Butter Chicken Masala– Wait what? Butter Chicken Masala? Yes! Butter Chicken Masala. That lusciously Creamy Paneer Curry using Butter Chicken Masala spice blend create an entirely different flavor of Biryani. I have used boxed Butter Chicken Masala blend for this recipe. Boxed spices make life much easier and I have yet to create a perfect blend of Butter Chicken Spice blend for my kitchen. Butter Chicken Spice blend is vegetarian diet friendly. Boxed butter Chicken Masala spices are easily available at any local Indian Grocery store.
I have used my homemade Biryani Masala for this recipe. I vote for Butter Chicken Masala based Paneer Biryani in taste. Click here for the Biryani Masala Recipe If Butter Chicken Masala Isn’t for you.
Basmati Rice– I highly recommend using aged long grain Basmati Rice for Biryani. Aged long grain rice fluffs up beautifully with each separate grain. Also the Aroma coming from aged Basmati rice is beyond perfect to create authentic Biryani.
Yogurt- I only recommend using creamy Indian yogurt for your Biryani recipe. It has perfect creamy consistency with the right amount of water for your Meat Curry. No Greek Yogurt substitute for Biryani. Sorry!
Also try Meat Biryani for an authentic Biryani experience.
Check out One-Pot Spicy Vegetable Rice Recipe for a great Vegan Rice dish option.
The Best Paneer Biryani Recipe
- Oven Safe Tray, or
- Heavy Bottom Pan, or
- a Dutch Oven
- 1 12 Oz block of Paneer
- 2 cups Basmati Rice
- 1 large chopped Bell Pepper
- 4 chopped medium Tomatoes
- 1 thinly sliced large Onion
- 1/2 cup Oil , for frying onion and paneer
- 3 tablespoons Ghee
- 1/2 cup plain Yogurt
- 2 tablespoons Heavy Cream
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped Cilantro
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped Mint
- 1 package Butter Chicken Spice mix , use half package for less spicy
- 8-10 count Saffron threads
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1/4 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 6-8 Whole Peppercorns
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 6 Green Cardamom Pods
- 6 Cloves
- 1/4 tsp Caraway Seeds ,Black Cumin Seeds
- 2 Green Chilies , optional
- 1 Lemon juiced
- Salt to taste
- Wash the rice under running water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in the water and set it aside. Soak Saffron into 2 tablespoons hot water and set it aside. Cut the paneer into 1/2 inch cubes.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Fry half of the sliced onions until golden brown and set it aside for garnish or you may use ready-made non-coated fried onions. In the same oil, fry Paneer until golden brown. Remove the Paneer and set it aside.
- Add ghee, half of the cardamom pods, half of the peppercorn, 1 cinnamon stick, and bay leaves and cumin seeds to the same pot we fried paneer with. Sauté for a few seconds then add half of the thinly sliced onions. Cook onions until golden brown.
- Now add chopped tomatoes and cook them until tomatoes soften. Add bell pepper and sauté it for a few seconds then add Butter Chicken Masala or Biryani Masala. Stir and mix the spices well.
- Now add fried paneer to the tomatoes and mix gently until the paneer is well coated. Turn off the heat and set the Paneer Curry aside to cool down.
- Meanwhile, Bring 8 to 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pan on high heat. Add remaining whole spices, green chilies, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, I like to add a tsp of oil or ghee to the boiling water but it’s completely optional and salt to taste.
- Add rice to the boiling water. Cook on medium heat until rice is al-dente. It shouldn't take more than 6-8 minutes to cook the rice so stick around the pan to prevent overcooking.
- Drain the rice in a colander and set it aside. Whisk yogurt then add yogurt, heavy cream, cilantro, mint, and fried onions to the Paneer Curry. Mix it gently.
- Now layer the rice on top of the Paneer Curry in an Oven Safe Pan or a thick bottom pot. Drizzle the saffron water evenly on rice.
- To bake the Biryani in an oven, preheat the oven at 365 F. Bake the Biryani at 365 F for 25 minutes.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cover it with a pan lid. Bake the Biryani on low heat for 25 to 30 minutes with a thick bottom skillet under the biryani pan to prevent burning.
- Serve it hot with Yogurt Cucumber Raita.
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Mother, Wife, Indian-American born and raised in the small town of India. Former IT employee now a food blogger. A self-taught food photographer.
I choose to cook with Whole Foods and Clean Ingredients as my Mother did. I am a firm believer in cooking meals with lots of vegetables, little meat, and generous spices.