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Instant Pot Chicken Biryani

Instant Pot Biryani is a quick way to make the classic Indian dish, which normally takes many hours to slow cook over a low flame. This is far from the most authentic biryani, but this Instant Pot Chicken Biryani can be made in just an hour from start to finish.

Overhead shot of Instant Pot biryani on plates.

What is biryani?

Biryani is a classic dish from India, Pakistan, and Nepal. It was likely introduced to those cuisines by Persian cooks.

Authentic biryani is a slow-cooked dish that combines rice (usually basmati or other long-grain rice), meat, eggs, or vegetables, and spices like saffron and cinnamon. It is cooked over a low flame.

It is often served with the seasoned yogurt sauce raita and onions that have been cooked until they are browned and slightly crisp.

Biryani can be made with fish, shrimp, chicken, goat, lamb, or vegetables. Meat is usually first marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices. The yogurt tenderizes the meat and helps it absorb the flavors of the spices.

I love to make this Instant Pot Chicken Biryani for my family. It is easy to make and everyone loves it. It is also a great dish to serve as leftovers. We often make a big pot of IP Chicken Biryani and eat it for dinner for 2 or 3 nights.

Why make Instant Pot biryani?

Authentic biryani has a deep flavor that is infused throughout the dish by slow cooking. It’s super delicious, but it takes many hours to make it properly. This instant pot version can be ready in just 60 minutes.

Instant Pot Biryani is not the real deal by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are craving the layered flavors and textures of biryani, you can cook in a pressure cooker and have it on the table in just an hour and a half.

Overhead shot of the ingredients in the dish.

What ingredients do you need?

Here are the ingredients you need to make this Instant Pot Chicken Biryani:

  • Chicken (you can use whatever pieces you like. I prefer like to use either skinless, bone-in chicken legs or boneless, skinless thighs)
  • Basmati rice
  • Butter or ghee
  • Full-fat plain yogurt (you can use a dairy-free yogurt such as one made with soy or coconut milk)
  • Onion
  • Spices: Bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, mace, cinnamon stick, green and black cardamom pods, ground coriander, garam masala, paprika, cumin, and salt
  • Lime juice
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Mint leaves
  • Cilantro
  • Saffron threads
  • Milk (you can substitute a dairy-free milk like coconut, soy, almond, etc.)
  • Kewra water (also called keora water or kevda water)

What is garam masala?

Garam masala is spice blend that usually contains cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, and nutmeg. It is made by toasting the whole spices to release their oils and then grinding them together.

Garam masala is an essential ingredient in many Indian and South Asian dishes. The exact proportions of the different spices differs by region and by individual cook.

You can buy garam masala in most supermarkets, in a South Asian grocery store, or online. You can also make your own!

What is kewra water?

Kewra water, also called kewra essence or kevda water or keora water, is a flower water that is similar to rose water. It is an extract of pandan leaf. You can buy kewra water online or in an Indian or South Asian grocery store.

Kewra water gives this biryani a distinctive and authentic flavor. If you can’t find it, you can substitute rose water.

How do you make Instant Pot Chicken Biryani?

  1. First, make a marinade with yogurt, spices, and lime juice.
  2. Toss the chicken with the marinade and let marinate for at least 30 minutes (or up to an hour).
  3. Meanwhile, rinse the rice well and then soak in water for at least 15 minutes. Drain the rice.
  4. Combine the saffron threads with the milk and let stand to infuse the milk with the flavor of the saffron.
  5. Melt the butter in the Instant Pot using the saute setting and toast the whole spices in the oil.
  6. Add onions to the pot and saute until they are soft and golden brown.
  7. Add the chicken and cook, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, until opaque on the outside, about 5 minutes if using bone-in chicken legs (less time if using boneless chicken thighs).
  8. Add the fresh herbs, the saffron-infused milk, salt, and kewra water along with water.
  9. Seal the pot and pressure cook, then quick-release the pressure.
  10. Serve hot, garnished with cucumber raita, sauteed or caramelized onions, and chopped fresh cilantro and/or mint.
Low angle shot of the dish on a serving plate with the Instant Pot in the background

Tips for success

  • Pat the chicken pieces dry before adding them to the marinade.
  • Drain the rice completely after soaking it.
  • Ensure that all the rice is under liquid before closing the Instant Pot.
  • Always use long grain basmati rice for Biryani.
  • You can replace butter with ghee if you like.
  • Kewra water gives this chicken biryani its characteristic rich flavour and aroma. If you can’t find it, you can substitute rose water, but the flavor won’t be quite the same.
  • Saffron milk acts as a natural coloring agent which along with other spices helps to give Biryani its signature brownish-red color. It also imparts a pleasant aroma to the dish.

instant pot biryani frequently asked questions

Is biryani spicy?

Traditional biryani is made with various combinations of spices depending on the region. Some, but not all, of these spices are mildly hot spices like cinnamon and clove. Others are not at all hot, like saffron and cardamom, but are very flavorful.
If you want to add a spicy kick, you can add diced fresh chile peppers (jalapeno, serrano, or any other chile pepper you have on hand and depending on how spicy you like your food) to the pot along with the rice and water.

Is Instant Pot biryani authentic?

In a word, no. Authentic biryani is cooked over a flame, sometimes in a pit, and takes many hours to achieve. Instant Pot Biryani offers the flavors and textures of a traditional biryani, but it takes a fraction of the time to cook.

Where is biryani from?

Biryani is a popular dish in both India and Pakistan. The method of cooking rice, marinated meats and vegetables, and spices together was likely brought to India by the Persians.

Can biryani be vegetarian?

Yes! There are lots of recipes for vegan and/or vegetarian biryani. These are made with vegetables and sometimes eggs as well as spices and yogurt.

Can you make Instant Pot Biryani ahead of time?

Yes, you can keep the Instant Pot Chicken Biryani in the refrigerator for up to three days.

How do you reheat it?

To reheat Instant Pot Chicken Biryani, put it in a baking dish, cover, and heat in a 350ºF oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Or you can put it in a microwave-safe dish and heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute or two.

What do you serve it with?

I like to serve this Instant Pot Biryani with a dish of cucumber raita on the side. I also like to saute onions in olive oil until they are dark golden brown and crisped or even charred in places.

A simple green salad with a light lemon or vinaigrette dressing makes a nice counterpoint to the spiced rice.

low angle shot of the cooked biryani with a forkful in the foreground

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Yield: Serves 4

Instant Pot Chicken Biryani

low angle shot of chicken biryani on a plate.

Biryani is a classic slow cooked South Asian rice-and-meat dish. By cooking it in the Instant Pot, you can make it in just an hour. It's loaded with flavor from herbs, spices, and other ingredients.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons full-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound skinless chicken legs or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 ¼ cups basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 onion, thinly bsliced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 3 whole green cardamom pods
  • 2 whole black cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole mace (You can use ¼ teaspoon ground mace if the whole spice is not available)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste (or substitute 1 ½ teaspoons minced ginger plus 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic)
  • 3 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Kewra water

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, stir together the yogurt, coriander, ginger-garlic paste, paprika, garam masala, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
  2. Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture and toss to coat. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the milk and saffron threads and set aside.
  4. Rinse the rice 3 or 4 times in cold water, until the water
    runs clear. Cover the rice in cold water and let it soak for 15 minutes. Drain the rice.
  5. Set the instant pot on the SAUTE function. Add butter and let it melt. Add the cumin, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, and mace.
  6. Next, add sliced onions and sauté until the onions are soft and golden brown, 6 minutes or so.
  7. Add the marinated chicken, discarding the marinade. Cook the chicken pieces, turning occasionally, until they turn opaque, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the mint and cilantro, ginger-garlic paste, the drained rice, salt, water, saffron-milk mixture, kewra water, and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir to mix well.
  9. Press the cancel button to turn the Instant Pot off.
  10. Cover and seal the pot, then select pressure cook or manual
    and set to high pressure for 6 minutes.
  11. Once the pressure-cooking cycle is over, quick-release the pressure
    by manually moving the valve from sealing to venting.
  12. Open the lid carefully and press the cancel button to turn
    the pot off.
  13. Stir the mixture to fluff the rice.
  14. Serve hot.

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