If you love takeout biryani, now you can make fast and easy Instant Pot Paneer Biryani at home – even on a weeknight! Unlike the long-cooked biryanis you’ll find in Indian restaurants, Instant Pot Paneer Biryani is ready in under an hour.
So grab some spices, and let’s get cooking!
What is biryani?
The exact origins of biryani (or “spicy rice”) are unknown, but it is thought that the dish originated with Muslims living in the Indian subcontinent. Biryani ingredients and preparations vary wildly – by region and by family tradition – and recipes and preparation techniques can be the subject of intense debate. Biryanis are often specific to the region, city, or even the particular shop from which they originate.
Although variations are as numerous as the cooks who make them, most biryanis have a few common components:
- basmati rice – a specific type of fragrant, long-grain rice grown in India and Pakistan
- marinated meat (or cheese) – raw meat is usually cooked long and slow with the rice
- aromatic spices – either whole or ground
Sometimes nuts, dried fruits, and even eggs are included.
Making Instant Pot Paneer Biryani at home
My version of biryani captures the big flavors of the dish and simplifies it into a weeknight meal. Thanks to the Instant Pot, this Paneer Biryani tastes like it was cooked all day. The basmati rice is fluffy, separate, and perfectly-cooked. The paneer cubes are firm and infused with flavor from a quick yogurt marinade. The spices are incredible – your whole house will smell wonderful when you open your Instant Pot for an Indian dinner that you made at home!
Although this list of spices looks lengthy, most of them are basics like cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric. The more exotic spices like green cardamom pods and saffron can be found online from two of my favorite spice purveyors: Penzeys or The Spice House.
An even better option is to get to know an international grocery store in your area. You’re likely to find a wide assortment of whole spices at very reasonable prices at these stores. This is where I prefer to purchase most of my whole spices.
A note on serving Instant Pot Paneer Biryani with whole spices: If you are serving paneer biryani to young children, I would advise you to remove any whole spices from their portions before serving. Nobody should eat a whole cinnamon stick. Whole cardamom pods or cloves could probably be eaten, but their flavors will be VERY intense. Proceed with caution.
I hope you love Instant Pot Paneer Biryani as much as my family does!
Instant Pot Paneer Biryani
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 3 cloves garlic – grated
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 lb paneer – cubed
- 1 generous pinch saffron
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 2 medium onions – sliced in half moons
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 8 whole cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups aged Basmati rice
- 2 medium carrots – diced
- 1/2 cup chopped sugar snap peas
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Marinate Paneer, Soak Saffron
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine yogurt, grated garlic, and turmeric. Add cubed paneer. Stir to combine. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine saffron and 1 tbsp hot water. Set aside.
Sauté onions and spices, deglaze the pot
- Press Sauté on Instant Pot. Make sure heat setting is at medium. Add ghee and onions. Sauté for about 15-20 minutes, until onions are slightly browned, but not burned.
- Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, caraway seeds, ginger, garam masala, and coriander. Sauté one minute more, until fragrant.
- Turn off Instant Pot. (Press cancel.)
- Add chicken stock, water, and salt.
- Using a wooden spatula, carefully scrape up all browned bits from the bottom of the pot. This step is important. If you leave browned bits on the bottom of the inner pot, the Instant Pot will think your food is burning, and will activate the “burn” message.
Layer in rice and paneer
- Add rice. Gently push rice under the water, making sure it is completely submerged.
- Add paneer mixture to the pot, then diced carrots.
- Sprinkle with saffron and water mixture. Do not stir.
Pressure cook the Paneer Biryani
- Seal pressure cooker. Set for 6 minutes at high pressure, on low heat (heat indicator should be at the left side.)
- When timer ends, quick release pressure, being careful to keep your hands and face away from the escaping steam.
- Open instant pot and add peas and cilantro. Fold gently from the bottom to combine the cheese, rice, vegetables, and spices. Remove bay leaf, cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon sticks if desired.
- To make a vegetarian version of Paneer Biryani, substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock.
- Remove whole spices before serving if desired, or if serving to children.
- Basmati rice dries out easily. Make sure to cover the dish tightly when storing in the refrigerator.
- Paneer Biryani reheats well in a covered container. You can add a few drops of water to help re-hydrate the rice.