Ambur Biryani (with mushrooms)

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This Ambur Biryani is a vegetarian version of the famous biryani from Ambur and made with white button mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, curd, herbs and spices. Ambur is a town in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu and its biryani is very famous and usually made with meat. Make this vegetarian Ambur Biryani for a hearty weekend lunch or dinner with a side of yogurt, raita or vegetable salad.

serving Ambur biryani on a plate with a side of vegetable salad

I prepare biryani once or twice a month. Thus I like to try various varieties of biryani recipes. I have been wanting to prepare Ambur biryani for a long time. The famous Ambur star biryani is made with chicken or mutton. Obviously, since we are vegetarians, I have here used white button mushrooms.

Apart from mushrooms, you can also use soy chunks, firm tofu, unripe jackfruit or mix veggies.

Whenever I want to prepare a vegetarian version of a popular biryani recipe. Then I choose mushroom or jackfruit as they give a meaty texture and taste good also. I have also posted two more vegetarian versions of biryani with mushrooms.

The Ambur biryani tasted very good. We simply loved it with a side accompaniment of onion and cucumber slices. It tastes so good that you do not need any accompaniment.

If possible use seeraga samba rice to make Ambur biryani. It brings out the real flavor. If you do not have seeraga samba rice, then use any medium or short grained rice but do not use basmati rice. Basmati rice won’t work well in the recipe.

I have adapted this Ambur biryani recipe from a Youtube video, where the ustad (master/main chef) from Ambur star biryani hotel has shown the recipe. The biryani is dum cooked. So some preparation is needed like cooking rice and preparing mushroom gravy. You can do this simultaneously too.

One of the unique ingredients in this recipe is red chili paste. For a less spicy biryani, do use red chilies which are less hot and pungent like Kashmiri red chilies or byadagi chilies. I used byadagi red chilies.

Serve Ambur star biryani as it is or with a side accompaniment of raita or sliced onions and lemon wedges.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Ambur biryani

Preparing red chilli paste

1. Firstly rinse and then soak 4 to 5 dry red chilies in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Cover and keep aside. If you prefer you can remove the seeds before soaking them.

chilies soaked in water

2. After the red chilies have softened, place them in a small grinder jar. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the soaked water.

chilies added to grinder jar

3. Grind or blend to a smooth fine paste. Keep the red chili paste aside.

red chilies paste

Cooking rice

1. When you keep the red chilies for soaking, then also rinse 1 heaped cup seeraga samba rice in water. Then soak the rice grains in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, when the red chilies and rice are soaking, prep the other ingredients like chopping mushrooms, onions and tomatoes etc. Rinse or wipe the mushrooms with a clean and moist kitchen towel.

soaked rice

2. After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water from the rice and keep it aside. Also bring 3.5 cups of water to a boil in a pan. When the water comes to a boil, then add the following ingredients: 

  • 1 small tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • ½ inch cinnamon
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
spices added to hot water

3. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the soaked rice.

soaked rice added to hot water

4. Do not reduce the heat and let the rice cook on a medium to high heat. Cook the rice without covering the pan with any lid.

cooking rice

5. Once the rice is ¾th cooked, then switch off the heat. The rice has to have some bite in the center when you eat it.

almost cooked rice

6. Strain the rice in a colander. You can even rinse the rice in running water, so that they stop cooking. Keep the cooked rice aside.

straining rice

Preparing mushroom gravy for Ambur biryani

1. In another pan heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Keep the heat to a low and then add the following ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ inch cinnamon
spices and herbs added to pan with oil

2. When the spices splutter and become fragrant, then add 1 cup thinly sliced onions.

onions added

3. Saute the onions on medium heat.

sauteing onions

4. Stir often while sauteing them for even cooking.

sauteing onions

5. Saute the onions till they start becoming golden.

sauteing onions

6. When the onions start becoming golden, then add 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste.

ginger garlic paste added

7. Stir and saute for a few seconds or till the raw aroma of ginger and garlic goes away.

sauteing ginger garlic paste

8. Next add 1 cup chopped tomatoes.

chopped tomatoes added to masala

9. Stir and saute the tomatoes for a minute.

sauteing tomatoes

10. Then add 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves and 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves.

mint leaves and coriander leaves added

11. Stir and mix well.

mixing mint and coriander leaves with mixture

12. Now add 2 cups of sliced or chopped mushrooms. You can use white button mushrooms or cremini mushrooms.

mushrooms added

13. Stir and mix the mushrooms with the rest of the masala.

mixing mushrooms with masala

14. Keep the heat to a low or sim. Then add ¼ cup fresh curd (yogurt). Quickly stir the curd while you add it.

curd added

15. Next add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon coriander powder. Both turmeric and coriander powder can be skipped. A reader had suggested that for an authentic taste of Ambur biryani, you can skip both spice powders.

spices added

16. Then add the ground red chilli paste. Stir and mix very well.

red chili paste added

17. Add ½ cup of water and stir again.

water added

18. Season with salt as per taste. Mix again. Check the taste of the liquid and it should taste slightly salty.

salt added

19. Cover the pan with its lid and simmer the gravy on a medium heat till the mushrooms are cooked. This takes about 7 to 8 minutes on a low to medium heat.

cooking mushroom gravy with closed lid

20. You should see some oil specks floating on top and the gravy will also reduce a bit.

cooked mushroom gravy

Assembling and layering Ambur star biryani

1. Now in the same pan, add the cooked rice. I removed half of the gravy, so that I can make four layers each of the gravy and rice. Thus I layered with half of the rice. You can make two layers or four layers according to your preference.

layering biryani first rice layer in the pan

2. Spread the remaining half of the mushroom gravy on the rice.

layering biryani - mushroom gravy added on rice layer

3. Now spread the remaining rice evenly all over. You can dot the top layer of rice with some ghee if you want. This step is optional though but I usually add the ghee.

layering biryani - rice layer added again

4. Seal the pan with aluminum foil. Also heat a tawa or skillet on a low heat for 5 minutes.

sealing the pan with aluminium foil

Dum cooking Ambur Star Biryani

1. Place the lid on the pan. Then keep the pan on the hot tawa and dum cook biryani on a low heat for 30 to 35 minutes. 

If baking – then bake the biryani at 180 degrees Celsius in a preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Please remember to use an oven-proof glass utensil like the pyrex bowl for baking in the oven. You will have to assemble the biryani as mentioned above in the oven proof utensil. Cover with aluminum foil and then bake.

dum cooking Ambur star biryani

2. Give a resting time of 5 to 7 minutes and then serve the ambur biryani. There should be no gravy or liquid at the bottom of the pan. If you see some gravy in the biryani, then continue to dum cook for some more minutes.

cooked Ambur star biryani in a pan

4. Serve Ambur star biryani hot or warm with onion-tomato raita or onion raita and vegetable salad. It makes for a filling and comforting meal. You can also enjoy this biryani with plain yogurt.

The leftover Ambur biryani can be refrigerated for a day in an airtight container. While reheating either steam in a stovetop pressure cooker or Instant pot until lightly hot. Or you can opt to saute the biryani in a well seasoned skillet or pan.

If the biryani looks too dry then sprinkle some water and steam or saute.

serving Ambur biryani on a plate with a side of vegetable salad


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ambur biryani recipe

Ambur Biryani | Ambur Star Biryani

Ambur star biryani with mushrooms – a vegetarian version of the famous biryani from Ambur.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Cuisine South Indian
Course Main Course
Diet Vegetarian
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 2 to 3
Units

Ingredients

For cooking rice

  • 1 cup heaped seeraga samba rice or 210 grams seeraga samba rice
  • 3.5 cups water for cooking rice
  • 1 small tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • ½ inch cinnamon
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt or add as required

For red chili paste

  • 4 to 5 dry red chilies, use byadagi or kashmiri or a mix of both
  • cup hot water for soaking

For ambur biryani gravy

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small to medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ inch cinnamon
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder – optional
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder optional
  • ¼ cup Curd (yogurt)
  • 200 grams white button mushrooms, sliced or 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup water
  • salt as required

Instructions
 

Preparing red chilli paste

  • Firstly rinse and then soak 4 to 5 dry red chilies in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Cover and keep aside. If you prefer you can remove the seeds before soaking them.
  • After the red chilies have softened, place them in a small grinder jar. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the soaked water.
  • Grind or blend to a smooth paste. Keep the red chili paste aside.

Cooking rice

  • When you keep the red chilies for soaking, then also rinse 1 heaped cup seeraga samba rice in water first. Then soak in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, when the red chilies and rice are soaking, prep the other ingredients like cleaning and chopping mushrooms, onions and tomatoes etc.
  • After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water from the rice and keep aside.
  • Also bring 3.5 cups of water to a boil in a pan. When the water comes to a boil, add tej patta, green cardamom, clove, cinnamon and salt.
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the soaked rice.
  • Do not reduce the heat and let the rice cook on medium to high heat. Cook the rice without covering the pan with any lid.
  • Once the rice is ¾th cooked, then switch off the heat. The rice has to have some bite in the center when you eat it.
  • Strain the rice in a colander. You can even rinse the rice in running water, so that they stop cooking. Keep the cooked rice aside.

Making gravy for Ambur Biryani

  • In another pan heat 3 tablespoons oil. Keep the heat to a low and then add tej patta, green cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon.
  • When the spices splutter and become fragrant, then add thinly sliced onions.
  • Saute the onions on medium heat. Stir often while sauteing them for even cooking.
  • When the onions start becoming golden, then add ginger-garlic paste.
  • Stir and saute for a few seconds or till the raw aroma of ginger and garlic goes away.
  • Next add chopped tomatoes and saute them for a minute.
  • Then add chopped mint leaves and chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.
  • Now add 2 cups of sliced or chopped mushrooms. Mix the mushrooms with the rest of the masala.
  • Keep the heat to a low or sim. Then add fresh curd. Quickly stir the curd while you add it.
  • Next add turmeric powder and coriander powder. If you want then you can skip adding turmeric powder and coriander powder.
  • Then add the ground red chilli paste. Mix very well.
  • Add ½ cup water. Stir and mix well.
  • Season with salt as per taste. Mix again. Check the taste of the liquid and it should taste slightly salty.
  • Cover the pan with its lid and simmer the gravy on a medium heat till the mushrooms are cooked. This takes about 7 to 8 minutes on a low to medium heat.
  • You should see some oil specks floating on top and the gravy will also reduce a bit.

Assembling and layering ambur star biryani

  • Now in the same pan which has mushroom gravy, add the cooked rice. You can prepare two layers or four layers of the rice and gravy.
  • Seal the pan with an aluminium foil. Also heat a tawa on a low heat for 5 minutes.

Dum cooking ambur biryani

  • Place the lid on the pan. Then keep the pan on the hot tawa or skillet and dum cook on a low heat for 30 to 35 minutes.
  • If baking – then bake the ambur biryani at 180 degrees celsius in a preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Please remember to use an oven proof glass utensil like the pyrex bowl for baking in the oven. You will have to assemble the biryani as mentioned above in the oven proof utensil. Cover with aluminium foil and then bake.
  • Give a resting time of 5 to 7 minutes and then serve the ambur star biryani. There should be no gravy or liquid at the bottom of the pan. If you see some gravy in the biryani, then continue to dum cook for some more minutes.
  • Serve Ambur star biryani hot or warm with onion-tomato raita or onion raita or plain yogurt.

Notes

  • If you don’t have seeraga samba rice then use any non-sticky variety of short-grained or medium-grained rice.
  • Instead of white button mushrooms you can also use unripe jackfruit, soya chunks, mix vegetables or firm tofu.
  • You can white button mushrooms or cremini mushrooms. 
  • Use byadagi or kashmiri red chilies or a mix of both as they are not pungent or spicy and give a good color to the gravy. If you use a spicier and hotter variety of red chili then add in lesser numbers or else the biryani will become very spicy.
  • For a vegan version of Ambur biryani use oil instead of ghee and use a plant-based yogurt like cashew yogurt or almond yogurt.

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Ambur Biryani | Ambur Star Biryani
Amount Per Serving
Calories 629 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 18g
Cholesterol 4mg1%
Sodium 933mg41%
Potassium 847mg24%
Carbohydrates 93g31%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 13g26%
Vitamin A 1060IU21%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 6mg30%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 21mg25%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 9mg60%
Vitamin K 11µg10%
Calcium 135mg14%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 57µg14%
Iron 2mg11%
Magnesium 69mg17%
Phosphorus 273mg27%
Zinc 2mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Ambur Biryani post from the archives (September 2016) has been updated and republished on 23 October 2021.

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Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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12 Comments

  1. Hi dassana! Ur recipies are the most reliable out there when it comes veg dishes. I’ve tried a few of them myself and all of those have turned out well 🙂

    I came across this recipe of urz by chance today and was pleasantly surprised. Am sure it’ll taste good. But if u really want to get the authentic taste do skip on turmeric and dhaniya. Most of the flavor and colour is got from red chillies and tomatoes.

    I found this link to be very close to the authentic taste.
    my apologies for not being able to find a vegetarian site.

    Ps: my hometown is ambur. N this biryani is a staple without surprise,hence thought I’ll just share my 2 cents. I owe that much to u. After all I’ve learnt quiet alot from ur recipies too. 🙂

    1. thanks suman and yes you do owe this to me 🙂 nice to know you are from ambur.

      i checked the link you have given and the recipe has been adapted from the same youtube video which i have also adapted from. adding turmeric and coriander powder was my own idea. turmeric is one ingredient which i add in every dish. sometimes while trying and testing recipes which do not have turmeric powder, i add in these recipes too. considering the health benefits of turmeric powder, i add it in most of the recipes. but i will make this biryani as you have suggested minus the turmeric and coriander powder. its a family favorite now. i will also update about turmeric and coriander powder being optional in the post. lastly i am removing the link as then the comment gets spammed.

      1. Glad to know,that ur family likes it. I hope ur next attempt turns out delicious too! 😀

  2. Dear Dassana, thank you for the wonderful recipe, I have not tried it yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be yum just like all the others ?. I had a question regarding the garam masalas (I.e. the cinnamon, cardamom, laung…) we don’t like the big pieces of these masalas in our food, in that case if I am crushing them, do I need to use lesser quantity of masalas?

    1. welcome shreya. for cooking rice, you can just tie the whole garam masala in a small potli or bag and then place it in hot water. use a malmal/muslin or thin cotton cloth for the potli. for rice, you don’t crush the spices. it will come in the mouth while eating. if you powder finely and add to the rice, the flavors of rice will change. for the gravy, you can crush the spices and add. but do crush or powder finely.