Paneer Biryani

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Paneer biryani is a mildly spiced and delicately flavored dum cooked, traditional biryani recipe. Simply moreish and flavorful paneer biryani that pairs beautifully with any raita. A dum cooked biryani takes time to make but the results are always awesome. You can make this tasty biryani on a stove-top or in the oven.

paneer biryani served in a cream shallow plate with a steel spoon by the side on a brown wooden board

What is Paneer Biryani

A traditional Paneer Biryani recipe is a slow cooked layered casserole of paneer cubes in a curd (yogurt) based gravy, fried onions and par-cooked rice flavored with spices, saffron or rose water.

Any traditionally made biryani will have separate layers of the gravy and rice, utilizing the dum method of cooking. The rice and gravy layers are slow cooked and steamed in a tightly sealed pan or pot, where the steam is unable to escape.

You will find many variations of making paneer biryani that are not only made in a pan but also in a pressure cooker and in the Instant Pot.

Why This Recipe Works

This paneer biryani recipe is very unique and different as there is no preparation of any gravy. Here I just marinate the paneer cubes, layer the marinated paneer with cooked rice in a pan. Later cook everything together. Easy, right?

There is no absolutely no need to make any gravy with the paneer. Bonus, the paneer cubes do not become dense or hard since we are not cooking them twice – like frying or cooking in the gravy and adding to the rice while layering.

Yes, easy in a way, but there is some prep work like frying onions (which is also known as birista) and cooking rice.

After these two steps, making this paneer biryani is a breeze. You need to make the layers in a pot or pan and cook the biryani on stovetop or in the oven.

When I had posted this paneer biryani recipe, it was first of its kind in on the web (now I do not know). As usually a paneer biryani is made by first frying the paneer and then cooking it further with gravy or rice.

This paneer biryani has mild, delicate aroma and flavors of the spices. It is not spicy or pungent.

Love paneer with rice? Get these recipes of Paneer Pulao and Paneer Fried Rice – that have distinct flavor profiles and are made with different cooking techniques.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Paneer Biryani

Soaking Rice

1. Rinse basmati rice very well in running fresh water until the starch clears from the water. The water should be clear and not cloudy or opaque. Soak the rice grains in water for 30 minutes.

soaking basmati rice in water in glass bowl

Frying Onions

2. When the rice is soaking, prep the ingredients for the paneer biryani. Thinly slice 2 medium-sized onions. You will need about ¾ to 1 cup of sliced onions.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil or ghee in a small frying pan and add the sliced onions.

sliced red onions in a pan over simmering oil

3. Stir and begin to fry the onions until they turn golden. Add one or two pinches of salt for quick browning of the onions. Stir often for uniform browning and fry on a low heat.

frying onions

4. In the below photo, the onions have begun to get golden.

onion becoming golden

5. When the onions are golden and caramelized, remove them with a slotted spoon. Place the fried onions on kitchen paper towels and set aside. These crispy golden fried onions are also known as Birista.

Set the oil or ghee in which we fried the onions aside. We will be using this oil or ghee while layering the paneer biryani.

fried golden caramelized onions on kitchen paper towels to make paneer biryani

Infusing Saffron with Milk

6. Warm ¼ cup milk on stovetop or in the microwave. Add 16 to 18 saffron strands to the milk. Stir and set aside.

saffron strands on top of milk in a steel bowl

Making Paneer Marinade

7. Whisk ½ cup of whole milk curd (yogurt) in a mixing bowl until smooth. Do not use sour curd as that will make your paneer biryani taste sour.

curd being whisked with a wired whisk in a glass bowl

8. Add the following herbs and mix well.

  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves 
  • ½ tablespoon chopped mint leaves
green chillies, ginger, herbs added to curd

9.  Add in the following listed spices and mix again:

  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds (known as shahjeera in Hindi)
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of garam masala powder (sub ½ teaspoon curry powder instead)
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice 
  • salt as needed
ground spices added

10. Add half of the fried onions and all of the paneer cubes (200 to 250 grams).

paneer cubes and caramelized onions added to the whisked curd in the glass bowl

11. Mix gently. Cover and keep the marinated paneer aside for 30 minutes at room temperature. If you plan to marinate for a longer time, keep the paneer bowl covered in your fridge.

paneer mixed with remaining ingredients evenly

Cooking Basmati Rice

12. In the below photo you see the soaked and drained basmati rice after 30 minutes. Do drain all the water from the rice very well and set aside.

soaked rice with all water removed in glass bowl

13. Bring 4 cups water to a rolling boil in a pot.

water boiling in a pan

14. Add the whole spices listed below:

  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1 medium-sized or 2 small tej patta
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 2 to 3 green cardamoms
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds (shahjeera)
whole spices added to boiling water

15. Add 1 teaspoon salt.

salt being added with a measuring spoon

16. Now add the soaked rice.

adding soaked rice to the hot water in the pan

17. Do not stir and you will see the temperature drops a bit after adding rice. Do not cover the pan while cooking rice.

water with whole spices floating on the top in the pan

18. Keep the flame to high and cook the rice without lowering the heat.

water boiling vigorously

19. Boil the rice grains until they are 75% or ¾ cooked. They should have a bite when you eat them.

three fourth cooked rice grains being shown with a fork

20. Drain the cooked rice in a colander. You can rinse the rice grains gently to remove starch if any and to stop the grains from cooking. Cover with a lid and set the cooked basmati rice aside.

cooked rice grains in a strainer

21. This is the marinated paneer after 30 minutes.

marinated paneer after 30 minutes

Assembling and Layering

22. Add the same oil in which we fried the onions to a thick bottomed pan or pot. If cooking the biryani in an oven, add the oil to an oven safe glass bowl or pan.

oil in a pan

23. Add the marinated paneer and layer neatly.

marinated paneer added to the pan

24. Make a rice layer now. Add all the rice. I have just made two layers. If you want you can make 4 layers each of the marinated paneer and cooked rice.

a layer of rice made in the pan

25. Add the remaining fried onions.

fried onions layered on top of the rice layer

26. Now add 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and ½ tablespoon mint leaves.

coriander and mint leaves sprinkled on the fried onions layer

27. Sprinkle the saffron infused milk all over. Place the saffron strands as well on the rice.

saffron infused milk being added

28. Dot with 1 to 2 tablespoons of ghee. You can add 1 tablespoon of rose water or kewra water at this step.

dotted with ghee

Dum Cooking Paneer Biryani

29. Cover with an aluminium foil or with a moist cotton kitchen napkin.

covered with aluminium foil

30. Place the lid tightly on the pan and place it on a tawa or skillet.

covered tightly with lid and placed on a thick black skillet (tawa)

31. For the first 5 minutes dum cook the paneer biryani on a medium heat. Later reduce the heat and cook the paneer biryani on dum for 12 to 15 minutes.

You can cook the biryani in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).

dum cooked paneer biryani

32. Here’s the paneer biryani after being dum cooked for 20 minutes. Check the bottom with a spoon and there should be no liquids. If you find the bottom of pan watery or with any gravy or liquid, dum cook for 5 to 10 minutes more.

cooked paneer biryani recipe

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy paneer biryani hot or warm with raita like an onion-tomato raita or cucumber raita or boondi raita. You can serve with sliced onion-lime salad or onion-tomato-cucumber salad.

Pairing it with curries like mirchi ka salan and bagara baingan tastes awesome. Even a simple plain yogurt tastes nice with paneer biryani.

Storage

Place any leftovers in any sealed box or container and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. Reheat by warming in the oven at 90 degrees Celsius (195 degrees Fahrenheit) or by steaming in the Instant pot for 5 minutes.

paneer biryani served in a cream shallow plate with a steel spoon by the side on a brown wooden board
Tips

Expert Tips

Ingredient Variations

  • Rice: For any biryani recipe I usually prefer aged basmati rice as the grains become fluffy, tender and non-sticky when cooked. Parboiled basmati rice (sella basmati rice) is another rice variety I like to make biryani with. You can make paneer biryani with any long grained variety of non-sticky rice.
  • Adding veggies: You can add some steamed peas and steamed veggies like carrots, cauliflower, potatoes to the paneer biryani recipe. But you will have to increase the curd and other spices accordingly to accommodate the veggies.
  • Vegan option: For a vegan version of paneer biryani, use tofu, oil and a dairy free yogurt & milk like cashew or almond milk/yogurt. Avoid soy or peanut yogurt as it gives an after taste.
  • Nuts and dried fruits: Fried cashews and raisins can be added on top of the rice layers.
  • Whole spices: I recommend adding all the spices and herbs in the same proportion as listed in this paneer biryani recipe. A only suggestion I offer which will alter the flavor slightly will be to replace caraway seeds (shah jeera) with cumin seeds.

Cooking Notes

  • Cooking rice: Do not cook the rice grains completely. They have to be slightly underdone. Fully cooked rice grains will end up with a mushy biryani since the rice grains cook further during the dum cooking process.
  • Paneer: Use homemade paneer for best taste and texture. For frozen paneer, thaw them in warm or hot water for some minutes.
  • Marinating time: I always marinate the paneer for 30 minutes at room temperature. Sometimes if I have more time, I marinate the paneer cubes overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Making birista: The birista or fried onions can be made a day before and stored in an air tight container. You can also make a big batch of fried onions that come in handy while making biryani. Freeze them for a longer storage.

More Flavorful Rice Recipes To Try!

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paneer biryani recipe

Paneer Biryani Recipe

4.92 from 37 votes
Paneer biryani is a mildly spiced and delicately flavored dum cooked, traditional biryani recipe. It pairs beautifully with any raita or even with simple plain curd (yogurt).
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins

Cuisine Awadhi, North Indian
Course: Main Course
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Servings 3
Units

Ingredients

For birista or fried onions

  • 1 cup thinly sliced onions – 150 grams or 2 medium to large-sized onions
  • 4 tablespoon oil or ghee (clarified butter)

For cooking rice

  • 1 cup basmati rice – 180 grams, preferably aged basmati rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 inch cinnamon (dalchini)
  • 1 tej patta (medium-sized) or 2 small tej patta
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 2 to 3 green cardamoms
  • ¼ teaspoon shahjeera (caraway seeds)

For paneer marination

  • 200 to 250 grams Paneer (cottage cheese)
  • ½ cup Curd (yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste or 1 inch ginger crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste or 4 to 5 garlic medium-sized cloves crushed to a paste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies or serrano pepper or 1 to 2 green chillies
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • ½ tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder

    (ground coriander)

  • ¼ teaspoon shahjeera (caraway seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • salt as required

Layering ingredients

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 16 to 18 saffron strands
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • ½ tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon rose water or kewra water (pandanus water) – optional

Instructions

Cooking rice

  • Rinse basmati rice very well in water till the starch clears from the water. The water should be clear and not cloudy or opaque. 
  • Then soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Later drain the rice well and keep aside.
  • Bring 4 cups water to a rolling boil in a pot.
  • Add whole spices – cinnamon, tej patta, cloves , green cardamoms, caraway seeds. Also add salt.
  • Now add the soaked rice. Do not stir the rice.
  • Keep the flame to high and cook the rice without lowering the temperature.
  • The rice grains have to be cooked till 75% or ¾ done. They should have a bite to them when eaten.
  • Drain the rice in a colander. You can also rinse the rice grains to remove starch if any and to stop the grains from cooking. Cover with a lid and keep the rice aside.

Making birista or fried onions

  • When the rice is soaking, prep the ingredients for the biryani. Slice the onions. Heat the oil or ghee in a small frying pan and add the sliced onions.
  • Stir and begin to fry the onions till they turn golden. Add one or two pinches of salt for quick browning of the onions. Stir often for uniform browning and fry on a low flame.
  • Here the onions have begun to get golden.
  • Once the onions become golden, then remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on kitchen paper towels. Keep the fried onions aside.

Preparation for marination

  • Warm the milk on stove top or in the microwave. Add 16 to 18 saffron strands to the milk. Stir and keep aside.
  • Whisk full fat curd (yogurt) in a mixing bowl till smooth.
  • Add ginger paste, garlic paste, chopped green chilies, chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves. Mix well.
  • Now add the spices- turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder, caraway seeds and lemon juice.
  • And salt as required. Mix again.
  • Then add the half of the fried onions and the paneer cubes.
  • Mix gently. Cover and keep the marinated paneer aside for 30 minutes.

Assembling and layering

  • Add the same oil in which we fried the onions to a pan or pot.
  • Add the marinated paneer and layer neatly.
  • Make a rice layer now. Add all the rice. I have just made two layers. If you want you can make four layers.
  • Add the remaining fried onions, chopped coriander and mint leaves.
  • Sprinkle the saffron infused milk.
  • Dot with ghee. You can also add rose water or kewra water.

Dum cooking paneer biryani

  • Cover with a aluminium foil or with a moist kitchen cotton towel or napkin.
  • Place the lid tightly on the pan and place it on a tava or griddle. For the first 5 minutes dum cook the paneer biryani on a medium flame. 
  • Then lower the flame and cook the paneer biryani
  • On dum for 12 to 15 minutes. You can also cook the paneer biryani in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Use an oven proof pan.
  • Serve the paneer biryani hot with boondi raita or cucumber raita or onion tomato raita or kuchumber salad.

Serving Suggestions

  • Enjoy paneer biryani hot or warm with raita like an onion-tomato raita or cucumber raita or boondi raita. You can also serve with sliced onion-lime salad or onion-tomato-cucumber salad.
  • Pairing it with curries like mirchi ka salan and bagara baingan also tastes awesome. Even a simple plain yogurt tastes nice with it.

Storage

  • Place any leftovers in any sealed box or container and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. Reheat by warming in the oven at 90 degrees Celsius (195 degrees Fahrenheit) or by steaming in the Instant pot for 5 minutes.

Video

Notes

Ingredient Variations

  • Rice: For biryani I usually prefer aged basmati rice as the grains become fluffy, tender and non-sticky when cooked. Parboiled basmati rice (sella basmati rice) is yet another rice variety I like to make biryani with. You can make paneer biryani with any long grained variety of non-sticky rice.
  • Adding veggies: You can add some steamed peas and steamed veggies like carrots, cauliflower, potatoes. But then you will have to increase the curd and other spices accordingly to accommodate the veggies.
  • Vegan option: For a vegan version of paneer biryani, use tofu, oil and a dairy free yogurt & milk like cashew or almond milk/yogurt. Avoid soy or peanut yogurt as it gives an after taste.
  • Nuts and dried fruits: Fried cashews and raisins can also be added in the layers.
  • Whole spices: I recommend adding all the spices and herbs in the same proportion as listed in the recipe. A only suggestion I offer which will alter the flavor slightly will be to replace caraway seeds (shah jeera) with cumin seeds.

Cooking Notes

  • Cooking rice: Do not cook the rice grains completely. They have to be slightly underdone. Fully cooked rice grains will end up with a mushy biryani as the rice grains cook further during the dum cooking process.
  • Paneer: Use homemade paneer for best taste and texture. For frozen paneer, thaw them in warm or hot water for some minutes.
  • Marinating time: I always marinate the paneer for 30 minutes at room temperature. The paneer cubes can also be marinated for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Making birista: The birista or fried onions can be made a day before and stored in an airtight container. You can also make a big batch of fried onions which come in handy when making biryani. Freeze them for a longer storage.

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Paneer Biryani Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 694 Calories from Fat 378
% Daily Value*
Fat 42g65%
Saturated Fat 16g100%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 62mg21%
Sodium 1632mg71%
Potassium 294mg8%
Carbohydrates 62g21%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 17g34%
Vitamin A 222IU4%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 8mg53%
Vitamin K 3µg3%
Calcium 453mg45%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 22µg6%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 39mg10%
Phosphorus 153mg15%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This paneer biryani recipe post from the blog archives (March 2015) has been republished and updated on 13 February 2021.

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90 Comments

  1. Great recipe, have tried it with different combinations, yet yours is simply a breeze to cook. Yummy taste..5 stars

    1. Good to know and thank you for sharing this lovely review. Thanks for the rating as well.

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