Vegetable Biryani (Rice Pilaf)

“Biryani” or “Pilaf” means a rice dish cooked with herbs and spices. This dish is of Persian/middle eastern decent and came to India hundreds of years ago. Traditionally it is made with meat, but in my vegan recipe, you will not miss the meat. This is one of my favorite midweek, easy, one pot and done dishes. With all the veggies covered in delicious spices, my kids love it too!

Vegetable Biryani (Rice Pilaf)

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 cups of Basmati or Jasmine Rice*, washed and soaked in 4 cups of water for 30 min
  • ½ cup of sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 small potato, cut in 1 inch pieces (optional)
  • 1 small onion or about 1 cup, chopped
  • 2 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 1 zucchini cut in 1 inch pieces (Feel free to add or substitute any seasonal veggies like string beans, eggplant or okra)
  • 1 tbs each of ginger and garlic, grated or chopped fine
  • 1 tbs biryani spice mix**
  • Red chili powder (1/2 tsp, optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish



In a large heavy bottom pot, add oil and heat on medium heat.


Once the oil is hot, add chopped onions and sauté until they start to brown, takes about 5 mins.


Add chopped tomatoes and sauté for another 2 minutes.


Add garlic and ginger, sauté for another 2-3 minutes.


Add biryani spice mix and red chili powder if using.


Turn the heat to low and continue to cook until tomatoes release most of the water and you start to see the oil separate. (Note: This is basically what is refer to as ‘Masala’. The process of making masala takes about 10 minutes or so and creates the deep flavor.)


Add all the fresh vegetables and mix well with the masala.


Turn up the heat and sauté the vegetables until they are a bit golden and soft, about 2-3 minutes.


Add the soaking rice, not the water, spread the rice over the vegetables with a spatula and create a even layer.


Slowly add 1.5 cups of water, cover with a lid and let it cook on low for another 10-15 minutes.


Once the rice is cooked, the biryani is ready.


Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with vegan Raita!


*If using brown rice, please cook the rice first. Since it takes much longer to cook, and if added uncooked, it forces the vegetables to become overcooked.
**Biryani spice mix is easily available in all indian/Asian grocery stores, as well as Amazon. Any variety will do.

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