Jihva for Rice ~ Brown Basmati Biryani

fresh veggies and brown basmati
my own tomatoes(!), fresh garlic and spinach, and saffron,
with brown basmati for biryani

It’s Jihva time again, and this time it’s Jihva for Rice, hosted by lovely and talented Sharmi of Neivedyam! Thanks for all your hard work, Sharmi 🙂

I have always wanted to make biryani, but haven’t tackled it yet. I thought Jihva would be the perfect opportunity. Alas, I left it to the last minute to cook (as usual I planned NOT to, and as usual I did, eek!). I was sitting here last night with only brown basmati, so I dove into uncharted waters without the proper paddle, so to speak.

I relied heavily on Nupur’s recipe for Vegetable Biryani. Thanks for all the great tips, Nupur!

I made a smaller batch with a few changes to use the ingredients I had on hand. The robust brown basmati did not overpower subtle saffron as I had feared. To complement the nutty brown rice, I tried some different seasonings for the vegetable layer, and was pleasantly surprised with the whole thing.


Brown Basmati Biryani

For the rice:

1c brown basmati
generous pinch of saffron threads
3c water, in total

Vegetables I:

1 TB canola oil
1 large onion (for about 2 cups sliced)
4 big cloves garlic, minced
1 big waxy potato, washed, peeled if desired, and diced

Vegetables II:

1 tsp canola oil

2 black cardamoms
2 slit green chiles
generous tsp kala jeera

reserved onion puree (will come from the onion above)
2-3 florets cauliflower, washed and chopped (about 1 c)
2 big tomatoes, pureed
(I used a yellow and a red one from my own garden, hooray!)
1/2 lb spinach, washed well and chopped very fine in food processor
(or use frozen — defrost it and squeeze very well to remove liquid)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 heaping tsp Badshah garam masala

For the garnish:

reserved fried onions (also from onion above)
1/4 c dried fruits and cashew pieces, fried in ghee

salt to taste


Wash the rice well. Dissolve a generous pinch of saffron in 2c lukewarm water. Soak the washed rice in this saffron-water for about 30 minutes. Put the rice and water into the pressure cooker with an additional cup of water, and cook about 20 minutes. Allow the pressure to fall, then remove the rice and spread it out to dry.

Meanwhile, cut the onion into quarters and slice these thick or thin, according to your preference. I prefer a medium thickness for fried onions. In a wide pan over med-high, heat 1 TB canola oil till very hot, but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and fry 5-10 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan, till they are nicely browned. When done, you should have about 1 1/2 cups. Remove about 1/2c to a plate and save for garnish. Remove another 3/4c to a blender –puree them and set aside (these measures are approximate).

In the same pan, add the chopped potatoes and garlic to the remaining onions. Leaving heat on medium, saute everything for about 15 minutes, spritzing with oil or Pam if necessary, till potatoes are browned and just cooked through. Remove from the heat and hold aside.

In another saucepan, heat 1 tsp canola oil over medium heat. When hot, add black cardamoms, slit green chiles, and kala jeera. When kala jeera sizzles, add the reserved pureed onion, stir for a few moments, then add the pureed tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning, then add the chopped cauliflower and spinach. Stir in the turmeric and Badshah garam masala. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until cauliflower is tender and curry is thick. Stir in the reserved potato-onion mixture, salt to taste and set aside.


Prepare a round glass baking dish (or other dish of your choice) with thin film of canola oil or Pam. Spread a layer of saffron rice. I wanted to see if I could recreate the crusty layer Nupur described, so I pressed my layer thin and up around the sides with a wooden spoon (the brown rice was probably not as dry as it should have been, since it adhered well to the sides). Add a layer of vegetable mix, and cover with the remaining rice. Top with the fried fruits and nuts, and the reserved fried onions. Cover tightly with foil, and bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes, or till the tantalizing scent permeates the house and you can’t take it any longer 😉

vegetable filling in biryani
veggie layer spread over saffron-rice

ready for the oven
garnished biryani, ready to be baked

This was one of the most aromatic dishes I have ever made. I will definitely be trying out different versions of biryani now — it’s time-consuming for sure, but I can see how an authentic biryani would be the centerpiece of any special meal.

brown basmati biryani
rich and fragrant — biryani with brown basmati



  1. sharmi said

    that sounds Great!!

    Thanks Sharmi — looking forward to all the rice goodies at your place 🙂

  2. viji said

    Nice entry. Viji

    Thank you, Viji 🙂

  3. Jyothsna said

    These baked biryanis are fantastic! Baking allows the rice to assimilate the flavours well.

    I agree Jyothsna — the baking does something magical. Can’t wait to try more versions of this dish 🙂

  4. Nupur said

    Oh wow, Linda! I have some sort of mental block against using brown rice in biryani, but looking at your delicious outcome….no more! And with your juicy home-grown tomatoes, it must have tasted superb.

    The fresh tomatoes did make it nice, thanks, Nupur! I know what you mean — I resisted using the brown rice till the bitter end. It’s probably not as delicate as the traditional white, but it still tasted pretty good. I’m sure you could make it sing! 🙂

  5. shyam said

    ahhh…wow, look at that final pic. I’m getting close to making biryani at home – all those recipes on the food blogs are Just Too Much! 🙂 Did you get that crusty layer of rice in the end, Linda?

    Hi Shammi, that’s what happened to me too — all these recipes and I finally broke down 😉 The outside layer did get a little crunchy, but not as much as it would have in a metal dish I’m sure. Will be watching for your biryani post! 🙂

  6. Pragyan said

    Wonderful healthy recipe. Brown Basmati Rice – Can you please share as to which store carries this? I tried looking in Costco as recommended by my doc, but could not find it there 😦 Thanks in advance 🙂

    Hi Pragyan, just as ISG mentioned, you can often find brown basmati in the regular grocery store — either in rice/beans section or international foods. I have also seen it in some Indian groceries. Hope that helps, and thanks for visiting 🙂

  7. indosungod said

    Linda, Brown Rice Biryani looks fantastic Linda. The spinach should give it a nice base. I cook Brown Rice to eat with Sambhar etc, but never tried Biryani with it. I think it is time.

    I see the comment above from Pragyan, I have seen Brown Bamasti Rice in regular grocery stores and most Indian stores too.

    Having fun over the long weekend?

    Hi ISG, glad you liked the biryani! 🙂 I haven’t made brown rice for sambhar yet — I tend to eat it plain and in a hurry without bothering to make any rice. Bad, I know! 😉 I too, got the brown basmati at the regular grocery.

    Took the kids to NYC yesterday for a Broadway show, and tmo it’s back-to-college moving day for my son. Today is hang around and blog-hop, cook a little. Hope you’re enjoying the long weekend too!

  8. bhags said

    baked biriyani, i can smell the aroma thru my laptop…….i need to have it right now,i also cant take it anymore….:P

    Saved a plate just for you, Bhags! Thanks 🙂

  9. Mishmash! said

    Linda, U re always adventurous…:)
    .I have never used brown basmati rice…and I like my biryani’s the next day as all the flavor sets in by that time and it will be extra delicious.:)


    Hi Shn, this one was tastier the next day too! Nice to see you 🙂

  10. Raaga said

    Your first attempt??? Wow.

    Thanks Raaga, I was pleasantly surprised. I should probably follow directions more often 😉

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