Cooked in steam, the layered dum aloo biryani is a Sunday special delicacy. This Indian Sunday lunch treat is gluten-free and vegan with the heady aroma of spices that calls for a gathering. Served with a cooling mixed vegetable raita, this easy recipe is loved by many who have tried it.
From time immemorial I have heard the debate of whether to put potatoes in biryani or not. I don’t think there is a clear solution. To understand this, however controversial we have to accept that there are so many varieties of biryani and there is no one winner. This is because the regional variations create such remarkable changes that each one, though grouped under the category of biryani is different from the other.
Let’s trace the history of biryani
With strong Persian roots, the biryani has seen much evolution during the invasions. The slow cooking of the meat on dum, in pots called deg is what got adapted to a layered rice form that we now identify as biryani. It is unsure if the travellers introduced this technique of cooking or if it was the Mughals. However, each of them has provided a strong cooking style to Indian cuisine. With regional invasions and colonisation, the variety that we now have with biryani in India surpasses the original ones. The now popular Indian style biryani has stringer spices and heat from the chillies. With plenty of regional variations to this now in Indian cuisine, the biryani has now become synonymous with a celebratory meal.
Unique biryanis that are trending on our blog
Though I like biryani, I am not a seasoned biryani cook and am. often swayed by the various books and blogs I read. The recipes that I took time to create and recreate multiple times are the ones I place here. Among these, the Chettinad-style mushroom biryani and the Mangalore-style young jackfruit biryani are the ones that often catch my reader’s attention. If you haven’t checked it out click on the links below to try.
Young jackfruit biryani
The one we have made today is an easier one with no local specificity. It is more so the one that I make as a quick Sunday meal.
Ingredients for dum aloo biryani
Rice– When it comes to biryani, nothing compares to the long-grain, aged basmati rice. To get that fluffy singled our cooked grains, I use 1:1 ratio of grain to water, a pinch of ghee ( or vegan butter) and a quarter teaspoon of salt. To make the rice fragrant it is cooked with one or two bay leaves, a small stick of cinnamon, star anise and a couple of crushed pods of cardamom. I have done this batch in the instant pot. Once the steam is released naturally, fluff the rice and set it aside to cool down a bit.
Onions – The red or rose onions have a distinct fragrance when caramelized. This is what you want when you are making biryani. I buy the Roselle onions which are the closest to the flavour here in Sydney. To caramelize them add a touch of ghee ( or vegan butter) and let the sliced onions hand our on a low heat till they soften and brown.
Potatoes- A good all-rounder potato will be the perfect one for this recipe. Spuds, yukon gold, even the red-skinned ones are all good. the potatoes absorb the marinade, giving it a chance to absorb all the aromatic spiciness. Usually, I steam them along with the rice. I prefer to leave the skins on after scrubbing them clean, but if you don’t like it peel them and then steam the potatoes.
Biryani masala- the fragrance of biryani comes from the special masala blend, the biryani masala. this combination spice mix varies widely based on regional specificities. Currently, I have used a store-bought Bombay biryani masala.
Marinade for potatoes – the mix for the marinade is actually simple, yet results are spectacular. FOr this you need, yogurt, salt, red chilli powder and biryani masala. coat the potatoes well with them and leave them aside for 15 to 30 minutes.
Herbs and toppings- the fragrance that you experience as soon as you lift the lid of the biryani pot is from the combination of masalas and fresh mint leaves. The mint leaves are key to most biryanis so gather a bunch before you start the making process. In this recipe I have added a few cherry tomatoes to add touch of sweetness.
How to make dum aloo biryani?
The cooking process for the potato biryani happens in a couple of steps.
Cooking the rice: Wash the rice three or four times till the water runs clear. Soak it in water with a ratio of 1:1 for about 15 minutes. Steam cook the rice in a pressure cooker or instant pot with cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, star anise and a bay leaf. Once cooked, fluff the rice with a fork gently to separate the grains and allow it to cool down a bit.
Steaming the potatoes: Scrub and clean the potatoes and poke them with a fork. Along with the rice, Steam the potatoes or stem them separately.
Marinating the potatoes: Once the potatoes are steamed, cut them into chunks and add them to a mixing bowl. ( you can peel them if you like). Add the yogurt, salt, red chilli powder and biryani masala powder. It’s time o get your hands in and mix and coat the potatoes with this mix. Set this aside for 15 to 30 minutes.
Caramelizing the onions: now it is time to set the biryani making on a roll. Set a heavy casserole-style pot and add the oil or ghee. Add the sliced onions and set them on low heat. to caramelize slowly. They turn translucent at first and then slowly brown and caramelized. This flavours the oil too. Remove the onions and set them aside.
Layering the rice: In the onion-flavoured oil that has coated the pot, add the marinated potato mix. Top this with some mint leaves. Then add a layer of fluffed rice, sprinkle a bit of salt and add mint leaves and cherry tomatoes. Add another layer of rice. Add the caramelised onions on top. Once the layering is over head to the cooking process.
Dum cooking for the biryani: Sprinkle a bit of milk, close the lid of the pot and cook ( more so like bake) on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. The moisture in the rice and marinated potatoes with cook through the biryani.
The recipe card below provides all the quantities and step-by-step recipes. Hope this will make your effort successful too. Rate us using the star rating if you are making this recipe in the comments below.
Dum aloo biryani
- instant pot
- mixing bowls and spoons.
- measuring cups and spoons
To cook the rice
- 1.5 cup Basmathi rice aged, long grain
- 1.5 cups drinking water
- 1 tsp ghee / clarified butter ( or vegan butter)
- 1/2 tsp salt to taste
- 1 large bay leaf tej patta
- 2 green cardamom
- 1 star anise
- 1 small cinnamon stick
Marination of potatoes
- 250 grams potatoes
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup yogurt ( use coconut or peanut yogurt for vegan)
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tbsp biryani masala powder ( I used bombay biryani masala)
- 1-2 medium red onion peeled and sliced.
- a pinch salt
- 1 tbsp ghee ( or vegan butter)
Ingredients for layering
- 3-6 cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch mint leaves
- 1/4 cup milk ( use coconut milk for vegan)
- Wash the rice there or four times till the water runs clear.
- Add 1:1 water and allow the rice to soak for 10 minutes.
- While the rice is soaking, wash and scrub the potatoes.
- Poke them with a fork and add to a steaming vessel.
- Add the soaked rice to the instant pot vessel with salt, ghee, and spices.
- Add the steamer dish on top and set the instant pot on rice mode to cook.
- When the rice is cooked and the steamed released naturally, remove the potatoes and fluff the rice.
- Cut the potato into chunks and add to the mixing bowl.
- Add the ingredients for the marinade.
- Mix well and set it aside.
- Peel and slice the onion.
- Into the thickbottoed cooking pot add the ghee on a medium heat.
- Add the sliced onions, sprinkle the salt and turn down the heat to low.
- Let the onions turn translucent and caramelize.
- Remove the caramelized onions and add the marinated potatoes. Let this cook for a couple of minutes, till the ghee starts leaving the sides.
- As they slowly sizzle, layer the rice on top.
- Add a layer of mint leaves cherry tomatoes and layer again with rice.
- Once these rice layers are done top with more mint leaves and the caamelized onions.
- Sprinkle the milk on top and cover and cook for 10 minutes. This should also be on low heat so the biryani steams and flavours through.
- Once cooked, remove from heat and let it stand for 5-7 minutes.
- Open the rice when ready to serve. mix the rice just a bit to expose the layers .
- Serve hot with soothing raita.
Serving suggestions for this aloo biryani
The easy aloo dum biryani pairs very with cucumber raita or mixed vegetable raita. You could also pair it with biryani achar, south Indian style pachadi and crispy papadam.
If you are planning this for a potluck make it a bit more filling. Here are a few recipes that I will cook along.
Vatana nugget appetizers with green chutney and sweet imli chutney.
Spinach, cucumber and radish salad.
and then complete the meal with classic Indian desserts like Carrot payasam or doodh barfi.
Meal prep and lunchboxes
Anytime make biryani it certainly cannot be for one time. It has to at least fill a day or lunchboxes and a box for my colleagues. To me, the actual biryani flavours sink in after sitting for a while. This aloo biryani will stay good for 2 or 3 days in the fridge. The rice will stay good when frozen, but the potatoes will not hold well on thawing.
Potato recipes on our blog
The versatile potatoes are used in a couple of recipes here on our blog. Hope you will like to check them out too
Railway aloo curry
Batata rassa baaji
Potato and cauliflower stalk baaji
Pumpkin leaf and potato raita
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This looks so good! Reminds me of the Middle Eastern Maqluba but vegetarian! Will love to try it thanks for the recipe
Such great flavors in this dish! I love how the mint really brightens everything.
This sounds SO good! I have never had potato in a biryani, but I will have to try it. Thanks for the recipe 🙂
I love aloo dum biryani!! I’m glad that this recipe is both gluten-free and vegan. The use of steam to cook the biryani and the combination of spices must create a wonderful aroma and flavor. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try for my next Sunday lunch!
That potato biryani rice looks absolutely delicious. I’d love to try it sometime!