1. Rice

Paneer Biryani(cheese rice)


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


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

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