Mom’s Easy Shrimp Biryani

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If you think chicken biryani is good. This is even better! Following in the footsteps of my mom’s sindhi chicken biryani, this is another one of my mom’s recipes that is a family favourite. This one is also one of J’s favourite. Anytime we are going over to visit my mom, it is one of the first things she will offer to make for him! (Im basically chopped liver at this point! He’s most definitely the favourite! πŸ˜‰

You need a lot of shrimp for this. I like to buy the ready peeled and deveined to save time. For about a 4 person serving in this recipe I used about 1.5 to 2 lbs of shrimp! I also like to add boiled potatoes to my biryani to add more substance to it. I also just love potatoes in any form!

As always, this recipe is using the spices in your cupboard, no store bought spice mixes needed to make this delicious biryani! So you can feel good about the ingredients going into your homemade biryani.

I like to serve biryani with some papad. And yogurt or raita to help cool it off (especially if you make this a spicy one!)

Stove Top Biryani Tips

The one thing I will say that is needed when making biryani in the stove-top is you should always use a heavy bottomed pan like a dutch oven. Or make sure you place another pan under your biryani pan at the end when you are allowing it to steam in the final step. That will help ensure you don’t get that burnt bottom that can ruin the flavour of your biryani and is so hard to clean up afterwards!

Have you tried a shrimp biryani yet?

Shrimp Biryani

A crowd pleasing one pot meal.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: pakistani
Keyword: sugar free
Servings: 4


For the Biryani Curry Base

  • 2 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 6 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 inch ginger, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp minced)
  • 1 large green chilli
  • 1 cup full fat yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 2 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined

Biryani Spice Mix

  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 clove (laung)
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (This is for a medium-high spice level. Adjust to suit your taste)

For the Rice

  • 3 cups basmati rice (I prefer a sella basmati rice)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves (laung)
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 slices lime

For the Toppings

  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


Soak the Rice

  • In a large bowl, wash the basmati rice until the water runs clear. Fill with 3 cups water and the remaining rice spices. Set aside.

Prepare the Potatoes

  • In a large glass bowl, add the 2-3 quartered potatoes, 1/2 tsp turmeric, and enough water to cover them. Microwave for 3-5 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. (Alternatively you can boil them on the stovetop, but I find this a much faster method.) Drain and set aside when done.

Prepare the Biryani Curry

  • Meanwhile, heat a large thick bottomed saucepan or dutch oven with 2 cups oil on medium high heat while you prepare the remaining ingredients: slice ginger, mince garlic, chop the green chilli, measure out the biryani spice mix and set aside. Once the oil is heated, add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are caramelized and turning golden brown. About 15-20 minutes.
  • Scoop the browned onions out of the oil and set aside in a bowl. In the same pan with the remaining oil, add 2 tsp mustard seeds, cook until they start to sizzle, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the sliced ginger, minced garlic, and sliced green chilli. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the browned onions back into the saucepan. Reserve about 1-2 tbsp for garnish.
  • Add the biryani spice mix and 1 cup yogurt. Cook for 5-10 minutes on medium to allow the flavours to combine. You will start to see the oil separate and float over the curry mixture.
  • Add the boiled potatoes and stir to get them coated in the curry mixture.
  • Add 2 lbs shrimp and stir to combine. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through and have turned pink. But do not overcook. Give the curry a taste to make sure the salt and spice level it to your liking. Remove the curry from the pan and set aside. (This biryani curry base can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 3 days).

Make the Biryani

  • In the same saucepan on high heat, add the rice with soaking water and spices. Bring to a boil and allow it to cook until the water has mostly been absorbed. Stirring often. About 5 minutes. The rice will not be fully cooked yet.
  • Turn the heat down to low, and remove half the rice from the pan. Add the biryani curry in a layer over the rice in the pan. Then top with the remaining half-cooked rice.
  • In a small bowl mix a pinch of saffron with 2 tbsp water and sprinkle over the rice. Sprinkle the rice with 1tsp ground black pepper and 1tsp cumin seeds.
  • Cover and let cook on low for 15-20 minutes. (Tip: Place the biryani pan onto another large frying pan to ensure the bottom doesn't get burnt! I personally love to eat the burnt bottom and I find the thick bottom of my dutch oven allows it to crisp up to just the perfect amount without burning so I skip this step.)
  • Turn off the heat and remove the cover. You should see a lot of steam escaping when you lift the lid. That is how you know the rice is cooked through. Serve immediately with some of the reserved brown onions and fresh cilantro for garnish.

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