Instant Pot Paneer Biryani

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A spin on the stove top Paneer Biryani recipe that is in my eBook this is the instant pot version that I have modified to be even quicker to make with a few time saving tips. Looking for a chicken version? Try this one! πŸ™‚

Time Saving Tips for Biryani

Biryani is all about the slow cooked flavours, so technically should not be rushed. But there are still things you can do to make it easier to make any biryani. Sometimes I can even make it on a -gasp- weeknight! πŸ˜‰ Especially if it is this vegetarian paneer biryani!

Use pre-fried onions

These are a huge time saver! I do love to make my own brown onions fresh. Nothing beats the flavour of a freshly browned onion! But it is not exactly a fun process and while I absolutely love the smell of fried onions in my food, not so much in my clothes. So buying the onions pre-fried, or just making them ahead of time and keeping them in the fridge helps save so much time. You can spend a good 30 minutes – or more- on frying onions for a traditional biryani recipe. Cut this time down by buying the pre-fried onions from the grocery store (I find them at my local asian grocer). Look at the ingredients list to make sure it is just oil and onions. Sometimes they will add other ingredients like flour or preservatives which I prefer to avoid. Also fried onions (store bought or home made) will keep in the fridge for a couple of months in an airtight container. I like to keep them on hand for quick curries or biryani cravings! πŸ™‚

Soak the Rice Ahead of Time

I like to wash and soak my rice ahead of time. At least 30 minutes before you intend to cook it. I normally would just wash the rice. Then measure out exactly how much water I will need to cook the rice and let it soak. Then when it is time to add it to the pot, just dump the rice and any water in the bowl and go. No more water needed! The pre-soaking also helps prevent the rice from getting mushy in the biryani.

Select the Right Rice

You definitely want a basmati rice, but try to go for a sella basmati if you can. Regular basmati will work, but the sella basmati variety tends to hold up a bit more when cooked, and tends not to break or go mushy as fast as a regular basmati would.

Use the Instant Pot

Of-course, using the instant pot is also a time saver. I am a big fan of instant pot biryani. It may not cook in less time than stove top method, but it does reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen making biryani since once the lid goes on, you just need to set it and forget it.

If you incorporate all of the above you can make biryani in about 30 -40 minutes! Which is much less than a traditional biryani that needs a few hours!

Troubleshooting a Soggy Biryani

The water to rice ratio is definitely a fine balance. It also will differ depending on the type of rice you are using. I use sella basmati rice which tends to avoid getting mushy more than regular basmati rice. The normal ratio of water to rice is 2:1. For every 1 cup of rice you should use 2 cups of water. But if you are following my recipe, and pre-soaking the rice, cut the cooking water down by half. Also the instant pot creates so much steam on its own, you really don’t need a lot of water to cook the rice. Another way to make sure you have just enough water in a biryani is to make sure that when you have all the ingredients in the pot along with the rice and water, the water level should not be much more than 1 cm (half an inch) over the rice. If the liquid feels like it is too high over the rice, reduce it. If it feels like there is too little, you can add a touch more water so it just covers the rice.

Don’t rush the steaming process – this is a critical part of the biryani process. You need to let the rice cook and then absorb the water and flavours through the steaming process (we call it ‘dum’). Basically, once the rice has absorbed all the water, put a lid on and turn the heat really low. Do not mess with the pot for an additional 10-15 minutes. Leave the lid on (do not peek! Don’t let the steam escape!). Trust the process and let the residual heat in the pot allow the rice to absorb any remaining water in the pot. This not only helps develop the biryani flavour but will also help any remaining water absorb into the rice. If you are making the biryani in the instant pot, this means when the pressure cooking cycle is complete. Do not open the lid right away! Turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes. Then you can release any remaining pressure and open up the lid to serve.

Another way to prevent a soggy biryani is use a towel wrapped around the lid of your pot. This works well in the stove top method. When you are ready to let the rice steam and absorb all the remaining water. Wrap your lid in a clean kitchen towel and then cover (make sure the towel is not hanging down over the sides of the pot as it could be a fire hazard!). The towel will help absorb the steam so that there is even less water left in the pot for the rice to absorb, preventing soggy rice! πŸ™‚

I hope this helps trouble shoot some of your soggy biryani problems! But honesty, biryani does take some practice so don’t give up if it doesn’t work out the first few times! You will get there! It just takes a bit of practice to learn the tricks for a successful biryani!

Instant Pot Paneer Biryani

All the yummy slow cooked flavours of my mom's sindhi biryani simplified for the instant pot in this vegetarian spin on biryani.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: pakistani
Keyword: gluten free, sugar free, Vegetarian
Servings: 6


  • 250 g paneer, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2.5 cups basmati rice I prefer sella basmati
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 cup raisins optional
  • 1/2 cup milk or water
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, cut into thin coins
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 whole dried red chilli pepper
  • 1 cup brown onions
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas

Biryani Spice Mix

  • 1-2 whole clove (laung)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • pinch turmeric

Rice Spice Mix

  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 5-8 whole black peppercorn
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 slices lime or lemon


  • 1 tbsp brown onions
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped optional


Marinate the Paneer

  • In a large bowl mix all the paneer, carrot, yogurt and & biryani spice mix ingredients together until the paneer is well coated. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight in the fridge).

Wash and Soak the Rice

  • Rinse the rice a few times till the water starts to look less cloudy. Drain and then add 3 cups of fresh water. Add the rice spice mix ingredients and set aside to soak for at least 15-20 minutes.
  • Soak the raisins in 1/2 cup of milk or water, add the saffron strands. Set aside.

Cook the Biryani

  • Set the Instant Pot to saute mode. Add 4 tbsp oil, green chillies, ginger slices and whole dried red chillies. Allow to saute for a minute or so till they become fragrant.
  • Add the marinated paneer mixture. Saute for 5-8 minutes, stirring often till the paneer is heated through. Making sure to stir well so nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will see the oil start to come to the surface of the curry.
  • Add the potatoes, stir well to coat the potatoes in the curry.
  • Gently pour the rice with soaking water into the curry.
  • Add the raisins with soaking water, spreading them out in an even layer on top of the rice. Give it all a good mix making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan well. The liquid level should not be much more than 1 cm above the rice. If it looks like too much liquid discard some so you don't end up with biryani soup! πŸ˜‰
  • Cancel saute mode. Close the lid, set the vent to sealing, and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for at least 10 minutes. Then quick release any remaining pressure.
  • Once the pressure is released, open the IP lid and gently fluff the rice with a spatula or spoon a few times to break up the flat surface of the rice on top and mix everything together one more time. Be gentle so as not to break up the rice.
  • Sprinkle the top of the rice with the reserved brown onions, black pepper, cumin seeds and fresh cilantro. Cover again and allow to steam for 10 minutes in the residual heat before serving. Enjoy!


Want to make chicken biryani in the Instant Pot? Try this recipe πŸ™‚

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