I guess this tech blog does recipes now too? Just think of it like a how-to guide for making your stomach happy.

This recipe doesn't have a ton of backstory to it. I'm a Texan with no particular connection to Indian cooking. This isn't my grandmother's classic recipe that I can do the classic recipe blog opining about. I got on a biryani kick a few years back, and I wanted to figure out how to cook a lamb biryani the electric Instant Pot pressure cooker that was gathering dust in my cupboard.

The internet isn't lacking in biryani recipes. For the uninitiated, biryani is a South Asian dish featuring a variety of proteins, layered rice, and warm spices. It's one of India's most popular takeout dishes. There are incredibly involved weekend project biryani recipes, quick weeknight shortcut recipes, and everything in between. Biryani is typically baked or steamed for a relatively long period of time, particularly when dealing with tougher meats like lamb or mutton. The use of pressure cookers is a common way of speeding up this recipe, although most traditional Indian recipes rely on a stovetop manual pressure cooker.

This recipe is an amalgam of influences I encountered while experimenting with different biryani recipes at home. I took spice and seasoning influences from Maunika Gowardhan's biryani recipes, basic timing for the lamb and rice from Paint The Kitchen Red, and some techniques from Selak's biryani videos on YouTube. Any part of this recipe that tastes good largely came from them, and any culinary faux pas are my own meddling.

This recipe calls for 2 oz of plain greek yogurt to marinate the lamb. Yogurt in the US comes in small single-serving 5 oz containers. If you'd like, you can use half of the yogurt to marinate the lamb and just snack on the rest while you wait for the recipe to finish. If you buy a second 5 oz container however, I've included a short recipe towards the end for a cucumber rita sauce. It adds a nice cooling element to the rice and helps you get a bit more of your money's worth for the mint.


To Marinate Lamb:

  • 1.5-2 lb lamb shoulder or leg, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tbsp plain greek yoghurt (2 oz)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp mild chili powder

To Cook Lamb:

  • 1-4 Thai chilis (I typically use 2)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch ginger knob
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 0.5 lb tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 cup water

To Cook Rice and Garnish:

  • 1.5 cups basmati rice, rinsed
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 sliced jalapeño (optional)

To Make Raita Sauce (Optional):

  • 8 oz plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup hothouse cucumber, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Cooking Steps

  1. Marinate the lamb in greek yogurt, turmeric, chili powder and salt. Set aside and marinate for at least an hour, or overnight if preferred.
  2. While the lamb marinates, make a paste with the Thai chilis, garlic, and ginger. This can be done most easily using a stick blender's chopper attachment, but can also be performed by using a food processor, mortar and pestle, fine microplane, or chopping by hand.
  3. Activate the Instant Pot's sauté functionality on high. (If your pressure cooker does not have a sauté functionality, you can do this step on a stovetop with a skillet.) Heat the oil or ghee, then add green cardamom pods and cumin seeds. Fry for a few seconds, then add the sliced onion. Fry the sliced onion for 10-12 minutes until they have fully softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, and continue to fry for 3 additional minutes. If the tomatoes haven't broken down already, use your spatula or other utensil to mash the tomato. Add tomato paste and Thai chili, garlic, and ginger paste to the onion. Fry for an additional minute. Add coriander powder and stir until ingredients are well combined. Turn off the sauté functionality on your Instant Pot (or turn off your stove's heat).
  4. Add the marinated lamb and any excess marinade to the pressure cooker with the onion and tomato mixture. Add 1 cup of water and bay leaf, then stir to combine. Seal the lid on the pressure cooker, and close the pressure release valve. Set the Instant Pot to its Pressure Cook or Manual setting and cook on High for 15 minutes.
  5. While the Instant Pot cooks, create the saffron milk by adding a generous pinch of saffron to 1/4 cup of milk.
  6. If you are going to be serving the biryani with the Raita sauce, use this opportunity to combine the yogurt, chopped mint leaves, and spices. Grate the cucumber with the large side of a box grater. If you prefer a thicker sauce, use paper towels to absorb some of the liquid from the grated cucumber. Stir to combine.
  7. Once the pressure cooking has completed, vent the pressure using the quick release (QR) method. Open the lid and combine the 1.5 cups of rinsed rice, the 1/4 cup of saffron milk, and an additional 1/4 cup of water. Stir to combine.
  8. Seal the lid once more, close the pressure release valve, and set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook or Manual setting and cook on High for 5 minutes.
  9. After the rice has cooked for 5 minutes, perform a 10 minute natural pressure release (NPR) before venting the remaining steam. Open the lid and stir the biryani. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the chopped mint, coriander leaves, and garam masala. Salt to taste. Optionally garnish with thin jalapeño slices. Serve with Raita sauce or naan bread.

The jalapeño garnish isn't strictly necessary, but it does make the overall bowl a bit more photogenic. If you'd like to make this dish a bit more hearty, you can also stir in fried potatoes at the end. While the original pressure cook is going on, dice a potato or two into small cubes. Parboil the chunks for 5 minutes, drain the potatoes, toss with salt, pepper, cumin, and a curry spice blend, then sauté in a frying pain with oil until they're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. (About 40 minutes.)

If you end up making this recipe, let me know how it goes!