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Spiced basmati rice is studded with crunchy cashews, rich coconut flakes, and sweet raisins, and tossed with hearty roasted veggies and spicy baked tofu to make this flavor-packed vegan biryani. This dish is as pretty as it is delicious, and perfect for special occasions!
For the longest time I was super intimidated by Indian food. It seems so complicated with all those whole spices and tempering and other ingredients and methods I’m not used to. But I got over it, and now I love cooking Indian food.
Biryani is the one dish that continued to scare me. It seems like there are a million ways to go about making the stuff! And most of them come from different regions that use their own unfamiliar-to-me ingredients and cooking methods.
But here’s the thing: most of the time, when I’m cooking up regional cuisines, I don’t really go for authenticity. I just go for what works in my kitchen and tastes good to me.
In developing this vegan biryani recipe I played around with a few super shortcut versions of in my kitchen — ones where I used dry spices instead of whole, used pre-mixed spice blends, that kind of thing — and they all just felt wrong.
This is my compromise. It’s definitely not authentic. I mean, it has tofu in it. I did take some shortcuts that made sense to me (like roasting the veggies, since the tofu is going in the oven anyway). But I kept the whole spices, the long cooking time to caramelize the onions, and you know, just the stuff that seemed indispensable.
So while this recipe might be a bit simplified compared to traditional biryani, it’s not exactly a quick and easy dinner. If you’re looking for one of those, try one of these quick vegan dinner recipes. If you came here specifically just for some pretty rice and spicy baked tofu, try this Indian-inspired baked tofu recipe. It’s way easier and really delicious, and to be honest, I pretty much stole the tofu portion of the dish for this biryani.
- Ingredients You’ll Need
- How It’s Made
- Leftovers & Storage
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More Vegan Indian Recipes
- Vegan Biryani with Roasted Vegetables & Baked Tofu
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Vegan butter. Vegan butter is readily available and can be found in most supermarkets, in the refrigerator near the regular butter. Melt, Earth Balance and Miyoko’s are a few popular brands to try.
- Basmati rice. You could technically get away with substituting regular long grain white rice, but your biryani just won’t be the same. Basmati rice has a firm texture and distinct flavor, so it’s worth picking up a bag.
- Whole spices. You’ll need whole peppercorns, cardamom pods, whole cloves, star anise, bay leaves and cumin seeds. Some of these spices, like bay leaves and cloves, can be found in the spice aisle of a regular grocery store. You may need to visit an Indian or Asian market for the rest.
- Ground spices. We’re using ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and garam masala. You should be able to find all of them in the spice aisle at the supermarket.
- Soy sauce. Liquid aminos or tamari can be substituted to make this recipe gluten-free, if needed.
- Maple syrup.
- Lemon juice.
- Canola oil. Use another neutral high-heat oil if preferred. Vegetable oil, avocado oil, and melted coconut oil are all fine choices.
- Extra-firm tofu. You can use tofu of a different firmness, but extra-firm has the best balance of texture and ability to soak up flavorful marinade.
- Green beans.
- Roasted cashews.
- Fresh cilantro. You can leave this out if you’re not a fan of cilantro. Fresh mint makes for a nice alternative.
- Shredded coconut.
Tip: Make sure your spices are relatively fresh. Old spices will have less flavor. Use this handy cheat sheet to see if yours are out of date..
How It’s Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!
Like I said, the veggies are roasted instead of steamed/boiled like those in other biryani recipes usually are. I love roasting veggies because it’s so easy — just drizzle them with some oil and pop ’em in the oven. And while you’re at it, pop some tofu in the oven too! The tofu is covered in a spicy garam masala based sauce before baking. If you’ve got time, let it marinate in the sauce for a while. It not, no biggie!
And while the tofu and veggies bake, start caramelizing some onions. The key to this is low heat and patience! You’ll need a good 45 minutes to get onions properly caramelized.
One the onions have caramelized, add your spices and aromatics, and toast them for a minute. Finally, add some water and your rice. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the roasted veggies and baked tofu to the rice when it’s done cooking. Or if you’re like me and ran out of room in the pot (oops!) transfer the rice to another vessel. I just went and added the rice to the big skillet I used to roast my veggies.
Add some cashews, coconut, and fresh cilantro. Your vegan biryani is ready to serve!
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan biryani will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months. Cooked rice tends to dry out during storage, so you may want to add a splash or two of water when you reheat it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute ground spices for the whole spices? If so, how much should I use?
You can, but the flavor will be much better if you use whole spices. As for the amounts, I’m afraid I’m not sure! What you can do is try starting out with small amounts of everything (¼ to ½ teaspoon each), and then taste test the cooking liquid after you’ve added water.
Can I use different vegetables from those specified in the recipe?
Yes you can! The cook time may vary though. In general, harder veggies take longer to cook, while softer ones cook up quicker. Keep an eye on them while they’re in the oven. Try broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes, or carrots.
How is vegan biryani served?
Biryani is a main dish and delicious on it’s own. But if you’d like to jazz up your meal a bit, try serving it alongside some vegan naan, a side salad, vegan raita, or vegan yogurt.