Biryani on a Weeknight?
With is roots firmly set in Persia, and with its modern place in our hearts, biryani is a celebratory dish. If there is no particular party, this shrimp biryani is cause for one. Having never made this rice dish with prawns before, and especially with an Instant Pot, I must confess I was a bit dubious. Shrimp and prawns can be overcooked in a minute. As everyone knows who has had the disappointment of stepping away from the stove to let the dog out and then coming back to rubbery, inedible seafood. I hope you are as pleased with this one-pot biryani as I am. The shrimp are sweet and juicy burrowed into tender, spiced rice.
Shrimp biryani is especially popular in Kerala where they use a variety of rice called jeerakasala or Wayanadan kaima. This is a delicate short-grained rice grown in the Wayanadan district of Kerala. The other ingredient unique to a Keralan seafood biryani is adding tomatoes to the masala or sauce. If you are lucky enough to find jeerakasala rice there is no need to soak it before adding it to the pot.
Shrimp Biryani in an Instant Pot!
I am happy to report that while this is not your usual weeknight meal, it IS doable in about 40 minutes. And even less if your shrimp do not need cleaning. There is no overnight marination required, and while the rice soaks you brighten up the shrimp with a bit of lemon juice and a few spices. Then quickly sauté the garnishes, and cook the onions with spices and tomato, all in the Instant Pot. By the time you are finished, the rice is ready. Stir it into the sauce, plop the shrimp on top, and it is pressure time. You have eight minutes to pressurize, 5 minutes on low-pressure, and a quick release to finish the cooking time. Allow the shrimp and rice to steam gently for 5 minutes, and it is gilding the lily time.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Instant Pot Shrimp Biryani (Kerala-Style)
- 1 cup basmati rice ~ Or jeerakasala, or Wayanadan kaima - no need to soak
- 3 cups cold water
Marinate the Shrimp
- 1 pound large shrimp ~ Shelled and deveined, see Notes below
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala ~ Make or buy
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder ~ More for the sauce, information. This is a mild chili!
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ More for the sauce. See Fundamentals for different salts
Masala or Sauce
- 2 tablespoons ghee ~ Or coconut oil, or any neutral oil. More for optional garnishing. Make ghee or buy.
- 10 whole cashews
- 1 tablespoon raisins ~ Golden preferably
- 1 cup onions ~ Sliced
- 6 whole cardamom
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise ~ Optional
- 8 fresh curry leaves ~ Optional, about
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste ~ Or half grated ginger and garlic
- 2 small green Indian chilies ~ Slit but still attached at the top. More information about reducing the heat and substitutions.
- 2 small roma or plum tomatoes ~ Chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ See Fundamentals for different salts
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder ~ Information
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala ~ Buy or make
- 3/4 cup water ~ See Notes below if cooking on high-pressure
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped mint ~ More for garnishing
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro ~ More for garnishing
Marinading and Soaking
- Gather the shrimp marinade ingredients
- Mix together all the shrimp marinade ingredients and let the shrimp sit until you are ready to cook.
- Rinse the rice thoroughly until the water runs almost clear. Soak the rice in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes.
Make the Masala (Sauce)
- Gather the rest of the ingredients.
- While the rice is soaking, heat an Instant Pot on the sauté setting, add 2 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil. When it is hot, cook 1 tablespoon of whole cashews. Stir for a minute or two until the cashews are getting a few brown spots. Add the raisins and sauté another couple of minutes until the raisins have plumped up and the nuts are golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- Add the onions to the Instant Pot and the whole spices and cook frequently stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes until the onions are golden brown.
- Stir in the ginger garlic paste and cook for a minute or two until the paste no longer smells raw. Stir in the green chili, diced tomatoes, and ground spices. Sauté the tomatoes about 3 minutes until they become mushy.
- Drain the rice and add to the Instant Pot. Stir in the lemon juice, cilantro, and mint. Add 3/4 cup of water or more, if needed, to almost submerge all the rice. See Notes about the amount of water required. Place the shrimp on top of the rice.
- Secure the Instant Pot lid, close the pressure valve, and cook for 5 minutes on low pressure. See Notes below if you don’t have a low-pressure option.
- Carefully quick-release the pressure. When it is safe, open the lid and drizzle the biryani with a tablespoon of ghee if using. Keep the lid on but opened slightly so the steam is able to continue to escape. Rest the biryani for 5 minutes, then using a fork gently combine the shrimp and rice.
- SHORTCUT: Buy or have your fishmonger shell and clean the shrimp. It is not necessary to defrost the shrimp unless you need to clean and devein.
- It is essential to use large shrimp so they don’t overcook.
- There is no need to defrost the shrimp if they are already shelled and deveined.
- If you don’t have a low-pressure function on your pressure cooker, use the high-pressure mode for 4 minutes. Cooking on high pressure requires more liquid to pressurize, so use a full cup of water. Refer to your manual when using a different brand of pressure cooker for the liquid requirements. Pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then open the pressure valve to let the remaining pressure escape. This will allow the rice to finish cooking. Follow the rest of the instructions as listed above, beginning with opening the lid and adding the optional ghee.
- To make extra special shrimp biryani, find some premium aged basmati rice. It cooks up into long beautiful fluffy grains. Or even the traditional rice from Kerala called Jeerakasala or Wayanadan kaima. No need to soak it, though.
- If cooking on low pressure, you only need to use enough water so that the rice is just about submerged. Using too much water will result in a mushy mess. I find that on low-pressure 3/4 of a cup of water is enough. You also have lemon juice, juicy tomatoes, and some residual water from the rice that brings the liquid up to the required 1 cup for the Instant Pot. If you are using another brand of a pressure cooker, use their guide for the amount of water needed. Keep in mind that there are about 3 to 4 tablespoons of liquid in those ingredients. Cooking on high-pressure will require more liquid than low-pressure.