Malai Vegetable Paneer Biryani
This Malai Vegetable Paneer Biryani is a royal savory treat that shouldn’t be missed!
Sure, it involved a tonne of steps to prepare, but ultimately, I ended up with something so delicious, I couldn’t believe I’d actually made it. You see, making recipes with too many ingredients and steps wasn’t always my thing. Especially – with a full-time job, I tend to choose recipes that get ready in under 30 minutes. So I surprised myself when I patiently planned for and executed this recipe. And I’m here to tell y’all – try it, you will not regret it!
Made with delicately flavored paneer, vegetables in a tangy creamy sauce, aromatic rice, mint leaves and saffron, this Vegetarian Biryani takes you on a delightful journey down the culinary road. It’s hard for me to say where this recipe originated from, because it truly is a creation inspired from many different styles of Biryani I’ve had over the years.
I cooked and assembled this entire Biryani in my heavy-duty non-stick pan (with high sides). But I recommend assembling the biryani in another casserole for a neater presentation (I blame it on my impatience to eat this dish ASAP!). You can make multi-layer biryani. I decided to do just 2 layers. 2-3 should be enough.
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So what are the major elements of this Malai Vegetable Paneer Biryani?
What I love about this Vegetarian Biryani is that although it has some complicated flavors – they all work well together. No flavor overpowers another and it’s a wonderful experience.
- Basmati Rice – This long-grained rice is typical of all Indian Pulav or Biryani dishes. Tip is to parboil the rice ahead of time i.e cook it till it is 3/4th done. And then let it cook with the other elements of the dish for another 10 minutes
- Malai Vegetable Gravy – Use any vegetable you like. Onions, Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, Cauliflower florets are commonly used in most Vegetable Biryani recipes. You can also use other veggies like Sweet corn, Baby Corn, Bell Peppers, Broccoli etc. Tomatoes are a must in this recipe because you want that slightly tangy flavor to the gravy. Malai or Fresh Cream (or milk) adds a creaminess to the gravy.
- Fried Paneer – A lot of people marinate the paneer and add it to the biryani layers to cook with the rest of the ingredients. I prefer my paneer fried. The crunchy texture of the paneer when you fry it ahead of time is retained even when the paneer is cooked in gravy and rice. And I like that. But you can avoid this step if you want.
- Saffron Milk – Totally optional. But I highly recommend you don’t skip this. It renders a beautiful color to the rice
- Fried Onions (or beresta) – This one alone deserves its own post! Adds a beautiful crunch and flavor to the biryani.
- Mint – Some people find mint flavor to be overpowering. I personally enjoy the subtle mint flavors running through every bite. You can skip these fresh mint leaves if you wish.
- Fried Cashews (or other dry fruit n nuts) – Fry them in Ghee (or Oil) and set aside. I recommend only nuts and not dry fruits for this recipe since the malai vegetable gravy itself isn’t spicy. Dry fruits work well in a spicy biryani. But again, it’s your choice! 🙂
Made with deliciously cooked paneer, vegetables in a tangy creamy sauce, aromatic rice, mint leaves and saffron, this Malai Vegetable Paneer Biryani takes you on a delightful journey down the culinary road. Get the step by step recipe
- 2 cups Basmati Rice
- 2 cups Water
- 1 cup Paneer, cubed into small pieces
- 1 cup thinly sliced Onions
- 4 cups Mixed Vegetables (refer note 1)
- 1 cup chopped Tomatoes
- 2–4 Green Chili (adjust for spice)
- 1 cup Fresh Mint Leaves
- 1/3 cup Warm Milk
- 1/5 teaspoon Saffron strands
- 1/2 cup chopped Cashew nuts
- 2 teaspoons Ghee or clarified Butter (or Vegetable Oil)
- 6 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 inch Cinnamon stick, broken
- 2 Cardamom pods or Elaichi
- 4 Cloves
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger Garlic paste (optional)
- 3 teaspoons Salt (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 cup Beresta or Fried Onions (refer Note 2)
- 1/2 cup fresh Coriander Leaves, for garnish (optional)
Note 1 – Mixed Vegetables (you can use any veggies you like)
- 1/2 cup boiled Cauliflower florets
- 1/2 cup chopped Baby Corn
- 1/2 cup chopped Bell Peppers
- 1/2 cup chopped Carrots
- 1/2 cup Green Beans
- 1/2 cup Green Peas
Note 2 – Fried Onions or Beresta
- 1 cup thinly sliced Onions
- 2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
- 1/5 tsp Salt (a pinch, optional)
Note 3 – Dry Spice Powders
This recipe doesn’t use any spice powders like garam masala or biryani masala since the flavors or the veggies and whole spices blend well together. But if you’re looking for an even spicier version, you can also add 1 tablespoon Biryani or Garam Masala Powder along with the veggies.
Step 1: Parboiled Rice
- Wash the basmati rice really well. Soak in water or 20-30 minutes to help cook faster. Discard the water
- In a large pan with high sides, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Add the washed Basmati Rice and fry for 2-3 minutes
- Add 1 teaspoon of Salt and mix well
- Add 2 cups (or a little more) water and mix well (add enough water to almost cook the rice 3/4ths)
- Once it comes to a boil, simmer the stove and close the pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the rice is 3/4th done
- Fluff up the rice (without breaking it) and set it aside to cool
Step 2: Saffron Milk
- To warm milk, add 1/5 teaspoon of Saffron strands.
- Mix gently. The milk will turn slightly yellow. Set aside
Step 3: Fried Cashews
- To a pan, add 1 teaspoon Ghee (or vegetable oil)
- Add the chopped cashew nuts and fry until golden brown
- Let it cool and set aside for use
Step 4: Fried Onions or Beresta
- To the same pan, add 2 teaspoons Ghee (or vegetable oil)
- Add the thinly sliced onions and salt (salt is optional).
- Fry until crispy and browned
- Remove the onions onto a bowl and set aside
Step 5: Fried Paneer
- To the same pan, add 1-2 teaspoons Ghee (or vegetable oil)
- Add the paneer cubes in one even layer onto the oil
- Fry on medium heat until one side is crisp and golden brown
- Gently flip the cubes to the other side and continue to fry until golden brown
- Repeat with all sides until the paneer cubes are slightly crispy
- Remove onto a bowl and set aside to cool
Step 6: Malai Vegetable Gravy
- In a large pan with high sides, add 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat it
- Add 1 cup of the sliced onions, green chilies and ginger garlic paste. Fry on medium heat for 1-2 minutes
- Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves. Fry on medium heat for 1-2 minutes
- Add the rest of the vegetables and mix well. Fry on medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the veggies sweat and reduce a little
- Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for 1-2 minutes. If you’re using garam masala or biryani masala, add that here and mix well
- Cover with a lid, simmer the heat and cook for 7-8 minutes. Open the lid every 2-4 minutes to give the mixture a stir (and to avoid burning)
- Add rest of the salt and mix well.
- Add 1 cup of Fresh Mint Leaves and mix well
- Add 1/2 cup of Malai (fresh cream) or Milk and 1/4 cup of Water and mix well. This is what makes the gravy creamy
- Cook on low heat for 5-8 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning, if required
- The Malai Vegetable gravy is ready and can be used for the biryani
Step 7: Assembling the Biryani
You can assemble in the same heavy duty pan in which you cooked the rice or the gravy. Or for a neater presentation, use a clean casserole pan with a lid (in which case, the first point below isn’t applicable)
- Remove half of the vegetable gravy on a bowl and set aside for use
- Layer 1 Gravy – Level out the rest of the gravy on the pan to create a flat layer of gravy
- Layer 1 Rice – Add half of the parboiled rice all over the gravy and press well to create even layer
- Middle Garnish 1 – Sprinkle half of the saffron milk over the rice
- Middle Garnish 2 – Garnish with some freshly torn mint leaves
- Middle Garnish 3 – Sprinkle half of the fried cashew nuts all over the rice layer
- Middle Garnish 4 – Garnish half of the beresta or fried onions over the rice layer
- Middle Garnish 5 – Arrange half of the fried paneer cubes into the rice layer evenly
- Layer 2 Gravy – Cover the rice and garnishes with the remaining vegetable gravy
- Layer 2 Rice – Add remaining rice over the gravy. Even out the rice layer
- Final Garnish 1 – Repeat with the Saffron Milk garnish
- Final Garnish 2 – Neatly garnish the fried cashews evenly
- Final Garnish 3 -Garnish with remaining beresta or fried onions
- Final Garnish 4 – Garnish with fresh mint leaves
- Final Garnish 5 – Arrange remaining fried paneer cubes evenly
- Sprinkle some plain water over the rice layer. Close with a lid and cook on low heat for 5-8 minutes until the rice is fully cooked
- Open the lid and garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves
- Hot and delicious Malai Vegetable Paneer Biryani is ready to be served
Step 8: Serving the Biryani
- Take a large spoon and scoop and entire section of the biryani onto the serving plate. The person who is eating will then mix layers on the plate and eat it
- OR – You can mix everything on the pan and serve – not recommended, since the whole idea is to serve the beautifully layered dish
Note 1 – Making this recipe Vegan
- If you want to avoid dairy or make this dish vegan, skip the Ghee, Milk and Cream from this recipe.
- Ghee – Use Vegetable Oil instead
- Milk or Cream – Use any non-dairy alternatives that can be slightly warmed (like almond milk or soy milk). Or skip the milk and cream and use water instead. You’ll still have a great gravy, but it just wont be creamy
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: biryani, veg biryani, malai biryani, malai paneer biryani, malai paneer vegetable biryani, paneer biryani, vegetarian biryani recipe
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Until next time,