This vegan biryani recipe with jackfruit is a perfect weeknight dinner that is full of flavour. And, it’s done in under 30 minutes.
A biryani is an Indian highly spiced rice dish traditionally layered with meat, fish or vegetables cooked in a fragrant gravy then baked. The dish has origins from the middle ages in India when Arab traders introduced pilaf cooked in one pot with herbs, spices and dried fruits such as raisins, prunes or pomegranate seeds. The biryani was then said to have been developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal empire where ingredients were extensively marinated and then slow cooked with rice for sometimes days at a time. Certainly food fit for kings. No wonder this is now the quintessential celebratory dish of India today. An empirical pot of food which has been slow baked for hours then triumphantly unveiled releasing a hissing cloud of dazzling fragrance and flavour.
Perhaps you wouldn’t revel in this drama on a daily basis, so we would like to bring you a plant-based or vegan biryani that is still amazingly spiced and flavoursome but with a quick and easy preparation and still a dish fit for kings.
It’s all about rice
Rice is a tasty staple and so versatile, which is no wonder that so many countries around the world use it in some of their most patriotic dishes. In Europe, Spain has a wonderful vibrant paella, Italy with a velvety risotto, Obviously, Asian countries have inspired rice dishes throughout the continent, from a biryani showcased here, Japan with their sushi, China with special fried rice, Singapore fried rice or Korean nasi goreng amongst a plethora of others. The rest of the world all have their own, just think Kedgeree, rice pudding, jambalaya, burritos, rice and peas, rice crispies, dolma, the list goes on.
Fragrant basmati rice for vegan biryani recipes
The beauty of rice continues as it comes in over 40,000 varieties with different sizes, textures and aromas. We have used fragrant basmati rice which is traditional for a biryani. The hindu words “bas” and “mati” translate to “aromatic” which is the main quality of this cereal and the reason we have used it. Simply put, this is one if not the most tasty rice grains available, add some intense spices and you simply can’t beat it. You could try the sturdy grains of wild black or red rice because of their numerous health benefits and antioxidants or ordinary white rice, but unlike a lot of white rice grains basmati has a low glycemic index. This is how saturated a food is in fat, fibre and protein and how digestible the starch is. The harder a carbohydrate is to digest the healthier it is regulating the body’s blood glucose levels.
That is good news for diabetics and people maintaining a healthy weight and anyone wanting to follow an anti-cancer diet. Obesity after all is one of the leading factors causing cancerous cell growth. Basmati rice contains approximately 20% more fibre than ordinary brown rice and the more fibre in your diet the better health benefits you will see. Soluble fibre will cling on to free radicals which cause inflammation in the body (the main cause of cancerous cells) and flush them out of your system. Fibre will bind on to oestrogen hormones which can lower the risk of breast cancer and it does the same for bad cholesterol, meaning that this is not only anti-cancerous but also a heart-healthy grain too.
The best vegan biryani with jackfruit recipe
In this purely plant-based biryani recipe the rice is boiled in a rich vegetable stock with cloves, star anise, cardamom and cinnamon, you can add saffron for more special occasions. This aromatic liquid is then soaked up inside the rice and delivers a massive punch of flavour.
For the extra flavours and textures that are enveloped by the rice like hidden treasures we have chosen a wonderful meaty jackfruit and firm bite of cauliflower which is another staple in the plant-based Indian repertoire.
Unlike a traditional biryani recipe where the rice is part cooked then drained then added to a dish and layered between chewy and meaty textures ready for more liquid (often flavoured milk) then baked, this dish requires a slightly different technique to ensure that the jackfruit retains the firm bite needed. It is this separate cooking of the jackfruit and cauliflower however that gives this version of a vegan biryani its simplicity and quicker cooking time.
Jackfruit, which has the taste between an artichoke heart and a delicate lychee and the texture of an under-ripe pineapple is cooked in a way to lose some of the excess moisture and “fruity” flavour to give it a more savoury appeal. First by frying, then grilling. However in this vegan biryani, the slight perfumed fragrance of jackfruit adds a bit of the Persian touch to the dish and the flavours are massively enhanced by the rich tomato masala it’s baked in.
Jackfruit is also a good protein source for you and is high in antioxidants such as vitamin c, carotenoids and flavonoids which lower inflammation in the body caused by oxidative stress from free radical molecules, a known feeder of cancers and heart disease.
Cauliflower which is the other main ingredient in our biryani is also high in fibre and contains many detoxifying compounds called isothiocyanates. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower which contain these compounds are shown to offer protection against cancers. Cauliflower is used in many Indian dishes and often paired as is the case here with turmeric. Certain studies has suggested that the anti-cancer potency is elevated when certain combinations of vegetables and spices are combined. If you are able to find a hybrid orange cauliflower then even better as this contains a further compound, beta-carotene which is another cancer fighting antioxidant.
Lastly, a topping of some chewy dried mangoes finish this vegan biryani wonderfully. Enjoy!
Have you made this tasty vegan biryani recipe?
Love dishes with turmeric?
- ½ a cup of basmati rice
- 150g jackfruit drained from a can and broken by hand
- 150g of cauliflower broken into florets
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove crushed and diced
- 2 teaspoons of tomato puree
- 1 cup of organic vegetable stock
- ½ a cup of water
- ⅓ teaspoon of cloves powder
- 2 cardamom pods crushed
- 2 star anise cloves
- 1 few strands of saffron (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of ginger
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 2 teaspoons of a good chat masala
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 tablespoon of sliced semi dried mangoes and coriander leaves
Wash the basmati rice and drain. Add the rice to a pan with the stock, cardamom, saffron, cloves and star anise and put on a high heat. When the stock starts the boil turn the heat down very low and put a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes.
Fry the jackfruit with the ginger and cumin for 4 to 5 minutes then remove from the pan and set aside. Using the same pan add the onion, garlic, turmeric, chat masala, tomato paste and water and stir fry for a minute to bring it together. Add the cauliflower florets to the paste and fully coat in the mixture and fry for a 4-5 minutes.
Combine the jackfruit to the cauliflower in an ovenproof dish (and a little more water if it looks too dry) and grill under a very high heat (300c) for 10 minutes.
Pour the rice over the jackfruit and cauliflower and garnish with mango and coriander.