What is Biryani Masala
Biryani Masala (pronounced "bee-ree-aa-nee"), is also called biryani spices, biryani seasoning, or biryani spice mix.
Biryani Masala is a deeply earthy spice blend used throughout South Asia. A traditional biryani comes together with four parts. Rice, meat, marinade, and spices. Lots and lots of spices. Regional differences and variations in biryani recipes can vary greatly but in each one the abundant use of spices remains the same. Masala simply means "blend of spices" and the name is common in many kinds of Indian foods.
Biryani is an Indian-Urdu word that stems from the Persian language. Some etymologists believe biryani comes from the Persian word birinj, which means “rice”. Others argue that the name comes from the Persian word birian, which means “fried before cooking”1. In both of the word origins and in the origins of the dish, it’s clear that there was significant Persian influence in the Mughal empire (an early modern empire in South Asia from 1526 to 1857), carried in by Persian bureaucrats and traders who traveled with the Mughals through India.
What does Biryani Masala Taste Like
There is an earthy complex flavor with floral notes, peppery undertones and a bit of spicy heat.
What is the difference Between Garam Masala and Biryani Masala
A masala is any of multiple spices ground into powder or paste for use in Indian cooking. Both Biryani Masala and Garam Masala are used to add flavor and color to dishes. The difference between the two is in spices used and the amount of each spice. Neither of these blends has an exact recipe and will vary from region to region, family to family, and even recipe to recipe within a region.
What Are the Different Biryanis Cooking Styles
The two styles of cooking biryani are pakki, which means "cooked" in Hindi, and kacchi, which means "raw".
In the pakki style the meat is marinated for a lesser time and along with the rice and any vegetables are partially cooked (somewhere between "one half" to "three quarters"), they are then arranged in layers in a cooking vessel. Different layers of rice may be treated with different spices or seasonings (e.g., with dissolved saffron or turmeric give the rice different colors and flavors). Indian Chef Ajay Chopra believes that the complex mix of biryani flavors when layered allows the stronger flavors to rise from the bottom and travel to the top2.
In the kacchis style, layers of raw marinated meat are alternated with layers with wet, pre-soaked, raw rice (which may be seasoned with different spices as in the pakki style), and placed in a heavy vessel sealed with dough and then cooked for hours over low heat.
The general rule of thumb when constructing the layers of a biryani is that rice is the first layer and the last layer, and meat, fish, poultry, or vegetables constitute the middle layer. Sometimes there are only two layers, with rice being the first layer and then meat, poultry or fish being the upper layer (but this can be reversed). sometimes the rice and the other ingredients may be arranged in four alternating layers3.
How do You Use Biryani Masala
You can, of course, use Biryani Masala to make Chicken Biryani and enjoy this blend for its traditional purpose. Cooking the perfect biryani takes some practice, but there are certainly some tips to keep in mind that will make your first attempt a delicious one.
If cooking your biryani with meat, we suggest you use some of this spice blend in a marinade along with yogurt and some salt. The active bacteria in the yogurt will help break down protein, making the meat moist and tender. Unlike the citric acid present in most lemony marinades, the lactic acid in yogurt breaks down much slower and the likelihood of the marinade breaking down the meat too much (leading to mushy meat) is significantly lower. For the meat, beef, chicken, fish, lamb, mutton, or even prawns are traditionally used. This is of course based on individual preferences, as well as the availability of the meat.
To make the meat marinade mix 8 ounces of whole milk yogurt, 2-3 tablespoons of Biryani Masala seasoning, and a pinch of salt together in a bowl. This will make enough for approximately one pound of cubed cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts or one pound of lamb. Add meat to the mixture, toss to coat evenly. Cover the bowl and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
For the rice, Basmati is most used, though some areas prefer to use whatever their local rice is. Any rice is suitable really, so preference is king here.
Most people expect the color of biryani to be yellow. This color is derived from the use of saffron. You only need a few strands of saffron to achieve this desired color; three strands per person is a good rule of thumb. Soak the saffron in just a water bottle cap full of water for about ten minutes. Add to your dish both the saffron and the water to infuse that vibrant yellow into your food.
Those with little to no experience cooking biryanis tend to overcook the dish. Meat biryanis take longer to cook than do seafood or vegetable versions, but it is wise to keep an eye on things the whole time.
If you don’t want to make a full biryani recipe, you can make a yogurt marinade for chicken thighs; the thighs will still be excellent done on the grill. Biryani Masala is a wonderful seasoning for kebabs, and its complex flavor would easily work on hearty meat like lamb. Try it on a richly flavored fish like perch or red snapper. Toss this blend over eggplant and grill or toss with melted butter over sliced carrots and roast. Mix with tahini and lemon to drizzle over cooked meats or whisk that into a vinaigrette and put more salad into your life. Use as a flavor base for a fragrant Indian stew with potatoes and coconut milk, or toss with chickpeas and bake until crispy for savory and addictive chana.
What can I Substitute for Biryani Masala
There is no easy substitute for Biryani Masala. Masala blends can contain between 15 and 30 ingredients. Our Biryani Masala has 18 ingredients. In a pinch you can use equal amounts of Garam Masala, Ras el Hanout or Maharajah Curry Powder. We recommend using half as much substitute seasoning to start and then taste. You can always add more if more flavor is required.
History of Biryani Masala
To understand the history of biryani one must first be aware of this iconic dish’s relationship with South Asian pulao and Spanish paella. During the Golden Age of Islam (generally believed to be between 786 – 1258 AD), the Abbasid Caliphate empire ruled from Afghanistan to Spain and the North of Arabia. The empire’s reach allowed many foods to spread throughout the region. From India, rice went to Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and eventually, it became known and cultivated all the way to Spain4. The methods of cooking rice in the region were similar to the modern styles of cooking pilaf and Spanish paella, and South Asian pulao and biryani all evolved from these preparation techniques5.
Many of the foods and cooking techniques that were introduced throughout India originated outside South Asia. Kebabs came from West and Central Asia and underwent radical metamorphosis in the hot and dusty plains of India. So did biryani and pulao, two rice preparations, usually made with meat6.
While the origins of biryani are not precisely known it's evolution in India has multiple theories. Some food historians believe that the first South Indian biryanis were created in medieval India as one-pot rice dishes with whatever meat was on hand and were used to feed the army7. Others believe that it was more of a fusion dish concocted in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire (1526–1857) and was a combination of Persian pilaf and the spicy rice dishes of India8.
The historian and author Rana Safvi, says that the oldest biryani recipe she has been able to locate comes from late in Mughal period (early 16th to the mid-18th century). She believes that biryani likely existed prior to that but that there is no documentation supporting that9.
What is known is that once in South Asia, biryani thrived just about everywhere that the various Muslim food cultures influenced the cuisine. This led to distinct regional varieties—in Hyderabad, a city synonymous with biryani, but also across South India and on the coasts of Gujarat, in West Bengal10.
|Ingredients||Paprika, salt, cumin, coriander, garlic, green cardamom, cayenne, turmeric, anise seed, nutmeg, ginger, black cardamom, mace, black pepper, ground star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves|
|Also Called||Biryani spices, biryani seasoning, or biryani spice mix|
|Recommended Uses||Biryani, fish, kebabs, rice, and stew|
|Flavor Profile||Earthy complex flavor with floral notes, peppery undertones, and a bit of spicy heat|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||6-12 months|
|Country of Origin||USA|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Non-GMO|
Hungry for More Information
1 Gandhi, M. (2019, September 16). Tracing the History of Biryani. Best Indian American Magazine | San Jose CA | India Currents. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
2 P. (2018, April 8). Biryani: A perfect gourmet with nail-biting finish! India Today. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
3, 5, 7 Karan, P. (2017). Biryani. Penguin.
4 Barker, G., & Goucher, C. (2018). The Cambridge World History: Volume 2, A World with Agriculture, 12,000 BCE–500 CE (Reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press.
6 Cavendish, M. (2006). World and Its Peoples. Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
8 Collingham, E. M. (2022). Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors (1st Printing ed.). Vintage Books.
9 Sanghvi, V. (2021, July 25). Rude Food by Vir Sanghvi: The people’s biryani. Hindustan Times. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
10 E., & Makhijani, P. (2017, June 23). A Beginner’s Guide to Biryani, the Ultimate Rice Dish. Saveur. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*