“Biryani” might sound like a super complicated or fancy dish, but it’s actually just an Indian rice dish – made with tons of warm spices, a grain (usually rice, but it can also be done with quinoa or even barley), and vegetables.
The traditional version of biryani is very rice heavy (usually white basmati rice), heavier on oil, and lighter on the vegetables or meat, if added. And vegetable biryani typically doesn’t have any protein added – it’s just rice and veggies. It tastes delicious, but isn’t the most nutritious or filling meal.
But I was determined to change that! With just a few tweaks I was able to take this classic dish from my childhood and turn it into a tasty, healthy, comfort food dinner!
So what did I change?
- Used a mixture of quinoa and brown rice instead of white rice
- Used less oil
- Added chickpeas and Greek Yogurt for protein
- Added more veggies for a complete meal!
And let me tell you, it turned out to be SO good. The kids loved it too – they ate it up and asked for seconds!
Kitchen Tools and Spices I Used:
- A great baking dish with a lid for easy storage
- Whole cumin seeds
- Cardamom Pods
- Bay Leaves
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Turmeric Powder
- Garam Masala
We served this dish with a big dollop of plain, lowfat Greek yogurt on top which added a creamy and cool element to the meal. This recipe is vegan (just omit the yogurt) and gluten free – but it still tastes super decadent and satisfying. It’s also really filling thanks to the combination of fiber, complex carbs and protein.
And at less than 300 calories per serving, you can go back for seconds and feel great about it!
This casserole is also one that keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days, so while this makes a good amount of food, you can just cook once and eat twice (or more) with this recipe. I hope you love it as much as we did!
Indian Rice and Curry Casserole (Chana and Saag Biryani)
- 2 large tomatoes diced
- 1 red onion 1/2 diced and 1/2 thinly sliced
- 3-5 fresh green chiles (such as Thai or Serrano) stemmed and seeded
- 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt (more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 cup brown basmati rice
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 8 oz baby spinach
- 1 head cauliflower cut into florets
- 1 15oz can chickpeas rinsed & drained
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 tsp saffron
- Bring one cup water to a boil. Once it's boiling, add in brown rice, quinoa, and 1/2 tsp saffron threads. Stir and lower heat (to lowest setting) and let the rice mixture cook.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Puree tomatoes, chopped onion and chiles to taste in a food processor, scraping down the sides as needed, to make a smooth sauce.
- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add raisins and cashews and cook, stirring, until the raisins are plump and the nuts are lightly brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- After you take out the raisins/cashews, add about 2-3 tsp oil in the skillet. Add cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, until light brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour in the pureed tomato mixture (it may spatter) and reduce heat to medium. Stir in garam masala, 3/4 teaspoon salt and turmeric. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes.
- Stir spinach, cauliflower, chickpeas and up to 1 cup water into the tomato sauce. Cover and remove from the heat.
- Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Spread half the chickpea curry evenly in the prepared baking dish. Spread the rice mixture on top of the curry. Spoon the remaining chickpea mixture over the rice. Scatter the reserved raisins and cashews over the top. Cover with foil. Bake until the rice is tender, ~35 min. Remove the bay leaves, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks before serving.