Vegan Seitan Biryani


Who doesn’t love biryani?! It is a word that elicits alot of emotion – some say it is a feeling, a way of life. For me, it makes me nostalgic for my childhood and my ammi’s (mom’s) home cooking. She’d only make biryani on special occasions, but boy when she did make it was it glorious!

This is an adaptation of her original recipe, with seitan as the main protein feature. I made my own seitan, but the following recipe is very similar: But you can use any recipe you like. If you don’t have access to Vital Wheat gluten, you can use any all purpose flour and use the “wash the flour” method. OK, let’s get into it!

Chef’s kiss!

A close up of the seitan biryani in all its glory!

Vegan Seitan Biryani

Recipe by Sara N.Course: MainCuisine: PakistaniDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time






  • Biryani masala
    1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 2 dried red chili peppers

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 4-5 whole cloves

  • 2 black cardamom

  • 1 star anise

  • 4-6 green cardamom pods

  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds

  • Biryani
  • 1/4 cup oil

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter (optional)

  • 1 .5 cups seitan (or pre-cooked tofu)

  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced or finely chopped

  • 2 medium potatoes/peeled and chopped

  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots

  • 1/2 cup plant-based yogurt (I used Forager brand)

  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic

  • 1 tbsp crushed ginger

  • 4 dried plums (alu bukhara)

  • 1 tomato (optional)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 tbsp Biryani masala mix (recipe above)

  • 1 tsp Kashmiri Chili powder

  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • Whole spices for biryani: 2 bay leaves, 2 star anise, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3/4 tsp cumin seeds, 3-4 cardamom pods, 2 black cardamom

  • Rice
  • 2 cups basmati rice

  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • Layering and Garnish
  • 12-15 strands of saffron mixed with 2 tbsp warm oat milk and a few drops of kewra essence

  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

  • 1-2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped

  • 4-5 thin slices of 1 lemon

  • 2-3 whole green chili peppers (optional)


  • Dry roast all the biryani masala ingredients and then grind to a fine powder. Add 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder to the biryani masala. Set aside. (Note: If making the biryani masala is too time consuming, you can also buy store bought biryani masala at any asian/Indian grocery store)
  • In large heavy bottom pan – Add oil and vegan butter and once hot, fry onions first until brown (takes about 10-15 minutes on medium heat). Once they’re ready, take out half of onions for layering, and also remove some of the oil from the pan so the biryani does not become soggy. Next, add rest of ingredients for biryani listed above. Cook the mixture until the potatoes are cooked thoroughly. Take out 1/2 cup of the mixture for layering.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Place a medium pot over high heat and bring 7 cups of water to a boil. Add salt, oil, and stir. Once the water comes to a boil, drain and add the rice. Stir, and bring it back up to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes or until the rice is just cooked and not mushy when pressed. Drain and set aside.
  • Steaming (Dumm)
  • Layer half of the drained rice on the seitan masala mixture made above. Make the saffron/oat milk mixture and pour 1/2 on top of the rice. Top with set aside fried onions, chopped cilantro, and mint leaves. Add the seitan mixture that was set aside on top of the rice layer, and top again with the remaining rice. Drizzle the remaining saffron/milk mixture, fried onions, cilantro leaves, mint leaves, and arrange lemon slices and whole green chilis on top. Sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of hot water on top of the biryani – this will help with the steaming.
  • If your pan isn’t heavy bottomed, place a heat diffuser/griddle, or tava underneath the pan to diffuse the heat. Layer the lid with a kitchen cloth or aluminum foil and seal tightly. Turn down to the lowest heat and allow it to cook in its steam (dumm) for 18-20 minutes. Turn off the heat let biryani rest for 10 minutes. Do not stir or mix. To serve, move onto platter with a plant-based yogurt (raita).

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