Instant Pot

Instant Pot Lamb & Rice Casserole (Lamb Dum Biryani)

November 17, 2021
15 Ratings
Photo by Ghazalle Badiozamani
  • Prep time 50 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Indian food has been prepared in stovetop pressure cookers for years. Indian home cooks have been using them for so long, so when it comes to writing Indian recipes for the Instant Pot, there's no translation needed. Biryani is usually worth the trouble (lots of cleanup; worrying about rice and lamb cooking to the right doneness at the same time; takes several hours). But on busy weeknights, try this version: it’s done in about an hour.

You know how you make a traditional Indian lamb biryani? First, you get ready to dirty about six different pots in your kitchen. Next you obsess over the exact doneness of the rice. What is “50 percent done” or “75 percent done” rice, as traditional recipes ask you to gauge? Then you worry about the lamb not cooking as fast as the rice. Finally, six hours later, when your kitchen looks like a hurricane hit it, you pick up the phone and order pizza. Or you can make this stupid-simple recipe for an authentic biryani instead. Yes, the lamb will cook in the short time, as long as you marinate it and cut it into bite-size pieces. You can substitute beef for the lamb as well, if you like.

This garam masala is the base of much of my Indian cooking. I’ve tried many different recipes, but this is Raghavan Iyer’s recipe (of 660 Curries fame), and he has been generous enough to allow me and all who cook from my recipes to use it. Everyone who has tried it will agree—store-bought garam masalas cannot hold a candle to this recipe. Trust my advice and take the ten minutes to make it. You’ll thank me.

Excerpted from INSTANT POT FAST & EASY © 2019 by Urvashi Pitre. Photography © 2019 by Ghazalle Badiozamani. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. —Urvashi Pitre

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 9 Instant Pot Indian Recipes for Rich, Comforting Flavor Fast. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Instant Pot Lamb & Rice Casserole (Lamb Dum Biryani)
  • Garam Masala
  • 3 dried red chiles
  • 1 (2-inch) Indian cinnamon stick (cassia bark), or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green/white pods)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • Lamb and Rice
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion, plus 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus ½ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded if desired, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound lamb shoulder or leg, trimmed and cut into bite-size cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  1. Garam Masala
  2. In a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder, grind the chiles, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cayenne, and cloves, shaking the grinder gently as you go so all the seeds and bits get into the blades, until the mixture is the consistency of a moderately fine powder.
  3. Unplug the grinder and turn it upside down. (You want all the spice mixture to collect in the lid so you can easily scoop it out without cutting yourself on the blades.)
  4. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month. Shake or stir before using.
  1. Lamb and Rice
  2. In a colander, rinse the rice under cool running water; set aside to soften and absorb some of the water.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, finely chopped onion, chopped cilantro, mint, chile, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, 2 teaspoons of the garam masala, and 1 teaspoon of the salt to combine. Add the lamb and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while the rice rests.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to high. Break the onion slices apart with your fingers and arrange on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine. Broil the onions, stirring just once or twice, for about 15 minutes, until browned and caramelized.
  5. In an Instant Pot, arrange the lamb mixture so it covers the bottom. Carefully spread the rice all over the meat in a uniform layer. Carefully pour 1 cup of water over the rice, gently pushing down on the rice until it’s submerged in the water. (Do not mix the lamb and rice together.)
  6. Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve. Select Manual and set the pot at High pressure for 6 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, let the pot sit undisturbed until the pressure has released. (This part is important, as it approximates the traditional steam cooking process.)
  7. Serve topped with the browned onion garnish and cilantro leaves.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Liz D
    Liz D
  • Urvashi Pitre
    Urvashi Pitre
  • karen
  • gaby.m
Dr. Urvashi Pitre is the President of a global marketing consulting firm, as well as the author of several best-selling cookbooks.

18 Reviews

gaby.m May 24, 2023
I was skeptical of the 6 minutes but it worked! I doubled the recipe with no issues and got 6 servings out the doubled-up recipe.
Björn June 6, 2022

My unions go from no color to black in no time when I try to broil on default temperature 250° C on top level. What temperature du you use and how close should the onions be to the heaters?
Urvashi P. June 6, 2022
hey there, you may have more luck just browning them in a saucepan with a little oil. I placed the pan more than a foot away from the broiler.
Khelling December 2, 2020
Can I use ground lamb?
Urvashi P. January 15, 2021
Maybe? But in that case, you will want to reduce the cook time to 4 mins under pressure.
Ds14248 January 14, 2020
Can this be made with chicken thighs? Lamb can be a little gamey for some. How would it change the cooking time?
Urvashi P. January 14, 2020
Indeed it can. But here’s the recipe to follow for that. It’s a slightly different taste but it’s very popular with my blog followers.
Liz D. July 18, 2019
I've made this several times. I used a less turmeric & added some crumbled saffron threads on top of the rice. I find some of the rice gets a little overcooked, but all in all it's a great recipe when you're craving biriyani
Susan March 26, 2019
Can someone at Food52 please update this recipe to include how much water to use in step 5??? I don't think recipe users should have to comb through the comments to figure this out. I'm relieved I was able to find this in the comments, as I am literally in the midst of making this, but still...
Urvashi P. March 26, 2019
I've just fixed it! I hope you enjoyed how it turned out.
Susan March 26, 2019
Thanks so much! I apologize if my comment seemed snippy! I was extremely pleased with how the recipe came out. Truthfully I was a little skeptical that it would all come together and that the lamb would be tender, but happily everything worked perfectly. Thanks, again!!!
karen May 9, 2019
Exactly I I had already printed the recipe out & just guessed at the water & over estimated by 3/4 C. 😔
Ashley M. February 5, 2019
I made this tonight! Delicious and will definitely make again. Here are some notes to help with the recipe (because the cooking time is very vague)

1) can prep early. Mix yogurt with all spices and marinade meat. I started my marinade at 10am (because that's when I had free time to prep!)
2) this dish would be just as good with chicken! So if you don't eat lamb don't let that stop you from making it!
3) the home made garam masala is delicious, but don't let prepping this stop you from making this. I'm sure store bought garam masala would be fine
4) The recipe says to cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. HOWEVER it does not mention that first you have to achieve high pressure. This can take anywhere from 5 - 30 minutes! (for me it took about 20 minutes)....then the 6 minute timer starts. THEN you're supposed to let it sit "undisturbed until pressure releases". This also takes a while (it can also take from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the quantity of liquid in the Instant Pot.) GIVE YOURSELF 1 FULL HOUR OF COOKING TIME.
5) Definitely serve with cucumber yogurt riata! Great combo of flavors!
Stacy January 30, 2019
Made this last night and I am obsessed. I didn't have coriander or ginger or mint or a pepper (oops) and I ran out of cilantro for garnish (augh) and I still thought it was flavorful and tender and delicious and EASY. Next time will serve with a cucumber yogurt salad raita kind of thing, I think.
Urvashi P. February 5, 2019
So glad to hear this!
Urvashi P. January 14, 2020
I don’t know why I am only now seeing this—almost a year later! But I sure hope you’re still enjoying it.
Dogolaca December 14, 2018
I’m guessing one cup water at Step 5. Can the author please clarify?
Urvashi P. December 17, 2018
yes that is correct :)