5 Types of rice used in biryani and why?

Authentic Hyderabadi Biryani


Who doesn’t love a good biryani? This dish has been around for centuries and is enjoyed by people from all over the world. Each region has its own unique twist on the dish, making it more palatable for the locals. The variations in spice, the meat used, and the method of preparation all change the flavour and taste of Biryani. So whether you like it mild or spicy, there’s a biryani out there for everyone to enjoy!

No rice, no biryani! If rice is the star of biriyani, then we better get to know all the leading men! There are 5 major types of rice used for biryani, each with its own unique character, heritage and experience. The 5 types of rice used in making biryani are Jeera samba, basmati rice, Sona Masuri, Patna rice and Ully. Each of these types carries a special significance in the making of this aromatic dish. So let’s dive right in and get to know them a little better!

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The 5 types of rice used in making biryani are..

1. Jeera samba (cumin rice)

Commonly used in Punjabi biryani, cumin rice gives the biryani its distinct aroma thanks to the presence of cumin seeds that are added during preparation. This rice is basmati in quality but has a shorter grain. You may also recognize this type of rice from the famous ‘curry chicken’ that is served in many Indian restaurants.

2. Basmati rice (long-grain rice)

The king of all rice, basmati is the most commonly used type for any Indian dish. Its fragrance and flavour make for an exceptional biryani. It has a long-grain that is thin and tender. In fact, it is one of the few types of rice that can be eaten raw! Due to its elite quality, it is more pricey but well worth the flavour and experience.

3. Sona masuri (golden brown rice)

This paddy is shorter in length than both jeera samba and basmati. It has a nutty flavour thanks to the addition of husk and oxidation. This rice is used in Tamil biryani.

4. Patna rice

This pale-coloured rice is long in length and helps add a sweet flavour to the biryani. It is used in Patna to the distinct taste of the Patna lentils (daal). Patna rice has its own unique character and is used in many dishes besides just biryani.

5. Ully (bean rice)

biriyani rice

Not exactly a ‘premium’ rice, Ully is short-grained brown rice that is grown in Chile. This inexpensive yet flavorful type of rice is used in vegetarian biryani to mask the flavour of other ingredients. Ully rice is also commonly used in Burmese biryani due to its availability.

How much rice is used in biryani?

The amount of rice used in biryani depends on the type of biryani you are making. For example, more rice is used in a vegetarian biryani than in a non-vegetarian biryani because there are fewer ingredients in the latter. However, a full pound of basmati rice is used in every pound of meat to ensure the dish remains balanced in terms of flavour and doesn’t become too heavy.

In each pound of meat, aside from the rice, there are additional masalas (spices), onion-garlic paste, vegetarian ingredients like daals and pulses, and lines taken from other meat parts. All of this amounts to around 3-4% of the total weight of the rice. 

What other ingredients are used in biryani?

It is important to note that biryani is a cooked dish with preserved freshness provided by first cooking the ingredients separately and then mixing them with rice. The ingredients added to the rice help keep the flavours of the meat alive while adding a new level of flavour through spices, vegetables, or other additions. In fact, biryani is called khazana baddie in Persian because of the treasure of ingredients it contains. 

Spices used in biryani

The spices added to the biryani sauce vary based on the type of meat used. For example, for chicken biryani, a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, bay leaves, and turmeric is added. For meat biryani, whole spices are fried before adding the cooked meat to add a smoky flavour. This also helps reduce the water content of the meat and hence produces a thick gravy. For example, you can use black pepper, ginger-garlic paste, mustard oil (this adds a green colour to the gravy), and whole jeera seeds. Note that the gravy of a vegetarian biryani doesn’t contain garlic or mustard oil. 

On top of spices and other ingredients added to the meat to enhance the flavour, a few garnishes are also added after the biryani has been prepared. These include fried onions, sliced onions, chopped mint leaves, and garam masala.

biriyani rice


We are happy to report that evidently no matter what rice you use, with the right mixture of ingredients and spices you can enjoy a truly global dish. So go ahead and experiment with your favourite rice recipes and see for yourself how versatile these humble grains can be.

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1 Comment

  • bee , September 4, 2023 @ 1:29 pm

    that was very insightful. thank you

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