If you feel hungry but don’t want anything too spicy, then a biryani could be the way to go. This rice dish is packed full of tasty Indian flavours. How hot is a biryani? Well, you are about to find out the answer. I’ll tell you what’s in it, what it tastes like and what you can expect when you order or make your own!
The Quick Answer | How Hot is a Biryani?
Biryani is definitely a relatively mild Indian dish. If you were to put it on a hotness scale with 10 being ridiculously hot and 1 being mild, biryani normally sits somewhere in the range of a 3. Unlike curries, this isn’t a saucy dish. In fact, biryani is predominantly made of rice. This rice is fried and mixed with other ingredients like onions, meat and Indian spices. It’s a really filling and tasty dish.
To find out more about biryani, read on…
What is Biryani?
Biryani is a rice-based dish served as part of the main meal in Indian cuisine. Plain white rice, this definitely isn’t. Instead, basmati rice is fried in a blend of oils and spices. Consider it a little like an Indian pilaf.
It is normally made with a few vegetables, such as onions, peppers and peas. You will often find meat added to the dish, but this can also be substituted for vegetables.
There is some debate over where the name ‘biryani’ comes from. The Persian word for rice is birinj which sounds sort of similar. However, the Persian word for fry is biryani. Luckily for us, biryani is made with rice and fried, so both could be correct!
Biryani is normally yellow in colour, with no sauce. That said, it isn’t a dry dish. The rice is cooked in gravy or stock, and as a result, is a little moist. It is a really savoury dish packed full of Indian flavours. You can have biryani as a main meal or use it as fancy rice to accompany other types of curry dishes.
What Ingredients are in a Biryani?
There’s a lot to like in a tasty biryani. There are variations, and each chef makes their own version slightly differently. But, here’s what you’ll generally tend to find in this delicious rice dish: -
- Oil or ghee
- Garlic and Ginger
- Garam Masala
- Turmeric (giving that gorgeous yellow colour)
- Fresh coriander
- Chilli powder or fresh chilli
- Cardamom pods
- Meat such as lamb, beef or chicken
- Sometimes a sweet element such as raisins or mango chunks
You might have noticed above that biryani can sometimes feature chilli. If you are ordering from an Indian restaurant, be sure to check this, as the inclusion of chilli can raise the spice level significantly!
What Does Biryani Taste Like?
Biryani is a taste explosion and is one of my favourite things on an Indian menu. It is a really filling dish, and if you can finish a whole plate, you are doing well!
Biryani has a strong savoury taste. This is brought about by frying onions and other Indian spices like garam masala before the rice is added. The other ingredients, such as meat, are also fried in these spices before rice and liquid are added. This liquid soaks into the rice and the meat meaning that every mouthful is crammed with flavour!
There is quite a lot of textures going on in a biryani. You have the crunch of bell peppers and chopped onions, succulent grains of rice, and the pop created by the peas. You’ll often find that biryani is also slightly sweet. If raisins have been included, they swell as the dish cooks, making them all juicy!
You’ll also notice that the recipe often includes yoghurt. This gives biryani a sort of thick, creamy consistency that you don’t normally get with rice dishes.
Is Biryani Hot?
This varies from restaurant to restaurant, but biryani isn’t traditionally regarded as ‘one of the hot ones’. It all depends on whether chilli is included as part of the recipe. If the chef uses Kashmiri chilli, it can sometimes be a little warm but is nowhere near as hot as a vindaloo.
If you have read my guide on how to cool down a hot curry, you’ll have already seen that rice works really well to absorb heat from the chilli. Because biryani is made up of rice, it tends not to be too fiery, even if there is chilli in the recipe.
Biryani also contains yoghurt. This is another great way to reduce the spiciness of a dish. Biryani is an excellent choice if you love Indian food and flavours but don’t want too much spice.
What is the Mildest Indian Dish?
Biryani is often considered one of the mild ones, but it isn’t the mildest Indian dish. If you are looking for something that is “1” on the spice scale, I’d suggest opting for a curry like a chicken tikka masala, a nice creamy korma, or a sweet and nutty pasanda. These are all really mild Indian dishes.
If none of the above float your boat, give butter chicken a whirl. There are very few spices involved, and it is a really mild dish.
Are Any Dishes Similar to a Biryani?
If you like your rice, I could think of one or two suggestions that are vaguely similar to biryani.
Pulao is another Indian rice-based dish. This is normally cooked in a single pot and contains a few Indian flavours. Aside from rice, you’ll nearly always see it made with peas. Unlike biryani, pulao is considered more of a side dish for curry, and it can get a little boring if served on its own.
How hot is a biryani? Unless you are unlucky with the chef, there is a good chance that it will be pretty mild. It is made with rice, yoghurt and contains relatively little chilli. Biryani isn’t a curry as such. If you consider it Indian spiced rice, you’ll have a good idea of what it is all about. If you are trying to steer clear of chilli, why not check out my article on the mildest curries right here? Be sure to check out my other curry guides too! What do you think of biryani? Let me know in the comments below!