vegan biryani

vegan biryani

The other day, I realized that I hadn’t shared a vegan recipe here since May! I haven’t routinely kept a vegetarian diet in quite a while, but skipping meat has always been kind of my default, so I can’t believe it’s been so long since I shared one of my favorite vegan recipes with you guys.

So whether you’re strictly vegan or just looking for some “meatless Monday” inspiration, I hope you enjoy this vegan biryani. It’s inspired by my cousin Maryam’s chicken biryani, but I use a sheet pan roasting method, which turns it into way more of a weeknight staple than a special occasion showstopper. Some of you might notice how different this is from classic South Asian versions of biryani, and while the answer as to “why” is a bit complicated, the main difference is in the technique, with Iraqi/Assyrian/Armenian/Persian biryanis tending to have more roasted/fried flavors, rather than more melded, blended flavors. In either case, the idea of layering is key (whether layering flavors or layering ingredients).

To veganize it, I use chickpeas instead of chicken, a simple substitution that’s as easy as swapping out a few letters. Since it’s a bit on the carby side, it goes particularly great with a big heap of garlicky sautéed greens.

vegan biryani
vegan biryani
vegan biryani
vegan biryani
vegan biryani
vegan biryani
vegan biryani
vegan biryani

vegan biryani

serves 5 or 6 as a main, or more as a side
total time: 40 minutes
active time: 25 minutes
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for the rice

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (20g)

  • 2 teaspoons of spice mix (below)

  • 1 1/4 cups basmati rice (215g), rinsed until the water runs clear

  • 1 2/3 cups water (390g)

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste) 

for the roasted veggies

  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons spice mix (below)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (25g)

  • Salt, to taste

  • 2 medium gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch  wedges (400g)

  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced (115g)

  • 1 14-oz can chickpeas (400g), rinsed and strained

  • 1 cup frozen peas (120g)

  • 1/4 cup raisins (either black raisins or sultanas) (40g)

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds (30g)

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F convection (245°C).

  2. Once you have all the above ingredients prepped, start the rice. Place the 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s heated for a couple minutes, add the 2 teaspoons of spice mix, and stir together for 1 minute to temper.

  3. Add the rice and stir to evenly coat it in the oil/spices. Add the water and salt, give it another stir, and increase heat to high. Once it comes to a boil, cover, and immediately reduce to low. Set a timer for 14 minutes, and leave it covered on low heat while it cooks (no peeking, and definitely no stirring). Once 14 minutes have passed, remove from heat and leave the lid on. Let it rest covered for at least 15 minutes (up to 30). Once it’s ready, fluff it before plating.

  4. While the rice is cooking, get the veggies going: combine the 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of spice mix with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, and about 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste). Place the potatoes, onions, chickpeas, and peas on a sheet pan, and pour the spice mix over them. Use your hands to evenly coat everything in the spice mix.

  5. Roast for about 20 minutes total, until the potatoes are done and everything is golden brown. About 2 minutes before the veggies are ready to come out of the oven, coat the raisins and pine nuts in a tiny bit of oil, and sprinkle them on the veggies to let them roast for just a couple minutes.

  6. Fluff the rice, place on a serving plate, and top with the roasted veggies.

biryani spice blend

  • 1 tablespoon paprika (7g)

  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder (7g)

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (2g, or less if you don’t like spice)

  1. Combine, then divide into 2 teaspoons (4g) for the rice and 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons (12g) for the veggies.

vegan biryani

sheet pan ras al asfour

sheet pan ras al asfour

My great grandfather, baba Paulos, always said that hot drinks cool you down. He was known to sip scalding hot chai outside in the middle of summer. And apparently, science agrees. But I’ve always been more of a cool drinks in summer/hot drinks in winter kind of person, despite this inherited familial wisdom. And as it starts to heat up in Hong Kong (hello, perpetual nose sunburn! Even with all the SPF50 in the world...), I usually start moving away from stews and toward sheet pan dinners this time of year. As it starts to warm up wherever in the world you are, I highly recommend taking your favorite soups and stews, throwing all the ingredients on a sheet pan, coating everything in a combination of seasonings and oil, and roasting until cooked through and nicely caramelized.

Today I’m sharing a sheet pan version of my family’s ras al asfour (which literally means “birds’ heads,” but just serves as a description of the teeny tiny meatballs). All the flavors and features of the original stew are present here (most prominently: tomato, potato, tiny little meat balls, tangy pomegranate molasses, and baharat), but in a much less stick-to-your-bones mid-winter kind of way. Or if you’re like my great grandfather, stew season is just starting up, and you might want to give the original a try instead. In any case, stews are appropriate year-round in my book, so you can’t really go wrong, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter, this is the ras al asfour for you.

sheet pan ras al asfour
sheet pan ras al asfour

sheet pan ras al asfour

yield: 4 servings
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 50 minutes
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PDF to print

the meatballs

  • 3/4 pound (340g) ground beef

  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (14g)

  • 1/2 of 1 jalapeño, seeds and pith removed, finely minced (15g)

  • 1/3 cup finely minced parsley leaves (25g)

  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion (35g)

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press (5g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3.5g) (or to taste)

  • 1 teaspoon baharat (2g)

  1. Combine the ground beef, pomegranate molasses, jalapeño, parsley, red onion, garlic, salt, and baharat. Stop mixing once it's well-combined.

  2. Shape into about 50 very small meatballs, about 1 heaping teaspoon (not tablespoon) each. To shape, squeeze one in the palm of your hand, and then use both of your palms to gently roll the ball around to smooth it out.

everything else

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (14g)

  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (7g)

  • 2 teaspoons baharat (4g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3.5g) (or to taste)

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped in half (300g)

  • 1/2 of 1 small red onion, sliced (55g)

  • 2 cups 1/2-inch-diced potatoes (240g)

  • the above meatballs (raw)

  • (optional) rice or bread for serving

  • (optional) greens for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C).

  2. Stir together the olive oil, pomegranate molasses, baharat, and salt.

  3. Combine the tomatoes, red onion, and potatoes, and pour the olive oil mixture over the veggies. Toss everything together to coat evenly. Add the meatballs, and then very gently fold everything together to coat the meatballs.

  4. Spread everything out on a sheet pan into 1 even layer. If any of the meatballs have fallen apart, nudge them back together. Bake for about 20 minutes, just until the potatoes and meatballs are cooked through, and the whole thing is caramelized (if it’s caramelizing too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the last few minutes). Serve over rice or alongside bread, and optionally also with greens.

sheet pan ras al asfour
sheet pan ras al asfour