Learn how to make traditional and authentic One Pot Indian “Thakkali” Tomato Biryani.
This aromatic biryani, also known as Indian Tomato Rice, is a healthy homemade vegetarian and vegan side dish. We’re certain the meat lovers in your family will love it too!
Our quick & easy basmati rice recipe features flavourful ingredients like tomato, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, chili, garlic, ginger, cilantro and fried shallots.
This healthy rice dish is vegan, vegetarian, dairy free and gluten free. Enjoy it as a light lunch all on its own, or at dinner alongside an entree.
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What Is Biryani?
Biryani is a mixed rice dish originating among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. You can find a wide variety of biryani recipes in India, each expressing unique regional flavours and cultural heritage.
Biryani is an Indo-Aryan word derived from the Persian language, which was used as an official language in different parts of medieval India by various Islamic dynasties. One theory states that it originated from birinj, the Persian word for rice. Another story explains it is derived from biryan or beriyan, which means “to fry” or “to roast”.
While biryani can be enjoyed across India, it is in Southern India, where rice is grown and is a larger staple in the diet, that biriyani are most often served.
Indian rice pilaf often features meat or seafood like chicken, goat, lamb, prawn and fish. They can also be vegetarian and vegan friendly like this simple Tomato Biryani recipe.
You’ll also find biryani served outside of India where immigrant communities have cooked their families recipes for many generations. Locals enjoy flavourful biryani in Burma, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and South Africa.
Travel to India by Cooking Thakkali Biryani at Home
I love traveling through Asia.
My first visit to Asia had me living in South Korea for a year as a teacher and it’s where I was first introduced to fermented vegetables like kimchi.
After my contract ended in Seoul I travelled throughout Asia for 6 months, visiting the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar,Thailand, Vietnam, The Maldives and India.
I spent over a month traveling through India. I started in the capital, eating my way through the bustling markets and fine dining restaurants in Delhi. I then embarked on a magical weekend getaway to awe-inspiring Taj Mahal in Agra. In India’s north you’ll find plenty of barbecue and wheat based side dishes like scorched naan bread.
For the second half of my Indian adventure I explored the southern state of Kerala. The south is famous for its seafood, coconut, tropical fruits, and rice based side dishes like crispy dosa and Thakkali Biryani. The colonial capital of Cochin was formerly run by the Portuguese. It’s also one of the only places in India you can find beef on a menu.
After enjoying a jaunt to the Maldives my India trip came to a close in the Bollywood capital, bustling and cosmopolitan Mumbai. The city is famous for its specialty street foods and fine dining restaurants at opulent luxury hotels. The Taj Mahal Palace in particular serves one of the world’s most famous Afternoon Teas.
What I found most fascinating is India’s distinct regional food cultures. Much like the regional cuisines found in France, Germany, Italy or Spain, each city in India had its own local speciality.
After you’ve traveled to India, return home to prepare an authentic and fragrant feast for friends and family featuring this flavourful Tomato Biryani recipe!
Where To Eat Tomato Biryani
If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to local Indian restaurants that serve traditional Tomato Biryani.
Haven’t traveled to India before? It may be helpful to first sampleThakkali Biryani at a local Indian restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You can assess the desired spicy heat level and ideal garnishes before trying to make the rice dish at home.
In Toronto, popular Indian restaurants that may serve Tomato Biryani include Udupi Palace, Lahore Tikka House and Kothur Indian Cuisine.
My Family Loves Indian Tomato Rice
I’ll never forget my first experience eating Thakkali Biryani.
I woke up at a luxury hotel in Cochin, the capital of the southern state of Kerala, to find a decadent breakfast buffet. I felt like I had arrived in a different country as the dishes in Southern India are unique to what you’d find in northern city’s like Agra and Delhi.
The waiter asked me if I’d like to try a local breakfast speciality, crispy dosa served with a selection of chutneys. I remember sipping bitter darjeeling tea while dipping dosa into spicy chutney. I experienced an unforgettable explosion of flavours in my mouth as hot tea muddled with the flavours of spiced chutney. A wonderful way to wake up to the world!
The waiter saw that I loved the dosa and moments later brought over a small bowl of Tomato Biryani, an eye catching rice dish featuring red tomatoes, green cilantro and crispy dark brown fried shallots. After devouring the small bowl in a matter of seconds I realized I was forever in love with the dishes simplicity.
After traveling throughout India and eating at some of the world’s best Indian restaurants I was excited to share my love for Thakkali Biryani with family in Toronto.
I’ve hosted many Indian-themed feasts, showcasing dishes from Delhi to Bengal via fragrant curries, fresh salads and hearty soups.
I served a creamy Chicken Shahi Korma with crunchy Indian Onion Salad for an al fresco lunch in the spring. While in the summer at the cottage in Muskoka we enjoyed a vegetarian feast featuring Shahi Paneer and Indian Chickpea Crepes.
When I finally introduced my parents to Tomato Biryani their eyes bulged with glee. I knew they’d both love the rice dish because it featured a sweet tomato rice topped with crunchy fried shallots. It was the perfect accompaniment to a spicy fish curry.
If you’ve traveled to India on holiday there is no better way to share your adventure at home with family and friends at home then by serving our homemade Tomato Biryani recipe.
Tomato Biryani Health Benefits
Our healthy vegan Biryani recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!
Nearly 50% of the people in the world get over 50% of their daily calories from rice. If eating brown rice featuring nutritious bran you’ll enjoy health benefits like cancer risk reduction and diabetes control.
Rich in a group of phytochemicals called carotenoids, tomatoes may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and provide protection against cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C.
It is only recently that scientists have begun to identify the components responsible for garlic’s myriad health benefits. Rich in phytochemicals and potassium, garlic helps boost your immune system, fight cancer and protect your heart.
Ginger contains at least 14 phytochemicals, many of which have impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a good source of copper, which supports your bones, blood and nervous system.
A rich source of blood-building iron, cumin may also help balance your blood sugar levels and reduce bad cholesterol. It is also traditionally used as a digestive aid.
Chili has been proven to help reduce the duration of sickness, prevent heart disease, and promote weight loss.
A good source of bone-strengthening vitamin K, cilantro is also rich in antioxidants that help protect the eyes from damage by free radicals.
Thakkali Biryani Cooking Tips
If it’s your first time cooking restaurant-style Tomato Biryani at home be sure to review our detailed step-by-step recipe below. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you started.
- We suggest using a large cast iron dutch oven when preparing this easy one pot rice dish. The heavy lid will ensure steam does no escape when the rice is cooking.
- We’ve used white basmati rice in this recipe but if you’re looking to enjoy additional health benefits use a whole grain brown rice.
- If you can’t find red chilies you can substitute for green serrano chilies. If you don’t like spicy food remove the seeds from the chilies before slicing and adding them to the pot. Or leave them out entirely.
- Cook homemade fried shallots to garnish this dish or your local Indian/Asian supermarket may sell them already prepared.
- We love serving this biryani with tomato chutney or creamy raita.
- We’ve used a mixture of tomato paste and water to hydrate this rice dish. In South Indian kitchen it is also common to add coconut milk for additional flavour. Feel free to use half water and coconut milk for a creamier taste of the tropics.
What To Serve with Indian Rice
Thakkali Biryani is one of our favourite rice dishes to serve from Southern India. The healthy vegan recipe can be served as a light lunch all on its own or as a side dish at dinner.
If you’re hosting a large Indian-themed dinner party buffet you may want to also include fresh salads, soups, and a seafood or chicken curry.
I particularly like to serve Tomato Biryani with Pitod Ki Sabji Vegetarian Indian Chickpea Dumplings, Vegetarian Malai Kofta, and Vegetarian Shahi Paneer.
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Best Thakkali Tomato Biryani Recipe
Thakkali Tomato Biryani
- Large pot
- measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- French knife
- Spatula or Wooden Spoon
- 1 cup White Basmati Rice rinsed
- 1 1/4 cups Water
- 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 tbsp Canola Oil
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1 Large Thai Red Chili halved
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tsp Fresh Ginger minced
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 lb Cherry Tomatoes quartered
- 1/4 cup Cilantro chopped
- 1/4 cup Fried Shallots garnish
- In a bowl, combine the rinsed rice with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain the rice well.
- In a liquid measuring cup, combine the 1 1/4 cups water and the tomato paste and whisk until dissolved. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the oil, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, chiles, garlic and ginger. Cook until the seeds begin to pop and the mixture is fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
- Stir the rice and salt and cook, stirring, until coated with oil, about 30 seconds. Stir in the water-tomato paste mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the tomatoes and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, fluffing the rice with a fork. Garnish with fried shallots.
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