Jackfruit (Kathal) Biryani: Spicy, Hearty, and Vegetarian


A few years ago, I had jackfruit biryani at a family friend’s house and was blown away by the spiciness, texture, and taste of this delicacy.  (Origins of biryani:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biryani).  I was also impressed that jackfruit has almost a meat-like consistency and absorbed the spices so well.  For vegetarians, it offers a nice and filling option for biryani, that is surprisingly light at the same time.

Over the years, I have tried a few variations of this recipe, but I think the following one is pretty close to an authentic biryani taste.  I’ve noted a version I made on this recipe, which is slightly less heavy on the spice.

Like lasagna, the rice continues to absorb the flavors over time, so leftovers taste even better than the first serving!

Kathal Biryani


Helpful Hints – Jackfruit Preparation

*I purchased 2 cans of brined jackfruit from my local Ranch 99 store.  2 cans is an adequate amount for 4 cups of rice.

*For the marinade, I coarsely grind 2 bay leaves, approximately 7 peppercorns, 3 cloves, 4 cardamoms (covers removed), and approximately 7 coriander seeds and add it to 4 cups of yogurt (I use Trader Joe’s full fat European yogurt.  I think full fat Greek yogurt would work as well).

*To the marinade, I add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon powder and 2 teaspoons of cumin powder (I just grind cumin seeds into powder in a mortar and pestle).

*Add about a tablespoon of ginger/garlic paste (I usually create my own) and 2 teaspoons of finely minced serrano peppers (or to taste).

*Add salt to taste.

*Marinate the jackfruit mixture for 24 hours in the fridge.

*Remove the jackfruit mixture the next day, and sauté the pieces and in the marinade for about 10 minutes and let cool.  This helps the jackfruit absorb all of the masala.  This step is optional, as you can just allow the jackfruit mixture to cook in the oven along with the rice.  It’s purely a preference thing.

Jackfruit after overnight marination:


Helpful Hints – Rice Preparation

*Wash 4 cups of basmati rice until the water runs clear and let the rice soak in clean water for about 30 minutes.  This helps to remove the starch and allows each strand of rice to not stick together.

*After 30 minutes, drain the rice and set aside.  

* Heat a large vessel with a few tablespoons of oil olive and add 2 small bay leaves, 2 cloves, 3-4 cardamon pods (the whole pods), 2 black cardamon pods, and 1 cinnamon stick (you can break this up as well) and gently pan fry

*Add the drained rice and stir fry with the whole spices for a minute or two.

*Add water that covers the rice and about an inch above the rice.

*Add salt to taste (a sprinkle will do) and half cook the rice until a slight boil and then remove from heat.

*Drain the rice and let cool.

Helpful Hints – Toppings

*Cut 1 medium size red onion into long lengthwise strips.

*Caramelize onions and set aside.

*Soak 3-4 strands of saffron in a tablespoon of milk for a few minutes.

Helpful Hints – Assembly and Baking

*Take a rectangular Pyrex dish and grease all sides on the inside and layer the semi-cooked jackfruit on the bottom.  Pour any marinade all over the jackfruit.  Layering the jackfruit on the bottom protects the rice from getting singed.

*Layer rice with spices next, covering all of the jackfruit at the bottom.

*Sprinkle saffron mixture sporadically over the rice.

*Sprinkle mint leaves sporadically over the rice (this adds a great fresh flavor and punch to the biryani).

*Sporadically put 1/2 of the caramelized onion mixture on this layer.

*Layer the balance of rice and again, sporadically sprinkle the saffron mixture over the rice.

*Top it off with the balance of the caramelized onion mixture and a few pieces of chopped cilantro leaves.

*Optional step:  sprinkle sea salt over the top.

*Cover the dish tightly with heavy-weight aluminum foil and place a heavy dish on top (i.e. a cast iron skillet works well).  This creates a vacuum effect and allows the flavors to steam and mix in the biryani while baking.

*Bake for 30-45 minutes.

*Remove carefully from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes and then remove foil.  Cut into the biryani and mix it up so the jackfruit is mixed into the rice.

*Serve immediately with a side of yogurt or raita!

Layer the jackfruit first, on a well-greased rectangular Pyrex dish:


The fully layered biryani before going into the oven.



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