Biryani is a Southeast Asian dish very popular among Muslims and people in the Indian subcontinent. It’s made from rice, fried onions, and spices, and then either a meat, eggs, or vegetable to provide protein and make the meal more filling.
You’ll need some exotic spices for this dish that you may not be used to keeping in your cupboard, but sourcing those is the easy part. What’s tougher for people who haven’t made biryani before is frying up the onions just right.
When you fry onions for biryani, they’ll need to be sliced properly and then cooked in such a way that all of your onions cook evenly and come out crispy.
I will walk you through how to fry onions for biryani so that you can make this traditional dish in a way that those who are used to eating it will find appealing.
Learning how to make biryani and other Southeast Asian dishes in the authentic method can help introduce you to a whole new culture’s cuisine and get you to try dishes you might not have been open to before.
How to Fry Crispy Onions for Biryani
You can start by slicing the onions, and you want to make long, thin slices, using either a vegetable slicer or sharp knife and a cutting board. The onions should be sliced lengthwise so that the pieces are as long as possible. The thin slices allow the onions to cook up quickly and evenly.
Once the onions are sliced, you can heat up oil in a pot. Canola oil, vegetable oil, or coconut oil are all perfectly acceptable for frying onions in. You want plenty of oil in the pot so that the onion slices can be deep fried.
You can reuse the onion-flavored oil in gravy or curry sauces. If you are using about 2 large onions or 4 medium-sized onions, then you will end up with about a full cup of cooked onions when you are done. That gives you enough onions to make about a kilogram of biryani.
If you want to use the fried onions to make korma, another Asian dish that uses fried onions, you will end up with enough onions for about 5 people.
Because you are deep frying the onions in oil, you don’t have to worry about making a single layer of onions. They can stack on top of each other as long as they can submerge into the oil to cook. Depending on how big your pot is, how much oil you are using, and how many onions you are cooking, you may need to fry up the onions in batches.
The onions should be cooked on medium heat to start with. Later on, you will lower the heat, and I’ll tell you when. You don’t want to cook them too quickly and end up burning the outside and then cooking them all the way through. Stir the onions as they cook in the oil so that they will fry evenly. This will prevent them from bunching up and ensure that they can cook on all sides.
Once the onions have cooked for a few minutes, however, they will start to bunch together. You will need to keep them from bunching by stirring frequently.
Once the onions have cooked for about 15 minutes on medium heat, they should achieve a pinkish color. This is the point where you need to lower the heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir the onions. That stirring is incredibly important.
Once the onions turn a golden brown hue, they can be taken out of the oil. Get them out quickly at this point, as they will start to burn almost immediately afterwards if left in. Carefully remove them from the pot, letting the excess oil drip off, and then place them in as flat a layer as possible on a plate with a paper towel on top.
Once the oil has drained from the onions onto the paper towel, you can transfer them to another plate with a fresh paper towel or put them into the biryani.
You may notice that the onions are not very crispy after you take them out of the oil. That’s okay, as they will become crispier as they cool off. Don’t leave them sitting out for too long, though, as they will become sticky rather than crispy.
Watch them closely to make sure you use them at the right time.
This is the traditional method for how to fry onions for chicken biryani or any other kind of biryani you want to make, but it is not the only method you can use.
How to Fry Onions for Biryani in the Microwave
If you want to make things simple for yourself, you can make crispy onions in the microwave rather than on the stovetop. Once again, you will be slicing the onions thin and long. Place them into a microwave safe bowl and cover with a paper towel. Try to keep a single layer of onions as much as possible.
Cook on high in the microwave for 12-15 minutes, and then every five minutes you can stop the microwave and stir the onions with a fork. This keeps them from sticking together and absorbing too much moisture.
Once the onions come out, be sure to pat them dry an then allow them to cool. Just like cooking them in the oil, they won’t be crispy right away, but once they cool a bit, they will crisp up nicely.
So, if you want to make up crispy onions for biryani but don’t want to use a bunch of oil and deep fry the onions, you can get a similar crispy texture by using the microwave. You may notice a small difference in the texture using this method, but it’s negligible.
Either way you cook them up, they will crisp well and make a nice addition to the biryani dish. Now, you just need to cook up the rice and other components for the dish, which should take about as much effort as cooking onions in the microwave.