Fish biryani is a rich and delicious seafood meal popular in the Indian subcontinent. It is prepared by layering Kaima or Seeraga samba rice along with fried fish and biryani masala gravy. The Kaima or Seeraga samba rice used in this recipe gives an authentic flavor and taste to this fish biryani. This fish biryani is an aromatic and flavorful spread that can be served for any special occasion or on a normal day's lunch and dinner.
What is Fish Biryani?
Fish biryani is one of the best seafood meals that is fully packed with flavors and tastes. It is basically prepared like the layered version similar to Mughlai Biryani and Hyderabad style chicken biryani. Fish biryani is usually prepared with smear fried fish and masala gravy that is layered along with Basmati, or other short-grain kinds of rice like Seeraga samba, Jeerakasala, or Kaima rice.
While Hyderabad-style biryani is popular across the globe, a totally different and unique version is Kerala-style fish biryani which is popular in Thalaserry, Malabar, Kottayam, Kozhikode, and similar other places of Kerala. It is one of the common seafood main course eats served in the restaurants and households of Kerala.
About this Fish Biryani
The recipe shared here is a Kerala-style Biryani. Kerala is an Indian state that is popular for its fresh backwaters and coconut trees. You may think what that has to do with fish biryani, right? Usually, people from the state use freshly caught fish from the backwaters, coconut milk, coconut oil, and other fresh produce to make their traditional fish dum biryani. This makes the Kerala fish biryani authentic and unique from other biryani recipes.
This fish biriyani is prepared with a special variety of short-grain rice called Kaima, Jeerakasala, or Seeraga samba rice. And this variety of rice is used for the preparation of biryani in South Indian states like Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka.
Usually, Kaima rice is used to make Ghee rice/ney choru which is one of the most popular dishes in Kerala to layer the biryani. This gives a unique taste and flavor to the Kerala-style fish biriyani. Especially, the ingredients like cashews, raisins, gravy prepared with coconut milk make the dish absolutely tempting and deliver a unique taste, texture, and flavor.
How to make Fish Biryani masala gravy?
One of the important keys to getting an absolutely delicious fish biryani is from the masala gravy that is used for layering. And it perfectly compliments the smear fried fish and ney choru to make a finger-licking Kerala-style dum biryani.
To make the masala gravy, I recommend using the same oil that is left over after frying the fish(Coconut oil is preferred). This gives a nice aroma, flavor, and taste to this dish. Firstly, we have to sauté the onions to soften and then add ginger garlic chili paste. And saute until the raw aroma leaves. Grinding 2 to 3 green chili along with ginger and garlic gives an excellent taste and flavor to nonveg dishes.
Following that, add masala powders mentioned in the recipe card below and sauté well. Then add the tomatoes and allow them to cook until mushy. Then pour some curd, mint leaves, coriander leaves and give a nice mix. And allow the gravy to cook until it leaves oil from the sides. Actually, I have used curd instead of coconut milk, since it was not handy to me. But you could try if you would like it and let me know how it turned out for you.
Yay! that is it, now the fish biryani masala gravy is ready for you to prepare/make the biryani. And I would explain the remaining process in the next section with detailed step-by-step instructions.
How to make Fish Biryani?
The recipe I have shared here is Kerala-style fish Dum Biryani and it yields to 2 people. I have taken catfish steaks to make this dish. In this section, let's see how to make/prepare this delicious fish dum biryani recipe easily at home. Even though the procedure is slightly lengthy, it will not disappoint you with its taste and flavor. Yes, definitely it's worth trying!
To give a high-level idea, the following are the steps involved in the preparation of this biryani.
1. Marination of Fish
2. Preparation of Ghee rice
3. Frying fish
4. Preparation of gravy(See above)
Steps to prepare ghee rice
To make this fish biryani, I started the process by marinating the fish first with the spice powders mentioned in the recipe card below. Then I allowed them to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I started preparing the ghee rice that would be ready in few minutes.
Initially, in a pan with medium heat, I poured the ghee and added the Indian spices mentioned in the recipe card below and then cashew and raisins. I sautéed them until the raisins started to plump up.
Once the raisins are plumped, I added onions and sautéed until they turned soft. Then I added the soaked Seeraga samba rice and gave a stir for 2 to 3 minutes. After that, I added water, salt and allowed them to cook until 70%. Then I reduced the heat to low and closed the pan with the lid and cooked it for 7 to 10 minutes. Once the time passed, I have opened the lid and fluffed the rice gently, and reserved it for later use.
Steps to prepare fish biryani
The next step in making this fish biryani is frying and preparation of gravy. To do that, in a pan with medium heat, I smear fried the marinated fish in coconut oil. And for this particular fish biryani, I personally feel the fishes are need not be cooked to crispy, which will deliver its aroma when it is cooked in the dum method. So I removed them when they are 70% done.
Following that, I have prepared the masala gravy as I already explained above and kept it ready for layering. Sounds so lengthy? Don't worry you will feel all your effort is deserving when you finally taste the result.
Finally, it's time for layering and to do that, in a wide bottom pan, I spread a generous amount of gravy then topped with some ney choru. Following that, I have topped the fried fishes, then gravy, and some fried onions and mint leaves. I repeated the process until all the gravy and rice are spread completely. I have also poured yellow food colors to give a nice rich color to the dish. And it is totally optional, so feel free to skip, if you don't want to use food color or if it's not handy.
Once I have done with the layering, I closed the pan with the lid and cooked them in low heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, I opened the lid and fluffed the rice gently. Then I served this delicious Kerala-style fish dum biryani/biriyani with simple curd raita.
This Kerala-style fish biriyani is one of the best meals especially when you really want to try something different from regular Chicken or Mutton Biryani. And I hope you will try and relish this dish with your family and loved ones.
Fish biryani is an appetizing dish that has a lot of variations. Even though the traditional recipe Kerala biryani calls for Kaima or Seeraga samba rice, you could also try this dish with basmati rice. And you can also replace the coconut milk with curd which might not drastically change the flavor.
You may also try this fish dum biryani without frying the fish. Yes, you could place the marinated fish directly between the layers which will cook during the dum process, just that you have to extend the cooking time a little longer. But, personally, I love to slightly smear fry the fish which gives a nice flavor and taste to the biryani.
You may also see huge variations in Kerala fish biryani by itself. For instance, tomatoes and coriander powder are not used in traditional Thalassery fish biriyani. While in Malabar, the fish biryani recipe includes a lot of spice powders and tomatoes on the list. And I have got a chance to try both versions and they are unique in their own way.
I have prepared this fish biryani in a pan, you could also make it in an Instant pot to make the dish super quick.
Best fishes for Biryani
Fishes like Salmon, Tilapia, Kingfish, and Catfish steaks work great for biryani. However, you can also use the boneless fish fillets of the same fishes that make a good flavorful biryani too. And I suggest avoiding small fishes like sardines, Indian mackerel and similar others which might have lot of bones which is not the best for biryanis.
You could also find similar recipes below and more at Seafood Recipes.
More Biryani Recipes
- Shrimp Biryani
- Chicken Biryani
- Ambur Biryani
- Mughlai Biryani
- Mutton Biryani
- Fish Biryani
- Biryani Rice (Kuska Rice)
- Vegetable Biryani
Looking for a collection of Biryani, seafood, and chicken recipes at a place to cook for your next meal or a party? Then you could also check this list of Biryani Recipes, Indian Seafood Recipes for the main course and side dish, and Indian Chicken Dry and Semi Gravy Recipes to accompany your main dish. Take a peek!
Fish biryani recipe video
I have also shared detailed video instructions for this fish biryani recipe that I hope will help you to make a delicious authentic dish from scratch. You could also find this recipe in story format for a quick reference.
- 5 piece Fish, catfish, salmon, tilapia, king fish are best for biryani
- 1 tsp Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Water
For Ghee Rice
- ¼ cup Ghee
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 3 Cinnamon Stick
- 4 Cloves
- 4 Cardamom
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Javitri
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- ¼ cup Cashew Raisin Mix
- ¼ cup Onion, chopped
- 1 cup Rice, Seeraga Samba
- 1½ cup Water
- 1 tsp Salt
For Masala Gravy
- ¼ cup Oil
- 2 Onion, chopped
- 2 tsp Ginger Garlic Chili Paste
- 1 tsp Garam Masala Powder
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- 2 tsp Biryani Masala
- Salt, as needed
- 1 Tomato, chopped
- ¼ cup curd, or plain yogurt
- ¼ cup Mint Leaves
- ¼ cup Coriander Leaves
- 1 tbsp Yellow Food Color, optional
- On a plate, add chili, coriander, turmeric powder, salt, water, and mix everything well
- Add the sliced fishes and coat them with the prepared masala. And allow it to rest for 15 minutes
To Prepare Ghee Rice
- In a pan with medium heat, pour ghee and add bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, cloves, star anise, javitri, cumin seeds, cashew raisin mix, and saute until the raisins plump up
- Add onions and saute until it turns soft
- Now add the soaked seeraga samba rice and mix well
- Add water, salt and give a good mix
- Allow the rice to cook to 70% and simmer the heat to low
- Now close the pan with the lid and cook the rice for 10 minutes
- Open the lid and fluff the rice gently. Reserve the ghee rice for layering
To Prepare Fish Biryani
- In a pan with medium heat, pour oil and place the marinated fishes one by one
- Allow the fish to cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side
- Remove the fish from the oil when it is cooked to 70%
- Now in the same pan with the remaining oil, add onions and saute until it turns soft
- Add ginger-garlic chili paste and saute until raw aroma leaves
- Now add garam masala powder, coriander powder, biryani masala, salt, and give a good mix
- Add chopped tomatoes and saute until it turns mushy
- Now add curd, mint, and coriander leaves and give a nice mix
- Add water and allow the gravy to cook until it leaves oil from its side. Now the fish biryani masala gravy is ready for layering
- In a wide bottom pan, spread a generous amount of prepared biryani masala gravy. Then spread the ghee rice evenly on top of the gravy
- Spread some more gravy on top of rice and place the fried fishes and layer the remaining gravy on top of the fish and then sprinkle some fried onions and mint leaves
- Repeat the process and finally pour the yellow food color
- Close the pan with the lid and cook them for 10 minutes on low heat
- Open the lid and fluff gently. Now the delicious Kerala style fish biryani is ready for you to taste and enjoy
- Serve this delicious Kerala Fish Dum Biryani with any nonveg gravies, raita, or as it is
- The main specialty of Kerala fish biryani is using Kaima or Seeraga samba rice which gives a unique flavor to the biryani. I would suggest you stick to the same variety of rice to enjoy the authentic taste and flavor
- I have used catfish for this biryani but you could also use Tilapia, Salmon, Kingfish, and other fish fillets which are considered to be best for this dish. I would suggest choosing fewer bonefish to happily enjoy the biryani
- Even though ginger garlic paste is generally used in biryanis, I have used ginger garlic chili paste here which gives a unique flavor and taste to non-veg dishes
- Do not fry the fish to crispy which is not really required for this particular biryani. Cooking it to 70% is enough
- I have prepared the Kerala style fish dum biryani in a wide bottom pan and it can also be prepared using an instant pot
Fish biryani is one of the best Indian seafood meals that is fully packed with flavors and tastes. It is usually prepared by layering rice with fried fish and biryani masala gravy which is then cooked in a dum method.
Kerala fish biryani is usually prepared with freshly fried fish, ney choru, and masala gravy that are assembled in layers which makes the dish unique from other biryanis.
Yes, you could make the dish with basmati rice following the same process mentioned in the recipe card above.
Yes, coconut oil is one of the main ingredients for this fish fry biryani, and I suggest sticking with it to enjoy the authentic taste and flavor. But if the oil is not handy or not on your preferred ingredient list then you could also replace it with vegetable oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil which may not alter the taste drastically.
I really hope you enjoyed the recipe that I have shared here and I would love to hear from you on how it turned out for you. Please let me know.
If you have any other questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.