Instant Pot Low Carb Chicken Biryani

I do love curry. I think I was 8 or 9 when I remember falling in love with the chicken curry at the nasi padang restaurant in the old Rendezvous Hotel. It was a moment of bliss that I still remember clearly to this day – the tanginess of the curry and the creaminess of the coconut milk. The wonderful thing about growing up in Singapore is that my palate is not just Chinese, but also Malay and Indian. To this day, hubs and I will run off for lunch together at Banana Leaf Apollo restaurant for our fish head curry fix every so often. I remember some years back I had some friends visiting from Holland who wanted to see Little India and I took them to a nice little restaurant for a buffet Indian Curry lunch. They didn’t do too well and downed so many glasses of lime juice and water I was seriously concerned. I should have anticipated it though because I remember one of them used to eat nothing but cheese sandwiches for lunch every day without fail. The curries would have been a severe shock to the system.

Anyway one of my all time favourite curry dishes has always been dum biryani. Apparently “dum” means to bake the meat and rice together in a pot…the rice takes on all the juices from the meat and the flavours all meld together. I used to think of dum biryani as a kind of treasure hunt – discovering where the meat was nestled in the massive pile of biryani rice…of course there were occasional nasty surprises like biting into a piece of cardamom or star anise.

When I started my low carb lifestyle I thought that dum biryani belonged to the long list of no-go foods. After my diabetes diagnosis I had a mandatory visit to the dietitian, where the benefits of basmati rice being lower carb were touted. Actually, basmati rice is about 33 g carb per serving versus jasmine rice which is about 37 g carb per serving. I suppose it is better than jasmine rice but only marginally so. Even at that stage I knew that cutting down the carbs would entail more than substituting with biryani rice. It still drives me crazy to see recent public health recommendations to substitute a spoon of brown rice in meals – the carb count is pretty much the same and it’s like throwing a tiny piece of tissue paper into the ocean to try to mop it up. In comparison, the cauliflower “rice” that I made in this recipe is only 1-2 g per serving. So because I follow Dr Richard Bernstein’s recommendation to take not more than 30g carbs a day, it was a no brainer that cauliflower would do better then rice in this dish.

The tricky thing about using cauliflower is that it tends to exude fluid rather than absorb fluid like rice and I think the excess fluid I had in the dish after the pressure cooking was kind of expected. But a quick sauté in the pot dried up the excess pretty efficiently and this dum biryani dish is a pretty decent low carb version of this traditional curry.

Low Carb Instant Pot Chicken Biryani

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print


  • 4 chicken drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp garam marsala
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 150g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 medium sized onions, finely sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 head of cauliflower, finely grated
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2-3 sprigs of coriander for garnishing
  • 3 tbsp butter


  1. Using a food processor, blend the mint and coriander leaves, garlic, ginger, salt, garam marsala, chilli powder, yoghurt and lemon juice together. Marinate the chicken pieces in this yoghurt blend and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  2. Finely chop the cauliflower with the food processor until the pellets are rice-sized
  3. Put the Instant Pot on sauté mode. Heat up the butter in the pot and allow the butter to brown slightly. Add the onions to the pot and sauté for about 10 minutes till caramelized and lightly browned at the edges. Take out half the onions and set aside.
  4. Add the marinated chicken into the pot, mixing it with the remaining onions. Seal the pot and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
  5. When done, do a quick pressure release and add the cauliflower rice into the curry, mixing it well. Be careful to keep the pieces of chicken intact. Add the bay leaves.
  6. Seal the pot and put on high pressure for 4 minutes. When done, do a quick pressure release.
  7. The curry and cauliflower rice is done, but there may be some residual liquid in the pot. Put the Instant Pot on sauté mode and evaporate some of the excess fluid for 4-5 minutes.
  8. Serve hot with diced tomatoes, onions and coriander leaves on top.


One thought on “Instant Pot Low Carb Chicken Biryani

  1. I have a question about garam marsala. Are the % of the ingredients different with different brands of garam marsala? If so, different brand’s garam marsala would taste quite different from the other, right, then…which brand is the “best”?

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