Shortcut Turkey Biryani


Lazy weekends always call for slow and special food, right? But what about hectic weeknight dinners? Those often get pushed down to the end of a long list of things-to-do. Sometimes, I find shortcuts to recreate a showstopper of a complicated dish to turn around for a quick, school night dinner. That’s what this Indian biryani is. A traditionally slow-cooked “dum” dish, my version of this shortcut turkey biryani can be pulled together on any day you please.

Shortcut turkey biryani | Easy weeknight dinners with turkey | Maple and Marigold

Traditional Indian biryani is made with marinated meat that is cooked with spices. The dish is then layered with tomatoes, onions and basmati rice and more spices, dried fruits and nuts, mint and saffron milk. It is fabulous comfort food that is fit for gatherings but DEFINITELY NOT POSSIBLE ON WEEKNIGHTS.

The shortcut turkey biryani recipe I have here is a one-pot rice dish with a lot of the same depth of flavour and aroma at a fraction of the effort. Added bonus – it features one of my favourite proteins — turkey!

I started cooking with turkey a few years ago when I became more familiar with its health benefits, how lean it was and also how easy to cook. Slowly as I started to experiment with traditional recipes with bold Indian flavours, I also figured out that the meat shines against a backdrop of robust spices. Turkey makhani, anyone?

Disclaimer: I have partnered with CANADIAN Turkey as part of their #TryTurkeyToday campaign to share with you my fondness for this very Canadian ingredient. As always the narrative and opinion is mine.

One-Pot Rice Dish — Turkey Biryani

This faux biryani transforms a traditional slow-cooked rice dish from a Sunday special to one that can be made on any day you want. It features turkey cooked in spicy, aromatic rice.

Cooking with pre-cooked Turkey Strips

I have made this dish with boneless breast turkey scallopini. I often marinate and fry them, and then box them in the freezer where they are ready to rescue dinner any day of the week. You can see the steps for marinated turkey here.

If you have more time or are cooking the turkey strips the same day then start off by marinating them. Then add them into the onion, tomato mix with the yoghurt. Cook till the oil or ghee separates and then add the rice.

Shortcut turkey biryani | Easy weeknight dinners with turkey | Maple and Marigold

Meal Prep Tips for Shortcut Biryani

Use Basmati rice. It is aged and perfect for biryani. Any long grain rice will also do if Basmati is not available.

Shortcut turkey biryani | Easy weeknight dinners with turkey | Maple and Marigold

Whole spices are essential for this dish. Black cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black pepper, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. If you don’t like the mouthfeel of some of these spices (my hubby doesn’t) you can use a garam masala or biryani masala blend. Use less of it though, a teaspoon is probably enough till you know how the flavours blend together. All blends are different.

Another hack to make this shortcut biryani even faster? Use leftover cooked rice. No judgment here. Just cook the gravy, and make sure the meat is cooked too. Layer the rice on top, sprinkle the mint and pour in the saffron water. Place a lid on top and let it steam for 10 minutes on low heat.

Serve alongside a yoghurt dish to take the heat off – plain yoghurt or vegetable raita both work.

Shortcut turkey biryani | Easy weeknight dinners with turkey | Maple and Marigold

Short-cut Turkey Biryani

Print Recipe
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 4


Whole Spices

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf

Other Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice wash and rinse a couple of times. Leave it standing in some water while you get everything else ready.
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 2 tbsp oil or ghee I prefer ghee in this recipe or canola oil. The latter is mild enough to let the spices shine
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 strips cooked turkey I use turkey scalloppini
  • 1 handful chopped mint leaves
  • A few strands of saffron soaked in a couple of tbsp of hot water. You can also use milk if you like.


For frying whole spices

  • Add the ghee/ oil in a hot pan. Start with bay leaf and black cardamom, and then add the rest.
  • Turn the heat down to medium
  • Toss them and let them sputter and flavour the oil and roast.

For the Gravy

  • To the spices in the oil, add chopped garlic and sliced onions and let them cook for a couple of mins.
  • Add tomatoes and let them stew and cook for another 5 mins. The oil should start separating in the onion, tomato mixture. It will leave a trail and look less like a stew.
  • Add coriander powder, salt and yoghurt at this point and cook for another few minutes. If you're using a masala blend instead of some of the whole spices, add it now.
  • If you're using uncooked turkey in this recipe you would be adding the boneless strips along with the yoghurt. Let them all cook together.
  • This will all take about 10 minutes.
  • Add the rice on top and 1/2 cups of water. Stir it all together and bring it to a boil
  • Turn it down to a slow simmer.
  • If you're using cooked turkey strips, place them on top of the rice.
  • Place a tight lid and leave it for 10 minutes. The water will be absorbed by the rice.
  • Sprinkle the mint leaves on top and pour in the saffron water. Turn the heat off and leave the lid on till everybody is at the table.

Questions + Comments

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3 years ago

5 stars
Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.

About Puneeta

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Puneeta is a writer, food advocate and guide for those who seek earth-friendly, delicious solutions that work for real life.

Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma, Food Writer, Climate Advocate, New cookbook - Good Food, Healthy Planet - out April 2024
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