Prawns pulao is a delicate, flavorful prawn and rice dish fit for a feast. Ready in 30 minutes in the instant pot, it is a no-fuss, must-have recipe! Stovetop method also included.
Tender, juicy prawns peeking out from layers of spiced rice is what this post is all about. If you love seafood, read on for a truly spectacular pulao that’s bursting with flavor and goodness.
Both prawns and rice cook quickly, and when you pair them in a dish like pulao, you’ve got an easy, one-pot meal that fills and satisfies.
Plus it’s so pretty to look at, don’t you think? The rice gets that amazing color from the tomatoes, saffron and spices in this recipe, and the prawns turn a natural salmon pink after being cooked.
Before I launch into the details of this recipe, I do want to put down one important fact that a lot of folks miss. This is a pulao recipe. It is not a biryani recipe. They are totally different in taste and the way they are cooked. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of ‘instant pot prawn biryani’ recipes online that are really prawn pulao recipes in disguise. They don’t even come close to biryani simply because an authentic biryani is assembled by alternating multiple layers of meat and rice in after they are cooked separately. Surprised? Read on.
Difference between biryani and pulao
1. The most essential difference between the two is that in a biryani, the rice and meat are first cooked SEPARATELY in two different pots. Then, the meat is layered onto the rice in another pot and it is sealed and set on low heat for some time. In a pulao, on the other hand, especially a delicate one like a prawn or shrimp pulao, the rice and meat are always cooked TOGETHER in one pot.
2. A biryani is a more complex dish compared to a pulao and has more ingredients, especially spices.
3. A biryani takes longer to get ready than a pulao since it is made by the dum method (an Indian cooking technique).
The next time you come across a biryani-in-the-instant-pot spiel, go ahead and make it by all means, but know that you’re making a pulao and not a biryani!
What’s in this prawns pulao recipe
- 45 small prawns or shrimp (about 4 cups), peeled and deveined – half a frozen packet of prawn works as well.
- 2 cups white Basmati rice – Indian rice dishes are always made with Basmati rice.
- onion, ginger and tomato puree – throw them in the blender with a little water and whizz.
- dry whole spices, ground to a powder – fennel, green cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon.
- fresh red chilli, crushed (can be substituted with red chilli powder)
- cooking oil and sea salt
Here’s a picture of the dry spices you will need for this recipe –
Let’s make prawns pulao in the instant pot!
1. Wash and soak the rice – Put the rice in enough water to cover it, then proceed to the next steps. While you go about prepping other things, the rice will have had enough soaking time to be ready for the instant pot. Before you put it in the pot, make sure to drain the rice and wash it again to get rid of the extra starch.
2. Prep the prawns or shrimp – Defrost the prawns or shrimps if using frozen from a packet. These usually come peeled and deveined. However, if you go for fresh prawns, there is no thawing them, but they might need to be peeled and deveined.
3. Make the wet masala – chop the onion, tomato and ginger and blend until you get a smooth puree.
4. Make the dry masala – put the fennel, green cardamom, bay leaf and cinnamon in a spice grinder and whizz to get a fine powder.
1. Turn the instant pot to saute mode. Heat the oil in the inner pot and add the onion-ginger-tomato puree. Tip in the dry masala and the red chilli. Saute for 5 minutes, adding a few splashes of water if required.
2. Turn the instant pot to rice mode. Add the prawns, drained rice, saffron, salt and 3 cups water. When the timer beeps, do a QPR (Quick Pressure Release) immediately and open the cooker.
3. Serve the pulao warm topped with a green garnish of your choice – mint, parsley or cilantro.
Prawns pulao on the stovetop
If you don’t have an instant pot, you can make this recipe on your stovetop too.
1. Follow the prep steps exactly as above.
2. For cooking the pulao, heat oil in a big saucepan and add the onion-ginger-tomato puree along with the dry masala and red chilli powder. Saute until the masala becomes thick and shiny. Add a few tablespoons of water to keep the masala from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the prawns, drained rice, saffron, salt and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes. When the rice has absorbed most of the water, cover the pan with a lid and switch off the gas. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Then, take off the lid, garnish with your favorite greens and serve warm.
If you love your seafood, here’s another shrimp recipe you might like –
Tandoori Shrimp – shrimp skewers with lettuce and lemon wedges is the perfect appetizer to serve on warm summer evenings!
Prawns pulao is a delicate, flavorful prawn and rice dish fit for a feast. Ready in 30 minutes in the instant pot, it is a no-fuss, must-have recipe!
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Instant Pot
- Cuisine: Indian
- 4 cups (45) small prawns or shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cups Basmati rice
- 1/3 cup cooking oil
- one medium onion
- one small tomato
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger root
- 1 tsp green cardamom seeds
- 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp fresh crushed red chilli or powdered chilli
- 1/4 tsp saffron strands
- salt, to taste
- Wash and soak the rice in enough water to cover it.
- Thaw the prawns or shrimp if using frozen. Peel and devein them if using fresh.
- Chop the onions, ginger and tomato roughly and blend in a blender to get a smooth puree.
- Put the cardamom, fennel, bay leaf and cinnamon in a dry spice or coffee grinder and grind to get a fine powder.
Cook (Instant Pot Method)
- Turn the instant pot to saute mode and add the cooking oil. Tip in the onion-ginger-tomato puree. Add the red chilli and dry masala (ground cardamom, fennel, bay leaf and cinnamon). Saute for 5 minutes, adding splashes of water to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Turn off the saute mode.
- Add the prawns, rice, saffron, salt and 3 cups water. Mix everything with a spoon. Turn on the rice mode, make sure the vent is in sealing position, and lock the lid.
- When the timer beeps (the time it takes to build the pressure + 10 minutes approx.), release the pressure immediately (QPR). Take the pulao out in a dish and serve warm with the garnish of your choice (any green leaves like mint, cilantro or parsley).
Cook (Stovetop Method)
- Heat oil in a big saucepan and add the onion-ginger-tomato puree along with the dry masala and red chilli powder. Saute until the masala becomes thick and shiny. Add a few tablespoons of water to keep the masala from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the prawns, drained rice, saffron, salt and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
- When the rice has absorbed most of the water, cover the pan with a lid and switch off the gas. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Then, take off the lid, garnish with your favorite greens and serve warm.
- The spices used in this recipe are all available in any Indian grocery or online. Sometimes, they can be found in the international aisles of big supermarkets like Walmart as well.
- Calories: 273.3
- Sugar: 1.2
- Sodium: 819.9
- Fat: 16.8
- Saturated Fat: 1.2
- Unsaturated Fat: 14.6
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 19.1
- Fiber: 1.8
- Protein: 11.8
- Cholesterol: 93.8
Keywords: pulao, rice, seafood, prawns pulao
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