Yakhni pulao is a classic mutton and rice dish with deep but subtle flavors. Long-grain Basmati rice teams up with the choicest cuts of bone-in meat and whole spices to make this authentic Awadhi pulao! Both instant pot and stovetop methods included.
Love fine Indian food? Then you've got to try this delicate yakhni pulao. It's not as flamboyant and colorful as chicken biryani or keema biryani, and at first glance, it looks like a regular mutton pulao. However, you have to taste a forkful or two to know the difference. You'll be amazed at the subtlety and depth of flavors. The best part? It is not hot and spicy like other rice recipes from the subcontinent and is in fact, quite mild.
What is Yakhni Pulao?
Rice cooked in yakhni (a rich, meaty stock) is yakhni pulao. Bone-in mutton or lamb is cooked in water, whole spices and aromatics like onion, ginger, and garlic to get a rich stock. The rice and meat are then simmered in this stock along with a few other ingredients to make yakhni pulao.
What is the difference between yakhni pulao and biryani?
There's a lot of difference! Both the taste and the method of cooking are different. Biryani has ground spices like coriander and red chilli powder in addition to whole spices, so you can see the masala in the rice. It also makes use of saffron or food color to get the signature orange-hued rice. Lastly, it is made by cooking the rice and meat separately, then arranging the cooked rice and meat in layers. Totally different from a pulao.
Note: exact quantities are given in the recipe card further down.
- Bone-in mutton - choose a good cut of meat from the shoulder or leg. You can use lamb as well in this recipe.
- Long-grain Basmati rice (affiliate link) - Basmati rice gives the best results, so don't go for any other variety.
- Cooking oil
- Whole spices - bay leaves, cloves, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and black peppercorns
- Ginger and garlic paste
Here is a picture of all the spices and ingredients (besides mutton) you will need for making the yakhni or stock.
How to make yakhni pulao
There are two broad steps: making the stock and cooking the rice in the in the stock along with the meat.
STEP 1: MAKE THE STOCK
- Take a square piece of cheesecloth or muslin and place the ingredients for the stock on it (onions, ginger, garlic and whole spices). Bring the ends together and tie it securely. You can use a cloth bag also if you have one. You're putting the spices and aromatics in a bag or pouch so you don't have to fish them out of the stock later.
- In your regular pressure cooker or instant pot (if you have one), place the cheesecloth bag, the meat, salt, and enough water to cover these ingredients. Pressure cook (stove-top pressure cooker: 10 minutes; instant pot: 15 minutes) the contents and let the pressure release naturally.
- Open the cooker and remove the meat onto a platter. Take out the cheesecloth bag, hold it above the cooker, and squeeze it lightly a few times to extract the juices from it. Your stock is ready. Keep it aside as it will be used later.
Note: Make sure the bag is cool enough to handle before squeezing it. You can keep it on the counter for a few minutes before trying this as it will most certainly be too hot to hold at first.
Note: After you have squeezed the bag, open or untie it and discard the spices. You don't need to throw away the bag itself as it can be washed easily.
STEP 2: MAKE THE PULAO
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven and add some whole spices (cloves, green cardamom, black pepper, cumin, bay leaf and a couple of cinnamon sticks).
- When the spices start sizzling, add thinly sliced onions and fry them until they are reddish-brown.
- Tip in the ginger-garlic paste and cook for five minutes or until the oil leaves the sides of the pot.
- Stir in the yogurt followed by the salt and the meat you put aside earlier. Let the meat cook in the masala for five minutes.
- Add the rice and four and a half cups stock and let it come to a boil. Lower the heat once the liquid is boiling and let it cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid in the last five minutes and turn off the heat. Let the pulao rest for ten to fifteen minutes before removing the lid. Fluff the rice with a fork, garnish with some fried onions (optional) and serve hot.
Instant Pot Method
- If you want to use your instant pot for making the pulao, pour the stock from the steel insert into a bowl and keep it aside.
- Rinse the steel insert and put it back into the instant pot, then proceed with the rest of the steps (as above) on sauté.
- After the meat has been simmering in the pot for five minutes or so (step 4 above), add the rice and four cups stock. Cancel sauté, secure the lid and pressure cook for five minutes. After the timer beeps, let the pressure release naturally. Open the pot and fluff the rice with a fork. Garnish with some fried onions (optional) and serve hot.
Some useful tips and suggestions
- Do choose bone-in meat for this recipe, preferably meat from the shoulder or leg of a lamb or goat. The same goes for the rice. Good quality Basmati rice is a must for this recipe.
- If you don't have all the spices, never fear. Use the ones you do have. You don't have to get it down to every last spice I've mentioned in the recipe. That said, don't skip the whole spices while making the stock. These are essential to the recipe.
- It is important to fry the onions to a dark reddish-brown color. This imparts a rich color to the pulao as well. If the onions are under-done, the pulao will look pale too. Do be careful not to burn the onions though.
- If you want a touch of heat, add a teaspoonful of red chilli flakes to the masala.
- You can buy bottled ginger and garlic pastes separately from any big chain supermarket or Indian/Pakistani grocery. Or make your own! Just put equal quantities of peeled and chopped ginger and garlic in a blender, a few tablespoons water and blend to a smooth paste. Use as required and store the extra in a clean glass jar with a lid in your refrigerator. Though it may change color, it keeps for several days in the fridge without spoiling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Open pot - 1 cup of unsoaked rice needs 1.5 cups liquid.
Instant pot or stovetop pressure cooker - 1 cup of unsoaked rice needs 1.25 cups liquid.
Add the stock according to this ratio and you won't go wrong.
Leftover stock can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days and used for making meat-flavored plain rice or soup. You can also freeze it in ziploc bags or a freezer safe container if you don't want to use it any time soon.
This pulao pairs very well with a simple raita (yogurt dip). Stir one cup yogurt with half a teaspoon roasted and ground cumin, a pinch of salt and sugar and a quarter teaspoon red chilli powder. Mix well and spoon over the pulao.
More pulao and biryani recipes you might like
- Mushroom pulao - A tasty one-pot brunch or dinner that comes together in 25 minutes.
- Kashmiri Pulao - A slightly sweet rice dish with fresh fruit and nuts!
- Chana Pulao - Rice, chickpeas, fried onions, and spices come together in a protein-packed pulao that pairs well with a fresh salad.
- Chicken pulao - A delicious one-pot chicken pulao recipe that’s super easy to make with just a few ingredients. Makes for the perfect weeknight meal.
- Paneer biryani - Soft cubes of Indian cottage cheese layered with aromatic Basmati rice.
Mutton Yakhni Pulao
For the stock
- 1.1 lb or 500 gm bone-in mutton or lamb
- 2 whole garlic pods unpeeled
- 1.5 " fresh ginger cut thickly
- 2 medium-sized red onions quartered
- 2 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 black cardamom
- 5 green cardamom
- 8-10 cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- salt to taste
For the pulao
- 3 cups or 600 gm Basmati rice rinsed and drained
- 4 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 3-4 cloves
- 3-4 green cardamom
- 0.5 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium-sized onion thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 3 tablespoon yogurt whisked
- salt to taste
- Tie all the stock ingredients (except meat and salt) in a small cheesecloth or muslin bag.
- Place the meat and spice bag you made in step 1 in the steel insert of your instant pot. Fill the pot with water so that it covers the meat and spice bag completely. Add salt. Secure the lid and make sure the steam release handle is on 'sealing.' Press the pressure cooking button (high) and set the timer to 15 minutes. When the timer beeps, let the pressure release naturally. If using a stovetop pressure cooker, pressure cook for 10-12 minutes only.
- Open the pot and remove the meat and spice bag from the stock. Let the spice bag cool down, then hold it above the steel insert and squeeze it lightly so that the liquid in the bag falls into the pot. Open the bag and discard the spices.
- For this step, you can continue using the instant pot or make the pulao in a large dutch oven on the stovetop. If opting for the former, transfer the stock to a bowl and wash the steel insert lightly. Put it back in the instant pot and press sauté. Add the oil and the whole spices and when they start to sizzle, slide in the sliced onions. Fry until reddish brown.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 5 minutes or until the oil floats on top.
- Add the yogurt followed by salt and the meat you kept aside in step 3. Let the meat cook in the masala for about 5 minutes.
- Finally, add the rice and 4 cups stock. Secure the lid again and pressure cook on high for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, let the pressure release naturally and open the pot. Fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with some fried onions. Serve hot with chutney or raita.
- If making the pulao in a dutch oven on the stovetop, add 4.5 cups stock and let the liquid come to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the meat and rice cook until most of the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Let the pulao rest for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. When ready to serve, fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with some fried onions. Serve hot with chutney or raita.
- Leftover stock can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days and used for making rice or soup. You can also freeze it in ziploc bags or a freezer safe jar for later use.
- Go for meat from the shoulder or leg of a lamb or goat.
- Do fry the onions to a dark reddish-brown color. This imparts a rich color to the pulao as well. If the onions are under-done, the pulao will look pale. Do be careful not to burn the onions though.
- If you want a touch of heat, add a teaspoonful of red chilli flakes to the masala.
- Serve the pulao with raita (yogurt flavored with roasted and ground cumin) or a chutney of your choice.