Bisi bele bhath is a spicy and flavor packed rice dish that is cooked with lentils, rice, lots of vegetables and aromatic spices! I love south indian food and the flavors of the fresh spices and ground lentils used in various dishes is simply divine. Bisi bele bhath to me is the ultimate comfort food when it comes to simple home cooked south indian food.
Bisi bele bhath, a south indian rice based dish means ‘hot lentil rice’. I must put this disclaimer up-front that I am no expert in south indian cooking and I am sure there are many different ways to cook this amazing dish.
Bisi bele bhath or sambhar rice was introduced to me by my friend, Indu few years back. While my kitchen was under major renovation in the midst of cold winter months, Indu would deliver us fresh home made food. One of her mouth-watering dishes is this bisi bele bhath (and yes I love saying this word over and over..ha!) that soon became a favorite in my house.
Once my kitchen was all ready, I couldn’t wait to get the recipe from Indu and make it myself. Her suggestion that I always follow is to use hardy vegetables like potatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower, beans etc and not the leafy vegetables.
What are drumsticks?
No, these are not chicken drumsticks! These are hardy beans from Moringa tree, available fresh or frozen in Indian grocery stores. They are optional and can be skipped.
The spice blend used in this recipe is made by roasting and grinding dried red chilies, coriander seeds, lentils(chana daal), fenugreek seeds and shredded coconut. This spice blend powder can be made ahead of time or a store bought bisi bele bhath spice blend powder would also work.
I usually will rinse my rice and lentils while I get the spice blend and the vegetables ready. This also allow the lentils to soak in the water for a little and cook much faster. This is a great stove top/traditional pressure cooker recipe that I now love making in my instant pot.
Variations and Substitues for Bisi Bele Bhath
- You can add veggies like pearl onions, pumpkin and squash
- Substitute lemon juice for tamarind paste
- Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of chili powder instead of whole chili peppers in the spice blend
- Add extra 1 to 2 cups of water for a more stew-like consistency
- Substitute white rice with quinoa, same pressure cooking time
- Substitute white rice with brown rice, increase pressure cook time to 22 minutes
As with most instant pot recipes, I always make sure that I have all, I mean ALL the ingredients ready even before I turn the IP on. Here is a video on one pot version of this south indian dish that we love -bisi bele bhath in instant pot:
Although I make this dish in ghee, I love to drizzle another spoonful of ghee on top with a blob of tangy pickle and roasted papad to scoop it with!
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- 1 cup rice
- 3/4 cup toor daal yellow pigeon peas
- 1 cup cauliflower florets cut into 1 inch florets
- 1 red potato cubed 1/2 inch
- 8-10 pieces drumsticks optional
- 1/2 cup green beans cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced
- 1/2 green pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 8-10 curry leaves optional
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped for garnish
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste optional, more or less depending on how tangy it is
- 2 tbsp ghee coconut oil or any cooking oil for Vegan
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/8 tsp asafetida powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- salt to taste
- Spice blend:
- 4-6 dried red chilies I use mild Kashmiri chilies
- 2 heaping tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp chana daal
- 1 tbsp shredded coconut dried or fresh
- Rinse rice and lentils and keep aside. Wash and chop all the vegetables.
- Lightly roast all the spices from the spice blend. Let them cool completely and then grind to fine powder.
Turn the Instant Pot to sauté (more) mode and heat ghee. Add mustard seeds, asafetida and turmeric. Let the mustard seeds pot, may take 2 to 3 minutes. Add all the vegetables except the cilantro. Mix well.
Add salt, tamarind paste and spice blend powder. Mix well. Add rice and lentils and 6 cups of water. Close the Instant Pot lid with the pressure value set to sealing. Press the Rice button. Allow the pressure to release naturally, about 15 mins. Open the Instant pot and stir the bisi bele bhath lightly. Serve hot with a drizzle of ghee, tangy pickle and roasted papad.
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Hey there! I am a techie turned recipe developer, cooking instructor, and food blogger. I love food and enjoy developing easy and healthy recipes for busy lifestyles. I live New Jersey with my husband and two sons.