Most people don’t know the differences between fried rice, pulav, and biryani. In fact, I struggled with it when I first started cooking, too. They just seemed like fancy rice dishes to me, with little to no difference.
However, many differences came to light once I cooked these dishes!
The main differences between fried rice, pulav, and biryani are the preparation methods. Biryani uses the draining method, whereas pulav uses the absorption method. Biryani requires layering, whereas pulav and fried rice don’t. The ingredients also differ, as fried rice has an Asian influence.
If you want to know more about biryani vs. pulav vs. fried rice in detail, read on.
Quick Comparison Table – Biryani vs. Pulav vs. Fried Rice
|Central Asia or India
|Boiled rice used
|Over an hour
|30 – 50 minutes
|30 – 35 minutes
|Long-grain (mainly), medium-grain
|Medium-grain (mainly), long-grain
|Rice, meat, vegetables, Indian/
Mediterranean spices (in fewer quantities)
|Rice, egg, vegetables, soy sauce, sesame oil, meat
|Reserved for feasts and big ceremonies
|Not reserved for any special occasions
|Not reserved for any special occasions
|Awadhi biryani, Hyderabadi biryani, Beary biryani, etc.
|Vegetable Pulao, Kashmiri Pulao, Kabuli Pulao, Tawa pulao
|Chinese fried rice, Thai fried rice, Japanese fried rice
Main Differences Between Biryani, Pulav, and Fried Rice
All three rice dishes, biryani, pulav, and fried rice, contain rice and vegetables. They also share some other common ingredients. Yet, this is where the similarities end.
Let’s discuss the eight major and minor differences between these three rice dishes in detail.
Knowing any dish’s origin is necessary as it helps us understand the type of ingredients used and how they’re used in a dish.
For instance, many believe that biryani originated in Persia or present-day Iran.
The name “biryani” itself comes from the Persian word “birian” (translation: fried before cooking). When the Persian rulers (or Mughals) invaded India, they introduced biryani into Indian culture.
There aren’t many sources to trace back the origins of pulav. However, many historians believe it originated from India or parts of Central Asia. The name “pulav” also comes from the Turkish word “pilaf” (translation: a dish of rice and meat).
Contrary to biryani and pulav, fried rice most likely originated in China during the Sui dynasty in the 6th century.
Note: There are other theories regarding the origin of these rice dishes, too.
Method of Preparation
If you ask me, the preparation method is the most significant difference between biryani, pulav, and fried rice.
Biryani uses the draining method for its preparation.
For this method, you have to partially boil the rice grains (around 80%) and dry them. Then, after mixing them with the spices, let the partially boiled grains cook fully.
On the other hand, pulav uses the absorption method. You don’t partially boil the rice in this method. Instead, mix the rice and ingredients with water and let them absorb the water completely.
In fried rice, you can just take cooked or boiled rice and stir-fry it with your choice of ingredients.
Prep and Cooking Time
Biryani, pulav, and fried rice have varying prep and cooking times due to the variations in their cooking methods.
Generally, biryani takes the longest to prepare and cook, as it’s an elaborate meal reserved for special occasions. You need to cook rice and the mix of meat and spices separately. Cooking biryani on low flame for over 40 minutes is also necessary to bring out all the flavors.
The overall cooking time for biryani is easily around 1.5 hours.
Pulav and fried rice take comparatively less time to prepare and cook, as fewer steps are involved.
Pulav takes 30 to 50 minutes, whereas fried rice only requires 30 to 35 minutes to prepare and cook.
Type of Rice
You’ll find three types of rice varieties in the market. These are short-grain rice, medium-grain rice, and long-grain rice.
Biryani requires long-grain varieties, such as basmati rice. This type of rice has a long and non-sticky texture necessary for the recipe. It’s also aromatic, which adds to the mouth-watering fragrance of biryani!
When it comes to pulav, most recipes suggest using basmati rice. However, ordinary households also go for medium-grain varieties for a lighter meal.
Fried rice requires medium-grain rice to get a slightly sticky texture. You can also go for long-grain varieties like basmati or jasmine if you prefer fluffy grains.
The number and the type of ingredients used in biryani, pulav, and fried rice differ.
Biryani is extremely rich in aromatic spices like cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, fennel seeds, nutmeg, black peppercorns, and more. It may also contain saffron strands for additional flavor.
Like biryani, pulav contains many spices, but the proportions are smaller.
As a result, pulav tastes milder compared to biryani. You might also notice a distinct difference in their aromas, as biryani fills the whole room with the spices’ fragrance!
Fried rice has different ingredients as it’s part of Chinese cuisine; it contains no Indian or Mediterranean spices like biryani or pulav.
Instead, common Asian ingredients like sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar are used in fried rice.
Presentation and Layering
Biryani requires proper presentation and layering, whereas pulav and fried rice don’t.
To properly present biryani, you must put down one layer of rice, a layer of meat and spices, and another layer of rice.
In pulav and fried rice, you can mix the meat or vegetables with the rice, and you’re good to go! There’s no particular separation or layering.
In the South Asian subcontinent, people cook biryani on special occasions, like feasts or marriage ceremonies. It’s not a part of the staple diet due to the extensive preparation required.
Indians and Pakistanis also serve pulav at celebratory events, but as a side dish instead of a main course. Many also cook it at home regularly, as it’s easy to prepare.
Fried rice is yet another staple dish in East and Southeast Asia. It’s served with other main courses, like stir-fried broccoli and dim-sums.
Biryani, pulav, and fried rice are quite different and have many internal varieties among themselves.
In India, fir example, biryani has at least ten variations. The most popular ones include Hyderabadi biryani and Awadhi biryani.
Many types of pulav are also available, such as Kashmiri pulav and Tawa pulav.
Fried rice doesn’t have any varieties as such. Yet, countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and China each have their unique way of preparing this dish.
Biryani, pulav, and fried rice only look and sound similar. I suggest cooking these three rice dishes to understand the differences thoroughly.
You’ll notice many dissimilarities between the three of them, from the ingredients to the preparation method.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are pilaf and pulav the same?
Pulav and pilaf are the same, as pulav is just the Indian name for the Turkish dish pilaf.
Which is tastier biryani or pulav?
Biryani has a richer and more flavorful taste as it contains many spices and requires slow cooking. Pulav has a more subtle flavor to it.