Spaghetti Squash Vermicelli Chicken Biryani – lower in calories and carbohydrates, high in protein, healthy fats, classic Indian flavor and with a delightful taste and texture.
The flavor of the classic Indian Biryani, which is prepared with rice, has an universal appeal among Indian food connoisseurs. However, it comes with a big dose of calories, carbohydrates and fats. So here in this recipe I have applied a nutritional twist – using spaghetti squash in a less typical version with vermicelli.
The resulting concoction – this Spaghetti Squash Vermicelli Chicken Biryani – has 30% less carbohydrates and 20% less calories for the same gastronomic experience. You can of course, use all of spaghetti squash instead of vermicelli for a further reduction.
But you must be cognizant of the fact that, although this is a great textural substitute for noodle style pasta, it still does not taste exactly like the “real” pasta. For most people though, the amount of substitution I have used will deliver the suitable taste and nutrition results.
Spaghetti squash is a variety of winter squash with pale yellow flesh, which yields noodle like strands once it is cooked. But it is a lot lower in carbohydrates and calories than the comparable variety of pasta.
One cup of cooked spaghetti squash provides approximately 42 calories and 10 grams carbohydrate compared to cooked spaghetti which provides 220 calories and 43 grams carbohydrates.
This squash has a high percentage of water and is a good source of fiber, so it fills you up without too many calories. Therefore, it makes a great choice for weight loss and diabetic diets. Spaghetti squash is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B 6, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and some phytochemicals.
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If you have not yet tried spaghetti squash, dig into this recipe infused with classic Indian flavors: Spaghetti Squash Vermicelli Chicken Biryani!!
- 2 pounds spaghetti squash * (use 2 cups strands, save the rest)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion large, sliced thin
- 1 pound chicken breast or thigh, boneless
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder * or 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno (adjust per taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons biryani spice mix or garam masala, see note*
- 2 to 3 tablespoons yogurt
- 3 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- 2 tablespoons mint fresh, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried mint)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice as per taste
- 1/3 pound vermicelli (preferably whole grain)
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron ground (dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water)
- 2 tablespoons cashew halves, roasted
- Salt as per taste
- Black pepper as per taste
- Garnish - chopped cilantro, shredded carrots
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Using a sharp knife cut the spaghetti squash into two halves and discard the seeds. Place the squash on a baking sheet facing up.
Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil and brush it evenly. Sprinkle two pinches of salt and black pepper. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in a cooking pot at medium heat. Add the sliced onions and sauté until golden brown. Cut the chicken breast/thigh meat into small pieces or you may also mince it.
Add the cut or minced chicken to the onions and sauté until the released juices evaporate. Next add the ginger garlic paste and stir for a few minutes.
Then add the chili powder or jalapeno, turmeric, Biryani spice blend, yogurt and salt as per taste. Stir and let simmer for a few minutes.
While the chicken is simmering, cook vermicelli to al dente stage following the package instructions. Make sure to use the right amount of water and salt as suggested on the package for 1/3 lb of vermicelli. It should yield about 2 cups cooked vermicelli.
When the spaghetti squash is fully baked take it out of the oven and allow it to cool. Using a fork scrape inside of the squash to obtain noodle like strands. Reserve 2 cups for this recipe and save the remaining for any other use.
Now check the chicken and be sure that it is cooked well. The mixture should not be too wet or runny at this point. Finally add the cilantro, mint and lemon juice as per taste.
Check the vermicelli, spaghetti squash, chicken for seasonings, salt, pepper, lemon juice and adjust as per taste. Take a few vermicelli strands and mix with the saffron water and save for garnish and presentation.
Layer the vermicelli, spaghetti squash and chicken or mix it all together gently and serve it on a platter.
Garnish the Spaghetti Squash Vermicelli Chicken Biryani with roasted cashew halves, chopped cilantro, shredded carrots, saffron infused vermicelli strands. You may serve a yogurt salad on the side.
Make sure to use a mature medium size or larger spaghetti squash for cooked strands that are firm and well defined.
Chili powders can vary in the amount of heat or pungency. So make sure to adjust the amount as needed. You may alternatively use chopped fresh peppers such as jalapeno, cayenne or Serrano.
To make the homemade biryani spice blend - In a nut grinder take a 2 inch piece of cinnamon, 2 black cardamom, 6 green cardamoms, 8 cloves, one bay leaf, 1 teaspoon black cumin (shahjeera) and make a fine powder.
To prepare this Spaghetti Squash Vermicelli Chicken Biryani, you may use a store bought biryani masala mix available in Indian stores or online, but make sure to check the added salt and if it is too spicy for your taste.
Servings: 7 cups
Serving Size: 1 Cup
Calories 230, Total Fat 7 g (Saturated Fat 1.5 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g, Monounsaturated Fat 4 g), Cholesterol 47 mg, Sodium* 259 mg, Potassium 335 mg, Phosphorus 172 mg, Total Carbohydrate 22 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sugars 3 g, Protein 19 g
* Not including added salt. Check for any additional salt in spice mixes and other ingredients and adjust.