Curry Squash Biryani with Easy Low-Arsenic Rice

Curry Squash Biryani
Curry Squash Biryani

If Chef Ryan had known all my posts this past week focused on the arsenic in rice, she might not have offered her rice-based Curry Squash Biryani recipe as our latest dish.

So after laughing about her timing, I decided to tweak her recipe with some arsenic-lowering steps. They’re well worth the effort because, like all Chef Ryan’s creations, this one is too good to pass up!

Let’s get started.

Choose a Low-Arsenic Rice Variety

Thanks to these Consumer Reports guidelines, we know that brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has about one-third less arsenic than other kinds of brown rice.

And if you’re willing to forego brown rice’s extra fiber and B vitamins, white basmati rice from those areas averages about one-half the arsenic of most other rice.

Our Curry Squash Biryani recipe leaves the decision up to you. But the 3/4 cup of uncooked rice it calls for meets Consumer Reports’ guideline of no more than 1/2 uncooked cups per person/ per week.

Parboil Your Rice Before Cooking

Researchers from the University of Sheffield report a new method of removing up to half the arsenic from rice while still retaining all its nutrients:

  1. Add 3 cups of water to a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add 3/4 cup of rice and boil for five more minutes.
  3. Discard the arsenic-tainted water and replace it with 1.5 cups of fresh.
  4. Cover the saucepan and cook over low to medium heat until the water is absorbed.

That’s all there is to it.

Your cooked rice is now ready to join the Curry Squash Biryani’s other ingredients. And a nutritious lot they are!

Curry Squash Biryani Health Benefits

Curry Squash Biryani’s ingredients team up to provide an impressive list of health benefits:

  • Butternut squash, says Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health Nutrition Source,  is a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all essential for eye health.

Beta-carotene has another talent especially useful for anyone concerned about arsenic in rice. As Dr. Michael Greger notes of a study in this Nutrition Facts video, the odds of developing “arsenic-induced skin cancer” dropped by 99% for arsenic-exposed workers with high levels of beta-carotene in their blood.

  • Lentils contain 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of gut-friendly fiber in just 1 cup. That’s with almost no sodium or saturated fat. And according to, they have the 2nd-highest antioxidant score of all legumes.

    Curcumin-rich turmeric boosts beta-carotene’s arsenic-neutralizing ability.
  • The turmeric in curry powder amplifies beta-carotene’s effects. Dr. Greger observes that according to this study from India’s Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, the curcumin in turmeric “… undid the arsenic crippling of our DNA repair enzymes.” 
  • Dates, besides being fantastic whole-food, plant-based sweeteners, make our list of best gut-healthy foods. Per Dr. Greger, they boost the growth of beneficial gut microorganisms and – in laboratory tests – cut the growth rate of colon cancer cells by half.
  • Golden raisins are one of’s powerhouse dried fruits. A 1-ounce serving scores 2985 ORAC units, a measure of their ability to neutralize disease-causing free radicals.

Finishing Touches

So minor tweaking minimizes the arsenic in your Curry Squash Biryani’s rice. And its beta-carotene and curcumin help you make short work of what’s left! You’ll also get generous amounts of protein and healthy fiber with every bite.

Research shows golden raisins have more antioxidants than sun-dried raisins or grapes.

It’s a complete whole-food, plant-based meal finished with:

  • fragrant curry
  • tangy lemon juice
  • sweet raisins and dates
  • savory green onions
  • crunchy cashews

and refreshing mint leaves.

In some places, they’d call that a dance party in your mouth – so be sure to enjoy it with someone you love!



Curry Squash Biryani

  • Yield: 2 (dinner sized) servings 1x


  • 1/3 cup lentils
  • 3/4 cup rice, parboiled and cooked
  • 6 oz. roasted butternut squash
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 lemon juice
  • 2 green onions
  • fresh mint
  • 1.5 oz dates
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup cashews


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Add lentils to a small saucepan with 2.5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until all water is absorbed.
  3. Peel and cube butternut squash.
  4. Toss roasted squash with curry powder and spread evenly on baking sheet. Place in over and bake for 15 min or until browned.
  5. Halve and juice lemon, thinly slice cucumbers, and toss together with pinch of salt.
  6. Chop dates and add them with raisins and cashews to a pan over medium heat. Cook until cashews are browned.
  7. Add all ingredients including the cooked rice to pan and stir to combine.
  8. Serve topped with cucumbers, torn mint, and extra green onions.

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