This south Indian lemon rice recipe is super delicious, flavorful and ready in flat 10 minutes. This quick and easy rice recipe is one of the summer staples at our home that I make very often. It is known as elumichai sadham in Tamil, Chitranna in Kanada and nimmakaya pulihora in Telugu.
This yummy dish is made with cooked rice, few basic tempering ingredients like mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves, peanuts, turmeric powder and lemon juice. If you have cooked rice handy you can make lemon rice in 10 minutes. Serve with a simple vegetable dish, papad, chips and curd for a complete yet light summer meal. Vegan recipe.
Have some lemons and cooked rice handy? Let’s make some yummy south Indian style lemon rice shall we? If you are new to this dish, I highly recommend you try it out as it is one of the simplest yet very delicious rice dish with authentic Indian flavors. If you are on the look out for best lemon rice recipe to try at home, then you are at the right place 🙂
This is my keeper recipe I have been making for more than a decade and it tastes just like the ones served in wedding feasts. Traditional, authentic with clean flavors.
Apart from rice and lemon, all you need for this recipe are pantry staples like mustard, urad dal, salt and oil etc. Do give this easy and tasty rice recipe a go and enjoy!
Here I am sharing how to make lemon rice on stove top, instant pot and rice cooker.
What Is Lemon Rice?
Lemon rice is a south Indian variety rice recipe or flavored rice where cooked and cooled rice is tossed in a flavorful tempering of mustard, urad dal and flavored with lemon juice. Fried peanuts, cashews, curry leaves are added as garnish.
Lemon rice is a staple food of south India and prepared in all the south Indian homes very often. It is a quick fix go to meal when you need to make something filling and delicious in minutes.
Rice is made almost everyday in south Indian homes and using to make such variety rice recipes always comes handy. Along with lemon rice you will also find coconut rice, tomato rice, pepper rice, peanut rice made frequently in south India.
This lemon rice is one of the dishes best suited for carrying in lunch box and also most sought after travel foods. As it is a dry dish that tastes delicious on its own even at room temperature, people prefer this in lunch box and also while travelling.
While this lemon rice tastes best as a light lunch on its own, you can also serve it with any vegetable fry, deep fried dishes like vada, pakora, chips, papad and some plain curd or raita. Even pickle goes very well with this rice.
To make lemon rice you can use freshly cooked rice as well as leftover rice. I mostly use freshly cooked rice because leftover rice is a very rare sight at our home. I just cool the freshly steamed rice thoroughly and proceed with the recipe.
In south India lemon rice is cooked with short grained white rice like sona masuri or jeeraga samba. No ones uses basmati rice for this recipe.
Do try this keeper recipe of easy lemon rice and enjoy. It is
super quick to make
full of authentic Indian flavors
a south Indian specialty
Ready in 10 minutes
Best suited for lunch box and travel
Use any of favorite short grained rice for this recipe like ponni raw rice, jeeraga samba and sona masuri. While basmati rice is not the first choice for this recipe, you can still use it if you like. The flavor and taste of lemon rice made with basmati rice will be different from authentic recipe.
Whichever rice you use, it has be cooked and cooled thoroughly. Cook rice in such a way that the grains are separate and full. Cool the rice thoroughly before adding the tempering.
Fresh Lemon juice
It is the star ingredient of this recipe so it better be good. Use fresh lemon juice or lime juice for wonderful flavor. While squeezing the juice from lemons, do not go very hard to extract till the last drop as it may add bitter notes to the rice.
Tip– you can soak the lemons in warm water for 5 minutes before cutting to get more juice from them.
The tempering ingredients used for this lemon rice recipe are the most common ones like mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal, curry leaves, green chillies etc.
Some recipes also use finely chopped ginger but we do not usually use it in this rice. You can use peanut oil or sesame oil for tempering these ingredients. Both these oils lend a wonderful authentic taste and flavor to this rice.
Urad dal and chana dal used in tempering lends a wonderful flavor and crunchy texture to this rice.
Roasted Peanuts and cashew nuts are added in this rice for crunch and taste. If you prefer you can leave them out
Here I am listing few optional ingredients that you can add to increase the flavor and taste of lemon rice.
Dry roast 1/4 teaspoon methi seeds and make a coarse powder. Add this while tossing the rice in tempering ingredients for a nice flavor and mild bitter notes.
Dry roast and powder 2 tablespoons peanuts and 1 teaspoon sesame seeds. Add this powder to the lemon rice before serving and mix well.
To add some color and more nutrition you can saute 1/2 cup chopped carrots, capsicum or green peas along with tempering ingredients.
How To Make Lemon Rice Recipe
Pick, rinse and soak 1.25 cups rice in 15 minutes. Soaking helps to remove the excess starch from the rice and prevents it from turning mushy.
Once the rice is soaked, drain excess water and rinse twice in fresh water. Next cook the rice in such a way that grains are separate.
Pressure cooker– add 3 cups water and pressure cook for up to 3 whistles.
Instant pot– add 2.75 cups water and cook in manual or pressure cooker mode for 4 minutes. Release pressure naturally.
Cooking directly in a pot- Bring 4 cups water to a rolling boil with a pinch of salt and few drops of oil. Add the soaked rice, cover and cook in medium flame for 10-12 minutes. Once rice is cooked, drain excess water.
As the rice cooks, soak 2 teaspoons urad dal, 1 tablespoon chana dal in a small cup of water. Also chop 2 green chillies finely.
Add 3/4 teaspoon salt & 2 teaspoons oil to the cooked rice, toss and fluff the rice grains.
Making Lemon Rice
Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a pan over medium heat. Temper with 1 teaspoon mustard seeds. Drain excess water from the soaked lentils and add it too. Fry for 30 seconds.
Add asafoetida, curry leaves, minced ginger, chopped green chilies, cashews and peanuts to the same pan. Also add 1 teaspoon turmeric powder.
Saute well till cashews turn golden.
Remove from flame and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons lemon juice and mix well.
Add this to the cooled rice.
Mix well thoroughly but gently without breaking the rice grains. Taste lemon rice and adjust salt or add more lemon juice if needed.
Serve lemon rice with chips or pickle.
Instant Pot Method
Instant pot lemon rice recipe is prepared in the same lines of pulao. The taste and texture is a bit different from traditional method but still good.
Soak the rice and do the other preparations as mentioned in the step by step recipe.
Place the steel insert inside your instant pot and switch it on. Press saute mode and once it displays hot add oil.
Temper with mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal, chopped green chilies, curry leaves and chopped ginger. Also add peanuts and cashews. Add turmeric powder and saute again.
Now add the soaked and drained rice. Saute thoroughly for a minute. Deglaze by adding 2-3 tablespoons water.
Add 2.5 cups water and add salt to taste. Cancel saute, close the IP and press pressure cooker or manual button. Set timer for 4 minutes. Set pressure valve to seal. Once the IP beeps, let pressure release for 5 minutes naturally. Release any residual pressure gently and fluff the rice. Add lemon juice and mix. Serve lemon rice as required.
Serve lemon rice warm or at room temperature as you prefer. It tastes delicious both ways. Serve with the following sides of you like.
With onions– In some parts of Karnataka this chitranna is prepared with chopped onions. Just add 1/2 cup chopped onions along with tempering ingredients’.
With fresh herbs– Though it is not traditionally used, some people add 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves or cilantro leaves as garnish to this lemon rice. You can also use fresh mint leaves.
Using vegetables- Add finely chopped carrots, capsicums, green peas, corns etc along with tempering ingredients and saute until cooked.
Greek lemon rice- This is different lemon rice recipe made in Greece and Middle Eastern countries. It is made in similar lines of coconut milk pulao where rice is sautéed in olive oil is cooked with orzo pasta in vegetable broth or coconut milk along with lemon juice. It is finally garnished with fresh parsley leaves.
Here are few tips and tricks that will help you make amazingly delicious lemon rice in no time.
Texture of rice– It is very important to get the texture of rice right for this recipe. It should be non sticky with grains separate.
The quantity of water I have given here are estimates for aged rice. Add more or less according to the quality of your rice.
Add tempering ingredients only to the cold rice to prevent rice from turning mushy.
Spice level– This recipe will yield you moderately spiced lemon rice. If you spicier version you can increase the green chilies or you can even add 1-2 dried red chilies while tempering.
On the other hand, if you are making this for kids you can just skip the chillies or add 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder too.
Curry leaves– These are one of the important ingredients for making flavorful rice according to me. They lend this unique authentic aroma to lemon rice. If you don’t have fresh curry leaves you can also dried leaves. If you have curry leaves powder just add 1 teaspoon of it too.
Soaking the lentils helps them to become a bit soft and prevent them from turning hard while frying in low heat.
Lemon juice- Always add
Scaling the recipe– You can easily double or halve the recipe.
Storage– It stays good for upto a day at room temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can use regular brown rice or long grain brown rice. Just cooking according to package instructions. Cool and use in the recipe.
Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest after making the rice and mix well.
Peanut oil and sesame oil are the first choices for this recipe. If they are unavailable you can use sunflower oil or avocado oil too. Do not use extra virgin olive oil in this recipe.
Yes, it is a original vegan recipe.
No, it contains asafoetida, a ingredient with gluten. If you want to make gluten free lemon rice just skip asafoetida or make sure to use gluten free hing.
Yes, you can.
More Rice Recipes
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Lemon Rice Recipe
1 CUP = 250 ml
- 1.25 cups rice 2.5 cups cooked and cooled rice
- 2 teaspoons oil
For lemon rice tempering:
- 3 teaspoons oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 1 tablespoon chana dal
- 2 tablespoons peanuts
- 7 cashews broken
- 15 curry leaves
- 3 green chilies chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice lime juice
- Pick, rinse and soak 1.25 cups rice in 15 minutes. Soaking helps to remove the excess starch from the rice and prevents it from turning mushy. Once the rice is soaked, drain excess water and rinse twice in fresh water. Next cook the rice in such a way that grains are separate.
- As the rice cooks, soak 2 teaspoons urad dal, 1 tablespoon chana dal in a small cup of water. Also chop 2 green chillies finely.
- Add 3/4 teaspoon salt & 2 teaspoons oil to the cooked rice, toss and fluff the rice grains.
Making Lemon Rice
- Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a pan over medium heat. Temper with 1 teaspoon mustard seeds. Drain excess water from the soaked lentils and add it too. Fry for 30 seconds.
- Add asafoetida, curry leaves, minced ginger, chopped green chilies, cashews and peanuts to the same pan. Also add 1 teaspoon turmeric powder.
- Saute well till cashews turn golden.
- Add this to the cooled rice.
- Mix well thoroughly but gently without breaking the rice grains. Taste lemon rice and adjust salt or add more lemon juice if needed.