Lemon rice recipe under 10 mins!! Yes, making this amazingly delicious & refreshing lemon rice is very easy. It uses only pantry staples yet will surprise you with great authentic Indian flavors. This much popular Indian rice recipe is made with cooked rice, tempering spices, curry leaves and peanuts. It is also known as Chitranna in Kannada and nimmakaya pulihora in Telugu. In this post I have shared making lemon rice in 2 ways – the traditional stovetop method and instant pot method (one pot).
About Lemon Rice
Lemon rice is a staple in most South Indian households. It is made by mixing precooked rice with a tempering of spices and herbs. It is a comfort food for many and is most commonly eaten for a meal. Lemon rice has a delicate flavour of fresh lemon juice and a nutty aroma of the tempering ingredients like mustard seeds, ginger, lentils, curry leaves and green chilies.
If you are a newbie & love to cook for yourself then this is one of the best South Indian recipes to begin with. All you need is to cook the rice and make the tempering. Mix both of them with some freshly squeezed lemon juice. In no time you will get to enjoy a bowl of fresh home-cooked food.
You don’t need anything on the side with this lemon rice since it tastes good on its own. However many people love it with plain yogurt, pickle, chutney, salad or kosambari. During festivals & occasions we serve it with some fried snacks like masala vada, papad or pakora.
Back home in India, lemon rice is one of the most common travel foods. Many people pack it for road or train journeys as the dish keeps good for long hours due to the addition of turmeric.
Many people make lemon rice with leftover rice but I always use fresh cooked rice. You can make it either ways you prefer. I have also included the instructions to cook rice perfectly for this recipe.
Sometimes I make this as a one pot dish in my Instant pot. Though it doesn’t taste the same I still make it on occasions. I have given the recipe details in the recipe card below.
How to Make Lemon Rice (Stepwise photos)
Firstly we need perfectly cooked grainy rice for this recipe. You can use any kind of rice that’s available to you. Or in fact you can use even precooked rice. That’s what many people do.
1. Wash and soak 1½ cups rice in a bowl for at least 15 mins. If you do not have time you can just skip the soaking and cook the rice directly. If cooking in a pot, on a low flame cover & cook rice with 1:2 ratio (rice:water). or To cook in pressure cooker, pour 1 cup water to the cooker and place a trivet. Keep the rice & water bowl in it and cook for 2 to 3 whistles. If cooking directly in the cooker, cook for 1 whistle.
2. Cook the rice to grainy and not mushy. Cool it completely & then fluff up the grains.
3. Heat half tablespoon oil in a pan. On a medium heat, roast 4 tablespoons peanuts until crunchy and deep golden. Remove them to a plate. You can also do this in an air fryer by following my pro tips below.
4. Next pour another 1½ tablespoons oil to the same pan. Add ¾ teaspoon mustard, 1 teaspoon urad dal and 1½ teaspoon chana dal. Fry them until lightly golden on a medium flame.
5. Add 1 sprig curry leaves, ½ tablespoon chopped ginger, 2 slit or chopped green chilies and 2 red chilies (optional). Fry them for about 30 seconds until you smell the ginger and curry leaves nice.
6. Then add a pinch of hing, ¼ to ½ teaspoon turmeric & ½ teaspoon salt (assuming you did not add salt while cooking rice).
7. Stir quickly and pour 2 to 3 tbsps water.
8. Quickly the water will evaporate and the mixture turns aromatic. The chana dal and urad dal will soften slightly yet will keep the crunch. If you want them very soft then add 2 to 3 tbsps more water and cook further until all the water evaporates & the lentils soften a bit. Turn off the stove.
9. Remove from the stove and add cooled cooked rice. (OR Alternately you can also add the tempering to the bowl of cooled rice). Squeeze lemon juice all over and give a good stir.
10. Taste the lemon rice. Add more salt and lemon juice if required. Lastly garnish with crunchy roasted peanuts.
Serve lemon rice with plain yogurt, papad or with pickle.
Ingredients & substitutions
Tempering ingredients: The addition of fresh ginger, curry leaves & green chilies totally elevate the flavor of the lemon rice. These are the 3 ingredients that are key to making the dish. However if curry leaves are not available in your part of the world just skip them & use some coriander leaves – cilantro.
Nuts: Traditionally peanuts are used to add crunch to the dish. If you do not have them just replace with some cashew nuts.
Cooking oil: Lemon rice can be made with any cooking oil like peanut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil. I like to add a dash of extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil towards the end. Olive oil doesn’t really go well in Indian foods but lemon rice is an exception.
Lemons: To make a good refreshing lemon rice always use fresh lemons. I personally like the large variety of lemons as they are really flavorful. You can also use limes.
Rice: Most commonly short grain rice is used to make this recipe. But any kind of rice just goes well. The rice has to be less starchy as the cooked grains have to be separate & grainy without being sticky or mushy. You can also use precooked rice for this recipe.
Lentils: Urad dal and chana dal are used in lemon rice as they add crunch and aroma to the dish. However you may skip them if you don’t prefer the crunchy lentils.
Roast peanuts in air fryer: You can also air fry the peanuts instead of doing it on the stove top. Spread peanuts in a air fryer basket. Air fry at 165 C or 330 F for 5 mins, stirring every 2 mins so they get roasted evenly. Later cool them and rub gently to remove the skin. Shake off the basket in the kitchen sink.
Green Chilies: If you have young kids at home, skip the green chilies and make the tempering with red chilies as they are lesser in heat or skip the chili totally. Fry the green chilies separately in the same pan later after the tempering. Serve them along with the lemon rice.
Lemon Juice over hot rice: Avoid adding lemon juice to the hot rice or to the hot tempering as it alters the flavor completely. Also some amount of nutrients in the lemon juice are diminished.
Soften Lentils: To soften lentils (dal), I pour some water to the tempering. This instantly softens them yet keeping them slightly crunchy. If you fry the dal longer on a low heat, they turn rock hard and need more water. So you can add anywhere from 2 to 4 tbsps water or as needed.
Alternately you can soak the chana dal and urad dal in little hot water for 15 mins. But if you fry them on a low heat, they will still turn rock hard.
Karnataka style chitranna has some chopped onions sautéed in the pan along with tempering ingredients. A handful of coriander leaves are added towards the end. Also many people use only urad dal for this version. Again every home follows their own recipe.
Sometimes I make lemon mint rice where some chopped mint leaves are added. You can find the recipe here on my pudina rice post.
Lemon Rice Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1½ cups rice uncooked (or 4 cups cooked rice)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice or lime juice as needed
- ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 tablespoon oil
- ¾ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 4 tablespoon peanuts or cashews
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
- 2 green chili slit (refer notes if making for kids)
- 1 sprig curry leaves (kadi patta)
- 1 ½ teaspoon chana dal (bengal gram) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon urad dal (skinned black gram) (Optional)
- 1 pinch hing (asafoetida) (optional)
- ½ tbsp ginger finely chopped
- 2 dried red chilies broken
- Wash rice a few times and drain the water completely.
- On a low flame cover and cook it in a large pot with 3 cups water.
- The rice must be cooked fully but grainy and not mushy. OR You can also cook it in a pressure cooker by placing the rice bowl in the cooker. Cook for 2 to 3 whistles.
- Fluff up the rice gently with a fork and cool completely. This helps to keep the rice grainy & firm.
How to make lemon rice
- Heat a pan with ½ tbsp oil on a medium.
- Add peanuts or cashews and fry until golden and crunchy. Remove them to a plate.
- Pour another 1½ tbsp of oil and add mustard, urad dal & chana dal. Fry on a medium flame until the dals turn golden & aromatic.
- Next add ginger, green chilis, red chilies(optional) and curry leaves. Fry them until the leaves turn crisp for about 30 seconds. Do not fry for too long, ginger will turn bitter.
- Then add hing, turmeric and salt. Immediately pour 2 to 3 tbsps water and stir.
- Quickly water will evaporate and turn the dal softer yet keeping them slightly crunchy. Turn off the stove and remove from the heat.
- Transfer this to the cooled rice. (or Alternately add the cooled rice to the pan). Ensure the rice is cooled completely then squeeze the lemon juice and give a good mix.
- Taste the lemon rice. If needed sprinkle more salt and add more lemon juice. Garnish with roasted peanuts or cashews. Serve lemon rice with plain yogurt, papad or pickle.
Instant pot lemon rice
- Rinse 1 ½ cups basmati rice at least thrice. Drain and set this aside.
- Press the saute button. When it displays hot, pour 2 tbsps oil to the inner pot of the instant pot.
- Then add in 3 to 4 tbsps peanuts or cashews. Fry them until golden and aromatic. Remove and set aside for garnish.
- Add 1½ tsp chana dal, 1 tsp urad dal, ¾ tsp mustard seeds, 1 to 2 slit green chilies, 1 sprig curry leaves. Fry them until lightly golden.
- Next add ginger, a pinch of hing & ¼ tsp turmeric. Give a good stir.
- Pour 1¾ cups water and add salt. Press CANCEL button. Deglaze by scrubbing the bottom of the pot with the spatula to avoid burn notice.
- Add rice and mix well. Taste the water & add more salt if needed.
- Secure the lid of the IP with the steam release handle set to sealing position. Press the PRESSURE COOK button and set the timer to 5 mins.
- When the Lemon rice is done, the IP beeps. Wait for the pressure to release naturally for 5 to 7 minutes. Then with the help of a spoon release the pressure manually, by moving the steam release handle from sealing to venting.
- Open the lid and remove the inner pot & set aside.
- When the temperature comes down a bit, squeeze in the lemon juice and gently stir it. If needed add more lemon juice and salt.
- Garnish lemon rice with roasted peanuts and serve with yogurt.
- If you have young kids at home, you can skip adding green chilies to the tempering. Fry them separately later in the same pan.
- To soften the dal, I pour some water to the tempering. This instantly softens them yet keeping them slightly crunchy. If you fry the dal longer on a low heat, then they turn rock hard and need more water. So you can add anywhere from 2 to 4 tbsps water as needed.
- Alternately you can soak the chana dal and urad dal in little hot water for 15 mins. But if you fry them on a low heat, they will still turn rock hard.
- Do not add lemon juice to hot rice, it alters the flavor completely.
- Ensure the rice is cooled completely before you mix the tempering. Mixing hot rice often makes it mushy.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
This post was first published in June 2015. Updated & republished in Dec 2020.