Lemon rice recipe with traditional & instant pot methods – Lemon rice is one of the most popular South Indian rice recipes. It is a comfort food for many and is most commonly eaten for a meal. Lemon rice has a delicate flavor of fresh lemon juice along with the aroma of the tempering spices.
Chitranna & nimmakaya pulihora are the other south Indian regional names to this dish.
Making lemon rice is one of the simplest & is great to begin with if you are a newbie. The entire dish just gets done under 10 minutes if you have some precooked rice ready.
Lemon rice tastes good on its own. However many people love it with plain yogurt or curd, pickle, raita, chutney, salad or kosambari. During festivals or 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.
In this post I have shared making the traditional method & also the instant pot version.
Tips to make lemon rice
- 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 or cilantro.
- Traditionally peanuts & a small portion of lentils are used to add crunch to the dish. If you do not have them just replace with some cashew nuts.
- 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 towards the end. Olive oil doesn’t really go well in Indian foods but lemon rice is an exception.
- 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.
- Most commonly short grain rice is used to make this. 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.
Lemon rice recipe
Lemon rice recipe | How to make lemon rice
Ingredients (1 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 or as needed
- 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
How to make the recipe
- 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. 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.
Video of lemon rice recipe
NUTRITION (estimation only)
- If you have young kids home who can’t eat green chilies, you can fry them separately later in the same pan.
- To soften the dals, I pour some water to the tempering. This instantly softens them yet keeping them slightly crunchy. If you fry the dals 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.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.
Since this is a simple recipe I had not taken the step by step photos initially. But later I have updated with step by step photos & even with a video. So the main picture is with cashews and step by step pics & video with peanuts.
1. Wash and soak 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. On a low flame you can cover & cook rice in a pot with 1:2 ratio (rice:water). or You can also place the rice & water bowl in a pressure cooker and cook for 2 to 3 whistles.
2. Cook the rice to grainy and not mushy. Cool it completely & then fluff up the grains.
How to make lemon rice recipe
3. Heat half tbsp oil in a pan. On a medium heat, roast the peanuts until crunchy and deep golden. Remove them to a plate.
4. Then pour another 1½ tablespoons oil to the same pan. Add mustard, urad dal and chana dal. Saute until lightly golden on a medium flame.
5. Add curry leaves, ginger, green chilies and red chilies. Fry them for about 30 seconds until you smell the ginger and curry leaves.
6.Then add hing, salt and turmeric.
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 tbsps more water. Towards the end all the water should evaporate. 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 rice). Squeeze lemon juice all over and give a good stir.
10. Taste the lemon rice. Add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Then garnish with crunchy roasted peanuts.
Serve with lemon rice with plain yogurt, papad or with pickle.