Lemon Rice Recipe
Lemon Rice recipe under 10 mins!! Yes, making this amazingly delicious & refreshing Lemon Rice is very fast if you have some precooked rice. 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 whole spices, curry leaves and peanuts. It is also known as Chitranna in Kannada and Nimmakaya Pulihora in Telugu. In this post I share 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 many South Indian homes. It is made by mixing precooked short grain rice with a tempering of mustard seeds, chana dal, green chilies, dried red chilies, fresh ginger and curry leaves. 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 and a nutty aroma of the tempered ingredients like lentils, peanuts, spices and herbs.
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 Curd (Indian 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. So the 10 mins I said earlier is only for the tempering.
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 Non-sticky 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.
More rice recipes on the blog,
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 (Chitranna)
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 (1 medium lemon)
- 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 November 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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I always make your upma and lemon rice for quick breakfast. I use the leftover rice from the refrigerator so it takes only 10 mins. This time tried adding a bit of lemon zest. Turned out absolutely delicious. Thank you for the amazing authentic Indian recipes.
That’s great to know Sheryl. Thank you for trying and sharing as well.
Your recipes are so different. I made this lemon rice in the Instant pot. Fast and delicious. Thank you
I also used 2 teaspoons lemon zest and followed the recipe exactly. Turned out amazing.
Wow! That’s a nice addition. Thank you
Thank you for the authentic recipes. I have been away from home for an year and your recipes help me to cook. Made this lemon rice last night with your egg roast and both turned out delicious.
Glad to know Alisha! Thanks for trying and sharing with us how they turned out.
After visiting a lot of other websites for a easy lemon rice I chose your recipe. Tried it without lentils. Did peanuts, mustard, serrano peppers and bay leaf. Turned out amazing. Will be making it again
Thanks Matt. Yes you can always leave out the lentils. Glad you like it.
Swasthi, I have cooked this recipe twice in past two weeks. Your sense of flavour balance always ring true. Our family thanks you!
Thank you so much! So delighted to know!
Dear Swasthi, in addition to your coconut rice (see comments there), I also cooked your lemon rice on the weekend. It is the 2nd recipe and the one I will put in the recipe book as a ‘keeper’. I think I have about 20 of your recipes in that book now. I have been trying your recipes for nearly 5 years. A big fan of yours as you may remember. You have such a wonderful skill in balancing ingredients. Thanks you so much. Keep up this wonderful stream of recipes. Warm regards, Sandy 🙂
Thanks a lot for being a long time reader! That means a lot to me!
The recipe is very good. I have been trying some of your recipes and they all have happened to be delicious. Thank you.
A savior recipe while i was cooking for my MIL ☺️
Thank you Ammu
It is very nice
Please keep the recipe of veg biryani
Sweety, Here is the recipe for Veg biryani
Can this lemon rice be premade and frozen? Making ahead for guests while I will be gone. Thank you!
I have no experience freezing rice.
The lemon has to be put in cooled rice. Why so? Do we reheat before serving then?
Sometimes pouring lemon juice on hot foods will make it taste bitter. A little hot is okay not very very hot.
I wanted to know how many lemon are required to make it, and it is no there
I love this recipe though remain confused by the dal. Should they be pre-cooked? Crispy fried from a pack? Thank you!
Thank you. The lentils are not precooked and are not crispy fried from a pack. These are just the regular dried lentils. If you want them very soft in your dish, soak them in hot water for 15 mins. Drain and use them
Absolutely delicious! Thanks Swasthi – every recipe of yours is fool proof!
Can you please suggest other “travel food” ideas such as this? I’d like to take some for my toddler and myself in future. Thanks so much again!
Can i use dried curry leaves? i cant seem to find any fresh leaves in my area
Where was add lemon juice?
Really delicious. My sister loved it
Thank you ma’am.
Glad to know Shekinah
Hi, I would like to know with what curry should this Lemon Rice is served ??
Usually lemon rice is not eaten with any curry. Raita or any yogurt based gravy is best. Try dum aloo or any potato gravy.
Amazing recipe with perfect instructions
Thank you Pooja
My favorite blog for South Indian recipes. Thank you. I make this lemon rice very often. Wanted to know if I can use citron in this recipe. Any advice?
Yes Citron can be used. Make it the same way like lemon rice