Zarda is a traditional sweet rice dessert that originated from the Mughals. The name Zarda is derived from the Persian and Urdu term Zard meaning yellow. The dish gets its name as it is prepared using yellow color. (Source:wiki) This is usually prepared during the weddings, festivals and celebrations.
Zarda makes its appearance not only in yellow, but also in orange red and even multi colored. A generous amount of ghee, sugar, saffron and nuts makes the final dish aromatic and delicious.
To make zarda, artificial food color is used. As I don’t use food colors I have used saffron. The flavor of saffron is too good in this rice. But if you do not have then just skip it. You can also use kewra water, if you like its flavor.
An addition of little mawa enhances the taste and flavor of this dish. If you have do use it.
You can include zarda in your menu whenever you want to make a dessert that doesn’t take too long, tastes delicious and something light.
Easy Zarda recipe
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup basmati rice (or any premium rice)
- 3 to 4 cups water
- 4 tbsp ghee (or clarified butter)
- yellow food color as needed (or 3 pinches saffron or kesar)
- 4 cloves (or laung)
- 8 cardamoms (or elaichi)
- 6 to 8 tbsps sugar ( 6 is moderate)
- 2 tbsp mawa (or khoya or khova) (optional)
- 1 tsp kewara water (optional)
Mix nuts & fruits (sliced)
- 8 almonds (or badam)
- 8 cashews (or kaju)
- raisins (as needed)
- 10 pistachios
How to make the recipe
Cooking rice for zarda
- Wash rice until the water runs clear.
- Soak it in ample amount of water in a large bowl.
- After 30 mins to 1 hour drain it to a colander. Please follow the instructions on the pack for soaking time.
- Drain to a colander and set aside.
- Add cardamom, cloves and food color to a pot of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. If you are using saffron add it later while tempering the rice.
- Next put in the rice to the boiling water. Boil the rice on a medium high flame until fully cooked. But al dente. Meaning firm and not mushy.
- Drain this quickly to a colander.
How to make zarda rice pulao
- Heat a wide pan or pot with 2 to 3 tbsps ghee.
- Fry the nuts until golden. Next add in the raisins as well. Stir in ghee.
- When they turn plump, remove all these to a plate.
- Add crushed cardamoms and cloves. Fry them in ghee on a low flame until they smell good.
- Spread the ghee around the base of the pot.
- Then add rice. Make sure there is no water dripping from the rice.
- Next sprinkle sugar. Then add mawa if using along with half of the nuts.
- Pour 1 tablespoon ghee as well. Do not skip this as it helps to prevent the rice from turning mushy.
- Gently and lightly stir in for the sugar to mix well. Do not over mix as the rice will get mushy.
- The sugar melts completely and there will be moisture released.
- Cook until the moisture evaporates and the rice turns glossy.
- Once it cools down it will turn grainy.
- Transfer zarda to a wide deep serving plate. Garnish with fried nuts.
After cooking the rice, drain it to a wide colander. This prevents the rice from cooking further. Rice will continue to cook when drained to a small colander as it will be still very hot. This may overcook the rice making zarda mushy and soggy. Make sure you use a wider pan or pot for the tempering. As the moisture from sugar evaporates quickly, zarda will not turn mushy. Adding more mawa in the recipe may make the dish mushy. If you are not using mawa, then you can use little more ghee.
Preparation for zarda rice pulao
1. Wash rice a few times under running water. Soak in lot of water for 30 to 60 mins. Follow the instructions on the pack of rice you use. Drain the rice to a colander. Keep it aside.
2. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Drop 4 cardamoms along with 2 cloves.
3. Add the food color as well. I used crushed saffron. But if you are using saffron then skip adding it here. Instead add it to the tempering.
4. Next allow the water to come to a rapid boil. Then add the drained rice.
5. Cook the rice on a medium high.
6. When the rice is just done but aldente drain it off. The rice must be fully cooked but not mushy.
7. Drain it quickly to a colander. Drain the water completely and fluff up the rice gently. If possible spread the rice in the colander.
How to make zarda rice pulao
8. Heat ghee in a wide pan. Spread the ghee across the base.
9. Add the sliced nuts and fry until lightly golden. You can add sugar now and sprinkle some water to dissolve the sugar. But I have added it later.
10. Stir in the raisins quickly and fry just for few seconds. Remove them to a plate.
11. Crush cloves and cardamoms. Allow them to fry on a low flame until they begin to smell good. If using saffron add it now.
12. Spread the rice. Make sure there is no moisture in the rice.
13. Sprinkle sugar.
14. Then add mawa (optional). Next sprinkle half of the nuts and raisins.
15. Pour 1 to 2 tbsp ghee.
16. Next gently mix it until both are combined. Do not over mix to prevent the rice breaking.
17. Sugar will release some moisture. Cook on a medium high flame until almost all the moisture evaporates. Allow the rice to rest for sometime. When it cools down fluff up with a fork.
Lastly transfer zarda rice to a wide serving bowl. Sprinkle nuts and raisins.