Learn how to make lemon rice that really packs a punch, because that’s how anything lemony should be – punchy! This delicious dish from South India is also called chitranna, and is really versatile because it can be eaten as a main with yogurt, or as a side with fish, curries, chicken, korma etc. If you have extra lemons, don’t make lemonade -try this lemon rice instead!
Can we just pause for a minute and admire that color please? And those fluffy grains of rice, each one separate? That’s the beauty of this simple, easy lemon rice – it takes minutes to make but is packed with flavor and looks gorgeous.
I’ve grown up eating this for breakfast and I really don’t know why. But I guess my mum would put this together when she had extra rice leftover from the previous night. Squeeze some lime juice, stir fry a few things and you have this piping hot, lemony rice dish that’s ready in five minutes tops! She would grate some coconut on top and really – I can’t forget the smell!
Also, let me clarify this – this recipe is actually made with limes, at least in India. Limes have a stronger flavor, are more tart than lemons and therefore perfect for this recipe. But lemons will work just as well here. We are not going to differentiate between the two for this recipe.
Traditionally, two different kinds of dals or lentils are added to chitranna (thats what its called in South India), but I’m breaking some rules here, and making this with cashew nuts instead. Because I love the crunch and bite of cashews and the day I made this, I had run out of both those lentils. But I really couldn’t tell the difference.
Is Lemon Rice healthy?
The approximate nutritional values of this lemon rice are provided in the recipe below. I define healthy as anything that is made at home with clean, real ingredients that are not heavily processed, and by that definition, I think lemon rice is healthy. If you wish, you can swap the white rice for brown rice to make it healthier. Brown rice has more fiber, but the cooking times for this recipe will change.
Use Lime Zest + Juice for more flavor
Most lemon rice recipes only use lime juice in them, which is added in the end, but I like to start by adding lime zest while the rice is cooking, and then finish with lime juice. I think zest is really where all the good flavor is and we often ignore it. When a recipe is basically flavored with limes, it makes a big difference if you use both.
This recipe has an intense lemony flavor, but not so much that you’ll pucker up, but enough for you to enjoy it and want more. A good idea is to serve this with vegetable raita so that you get your share of veggies, and the yogurt really balances everything out. But you can easily serve this with chana masala, cauliflower chickpea curry, grilled chicken and fish.
Easy Lemon Rice (Yellow Rice)
- 1 cup Long grain Rice
- 1 tablespoon Ghee
- 1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 Green Chilli finely chopped (or Serrano Peppers)
- 8-10 Cashew nuts or Groundnuts
- 6-8 Curry Leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 Lime Zest
- 3/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoon Lime Juice
- Chopped Coriander for topping
- Rinse the rice a few times with water and soak it for 15-20 minutes.
- Heat ghee in a pot and add mustard seeds. Once they start spluttering, reduce the flame and add green chillies, cashew nuts and curry leaves. Slow roast the cashews till they are golden brown.
- Drain the rice and add it to the pan. Dry roast it for a minute or two and add turmeric powder, lime zest, salt and two cups water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a roaring boil, reduce it to a simmer; cover and cook for 6-7 minutes or till the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked through.
- Mix in the lime juice and coriander and serve hot.
- Soaking Rice: Soaking rice for 20 to 30 minutes helps the rice absorb water, and helps it cook faster. If you don't soak the rice before cooking, the cook time will increase and you will need to cook the rice for 12-15 minutes.
- Type of Rice: Long grain rice or basmati rice cooks really fast once its soaked. Other varieties of rice like short grain rice or brown rice will have different cooking times.
- Traditional Lemon Rice: Traditional lemon rice is made by slow roasting two lentils - urad dal and chana dal along with cashew nuts (or groundnuts) in the beginning. This adds a delicious crunch and texture to the rice. I have omitted it in this recipe, but if you like, you can add one teaspoon of each dal.
- Lime Zest: To zest a lime, take a grater and grate just the outer skin of the lime. Do not grate the next layer which is white in color and more bitter.