Indian Lemon Rice

4.67 from 3 votes

South Indian lemon rice is a delicious comfort food with light spices and a tangy, refreshing taste.  It’s traditionally made in ten minutes using leftover rice, but you could make a fresh batch if you’d like to!

Indian lemon rice in a pot.

South Indian lemon rice is a delicious comfort food with light spices and a tangy, refreshing taste.  Made in ten minutes using leftover rice, but you could make a fresh batch if you’d like to!

Indian lemon rice is a perfect side dish or can be eaten on its own with some yogurt. It is an easy recipe that uses leftover or cooked rice. 

Lemon rice is typically seasoned with spices like mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, and sometimes peanuts or cashews.

These seasonings add a subtle crunch and flavor to the rice without overpowering the lemony taste.

The citrusy notes of the lemon juice add a zesty flavor. Optionally add cilantro for a refreshing plate of cilantro lemon rice.

Indian lemon rice.

Why you will love this recipe

Simple ingredients | No fancy ingredients needed! Big flavor with basic pantry ingredients.

Quick to prepare | Ready in 10 minutes without a great deal of active time.

Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free | Suitable for all diet types

Getting the right rice texture

Honestly, any leftover rice can do.  I just wanted to provide some details in case you were making a fresh batch.  What you are looking for is light and fluffy rice. 

– Individual grains of rice remain separate and distinct

– Rice grains should be tender and not mushy

-The kind of rice used can vary

This guide to getting perfect basmati rice can help you with details. The tips outlined can be applied to any rice type you choose.

Pot of Indian lemon rice.

In South India, short-grain rice is most often used, I used basmati rice because that is what I have on hand.

 Here’s a look at commonly used rice types:

Karnataka (Chitranna): Short-grain rice varieties like Sona Masuri or Jeera rice are commonly used. These varieties of rice have a soft texture and absorb flavors well.

Tamil Nadu (Elumichai Sadam): In Tamil Nadu, short-grain rice varieties like Ponni rice and medium-grain varieties like Sona Masuri rice are used.  

Hindi (Nimbu Chawal): In North India, basmati rice is often used.

Telugu (Nimmakaya Pulihora): Sona Masuri or BPT (Bangaru Theegalu) is commonly used.  Sona Masuri is a medium-grain rice known for its light texture and ability to absorb flavors.

Maharashtra (Neembu Bhaat): In Maharashtra, long-grain rice varieties like Basmati or Ambemohar rice are often used for making Neembu Bhaat. Ambemohar rice is a fragrant rice variety native to Maharashtra and is known for its delicate flavor.

If you like South Indian rice recipes you may also enjoy Tamarind Rice.

Ingredient Notes

Below are ingredient notes for Indian-style lemon rice. Full ingredients and directions are in the printable recipe card at the end of the post. 

Ingredients for lemon rice.

Rice: Extensively discussed in the above section.  I used basmati, traditionally in South India short grain is often used.

Lemon juice:  Fresh lemon juice is best! Squeezed fresh lemons give a tangy flavor.

Mustard seeds: Commonly used in tempering and gives great flavor.

Oil: You can also use ghee or sesame oil.  I find ghee is slightly overpowering for the lemon taste but up to personal preference.

Dals: Chana dal and urad dal are added to the tempering.  They fry up and provide a nice crunch.  Optionally soak it in water for a few minutes to give it a slightly softer bite.

Chilies: Dry red chilies and fresh green chilies are used.  Red provides flavor and green provides heat.  

Reduce green chilies if you don’t like spicy food.

Nuts:  Cashews or raw peanuts or a combination of both are used.  I like to use cashews only. 

Curry leaves  Staple of Indian cooking! Easily located in Indian grocery stores.  You can also grow a curry leaf plant at home if you are into Indian cooking.

Turmeric powder: A teaspoon of turmeric powder gives color and a little flavor.

Ingredients for Indian style lemony rice.

Preparation  

 Not a lot of prep!  Three things to remember:

  1. Rice:  When using leftover rice, remember to take it out of the fridge and fluff it with a fork.  Using room-temperature rice is best.
  1. Green chilies:  Slit and chop the green chilies into bigger pieces if you would like to remove them before serving.  

I slit them in half and then into thirds and sometimes chop them finely.  I also like leaving   them in when serving.

  1. Lemon juice: don’t forget to squeeze the lemon!
Chilies and lemon juice.

Making It

This easy lemon rice comes together quickly:

 ➜ Heat oil in a pan (I used non-stick) on medium heat: add mustard seeds once hot and let them pop/splutter for a minute.  Then, add asafoetida.

➜Dals: Next, chana dal and urad dal go in. Give them a mix and about one minute.

➜Chilies: Add dry red chilies and green chilies to the pan.  Mix.  Let cook for about 30 seconds.  You’ll see the dals have begun to lightly brown and the green chilies will blister.

Green chilies and dry red chilies added to tempering.

➜Cashews:  Add cashew nuts and mix.  Give it a minute, you’ll begin to see them brown.  If needed, slightly lower the heat so the dals don’t burn.

Cashews, curry leaves, chilies in a pan.

➜Curry leaves: Add to tempering, they should crisp pretty quickly.  Then lower the temperature between low and medium.

Fresh curry leaves in tadka.

➜Turmeric powder: Mix turmeric into the tempering of oil.

➜Rice: Mix in the rice. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water.

Cooked basmati rice added to pan.

➜Finish:  Add salt, sugar, and lemon juice.  Mix well. Turn off the gas and take off the heat. Usually served at room temperature.

Pot of Indian lemon rice.

Optionally top with coriander leaves (cilantro) or a few fresh curry leaves.

Other Cooking Methods

Can also be made in a rice cooker or stovetop pressure cooker.

Storing

Leftover lemon rice can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.  The lemon helps to preserve the rice.

Indian lemon rice with chana masala in a plate.

Serving Suggestions

This classic South Indian dish can be eaten with plain yogurt on its own or served as a side dish.

I think it tastes great with Chana Masala!

Common Names For Indian Lemon Rice

Region/LanguageAlternative Name
KarnatakaChitranna
Tamil NaduElumichai Sadam
North IndiaNimbu Chawal
Andra Pradesh, Telangana: TeluguNimmakaya
MaharashtrianNeembu Bhaat

 

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Indian lemon rice in a pot.

10 Minute Indian Lemon Rice Stovetop

Shilpa Joshi
South Indian lemon rice is a delicious comfort food with light spices and a tangy, refreshing taste.  It’s traditionally made in ten minutes using leftover rice, but you could make a fresh batch if you’d like to!
4.67 from 3 votes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 3 people
Calories 315 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 medium pot

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chana dal
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 2 dry red chilies
  • 2 green chilies halved, cut into thirds if you want to remove before eating. chopped finely if you don't mind the added heat.
  • 4 tbsp cashew halves 50g
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups rice cooked 250g (1/2 cup dry approximately yields 2 cups)

Instructions
 

  •  ➜ Heat oil in a pan (I used non-stick) on medium heat: add mustard seeds once hot and let them pop/splutter for a minute.  Then, add asafoetida.
  • ➜Dals: Next, chana dal and urad dal go in. Give them a mix and about one minute.
  • ➜Chilies: Add dry red chilies and green chilies to the pan.  Mix.  Let cook for about 30 seconds.  You’ll see the dals have begun to lightly brown and the green chilies will blister.
  • ➜Cashews:  Add cashew nuts and mix.  Give it a minute, you’ll begin to see them brown.  If needed, slightly lower the heat so the dals don’t burn.
  • ➜Curry leaves: Add to tempering, they should crisp pretty quickly.  Then lower the temperature between low and medium.
  • ➜Turmeric powder: Mix turmeric into the tempering of oil.
  • ➜Rice: Mix in the rice. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water.
  • ➜Finish:  Add salt, sugar, and lemon juice.  Mix well. Turn off the gas and take off the heat. Usually served room temperature.

Notes

Optionally top with coriander leaves (cilantro) or a few fresh curry leaves.

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 6gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.04gSodium: 688mgPotassium: 140mgFiber: 3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 33IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 26mgIron: 3mg
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Recipe Rating




One Comment

  1. 4 stars
    The instructions call out the addition of two ingredients not listed : asafoetida and sugar. So the amount of each is not listed. I guessed, and used palm sugar instead of granulated. I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand, and I over-toasted the cashews, but I still liked the results. I suggest zesting the lemon and adding the zest with the juice.