Zarda recipe | Meethe chawal (Sweet rice) recipe

I first had Zarda when I was in Lucknow during my Post-Graduation. Not in any restaurant but thanks to my friend’s aunt. She would send us home cooked delicious foods during every occasions and sometimes even without any occasion.

Just like every other hostel, our hostel was also horrible in terms of food. And to top it up our hostel was Veg only hostel. But, I survived, just because it was Lucknow. You look at any corner and you would find delicious food everywhere. Biryani, Kebab, chats – you name it and you have it in Lucknow. It definitely is one of the Top 3 cities I love when it comes to food.

Coming back to Zarda, I got this recipe from my friend’s aunt and then I made my own tweaks on it every time I made it at home. And I literally make it at home for most occasions as my husband is also a huge fan of Zarda. It’s a simple recipe to make and enjoy with family. Give it a try and be ready to get a whole lot of praises this Holi.


  • 1 cup long grain Basmati rice (Biryani rice)
  • 1 cup sugar (adjust as per preference)
  • 1/3rd cup of milk
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of orange food color (Optional)
  • 1 cup Dry fruits (Cashew, Raisin, Almonds)
  • Rose water/ essence (Optional)
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • 1 cinnamon stick (1 inch)
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2/3rd cup water
  • Pistachios to garnish


  1. Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Once soaked, drain the water.
  2. In a large pan, boil 2 cups of water with salt, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and bay leaf. Once the water comes to boil add the food color. Mix it well and then add the rice. Cook the rice until 95% done.
  3. Drain the water and let the rice dry completely by spreading it on a plate.
  4. Soak the saffron in a bowl of warm milk.
  5. Once the rice has cooled down, heat ghee in a wok/kadai. Fry the raisins first till it’s nice and plump and then fry the nuts lightly. Take them out in a bowl.
  6. Now in the same pan, add the sugar. Lightly coat it in the ghee and then add warm water. Let the sugar dissolve completely.
  7. Then add the cardamom powder and and the rice and let it mix well in a low flame. It would take around 15 minutes till there’s no water and the rice has completely taken the sugar syrup. Be sure to stir the rice often so that it doesn’t burn from bottom.
  8. Add the saffron milk to this and cook it for another 5 minutes. Add the roasted dry fruits and rose essence, mix them in well and switch off the gas. Be sure not to overcook it to avoid the rice being mushy. When cooked properly, you will see every rice grain individually.
  9. You can serve it both warm and cold. It tastes sweeter once it chills in fridge for couple hours. Top it with more dry fruits and enjoy.

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