Zarda Rice

Zarda Rice is a rich sweet rice preparation with Nuts and Raisins flavored with aromatic Spices, Saffron and Orange peels.

What is Zarda

Zarda means “Yellow” in persian language and  the rice gets its characteristic color with the addition of saffron and yellow/orange food color.  It is very popular in Indian-Subcontinent and is made by Muslim Community during the festivals like Eid. Zarda is very much similar to Meethe Chawal that are prepared during Lohri/Baisakhi in the northern states of India.

Zarda and Meethe Chawal both are sweet rice preparations. In Meethe Chawal, jaggery is used as a sweetener whereas in Zarda usually sugar is added to the sweeten the rice. Traditional Zarda is flavoured with saffron and has hint of orange flavour due to the addition of orange peel and orange juice(optional) and it also has Khoya added to it for the richness. The orange peels along with Tutti-frutti  and all the spices in the pulao make it a heavenly treat.

I learnt making Zarda from a colleague at work, who treated us to the delicacies like Zarda, Shaami Kebabs during Eid festivities.

How to make Perfect Zarda

The real taste of Zarda comes from the Desi Ghee and all the spices that used to flavour it.  You can add fresh orange peels or candied peels to the pulao. Tutti-frutti(candied fruits) are optional. Skip if you don’t have it. I don’t add, color to Zarda rice, like to cook it with natural color of Saffron. Also, fresh orange juice can be added to enhance the orange flavour. You can add a drop of yellow or orange color while cooking rice or when you add sugar and saffron water/milk.

Use a good quality Basmati Rice. Soak rice in water for at least 1 hr before cooking.

To get the beautiful Zarda color, and saffron flavour, soak saffron in milk/water for at least 1-2 hrs , let it be overnight also.

Chironji a nut that is primarily used in Indian desserts and cooking is added to Zarda. But you can skip if you do not have it. Also many people like to add thin coconut slices I did not not have it so I skipped that too. Peeled and slivered Almonds should be added to the rice. You can also add cranberries to the pulao. I added some dried mangoes along with raisins and cranberries.

In place of Khoya, you can use Milk Powder(just as I dish) or you can add fresh Paneer/Ricotta on top.

There are many variations of cooking Zarda. Since this is not my family recipe, I can’t claim it as traditional Zarda recipe. I got this from my colleague and over the years I have adjusted it to as per my preferences. But trust me it has the real taste of Zarda Pulao that  we had it from her place or in restaurants.

Many people cook rice and sugar together(I cook Meethe Chawal that way). Many cook rice and sugar syrup separately then add together and cook further. So it depends what suits our preferences and convenience..

Let’s see how I make sweet Zarda Pulao..

Zarda Rice

Zarda Pulao, a sweet rice preparation with nuts and raisins and flavoured with saffron and orange candied peels. Learn how to make Zarda Rice. 
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Desserts
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


  • 1 Cup Basmati Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Mixed Nut(Almonds, Cashew Nuts, Pistachios)
  • 7-8 Raisins, dried Cranberries and Mangoes
  • 7-8 Saffron Strands soak in 1/2 cup milk/water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Milk Powder/Khoya/Crumbled Ricotta/Indian Cottage Cheese
  • 2 tbsp Desi Ghee

Whole Spices

  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick(small)
  • 2-3 Green Cardamoms
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 4-5 Cloves


  • Wash rice and soak it for at least an hour. Add saffron strands to a 1/2 Cup water or milk. 
  • In a pan, boil 5-6 cups of water, add the whole spices to it.Once the water comes to a roaring boil, add rice and cook on medium flame till it is 3/4 done. To check the doneness, press a grain of rice between the thumb and index finger, it should be grainy not soft.
  • Drain rice and keep it aside. You can keep it in a flat plate/dish so that the rice grains do not ,stick together. add a tsp of ghee to rice.
  • In another pan/kadhai, add ghee and roast nuts till you smell the roasted aroma of nuts. Add raisins and saute for few seconds, 
  • Add sugar and saffron water/milk. Mix and let it come to boil cook for few seconds. 
  • Add the half cooked rice and mix it lightly. Add the crumbled khoya or milk powder on top of rice, and cover and cook on low flame/dum for another 10 minutes. 
  • After 10 mins lightly fluff the rice and keep it covered for another 10 minutes. Serve as required.


Keyword Eid Special Recipes, Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Zarda Pulao

Preparing Rice for Zarda

Making Zarda

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This is 25th in my series of A-Z Biryani/Pulao/Khichdi dishes, that I am taking to Mega Blogging Marathon April ’19.

Day 26. Zarda Rice

Mega Blogging Marathon, is an event where I along with a group of fellow bloggers are blogging everyday about Biryani/Pulao/Khichdi dishes this whole April, with Sundays off.

This is the last post in Mega Blogging Marathon and I tried to keep the alphabetical order of the dishes except for X when I did not have the ingredients. I loved doing the dishes for marathon, some were posted on time and some were late, but overall the experience was wonderful!!

My earlier posts for the event..

Day 1. A.. Aloo Matar Ki Tehri

Day 2.  B..Broccoli Mushroom Pulao

Day 3 . C..Chana Dal Khichdi

Day 4. D..Dhaniya Pulao

Day 5. E.. Easy Steamed Rice in Instant Pot with Pot in Pot Method

Day 6. F.. Fresh Mint and Peas Pulao

Day 7. G.. Gatte Ka Pulao

Day 8. H.. Hari Moong Dal Khichdi

Day 9. I.. Iyengar Puliyogare(Instant)

Day 10. J.. Jeera Rice

Day 11. K.. Kashmiri Pulao

Day 12. L.. Lucknowi Veg. Dum Biryani

Day 13. M.. Mixed Veg Pulao

Day 14. N.. No-Onion No-Garlic Kadhai Paneer Pulao

Day 15. O.. Oats and Moong Dal Khichdi

Day 16. P.. Pearl Pulao

Day 17. Q..Quinoa Pulao

Day 18. R.. Rajasthani Kabuli(Jodhpuri Pulao)

Day 19. S.. Spicy Chilli Garlic and Bell Pepper Rice

Day 20. T.. Tomato Corn and Basil Pulao

Day 22. V. Vegetable Biryani in Instant Pot

Day 23. W. Walnut and Cranberry Rice

Day 24. Vermicelli Pulao

Day 25. Yellow Moong Dal Khichdi


Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#99

Author: Swati

Some who believes 'EAT WELL, READ DAILY, TRAVEL OFTEN AND LAUGH KHUL KE'!!! Hi!! Swati here!!! Chef, Chocolatier, food admirer, reader, love to travel, listen to music, Bollywood and shoot nature and food pics!! Welcome to my Foodtrails and join me in my food adventure!!

16 thoughts

  1. The Zarda rice looks so royal with all that nuts. A perfect dish for parties. Awesome share for the last day.

  2. Your zarda rice looks stunning Swati, so sinfully made and I am sure everybody must have enjoyed it! Excellent choice for the letter.

  3. Zarda is a perfect dish for finale of the marathon , such a beautiful dish to serve , so rich and exotic.
    Swati a wonderful marathon, you rocked with your recipes .

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