Lemon Rice also known as chitranna or nimmakaya pulihora is a crunchy, flavorful and tangy dish that is easy to make and tastes so good. Lemon juice, fried nuts, aromatic herbs and spices combine perfectly to give this steamed rice an amazing spicy, tangy and nutty flavor. The nuts add a crunch for the perfect rice dish texture. This vegan and gluten-free lemon rice recipe is sure to become one of your favorite rice dishes.
About this recipe
This is one of the most popular and commonly made rice recipes from South India. I have had lemon rice in many restaurants and even in a few South Indian temples.
Easy to make, my lemon rice recipe includes a mixture of fried mustard seeds, urad dal (black gram), chilies (hot green peppers), herbs and spices.
This fried tempering mixture is then poured over steamed rice. Fried peanuts and cashews are added, along with lemon juice, and everything is mixed together.
You can make chitranna with freshly cooked rice or even with leftover rice. The peanuts and cashews add crunch to this sour and aromatic chitranna recipe.
I prefer to fully cook the rice. You can cook the rice al dente if you prefer that texture. Apart from Fried Rice, Pulao or Biryani, in all other rice recipes, I prefer to cook rice grains more than al dente.
How to make Lemon Rice
1. First rinse 1 cup heaped regular rice a couple of times and then soak in enough water for 30 minutes.
2. Then drain all the water from the rice. Add the rice in a 2-litre pressure cooker. Add ¼ teaspoon salt or add salt as required.
3. Add 1.75 to 2 cups water.
4. Pressure cook the rice for 8 to 10 minutes or for 2 to 3 whistles on a medium-high flame. When the pressure settles down on its own in the cooker, then open the lid.
You can even cook rice in a pan or in the Instant Pot. Follow the steps as listed below:
- Pan method: Take rice, salt and 2 cups water in a pan. Cover and simmer until all the water has been absorbed and rice grains are tender and fluffy. Check when the rice is simmering and if the water has dried leaving the rice grains undercooked, add some more hot water.
- Instant Pot method: Add rice, salt and 1 or 1.25 cups water (depending on the rice type and quality) in the steel insert of a 6 quart IP. Pressure cook for 5 minutes on high. Do a quick pressure release after 5 minutes.
5. Empty the rice in a bowl or plate and set aside so that it becomes warm or cool at room temperature. You can also fluff the cooked rice and let it cool in the cooker itself.
1 heaped cup of raw rice will yield 3 to 4 cups of cooked rice. However, this can very depending on the type of rice.
6. Squeeze juice from 1 lime or 1 small lemon into a small bowl. You will need about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice.
If you want a more tangy taste, then you can add more lemon juice. Set aside.
7. Heat 2 tablespoons sesame oil in a pan. Add ¼ cup peanuts. The sesame oil that is added is made from raw sesame seeds and is also known as gingelly oil. It has a totally different flavor and aroma than the asian toasted sesame oil.
If you do not have sesame oil, then add sunflower oil, canola oil, avocado oil, peanut oil or grapeseed oil.
If you have roasted peanuts ready, then you can give a miss to this step. I sometimes have extra roasted peanuts in the pantry to be had as a snack or to be added in recipes like these.
8. Fry the peanuts on a low to medium flame until they become golden and crunchy.
9. Remove and set aside.
10. In the same pan add 1 tablespoon cashews.
11. Fry cashews until they turn golden. Set aside.
Making lemon rice
12. Now add 1 tablespoon sesame oil in the same pan. When the oil becomes hot, then add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds.
12. When the mustard seeds begun to crackle, then add 1 teaspoon urad dal (spilt and skinned black gram).
13. On a low flame, fry the urad dal till they turn golden.
14. Next add 12 to 15 curry leaves, 1 to 2 chopped green chilies and 2 dry red chilies.
15. Sauté for some seconds until the red chilies change color.
16. Switch off the flame and add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder and 1 generous pinch asafoetida (hing).
17. Mix very well.
18. Now pour this tempering mixture in the cooked rice.
19. Add the fried peanuts and cashews.
20. Add lemon juice – about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons.
21. Add salt as required.
22. Mix very well.
23. Check the taste and add more lemon juice or salt if you want. Keep the lemon rice or chitranna covered for the flavors to blend for 4 to 5 minutes. While serving garnish with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) if you prefer.
24. Serve lemon rice with papaddums or vadams and coconut chutney or just have it plain. You can even pack lemon rice in tiffin or for a travel journey.
Serve it with pappadums, a thin crisp Indian flatbread, or with a side vegetable salad or even Coconut Chutney also goes great with this dish.
It can also be made as a tiffin box. As lemon rice can be served at room temperature, it also makes a great picnic lunch item. It’s a light dish and you can have it as a light breakfast also.
- Rice: Any non-sticky variety of rice grains can be used in lemon rice recipe. If in case you overcook the rice and they become lumpy, then do not worry. Simply break the lumps when the rice grains are cooled. Leftover rice works excellently in the recipe. Add about 3 to 4 cups of leftover cooked rice.
- Spices and lentils: Spices like mustard seeds, dry red chillies and green chillies are absolutely needed in chitranna recipe. You can still let go of urad dal and asafoetida (hing) if they are not available to you. About 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger also add a good flavor to the chitranna recipe.
- Herbs: Curry leaves add a unique aroma. If you find it difficult to procure them, then you can skip them. Though I have not added coriander leaves (cilantro), you can add them.
- Nuts: Both cashews and peanuts add a lot of texture and crunch in lemon rice. You can also just use one type of nut. Do not use nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts etc as the authenticity of the recipe will be lost.
- Lemons: Use lemons which are ripe and fresh. You can also use limes.
- Fats: The fat used to make lemon rice is oil. The oil that is traditionally used in sesame oil made from wood pressed raw sesame seeds. This sesame oil is also called as gingelly oil and is very different from the south asian toasted sesame oil. If you do not have sesame oil, then simply use sunflower oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil or any neutral oil.
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Lemon Rice also known as chitranna or nimikaya pulihora is a crunchy, flavorful and tangy rice dish that is easy to make and tastes so good.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Cuisine South Indian
Course: Main Course
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level: Easy
Rinse rice grains a couple of times and soak in enough water for 30 minutes.
Then drain the water and pressure cook rice in a 2- litre cooker with salt and water for 2 to 3 whistles or 8 to 10 minutes on medium to medium-high heat.
1 heaped cup rice will yield 3 to 4 cups rice. This will depend on the type and quality of rice.
When the pressure settles down on its own in the cooker, remove the lid. Remove the cooked rice in a plate or in a bowl.
Let the rice become warm or cool at room temperature
In a small frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons sesame oil. First fry the peanuts till crunchy and then set them aside.
In the same oil, then fry cashews till golden. Remove and set aside.
Now add 1 tablespoon sesame oil in the same pan.
Add the mustard seeds and let them crackle. Once the mustard seeds begin to crackle, add the urad dal.
Fry until the urad dal turns golden. Fry everything on a low flame, so that the lentils do not burn.
Then add the red chilies, green chilies (chopped) and curry leaves. Sauté for a few seconds until the red chilies change color.
Switch off the heat and add the asafoetida and turmeric powder. Mix very well
Making lemon rice
Immediately pour this tempering mixture on the rice. Add the fried peanuts and cashews, lemon juice, salt. Mix very well.
Keep the bowl or pan covered for the flavors to blend for 4 to 5 minutes.
Then serve the lemon rice with papaddums or vadams and coconut chutney or curd or just have lemon rice plain.
Lemon Rice | Chitranna Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 458 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Vitamin A 239IU5%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 49mg245%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 85mg103%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 3µg3%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 507µg127%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This lemon rice recipe post from the archives (August 2013) has been republished and updated on 18 December 2020 with a video and my expert tips.