Zarda Rice Recipe: The Sweet Aromatic Rice Delight

Zarda is every south asian house’s sweet rice delight. No event is complete without having a plate of Zarda. But why wait for a special event to enjoy sweet Zarda rice? If you’re waiting for a festive event to have a sweet Zarda dish, don’t fret, we’ve a guide to make Zarda chawal at your home.

Zarda rice is a beloved sweet dish in south asian households and a fantastic choice for festive events. Its deliciousness is hard to resist, thanks to the combination of nuts, spices, and raisins for adding a delightful touch. Zarda rice isn’t just reserved for special occasions, instead, it’s a favorite dessert enjoyed by both the young and the old.

So, get your cooking tools ready for the Zarda rice recipe. It’s a treat that brings joy with every bite!

History of Zarda Rice

Zarda goes back in history of the subcontinent. The dish has its roots in Mughal cuisine and was often served to royalty during grand feasts in the kingdoms. There were specialized chefs for just Zarda recipe for Mughal emperors called upon from different parts of India.

Over time, Zarda spread to various regions, such as Pakistan, Punjab, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Persia (now Iran), with different recipe names such as Punjabi Zarda, Sholeh Zarda, Mutanjan zarda recipe, zafrani zarda, Sanjeev Kapoor zarda, Shahi zarda, Shireen Anwar zarda, Zarda pulao, Zubaida Tariq’s (Zubaida Aapa) zarda, Chef Zakir’s zarda, and many more.

Each recipe infused its unique touch to the Zarda universe. Today, it remains a beloved dessert, commonly served during special occasions such as weddings, religious festivals, and other joyful events.

Let’s Cook Zarda:

Zarda Recipe: The Sweet Aromatic Rice Delight

Recipe by Surayya JabinCourse: Asian Foods, Dessert Categories, Desserts, Food Blogs, Indian Food, Pakistani Food, Rice


Prep time


Cooking time





To prepare a delicious serving of Zarda, you will need the following ingredients:


  • Rice and Flavorings
  • 1 cup Basmati rice or any long-grained rice

  • 4 green cardamoms

  • 2 cloves

  • Few strands of saffron/Zaffran

  • Enough water to cook the rice

  • Sweetening and Aromatics
  • ¼ cup ghee/clarified butter or oil

  • ¾ cup sugar (adjustable to taste)

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 tablespoons milk, slightly warm (you can even use water)

  • A few strands of saffron to soak in warm milk/water

  • 6 to 8 green cardamoms, powdered

  • Yellow food color (optional)

  • Garnishing
  • 2 tablespoons almond seeds

  • 2 tablespoons pistachios

  • 2 tablespoons cashew nuts, halved

  • 3 tablespoons raisins

Easy Steps to Prepare Zarda Recipe:

  • To prepare the rice for the Zarda recipe, first, rinse the rice under running water until the water becomes clear. This helps remove excess starch and any impurities. Next, soak the rice in water for 30 minutes, which helps soften the grains and ensures even cooking during the preparation of the sweet and aromatic Zarda dish.
  • In a large pot, start by bringing water to a boil. Then, add the soaked rice, green cardamoms, and saffron strands. Allow the rice to cook until it reaches a 70-80% level of doneness. Once done, drain the excess water and set the partially cooked rice aside, as it will be further cooked and infused with flavors in the next steps of preparing the delectable Zarda dish.
    Boiled rice for Zarda recipe
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  • In a separate pan, heat ghee and add almonds, pistachios, halved cashew nuts, and raisins. Fry the nuts and raisins for a few minutes until they turn slightly golden, releasing their delightful aroma and enhancing their flavors. Once done, remove the fried nuts and raisins from the pan and set them aside to be used as a delectable and crunchy garnish for the Zarda dish later on.
  • Using the same pan, add ghee or oil, then pour in 2 tablespoons of water and ¾ cup of sugar. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves, and the mixture forms a syrup with a one-string consistency. This sweet and flavorful sugar syrup will be used to sweeten and glaze the Zarda, enhancing its taste and overall appeal.
  • Now, add the partially cooked rice to the pan and gently mix it together with the fried nuts and raisins. The combination of flavourful rice and crunchy nuts, along with the sweet and aromatic raisins, will create a delightful texture and taste profile in the Zarda dish. Be gentle while mixing to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed, allowing the Flavors to blend harmoniously.
  • Next, dissolve the saffron strands in warm milk (or water) to infuse the rice with its distinct and rich hue. Add the saffron-infused liquid to the rice, along with powdered cardamom, enhancing the delightful aroma. If desired, a few drops of yellow food color can be added for an appealing visual touch. These ingredients will add depth and complexity to the Zarda, creating an enticing and vibrant sweet rice dish. Stir gently to ensure the flavors are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  • Cover the pot with a lid, allowing the rice to cook on low heat. Let it simmer until fully cooked and the flavors have melded together, creating a delectable and aromatic Zarda. The slow cooking process ensures that the rice absorbs all the flavors, resulting in a delightful treat for your taste buds. Once done, the Zarda will be ready to be served and enjoyed on special occasions or as a sweet indulgence at any time!
  • To add a delightful finishing touch, garnish the Zarda with chopped almonds, pistachios, and raisins. The colorful and crunchy nuts, along with the plump and sweet raisins, will not only enhance the visual appeal but also elevate the overall taste of the Zarda. This beautiful presentation will make your sweet rice dish even more inviting and irresistible to indulge in!
    Sweet Zarda rice recipe ready
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    Zarda rice with almonds and pistachio
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  • Note: Remember, while the recipe is a guide, feel free to add your own creative touch – adjust the sweetness, play with the colors, and make it uniquely yours.

Easy Steps to Cook Zarda in an Oven

A bowl of Zarda garnished pistachio and almond, Rasins
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  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Rinse the rice thoroughly under running water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.
  3. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add the soaked rice, green cardamoms, cloves, and saffron strands. Cook the rice until it’s 70-80% done. Drain the excess water and set the rice aside.
  4. In a separate pan, heat ghee and add almonds, pistachios, halved cashew nuts, and raisins. Fry them for a few minutes until they turn slightly golden. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
  5. In the same pan using ghee or oil, add 2 tablespoons of water and ¾ cup of sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture forms a syrup with a one-string consistency.
  6. In an oven-safe dish, layer the partially cooked rice and fried nuts and raisins.
  7. Prepare the sugar syrup as described in step 4 of the stove method and pour it over the rice.
  8. Add the saffron milk and powdered cardamom.
  9. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the flavors have infused.
  10. Garnish the Zarda with dry fruits and fried nuts before serving.

Nutritional Information About Zarda

Bowl of Zarda garnished with pistachios
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IngredientQuantityCalories (kcal)Carbohydrates (g)Protein (g)Fat (g)Fiber (g)
Rice1 cup2054540.50.6
Nuts (Almonds)1/4 cup13255123.3
Raisins1/4 cup10827101.3
Sugar1 cup774200000
Saffron (1 pinch)~0.02 g~0.07~0.02~0.001~0.005~0.001
Milk (whole)1/4 cup373.22.21.20
Cardamom (powdered)1 tsp61.
Vegetable Oil (for frying)2 tbsp24000280
Please note that nutritional values mentioned in the table are approximate and can vary based on the specific brands and quantities used in the recipe.

Serving Suggestions

Yellow colored Zarda chawal with almonds and pistachio garnishing
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Here are some serving suggestions for Zarda:

  1. Garnish with More Nuts: To add an extra crunch and visual appeal, top the Zarda with additional chopped nuts like almonds, pistachios, or cashews.
  2. Accompany with Fresh Fruits: Serve Zarda with slices of fresh fruits like mangoes, bananas, or oranges to balance the sweetness and add a refreshing touch.
  3. Serve with Whipped Cream: For a luscious treat, serve Zarda with a dollop of whipped cream on top. The creamy texture complements the sweet and aromatic rice.
  4. Pair with Yogurt or Raita: The creamy and tangy taste of yogurt or raita provides a delightful contrast to the sweetness of Zarda.
  5. Enjoy with Shahi Tukda: For a royal feast, pair Zarda with Shahi Tukda, a traditional Indian bread pudding dessert.
  6. Serve Warm or Chilled: Zarda can be enjoyed warm or chilled, so you can choose the serving temperature based on your preference.
  7. Decorate with Edible Flowers: For an elegant presentation, adorn the Zarda with edible flowers like rose petals or marigolds.
  8. Accompany with Chai or Dessert Tea: Serve Zarda with a hot cup of chai (Indian spiced tea) or a soothing dessert tea for a perfect combination.
  9. Create a Zarda Parfait: Layer Zarda with whipped cream and fresh fruits in a glass to create a colorful and delectable Zarda parfait.
  10. Serve in Traditional Bowls: Present Zarda in beautifully decorated traditional bowls or dishes to add cultural charm to the dining experience.

Feel free to get creative with the presentation and serving options to make your Zarda experience even more delightful and memorable!

FAQs about Zarda Recipe:

1. Can I use any type of rice for Zarda?

While Basmati rice is traditionally used for Zarda due to its fragrance and long grains, you can use any long-grained rice for this dish.

2. Can I adjust the sugar content to my preference?

Absolutely! The sweetness level in Zarda can be adjusted to suit your taste. You can add less sugar if you prefer it less sweet or add more for a richer taste.

3. Can I make Zarda ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare Zarda in advance and refrigerate it. Just make sure to reheat it gently before serving to preserve the flavors and textures.

Final Thoughts:

Zarda is more than just a dessert; it’s a culinary masterpiece that brings together the finest ingredients to create a symphony of flavors and colors. From its royal Mughal origins to becoming a beloved part of celebratory feasts, this sweet saffron rice delight continues to enchant food enthusiasts across generations.

Checkout: Gajar Rice: A Flavourful Delight with Carrots

Whether you choose the stove method or the oven method, preparing Zarda is an art that rewards indulgence and delight. So, the next time you’re looking to add some sweetness to your celebrations, immerse yourself in the world of Zarda and savor the magic of its taste!

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