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Sunday, 2 June 2019

Zarda Pulao / Sweet Rice Recipe

Zarda Pulao or meethe chawal is a delicious and fragrant yellow sweet rice dish from North India. This sweet pulao is cooked in aromatic spices and flavored with saffron, nuts and raisins. The name Zarda comes from Persian and Urdu word "zard" which means yellow and since the food coloring gives the rice the yellow color, hence the name of the dish. Zarda Pulao is rich and delectable and is enjoyed during special occasions, weddings and festivals like Eid, Holi and Diwali.

There are many variations to Zarda Pulao . Here, I am sharing a recipe which i learned from a cookery show on television and following it from a couple of years. As per this recipe, Basmati rice cooked in aromatic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, clove is added to sweetened saffron milk with fried nuts and raisins. No artificial color is added here and the yellow color is purely from the saffron. A generous pinch of saffron is added to warm water or milk and allowed to soak for at least 2-3 hours. I have soaked saffron strands in milk overnight in refrigerator to get the intense color and flavor. You may completely skip the use of milk and soak the saffron in warm water instead. Dry fruits like chironji, raisins, almonds and cashews make this dish very festive. Apart from this i have used dried rose petals to garnish the Zarda Pulao. The traditional Muslim style Zarda Pulao recipe calls for use of orange zest as an important flavorant and addition of khoya for the rich flavors. Here , i have used milk powder instead of khoya. Another important point to note is that rice has to be 80-90% cooked before adding to sugar syrup as rice does not cook much in sugar.  

If you are looking for more sweet rice dishes, checkout the following links from this blog.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 3/4 cup Basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoon ghee
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chironji
  • 1 tablespoon dried rose petals for garnishing
  • Generous pinch of saffron strands
  • 1/4 cup nuts (almonds, cashew) and raisins 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 green cardamom
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2-3 black pepper corn

  1. To begin with making Zarda Pulao, add saffron strands to 1/4 cup warm milk and allow to soak it for at least 3-4 hours. I have soaked it overnight in the refrigerator. Next, rinse the basmati rice in water couple of times and then soak it for about 30 minutes. Drain and keep ready. Next heat 2 cups of water in a sauce pan. Add all the whole spices (bay leaf, cinnamon, black cardamom, cloves, star anise, black peppercorn)to it . Once the water boils add the soaked and drained rice to it. Give a quick stir and allow the rice to cook on medium flame until it is about 80-90 % cooked.

2. Strain the cooked rice in a colander. Do not discard the whole spices. Add 1 teaspoon ghee to it and fluff the rice delicately. Set it aside.

3. Now mix sugar and saffron milk into remaining 1/4 cup milk and give a good stir. Keep it aside until use.

4. In a big wok heat remaining ghee. Add chironji, cashews, almonds and raisins to it. Fry the nuts and raisins for 1-2 minute on low flame taking care not to burn them.

5. Next add the sweetened saffron milk prepared in the step 3 to it. Allow the milk to boil for 2-3 minutes. Now add the cooked rice and stir delicately. Do not over mix.

6. Now sprinkle the milk powder and cover cook the zarda pulao on dum for 10-15 minutes. After 10-15 minutes, put off the flame and gently fluff the aromatic and delicious Zarda pulao. Garnish it with dried rose petals and serve warm or cold.

Recipe Notes:
  • The traditional Muslim style Zarda Pulao recipe calls for use of orange zest as an important flavorant and addition of khoya for the rich flavors. Milk powder can be used instead of khoya.
  • You may completely skip the use of milk and soak the saffron in warm water. Orange zest and sugar has to be added to the boiling saffron water in that case.
  • I have not used any artificial food color in this recipe and the yellow color is purely from the saffron. For best results soak the saffron in war water or milk for 3-4 hours or overnight.
  • Use good quality saffron and aged basmati rice .
  • The rice has to be cooked until 80-90 % before adding to sugar syrup or in this case sweetened milk as rice does not cook much further in sugar.
As the joyous festival of Ramzan Eid is just 2 days ahead, taking this delicious and flavorful Zarda Pulao to the 198th FoodieMondayBlogHop with #EidWithFoodies as the theme for this week. Ramzan Id also known as Eid-Ul-Fitr marks the end of the holy fasting Islamic month of Ramadan. Many traditional dishes are prepared for the occasion. Sheer Khurma, a creamy rich dessert is generally prepared and served to all the visiting guests on this day. Apart from it, Kesar Phirni , a saffron flavored rice based milk pudding, Shahi Tukda, a rich bread pudding are some of the dishes that perfectly suits the festive occasion. Do check out the Eid special shares by my fellow bloggers.


If you ever try this recipe, do share your feedback with us in the comment section below.
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Here's wishing a very joyous and blessed Ramzan Eid to all those who celebrate !!

For more Eid special recipes, check out the following links.


  1. Zarda is such a royal and rich in flavours treat and your's is looking so scrumptious!! Beautifully presented and so perfectly made. So perfect for the festivities!!

    1. Absolutely Swati, Zarda pulao is rich and perfect festive treat. Glad you liked it. Thanks.

  2. Wow Poonam zarda pulao looks so exotic. I can imagine the heavenly taste. Loved the bright colour. I would love to try it soon.

    1. Thank you so much. Do give it a try. I am sure you would love it as much as we did.

  3. The Zarda Pulao looks just perfect! While I have had sweet rice before, I've never had the opportunity to try out a proper Zarda Pulao. I should try making this some time. It does look incredibly delicious!

    1. Priya Zarda pulao is different in taste from the other sweet rice recipes. You need to try it to experience yourself. Thank you.

  4. I tasted this scrumptious pulao in one of my friends place @Hyderabad, it was very delectable.The Zarda pulao you prepared is too good, perfect and inviting. Lovely presentation, can feel it's aroma nd taste��.

    1. Thank you Aruna. This Zarda pulao is easy to prepare and tastes great. Just perfect for any special occasion.

  5. Your preparation of Zarda Pulao looks very rich loaded with nuts, plus you have not used any artificial colour is very good. When you use rose petals do you buy the edible ones ?

    1. Renu, i do not buy these edible roses. They are from the homegrown garden so can trust them fully. If you wish to use them, buy organic edible rose which is free of harmful pesticides.

  6. Why do you tempt me so? This is the way I made Zarda pulao ages ago. Now I just drool over the pics. Delicious n a lovely picture

    1. Thank you so much di. I am glad you could relate my posts to your memories.

  7. This Zarda pulao gives a nice festive feel. Apt for the eid celebrations. Absolutely delicious!!

  8. love these type of pulao, loaded with dryfruits ! I have also prepared this pulao but have given a flavor of pineapple :)