Lemon rice was a revelation when I first enjoyed it at my in-laws home in Mumbai. I had never tried flavored rice.
I’d only had the plain stuff. And I loved it … especially the brightness of the fresh lemon and the saltiness. What is not to love about salt and sour?
Growing up, I only ever ate five-minute instant rice. Rice was never a staple of our diet, as it is for more than one billion of the world’s people, so my mom never felt the need to learn to cook regular rice.
I suppose this is why parboiled and instant rice exists in North America. Rice just isn't a regular part of our diets.
So I hope I can open your eyes to the fact that there is a world of flavorful rice dishes out there!
Plain rice is good too, but fancy rice dishes exist in dozens of cultural cuisines, mainly Asian cultures, but also Mediterranean and Latin American cultures.
The embellishment and elaboration of rice is a wonderful thing.
It has brought us this recipe for Lemon Rice with Turmeric and Cashews from South India.
Other examples include fried rice from China, kimchi fried rice from Korea, pineapple rice from Thailand, and so on.
There is also the widely traveled pilaf and the well-known Spanish paella, a mixture of rice, vegetables, beans, meat, and spices.
Mellow Yellow Lemon Rice
This Lemon Rice recipe is super balanced, and it isn't spicy. The South Indian staple spices of black mustard seeds, urad dal, a bit of red chili, and turmeric add only a gentle, pleasing complexity.
Please don’t let any unfamiliar spices deter you. If you don’t have something, you can still make this recipe.
I have addressed substitutions in the recipe below. I also have a post on Indian ingredient substitutions that gives some helpful information about Indian spices.
The spices accent a flavorful canvass of nutty clarified butter (ghee), fresh lemon, and good quality salt. The result is rice that is good enough to stand on its own.
I have suggested a garnish of roasted cashews for extra crunch, and cilantro for a fresh green touch. If you would like to get extra fancy, (or you just want an excuse to eat more coconut), you could also try topping the lemon rice with toasted coconut.
This lemon rice is a healthy dish for vegetarians. It is healthier than plain rice. Adding gentle spices and cashews to plain rice heightens its nutritional value and digestibility.
Since this rice is flavorful on its own, you can easily enjoy this with a bunch of vegetables. Try it with cooked vegetables and a green salad with a simple vinaigrette. Below are some Buttered Veg recipes I think would be nice with lemon rice.
This would really be good with a chickpea curry. Here is a wonderful chana masala recipe from the blog.
Eating lemon rice will please your senses and warm your insides a little. The gorgeous golden color from the turmeric will also make you smile. (I love turmeric, and you can read my post here about why I put it in everything.)
This recipe is simple to make. Best of all, it is the perfect way to use up leftover rice if you have it. Are you ready to try lemon rice?
Recipe for Lemon Rice with Turmeric and Cashews
- 1 cup raw basmati rice, (jasmine rice would also work)
- 1 ¾ cup water
- 1 ½ tablespoons ghee, (see notes)
- ¼ cup raw cashew halves or pieces
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds, see notes
- 1 teaspoon split urad dal, optional, see notes
- 1 dry whole red chili, crushed (or ¼ teaspoon chili flakes)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, or to taste
- half a lemon, juiced
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro or coriander leaf, minced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon shredded coconut, (optional)
Cook the rice
- You will need about 4 cups of cooked rice for this recipe. Leftover rice works just as well for making lemon rice. To cook rice from scratch, use the method below.
- To cook basmati rice, rinse 1 cup dry rice in cold water once. Drain the water and transfer the rice to a 2 to 3-quart saucepan with lid. Add 2 cups cooking water. Let the rice soak for 15 minutes if you have time. Soaking helps with water absorption as the rice is cooking. It relaxes the rice and makes the cooking more even.
- Add a pinch of salt, and ½ a teaspoon of ghee. Bring the rice to a boil uncovered on medium-high heat. Stir the rice once with a wooden spoon, turn the heat to very low, and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes until rice is fully cooked.
- Use the warm rice to make the lemon rice.
Make the lemon rice
- In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of ghee on low heat.
- Sauté the cashews in the ghee until golden brown and then remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the remaining ghee or oil in the skillet.
- Turn the heat up to medium and add the mustard seeds and optional urad dal. Sauté until the seeds pop and the dal turns golden brown.
- Add the red chili, onion, turmeric, and salt, and sauté until onions are translucent and just starting to brown.
- Add the cooked rice and mix well to fully incorporate. Continue to cook and stir until rice is piping hot. Add the fresh lemon and mix. Taste, and adjust salt and lemon flavors to your taste.
- Fold in the optional chopped coriander just before plating. Transfer hot lemon rice to a serving dish and top with roasted cashews and optional toasted coconut.