Zarda Recipe {Punjabi Sweet Rice}

Happy Vaisakhi everyone! Vaisakhi is celebrated throughout Punjab and is of particular importance to Sikhs, as it marks the birth of the Khalsa. Sikhs around the world have brought the tradition of celebrating this auspicious day with a Nagar Kirtan (community procession) parade to various cities, and my city Surrey BC, hosts one of the largest parades in the world each year.vasakhi parade surrey{A stunning image from last year’s Surrey Nagar Kirtan}

I’m really excited to share that, this year I’ve teamed up with Tourism Surrey to help cover this event on April 18th, and show the diversity and culture of our city to their social media followers. The team at Tourism Surrrey has profiled me on their blog (so cool!), and this Saturday, you can follow their social feeds to see the Surrey Nagar Kirtan through my eyes. This has got to be one of my favourite blog partnerships ever. 

Since we aren’t really celebrating Vaisakhi until Saturday, I still wanted to cook something that has a Vaisakhi feel to it today, so I’m sharing my  Zarda recipe. Zarda is also known as meethe chawal or sweet rice, and is a traditional dish served on celebratory occasions.  Made with lots of ghee and sugar, as all good Punjabi sweet treats are, plus the addition of the vibrant orange colour makes this a perfect Vaisakhi snack. zarda recipe vaisakhi

I do feel I have to give you a little disclosure here. Zarda is almost always made with a good dose of cloves (10-12 in this size serving), but I do not really like the taste of whole cloves so I’ve left them out. Also, a traditional Zarda recipe is a 1-1-1 ratio of milk, rice, and sugar, however, you can take the sugar down a notch if you like and it will still work. So, let’s get cooking!

Zarda Recipe:

1 cup rice
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3-4 cardamom pods crushed
pinch of saffron
pinch of kesri (yellow/orange) food colouring
2-3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
10-12 cashews chopped
10-12 almonds chopped
1-2 tbs raisins zarda recipe


Start by soaking the rice in water for about 30 minutes and then strain it out. Bring 4-5 cups of water to boil in a pan, and add the strained rice. Cook for 5 minutes only. You want the rice to be a little soft but definitely not cooked through. Strain the rice and add a tablespoon of ghee to it, and mix well. This is optional, but I like to spread the rice out on a cookie sheet at this time so it stays nicely separated.zarda recipezarda recipe

Mix the milk, yellow food colouring, saffron, and sugar in a bowl, and keep it aside for the next step.zarda recipezarda recipe

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of ghee in a pan and add the chopped nuts and raisins. Fry these items for 3-4 minutes on medium heat until they are golden brown, and then add cardamom seeds. (If you were adding cloves you would add them here)

zarda recipezarda recipezarda recipeAdd the milk mixture to the nuts and bring to a boil. Drop the heat down to a simmer and then add in the rice. Cover and cook on low heat for 10-12 minutes.zarda recipe

Once the rice is done you can fluff it with a fork and serve it hot or at room temperature. I for one don’t like zarda when it’s cold, but I’ve seen it served that way.



  1. April 14, 2015 / 12:14 pm

    This looks so delicious!! Thanks for sharing… Will definitely pin it to try later!

  2. April 16, 2015 / 7:25 am

    Happy Vaisakhi! Love how you are keeping Punjabi heritage alive today with your approachable recipes and crafts. Congratulations on the feature – you deserve it!

    • April 16, 2015 / 8:09 am

      Thank you for your kind words Kamana – I try!

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