South Asian Lemon Rice

South Asian Lemon Rice

It’s isn’t yellow because of the lemon fruit although this rice dish has both lemon juice and lemon zest. It derives its color from the turmeric added to it. But the flavors are definitely not limited to the turmeric and the lemon. There are many versions and variations of lemon rice, and each has a different combination or ratio of spices. This dish has cardamon seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and kaffir lime leaves. Can you now imagine the aroma and the taste?

Don’t be scared by the spices in the ingredients list. They are all sold in better groceries. Even kaffir lime leaves are available in dried form. So, there really is no reason not to try cooking lemon rice. It is such a lovely dish with its earthy aromas, bright color and refreshing flavors.

Recipe: South Asian lemon rice


  • 1 c. of basmati rice
  • 3 to 4 cardamon pods
  • 1/4 tsp. of mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. of coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp. of ghee or clarified butter (see notes after the recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp. of turmeric powder
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, thinly sliced (or crumbled if using dried)
  • zest of one lemon, finely grated (see tips)
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt, to taste
  • fried onion slices, homemade or store-bought


  1. Cook the rice then fluff with a fork. Set aside.
  2. dry toasting cardamon, mustard seeds and coriander seeds
  3. In an oil-free pan, dry toast the cardamom pods, mustard seeds and coriander seeds until they emit a nutty aroma. Cool a bit then grind the spices into a paste.
  4. Heat the ghee or clarified butter in a frying pan. Add the spice paste, kaffir lime leaf, lemon zest and turmeric powder. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant.
  5. Add the rice. Stir. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cook just until heated through.
  6. Squeeze the lemon over the rice. Stir. Add the fried onion sliced. Stir one last time.
  7. Serve hot.

Quick Notes

Ghee is available in South Asian stores. If inaccessible to you, make clarified butter. Veggie Belly has very detailed instructions.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 1 to 2 south-asian-lemon-rice2

Connie Veneracion

Hello, my name is Connie Veneracion. I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

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