Lemon rice is the quick recipe you’ve been looking for! It takes a boring leftover and turns it into a light, tangy, crunchy and delicious dinner with zilch effort.

Traditionally, lemon rice is South Indian cuisine, but it has inched its way to most tables in the country. Why? Because it is a pleasure to cook (read: no effort) and because a squeeze or two of lemon makes everything better!

It is for these very reasons that lemon rice is the perfect recipe to try right now. A quick and easy preparation, it’ll makes you mouth water with fresh, tangy and distinct flavours. 

How to Make Lemon Rice?

If you have leftover rice, then lemon rice is a one-step recipe. Seriously, it’s that elementary. If you don’t have pre-cooked rice, then your first step is to cook them and cool them. Once that’s done, temper the rice with spices, and you have a light and hearty meal ready in minutes.


We start with heating oil in a big-ish pan.

In this hot oil, peanuts get roasted till golden and crunchy. Take them out (we add them back later on) and then throw in the mustard seeds along with chana and urad dal till they get that beautiful golden hue. In quick succession, throw in the pan curry leaves, green chilies, and dried red chilies.

When the seeds start popping and spluttering, turn off the heat and add in the leftover (or freshly cooked and cooled) rice. Mix well because it is when each rice grain is flawlessly coated with the tempering that you achieve that lovely spiciness of lemon rice.

Adding the tangy relish

Now comes the best part of lemon rice: squeezing in the lemons.

Use the juice of two whole lemons. Be generous because you really want that tang and zest to shine through. If you love the bite and sharpness of lemon, go ahead and increase the amount of juice a tad bit. The spices of the tempering will complement the sourness of lemon excellently. 

The final step is to garnish with the roasted peanuts and get that wonderful balance of crunch and kick!

Quick notes

Soak the chana dal and urad dal for ten minutes and drain them before adding to the tempering. To save time, let them soak while you boil the rice. 

If you can’t get your hands on fresh curry leaves, dried ones will do in a pinch. For the rice, I prefer a Sona Masoori grain, but Basmati works just as well too. 

Serving the rice

Lemon rice is a straightforward recipe that’s why it is fabulous for a quick lunch or dinner. Just like the making, the serving of lemon rice requires zilch effort.

Serve it as is. The burst of flavours from the spices and lemon and the crispy elements of peanuts make it a delicious meal.

If you want a more substantial serving, plain, thick yogurt or raita makes for an excellent accompaniment. A slice of pickle, some dal and a few papads with lemon rice will give you a filling meal.

Variations of Lemon Rice

Lemon rice has simple and clean flavours, but if you want to take it up a notch add cumin for a smoky touch or coriander for a refreshing taste. 

Instead of peanuts, toss in roasted cashews or almonds in the rice to keep that crunch. If you love the nutty note coconut brings, garnish the lemon rice with shreds of it.

The very fact that lemon rice is not only quick to cook but also customizable to the palate that makes it one of my preferred meals these days. I hope the easy-peasy recipe finds its way to your table soon!

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Lemon Rice

Lemon rice is the quick recipe you’ve been looking for! It takes a boring leftover and turns it into a light, tangy, crunchy and delicious dinner with zilch effort.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings: 4 Servings
Author: Natasha Minocha


  • 2 tbsp Sesame or groundnut oil Use any vegetable oil if you don't have these
  • 3 tbsp Peanuts
  • 1.5 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp Chana dal
  • 1 tsp Urad dal
  • 12-15 Curry leaves
  • 1 Green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 Dry red chillies
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups Cooked rice I used Sona Masuri. You can use Basmati too.
  • Juice of 2 lemons


  • Soak the chana dal and urad dal in water for 10-15 minutes.
  • Heat oil in a large pan. Add peanuts and roast till golden brown. Take them out and keep aside.
  • To the same oil, add the soaked, drained dals along with mustard seeds.
  • When the dals are golden brown, add the curry leaves, red chillies and green chillies. Cook for a few seconds and add the turmeric powder and salt.
  • Turn the heat off and mix in the rice and roasted peanuts. Mix well. Add the lemon juice.
  • Taste and adjust for seasoning and lemon juice according to your preference.
  • Serve warm immediately with raita, plain yogurt, chutney or any curry of your choice. Enjoy!