Zarda / Sweet Rice Pilaf – Holi Special

Zarda / Sweet Rice Pilaf – Holi Special

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Total Time:


  • 2 cups Royal Basmati Rice
  • 1.5 teaspoon orange food coloring
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon of salted butter
  • 5 green cardamoms
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (pistachios, almonds and cashews)
  • Handful of raisins or sultanas
  • A few strands of saffron
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kewra water
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water


GARNISH: (Optional) 

  • Edible flowers
  • Chopped pistachios


  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add the cardamom pods till fragrant, and toast the nuts until toasted for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Wash the basmati rice 3-4 times, till the water runs clear and soak for 40 minutes.
  3. Add 2.5 liters of water in a large pot,  yellow food coloring, star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick and bring to boil.
  4. Once boiling, add the rice and cook till its 95% done. Do not over cook the rice.
  5. Drain the rice in a colander and set aside.
  6. Take another cooking pan and brush with a light layer of melted ghee or butter. Once heated, add 1/3 of the rice into the pot. Spread evenly.
  7. Next, sprinkle 1/2 of the toasted nuts mixture, 1/3 of the granulated sugar and some raisins
  8. Add another layer of rice and repeat step 7 until the rice, nut mixture and sugar is all used.
  9. Sprinkle the saffron strands over the top layer of rice
  10. Drizzle the kewra and rose water.
  11. Enjoy.