Skip to Content

South Indian Style Tangy Lemon Rice Recipe

Bright  yellow lemon rice is a perfect  for a  picnic or in  the  lunch box.  A  bit  tangy and  spicy , and  absolutely delicious. Plain rice becomes a  delicious  treat  just by the addition of a few ingredients. Lemon rice  pairs  well with  many side dishes – spicy fried seafood, chickpea curry, papads, coconut chutney or  serve  with just a  few  pickles. Lemon rice and  popcorn shrimp is a favorite  lay day meal . To  tell you the  truth  I can  have  this  rice  all by itself , no sides needed !  
South Indian Style Tangy Lemon Rice

I have made lemon rice umpteen  times before I  fell in love  with  this  version. It  happened a  few  years,  back  days after I had  moved  to B’lore  suburbs. New  house,  new surroundings, no  transportation and a  baby and  a toddler in the  house. Ah,  exciting  times !  The change in climate was hard on the kids and  they fell ill. So I took my lovely neighbor’s  suggestion and ordered dinner  from a  cateror who was a  regular  there. My friend placed the order, my grasp of Kannada is not  worth mentioning, specifically asking him to deliver early.   So we  wait  , past the  kids bedtime. As the  kids  got  cranky I fixed something  and  sent  them  to bed.  Those days  my mantra  was  to  grab any zzz s  that I can  whenever possible.  So I turned off  the lights  and  hit  the  sack.

As I fall asleep  the  doorbell rings.  There is an old  man at  the door  with a huge  container  of  Chitranna – lemon rice. We look at  each other –  I am  sure he  was  sizing up the pampered  middle class  woman  who can’t make dinner  for  her  family.  He he doesn’t   understand  a  word  I say,  and all I wanted  then  was to just  get  back to sleep.  So I take the  container from him and  he retreats into the  darkness  even before  I  can open the purse .

The next morning  I came  to know  that  he went  and  rang  my neighbor’s doorbell.  Got an  earful from them for being  late — poor  guy  was  used  to   delivering  for  the  bachelors in the  neighborhood   for  whom  dinner at 10  is  considered  early !  Annoyed  as I was  I was  pleasantly surprised  by the   rice . The  very best I had.

To cut  the  story short ,  I have   tried  to  match the  taste – but  not  quite  succeeded. It could  very well be that  I was  very hungry  and  tired that  night. Anyhow  this this  simple  dish  brings  back memories,  of  strangers  who become  part of  our lives, cherished  friendships and food.

In  different  regional languages  Lemon Rice is  called  Chitranna, Elumicham sadam,  Naranga choru, Nimmakkya Annam  and  other names  that  I am  not  familiar  with. All of  them  literally  translates to Lemon Rice 🙂  As  you  would  have guessed by now , it  is  lemon flavored  rice.  Typically peanuts  are  used for  crunch and  flavor  in these  dishes. If  you are  allergic   feel  free to leave them out or  replace with cashew nuts or  almonds.

Making Lemon Rice

The  rice is  cooked  separately and  cooled.  Lemon rice is  great  way to use up the  day old  rice.  Roast  the  peanuts/cashew nuts  in a  little  oil  and  set  aside.  You could  dry roast  these  as  well. If using   roasted nuts,  just  warm  them  through to release the  oils  and  set  aside.


Next step  is to prepare the  seasoning. Heat  1  to 2  tablespoons of  oil  and  add  the  urad dal  and  mustard  seeds. Once  the mustard  seeds  splutter  add the  chana dal  and  stir  fry till  its  color  changes. Add  the  green  and  red  chilies and  curry leaves.  Fry till the  aromas  fill the  air.  If  you like  to add a pinch of  asafoetida  this is  the   time  to add it. While a  south Indian  never  dreams of  making  these  without  the  dals  and  asafoetida,  feel  free  to  leave  them out, or  use  a tablespoon of split peas.

Keep the  heat on very low.  Add the  chopped  cilantro and spread  half  the  rice on top of the  seasonings,  sprinkle turmeric  and  a little salt on top  and  layer the  remaining  rice over it. If  you are  using dried/desiccated  coconut  mix  it in as well.  Using a  spatula  mix  everything  together.

Once  everything is  mixed  well  the  rice  begins  to take on  a  lovely shade of  yellow.  Stir a few  times if  necessary ,to get the  rice  warmed  through.  Turn off the  heat  and  sprinkle the  lemon juice  on top.  Mix well  taste  and  adjust  salt .  Add the roasted peanuts  and   fresh  coconut, if using.  Mix  and  serve !!


South Indian Style Tangy Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice

By Syama
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Servings 2 - 3 servings


  • 3 C Cooked Rice
  • 4 Tbsp Whole Peanuts
  • 1 - 2 Lemon
  • 1/2 Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Urad Dal
  • 1 Tbsp Chana Dal
  • 2 Dry Red Chilies
  • 1 Spring Curry Leaves
  • A Few Stems Cilantro
  • 1 Pinch Asafoetida Optional
  • 1/2 Tsp Turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp Grated Coconut Optional
  • Salt To Taste
  • 2 Tbsp Oil


  • Juice the lemon and set aside.
  • Heat 1 to 2 tsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan. When the oil hot add the peanuts and roast until the peanuts are browned evenly. Drain and set aside.
  • Add 1 more tablespoon of oil into the pan. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and urad dal. When the mustard seeds splutter add the chana dal and fry till it turns light brown. Add the curry leaves , broken red chilies and green chilies. Keep the heat low and let the spices fry and release their aromas.
  • If using the asafoetida add it to the oil along with the chopped cilantro. Add half of the rice on top of the seasonings, sprinkle the turmeric and a little salt on top and layer the remaining rice.Mix well.
  • If needed give a few gently stir the rice a few times to prevent  it from sticking to the bottom. Heat the rice till all the grains are warmed through. Turn off the heat and sprinkle a little of the lemon juice on top. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt as per your taste. Spread the peanuts and fresh grated coconut on top mix and serve !


  • The red chilies are added for the smokey flavor. Leave them whole and avoid green chilies to reduce spice.
  • Non sticky rices - Basmati, or Sona Maoori or even Jasmine rice- works well n this recipe.

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

Tried this recipe?Mention @Oventales or tag #Oventales on Instagram

Though it  needs  no accompaniments here are a  few  ideas to  try –  Spicy fried fish  and  Lemon Rice, Kadala Curry or Chickpeas in  roasted  coconut  sauce, or  Coconut  Chutney.


South Indian Style Lemon Rice

Recipe Rating