Lemon Rice / Elumichai Sadam / Easy South Indian Variety Rice

If you are looking for easy rice recipes for lunch, comfort food that takes just 30 minutes and lunch box friendly, kid friendly meals, try this South Indian Lemon Rice Recipe. Refreshing, tangy and lemony!

Lemon Rice / Elumichai Sadam / Easy South Indian Variety Rice

Lemon Rice is a traditional South Indian Variety Rice or Kalavai Sadam recipe made with cooked rice, tempered with lentils, turmeric powder and lemon juice. A Quick Fix Rice recipe that can be packed in lunch box or school tiffin box.

I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t like Lemon Rice. My friends loved my lunch box at school and work when my mother packed lemon rice and vadagam (rice crispies). It would be wiped clean.

Lemon Rice or Elumichai Sadam is a popular temple food in South India and served as prasadam.

This easy No Onion No Garlic Rice Recipe is also made during all auspicious festivals. Lemon Rice is made on Aadi Perukku or Aadi 18 along with other rice varieties like Curd Rice, Tamarind Rice, Coconut Rice and Ven Pongal. It is also made during Navaratri and offered to the deity as Neivedyam.

Lemon Rice is also made during Seemantham or Valaikapu function (South Indian Baby Shower Ceremony) as part of the 9 rice varieties that is traditionally cooked for the expecting mother.

Making the Lemon rice is not at all time consuming, which is the best part about this recipe. Another bonus is that it doesn’t need any side dish. It tastes best when it is served at room temperature.

It can be made with leftover rice from previous night or with freshly cooked rice. Although South Indians prefer rice varieties using short grain rice, this can be made with Basmati Rice too.

If you talk about Ayurveda friendly meals or Sattvik food, Lemon rice fits the bill perfectly. It contains Lemon, Turmeric Powder, is cooked in sesame oil and doesn’t contain onion or garlic, is low on spices and easily digested because of the key ingredient “rice” which is gluten free.

Lemon Rice though contains rice which is gluten free, hing or asafoetida is added to the recipe which can be easily skipped for a 100% gluten free version. The recipe is vegan and if you are allergic to nuts, skip the peanuts.

Lemon Rice - Tangy Rice recipe made with cooked rice, lemon juice and turmeric powder

Lemon Rice and Train Travel – Remembering the Good Old days

South Indian’s remember Lemon Rice as the most important part of their train journey’s. This is the best travel food ever as it stays fresh for atleast 48 hours.

Those days when Tamil Brahmin community carried everything from water to food during travel because outside food was considered a taboo, variety rice recipes like curd rice, lemon rice and puliyodharai (tamarind rice) were the hot favourites.

Each portion was carefully tied in a pottalam (eco friendly mandharai leaves) and handed over to every family. No cutlery, just hands to be used while eating. The food packets were eco friendly and no use of plastic was permissible. Ask any Tam Brahm and he / she would share the exact same nostalgia about train journeys.  

I still pack this for my husband’s international travels along with Podi Idli, Methi Thepla, some rice crispies and fried chillies (mor milaga). Since we are pure vegetarians, finding a restaurant that caters to our need is difficult when travelling abroad. Home made traditional recipes come to our rescue.

Side Dish for Lemon Rice

Usually lemon rice is served with rice crispies or vadagam but if you are serving it as wholesome lunch, Kootu is a great option. It can also be served with plain curd or thayir pachadi, if you prefer.

Potato Roast – Any South Indian will vouch for this combo.

Carrot thayir pachadi – Carrot Raita. The naturally sweet pachadi goes well with the tangy lemon rice.

Pudalangai Kootu – Snake Gourd Curry. This vegetable is available mostly all season so can be easily made at home.

Step by Step Lemon rice Recipe

Wash and soak 1 & ½ cups of Rice (short grain rice) for 20 minutes.

Soaking the rice to be pressure cooked

Drain the water, add 2 cups of water and pressure cook. Once the rice is pressure cooked, transfer it to a wide bowl to cool. Add salt to taste.

Note – this is particularly important step when you pack the rice for travel. The rice should be at room temperature when lemon and tempering is added.

Pressure cooked rice being cooled

Now heat a pan, add sesame oil, mustard seeds, roasted peanuts, urad dal, chana dal, whole dry red chillies, finely chopped green chillies, curry leaves.

Tempering - sesame oil, mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal, red chillies, green chillies, curry leaves and peanuts

Once mustard crackles, add hing or asafoetida and turmeric powder. Mix well and immediately add the tempering to the cooked rice.

adding turmeric powder and asafoetida to the tempering

Squeeze lemon juice. Mix the rice well and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Lemon Juice squeezed into the rice after tempering is added
Lemon Rice is ready to eat

Recipe Notes –

  • You can use any variety of rice for this recipe. I have used Ponni rice.
  • Soak the rice before pressure cooking. The Rice will be soft in texture and not turn dry in the lunch box or during travel.
  • Don’t skimp on adding the sesame oil. It adds to the taste and the aroma of the rice. If you don’t have sesame oil, use neutral oil.
  • If you are allergic to peanuts, avoid it.
  • Turmeric powder ideally should be added towards the end. Avoid burning it.
  • Lemon rice should be consumed at room temperature. Not warm or hot. Never reheat the leftovers.
  • If you are packing this rice for travel, add a little extra oil while tempering. Oil helps in retaining the freshness and will prevent the rice from drying out.

This post appeared on Masalachilli in December 2017. I have added step wise pictures and fresh content to this post.

Lemon Rice / Elumichai Sadam / Easy South Indian Variety Rice

Lemon Rice / Elumichai Sadam / Easy South Indian Variety Rice

Vidya Narayan
Lemon Rice is a traditional South Indian Variety Rice or Kalavai Sadam recipe. Popular Temple prasadam, travel food and lunch box friendly. This rice is made during major festivals like Aadi 18 and Navaratri in South India. No Onion No Garlic, Sattvik meals.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Cooling Time 10 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course brunch, Main Course
Cuisine South Indian, Tamil Nadu Recipes
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 & 1/2 cups Rice 1 cup is 250 ml measurement
  • 4 cups Water Read Notes below
  • 1 tsp Chana Dal (Kadala Paruppu or Bengal Gram Dal) 1 tsp is 5 ml measurement
  • 1/2 tsp Urad Dal or Ulutham Paruppu
  • 1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds, Kadagu or Rai
  • 1 tbsp Peanuts 1 tbsp is 15 ml measurement
  • 3-4 nos Whole dry red chillies
  • 1-2 nos. Fresh green chillies finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 3 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice or Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 nos. Sprigs of curry leaves
  • a pinch of asafoetida or hing
  • Salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Wash and soak 1 & ½ cups of Rice (short grain rice) for 20 minutes.
  • Drain the water, add 2 cups of water and pressure cook. Once the rice is pressure cooked, transfer it to a wide bowl to cool. Add salt to taste. Note – this is particularly important step when you pack the rice for travel. The rice should be at room temperature when lemon and tempering is added.
  • Now heat a pan, add sesame oil, mustard seeds, roasted peanuts, urad dal, chana dal, whole dry red chillies, finely chopped green chillies, curry leaves.
  • Once mustard crackles, add hing or asafoetida and turmeric powder. Mix well and immediately add the tempering to the cooked rice.
  • Squeeze lemon juice. Mix the rice well and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • 4 cups water mentioned in the recipe – 2 cups used for soaking and 2 cups for pressure cooking. Drain the water used for soaking the rice. I normally use the water for watering my plants at home. 
  • You can use any variety of rice for this recipe. I have used Ponni Rice. Kolam, Sona Masuri etc are all great options as short grain rice. You can use Basmati rice too for this recipe but traditionally, short grain variety is only used.  
  • Soak the rice before pressure cooking. The Rice will be soft in texture and not turn dry in the lunch box or during travel.
  • Don’t skimp on adding the sesame oil. It adds to the taste and the aroma of the rice. If you don’t have sesame oil, use neutral oil.
  • If you are allergic to peanuts, avoid it.
  • Turmeric powder ideally should be added towards the end. Avoid burning it.
  • Lemon rice should be consumed at room temperature. Not warm or hot. Never reheat the leftovers.
  • If you are packing this rice for travel, add a little extra oil while tempering. Oil helps in retaining the freshness and will prevent the rice from drying out.
Keyword kalavai sadam, Lemon rice, South Indian Rice Variety
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We will be back again with yet another exciting recipe .. Until then, stay healthy and happy!

Vidya Narayan

Views: 14743

Vidya Narayan

Hi Everyone, I am Vidya Narayan & Welcome to my blog MasalaChilli. Born in a Traditional Palakkad Iyer (South Indian) Family with strong value systems to an exceptionally strong and independent Single Mom, spent most of my childhood studying well (as most Iyer girls do).

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. Aanchal Kapoor

    Lemonrice always turns out so good, I love the crunch cashewnuts add to it!

  2. Aanchal Kapoor

    Somehow, the one given as prasad in temples always tastes better?

  3. InspiresN

    So well presented Vidya, lemon rice always tastes awesome , my version has a little ginger in it as well, looks great!

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Oh Ginger sounds really tasty. Should try it sometime. Thank you for your kind words.

      1. InspiresN

        You are welcome my friend, I got that tip from a friend from Chennai, am sure you will like it as well.

  4. Vanitha Bhat

    Wow Vidya!! You have made this lemon rice look so gorgeous! We love lemon rice a lot and your pics are nudging me to make these soon 🙂

    1. Vidya Narayan

      HaHa.. Make them soon then! Thank you so much dear for all the kind words!

  5. Megala

    Beautiful rice ! I have never seen seedless lemon and it is really nice to use them !!

    1. Vidya Narayan

      I had neither seen them as well. The skin was very thin and had too much of pulp with juice, no seeds. Thank you so much.

  6. ammu163

    I have never seen a more brighter and tastier looking Lemon Rice!Will surely try out ur recipe sweetheart..:)

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Thanks a ton my dear for all the kind words of appreciation. Means a lot.

  7. Green Del(h)i

    I can already smell the aromas from this beautiful rice dish! 🙂

    1. Vidya Narayan

      thanks so much! Wish there was a virtual way of tasting too .. ha ha .. u never know someday!!

      1. Green Del(h)i

        That would be a wonderful invention! 🙂 Thanks for the great recipe!

  8. The lemon rice looks delicious. Adding fresh curry leaves to any tempering smells heavenly. I can understand how this would be a good dish to have when travelling. It’s a light dish which would be easy to digest.

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Absolutely true. Thank you for stopping by and pouring your comments.

  9. Shobha Keshwani

    Whenever I have left over rice this is the dish that comes to my mind. Simple, tangy and tasty.

  10. Priya Satheesh

    Wow… Seedless lemon! Thats really interesting and I have never seen such type of lemons.. so nice of your friend. This one is my most favourite variety rice and always reminds me of school days lunch box..

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Absolutely kind of her, Blogging and FB has given me so much, new friends, one of them being you! Lemon Rice is every South Indians love, mine included.. Thank you so much.

  11. Sjannette

    I can’t access the types of rice you suggest. Can I use a medium grain rice as a substitute?

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Yes Medium Grain rice would be fine. Thank you

  12. pranita

    So nice method you have used.

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Thank you

  13. Taylor Kiser

    5 stars
    Love the lemon in this rice recipe! Adds so much flavor!

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Its a traditional recipe and glad you liked it.

  14. Toni Dash

    5 stars
    I love how flavorful this is!! Such a delicious recipe!

  15. Jersey Girl Cooks

    5 stars
    Great lunch or side dish at dinner too!

  16. Lisa Huff

    5 stars
    Wow so many great flavors in this Lemon Rice! I have never tried Ponni rice so anxious to look for it!

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Thanks Lisa. Ponni is a short grain variety from South India and I hope you find it and try the recipe. You can use it for your everyday recipes too, just in case you would like to know.

  17. Jen

    5 stars
    I feel like I’ve been missing out since I’ve never had this before. So glad you shared your recipe so I can give it a try. Looks and sounds ah-mazing!

    1. Vidya Narayan

      Thanks so much and hope you enjoy these Jen. Cheers!

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