Indian rice three ways

Indian food commonly has rice as a side dish, among many other enticing things, and there’s a lot of different, delicious ways of pairing rice with your food. My favorite two: lime rice and yogurt rice.

Lime rice and yogurt rice

When I cook Indian food, I usually can’t decide on cooking any one particular kind of rice, so I instead make two different flavored rice dishes and have a little of each. As different as they both look and taste, there’s a lot in common between them, so making two at once is incredibly easy. After lime rice and yogurt rice, the third rice recipe included in this post is much simpler and is akin to something you might commonly encounter in Indian restaurants (which I’ll just call spice rice for lack of any decent name). I tend to not be a big fan (its too plain for me), but hey, maybe you will be. 😉 Another nice thing about these recipes is that they are simple to prepare and require very little of your time, which is good when you consider how involved your main course might be.

Yogurt Rice

First off, whichever recipe you go with, you’re going to want to use basmati rice and you can’t really compromise on this one. I’ve tried other types when I didn’t have any basmati on hand, so take my word for it: accept no substitutes, use basmati rice. This particular grain of rice is long, delicate, fragrant, and won’t form sticky, clumpy rice when you cook it. For basmati, I tend to cook 1 part rice to 2 parts water (don’t use any more water than that) using a rice cooker, but a saucepan on a stovetop would work fine. If you go the half lime rice, half yogurt rice route like I do, I usually cook up 1.5 cups rice with 3 cups of water and then split the cooked rice in half. The measurements for the seasoning below correspond to this.

Lime rice:

Indian food is colorful, and this is a rice that will further decorate your plate on account of that bright yellow color. This rice has a light level of spice and a distinctive lime flavor. Once mixed with all of the other spices, the lime isn’t in-your-face sweet citrus, but it is still very present and identifiable. This goes well with lots of dishes, but it may not be terribly helpful when it comes to giving you some spice relief if your main course is on the hot side. The color comes from turmeric, which doesn’t bring a whole lot of flavor to the dish (unless you add too much–then it’ll be chalky and awkwardly bitter), but lime rice that isn’t bright yellow simply isn’t lime rice (even though limes are green…).

  • ~1.5 cups of cooked basmati rice
  • Vegetable oil
  • juice from 3 limes
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds (black mustard seeds are preferable)
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro leaves
  • 3-6 dried chilis
  • 1 green chili (jalapeño peppers are fine)
  • 1 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tsp of salt

Prepare for the lime rice

Get your rice cooking. While the rice is going, dice up your pepper finely and set this aside. In a separate pile, dice up your cilantro finely. Traditionally, you should be using fresh curry leaves, but I can’t seem to find any, so I settled on cilantro instead. If you have the option, without a doubt, use curry leaves instead and don’t bother dicing them up (they’re like smaller Bay leaves, if you’ve never heard of them before).

Fry the dried peppers and mustard seeds until they pop

In a saucepan, heat up some vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and your dried chilis. Loosely cover the pan because in a few minutes, the mustard seeds will start to really release some flavor and start popping like popcorn kernels while your dried red chilis will perk up and start to take on a deep mahogany color. This will infuse a lot of great flavors into the oil. As soon as the majority of the the seeds get popping, throw in your diced fresh chili so it fries a little and immediately take the pan off of the heat. If you aren’t quick about this, the seeds will burn and smoke, and trust me, this is an awful, noxious smoke you don’t want to get familiar with.

Stirring lime rice

After at least five minutes of cooling off, squeeze your lime juice into the sauce pan. Sprinkle in some turmeric powder for that lively color, salt to counter the sweetness of the limes, and add in the curry/cilantro leaves. Finally, mix in the cooked rice and stir everything together. Try not to be too rough on the rice as you’ll break all of those nice long grains in half. You’re done mixing when there’s no longer any patches white rice in the mix. Get it all fairly even in color and taste some of the rice as you might want to add some more salt to balance the lime. Once you’re happy, dish it out while its still warm.

Curd/yogurt rice:

This rice, while largely similar to the lime rice, has a much more complex flavor. I honestly am not a big yogurt fan and I could never really imagine cooking with yogurt, so I avoided this rice for a long time. Once I finally did (reluctantly) try this though, I found one of my favorite Indian side dishes. The yogurt is good for helping to neutrallize a spicy main course, and when mixed with mustard, fried chilis, salt, and your cilantro/curry leaves, it doesn’t just taste like yogurt and rice–it really takes on a whole new flavor that is hard to describe. If you only try one rice out of the three here, try this one first for something different from what you might be used to. Its not as colorful as the lime rice, but it will still be an attractive, bright presence on your plate.

  • ~1.5 cups of cooked basmati rice
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds (black is preferable)
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro leaves
  • 4 dried chilis
  • 1 green chili (jalapeño peppers are fine)
  • 2 tsp of salt

The early steps for this are largely identical to those for the lime rice (which is why preparing both simultaneously is so easy). For all of the nitty gritty details, you might want to review what I’d written above for the lime rice, but I’ll briefly reiterate: start cooking the rice. While that’s going, dice up your pepper finely and set this aside in one pile, and in another pile, dice up your cilantro finely (or set aside your curry leaves).

In a saucepan, heat up some vegetable oil on medium-high heat and add mustard seeds and dried chilis. Cover the pan and be quick about getting the pan off of heat once the seeds get popping. Toss in your diced pepper so it fries a little.

Pour in the yogurt

Now add in the yogurt, salt, and cilantro/curry leaves. Mix everything together and then incorporate the cooked rice. Be gentle on the rice so as not to mush the long grains.

Stir the yogurt rice

If you think the rice looks too dry (you don’t want sloshy soup, just fairly moist), add some more yogurt and/or salt to taste. If you add, add little bits, mix and retaste–you can always add more but you can’t take it out. Once you’re satisfied, dish it out while its still warm and enjoy.

Spice rice:

This is the least exciting of the trio, but if the above two recipes don’t catch your fancy, this can be a simple way to dress up what would otherwise be plain, white rice in a way that will still pair well with Indian cuisine. All you have to do is cook your rice as you normally would (whether it be in a rice cooker or a saucepan), but add the whole spices in with the water right from the start. This way, while the rice cooks, the spices perfume the whole mixture and give a very distinctive, savory aroma.

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 5-10 whole cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods / 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • cumin seeds

So mix and match and try a little of each.


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14 Responses to “Indian rice three ways”

  1. maninas: food matters Says:

    mmmm i like it! I shall have to try your recipes!

  2. Mike’s Table » Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) Says:

    […] Indian rice three ways […]

  3. Bird's Eye View Says:

    I’m glad you enjoy Indian rice so much. Hope you don’t mind if I make a few suggestions. We usually add turmeric to the oil right after the mustard seeds – that helps the flavour deepen and takes the bite out of it. Also – for lemon rice – try adding roasted cashews. And adding cilantro is correct – we typically add curry leaves to the oil, last thing after the chillies.

    We often have yogurt rice in the summer as a meal by itself since it is so hot here, and we enjoy it the way you have described. one variant that works well is to add freshly chopped cucumber and red onion to the rice. It adds a nice crunch to the soothing texture.

  4. mike Says:

    Bird’s Eye — welcome! I really appreciate the insight and will give your recommendations a try the next time I make this as they all sound like they’d make for really nice additions flavor and texture-wise. And I’m glad to hear I didn’t botch things up with the cilantro. 😉 Thanks again!

  5. Aparna Says:

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and allowing me to discover yours.
    Nice blog here. Delighted to discover some Indian food.:)
    The spice rice would be called “Pulav/ Pulao” here.
    The lime rice and curd rice are both a part of my traditional cooking. So if I may make a suggestion?
    For curd rice, the cooled rice, salt, and yogurt are mixed together, adding a little milk to offset any sourness, if any, from the yogurt. Then just before serving, The tempering with mustard seeds, urad dal (split black gram dal), dried red chilli peppers, asafetida powder and curry leaves is done and incorporated into the yogurt rice.
    Your version looks pretty authentic, though.

  6. mike Says:

    Apama — very glad to! You’ve got lots of good stuff on there. I definitely love Indian food and would like to learn more about it and experiment with it more. Also, first off, thanks for giving the “real” name for the rice–I was almost embarrassed to call it “spice rice,” lol. I also greatly appreciate the feedback, I’m always glad to improve and make things more authentic and this sounds like just the extra touch. I’ll give it a try on my next batch! Thanks

  7. kittie Says:

    Mike – thanks for pointing me at this post! You’re right – I’d never have thought about yogurt rice before – but I’ll give it a go!
    The lime rice looks lovely too – but I’d be concerned that putting the lime into the hot pan would burn off all of its potency? Unless, of course, that was what you’d planned… Ah, cunning… 😉

  8. mike Says:

    kittie — glad to, I think this is one of those dishes that isn’t nearly available enough (e.g. at restaurants). I typically add the lime juice after a few (5-10) minutes of allowing the pan to cool, since like you mentioned, doing it right away would cut away a lot of that citrusy flavor. I hope you like it!

  9. Egg Curry from Mike's Table Says:

    […] warmed up and ready to go, get eating! I served this with jasmine rice (but yogurt rice would have also worked very nicely) and some very poorly done chapatti (lol, they were supposed to […]

  10. sashi Says:

    for yoghurt rice can use sour cream it gives a creamier taste and appearance

  11. gaga Says:

    I love Indian food and can’t wait to try these!

  12. priya Says:

    Thank you Mike. It’s easy to comprehend,

  13. Sharanya Says:

    Hi Mike,

    There are a few alterations to your recipe if you want the authentic south indian taste. (I’m tamil)

    South Indians don’t use basmati rice much(except for pulao). Instead they use Ponni Raw Rice or Sona Masoori.

    You can find them here,

    Also, you could use chana dal, raw peanuts and white urad dal when you put mustard seeds in the oil.

    Using green chillies in curd/lemon rice will be better instread of adding both dried and green chilly.

    You could use Gopi Yoghurt instead of Dannon Yoghurt.

    Also, you could add pomogranate,grated carrot / grated beetroot while serving/ grapes/ raw mango/ripe mango.

    Curd rice + Citron pickle/ Coriander Pickle/Curry leaves pickle/ Vadu Mango pickle tastes great. – Best I’ve ever had

  14. Sharanya Says:

    Also try tamarind rice, coconut rice, coriander rice, mint rice, tomato rice, sesame rice, jaggery rice (chakkari pongal), dal rice( ven pongal), spinach rice, raw mango rice, etc. (the list goes on and on) :)

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