Zarda is a traditional sweet dish made with rice, sugar, nuts and cardamom seeds. The name Zarda comes from the Urdu word ‘Zard’, which means yellow – this is why Zarda is often a very bright hue of yellow or orange!.


  • 3 cups basmati or sella rice
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 1.5 tsp egg yellow food colouring
  • 1 handful chopped nuts
  • 1 handful raisins or sultanas
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp ghee


Wash and drain the rice till the water no longer runs cloudy - about 5 washes. Then, soak the rice in water for at least 30 minutes.Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

In a large pan, add the rice (drained), the cardamom pods, the food colouring, 1tbsp ghee and enough water to cover everything well. Bring everything to a boil

Whilst the rice is coming to a boil, in a seperate pan add 1tbsp of ghee, 1tbsp sugar and the chopped nuts and raisins. Heat this on medium heat, stirring often to roast the nuts well. Keep this roasting till they are needed.Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

Once the rice is fully cooked through, drain everything in a colander.Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

In the same pan the rice was cooking in, we're going to start layering the Zarda much like we do for Biryani. First, take 1/3 of the rice and put it at the bottom of the pot. Then, add 1/3 of the sugar, then 1/3 of the nuts and raisins. Repeat the layering process till all the rice sugar and nuts and raisins have been used up. You should end up with a layer of nuts and raisins on top.Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

Cover the pot and turn the heat to the lowest setting possible. Allow the Zarda to steam for 15-20 minutes. Once done, uncover and carefully stir the rice to mix in the sugar. preferably with a panja or slotted spoon. Be careful not to break the rice! Let the rice rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.


For variations, add a stick of cinnamon, a star anise, nutmeg or any other sweet spice you like whilst boiling the rice for a different flavour.

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