Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice | Chitranna – A simple lunch box recipe for kids ready in 30 minutes

Lemon rice is a tangy rice based dish prepared with cooked rice, lemon juice and tempering of South Indian spices.

Lemon Rice

Lemon rice is a rice-based dish from the south India and goes by several names – Chitranna or Nimbehannu Chitranna in Kannada, Elumachai Sadam in Tamil, Nimmakaya Pulihora in Telugu.

It is a very tiffin box friendly dish for both kids and office goers. You can put it together in 15 minutes if you have cooked rice ready.

You can eat chitranna for lunch or dinner, or like some households, it’s served for breakfast too. A lot of hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve chitranna and chutney combo as a breakfast dish.

We usually carry lemon rice for day trips, as it holds very well through the day. It is one of the most popular travel foods either for road or train journeys.

Lemon Rice

Lemon rice is an excellent dish to make when you are thinking “how to use leftover rice”.

Ingredients for Lemon Rice

The first ingredients is rice. You can use any rice but I almost always use sona masoori rice and sometimes basmati rice (as shown in the pictures). One cup (180-200g) of uncooked rice will expand enough for a family of 2 or 3 (a child) for a meal.

The ingredients for creating the base are – cooking oil, mustard seeds, channa dal, curry leaves, green chillies and onions.

I usually use a combination of peanuts and cashew nuts for the crunch factor.

And of course we cannot forget the one of most important ingredients in lemon rice – The lemon!

How to make lemon rice at home?

The first step it to cook the rice. Start off with rinsing a cup of rice until the water gets clear. When the water is clear, the rice grains will cook evenly and prevent clumping.

The ratio of rice to water for short grain rice like sona masoori is 1:2. So, for every cup of rice, you need 2 cups of water. One cup is roughly 180-200 grams. (You can use the same cup measure of water as well). In this recipe (and photo), I’ve used basmati rice, but the measurement remains the same. The only difference is that basmati rice cooks faster than sona masoori rice.

Pressure cook the rice for 3-4 whistles and allow the pressure to release naturally. Open the lid of the cooker and scoop out the rice and spread it on a large plate for it to cool down. If you are in a hurry, you can even keep it under the fan to cool it down quicker while you are spreading it back and forth with a spoon.

[You can also cook rice, cool it down and store it in the fridge for use the next day. This will save you the trouble of making the rice in the morning.]

Making the lemon rice

Now, while the rice is under the fan, getting cooled, you can place a Kadai on a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. I like to use gingelly oil but you are free to use any oil that you use for daily cooking.

Once the oil is warm, add the mustard seeds, and allow it to sputter. Now add the channa dal and peanuts and cashew nuts. Let them roast in the oil for a few seconds.

[If you wish to, you can skip adding the peanuts and cashew nuts at this stage. You can separately roast them in a small pan with a drop of oil and season it with salt. You can also roast them in an air fryer for 2-3 minutes at 160C. Leave them out for a bit for them to cool down and get crunchy.]

Next, add the curry leaves and slit green chillies. I am using a small chilli which packs a lot of heat. If you want lesser heat, you can use just one green chilli. Saute them for a few seconds and then add the finely chopped onions.

To this, add the turmeric powder and asafoetida powder. Give it all a mix and saute the onions until they are soft. At this stage, turn off the heat.

Add the cooled rice to the Kadai and one teaspoon of salt. Now, mix all the ingredients well until the turmeric and the oil coat the grains of rice.

Juice a whole lime/lemon on top of the rice and give it a further mix until well combined.

[It’s best to avoid adding lemon juice over hot rice as it changes the lemony taste to a bitter one. You might also lose a few nutrients when you add lemon juice to a kadai of hot food. ]

Do a little taste test to check if the salt and lemon are to your liking. If you want to reduce the heat from the chillies, adding more lemon will help it.

As a final garnish, if you wish to, you can add a handful of grated coconut.

Serving Suggestion: You can eat lemon rice with a side of onion raita, a cup of curd, pickle or even with coconut chutney.

Storage and Shelf Life

Lemon rice stores very well on the kitchen counter for a few hours. But if you live in a warm climate, it’s best to store it in the fridge, especially if you’ve added grated coconut.

This dish makes for the best tiffin box item both for kids and office goers. On days that you want to keep lunch light, chitranna must be your go to dish.

It stores well in the fridge for up to 2 days, but once it’s out of the fridge, you can heat it up and eat it up during the same meal.

Lemon Rice
Lemon Rice

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Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice | Chitranna

Lemon rice is a tangy rice based dish prepared with cooked rice, lemon juice and tempering of South Indian spices.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Resting time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Lunch
Cuisine Karnataka, South Indian
Servings 2 people


  • 1 cup Raw Rice (180g)
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • ½ tsp Mustard Seeds
  • ½ tsp Chana Dal
  • 1 tbsp Cashew Nuts or groundnuts or both
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
  • 2 Green Chillies sliced vertically
  • 1 Onion medium-sized, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • ½ tsp Asafoetida Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt adjust according to taste
  • 1 Lemon juice of one whole lemon
  • 2 tbsp Grated Coconut (optional)


  • The first step is the wash the rice until the water runs clear. Add the washed rice to a cooker and add twice the amount of water.
    Pressure cook for 2 whistles and turn the flame to a low and allow it to cook for two minutes. Turn off the cooker and allow the pressure to release naturally.
  • Once the cooker pressure has released, remove the stopper from the cooker and remove the rice and spread the cooked rice grains on a large plate for it to cool down.
    Allow the rice to cool down completely before using it for the lemon rice.
  • Place a kadai on medium heat. Once the kadai is warm, add the oil.
  • Once the oil is warm, add mustard seeds, channa dal and cashew nuts / groundnuts.
    Lower the heat and roast the nuts on a low heat.
  • Next, you can add the curry leaves and sliced green chillies. Toast them in the oil for a few seconds.
  • Now, add the onion, turmeric powder, asafoetida powder and saute the onions until the onions are soft.
  • You can now turn off the heat, add the cooked and cooled rice to the kadai.
    Season with salt, lemon juice and garnish with grated coconut.
  • Now comes the main step.
    Take your time to mix all the ingredients very well; every single grain of rice should be coated with the turmeric and lemon juice.
  • You can eat lemon rice with a side of raita or curd.
    Add a few slices of cucumber seasoned with salt and pepper as a side salad.
Keyword Lunch Box, Lunch Recipes, Recipes for beginners

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