Elumicchai Saadam| Lemon Rice

Elumicchai Saadam or Lemon Rice is a South Indian classic. It is a beautiful, simple but flavourful rice dish that is a treat to have. This no-onion, no-garlic rice is quite a common part of the meal at weddings, festivals, poojas and similar occasions across South India. It travels well too, and is hence a dish of choice on picnics and train journeys. It’s widely prepared in South India for breakfast or lunch on regular days as well.

This is quite a popular offering for the Indian festival of Navratri, which is just around the corner, too. Various rice varieties and sundals are commonly offered to guests on the 9 days of Navratri, and Lemon Rice is a hugely preferred one.

Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for Lemon Rice, the way I make it.

Elumicchai Saadam or Lemon Rice

How to make Lemon Rice

Elumicchai Saadam or Lemon Rice is quite an easy thing to prepare. However, it is important to keep certain tips and tricks in mind to get it it perfect, grainy, non-clumpy and flavourful.

Here is how I go about it.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup peanuts
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 4 green chillies
  5. 10-15 curry leaves
  6. 3/4 tablespoon oil
  7. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  8. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  9. Salt to taste
  10. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
  12. 1-1/2 lemons or as per taste


1. Wash the rice thoroughly under running water. Drain out all the water, and transfer the drained rice to a wide vessel.

2. Add in 3 cups of water. Place the vessel in the pressure cooker. Cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally. You need to cook the rice till it is done but not overly mushy, so adjust the amount of water and pressure cooker whistles accordingly.

3. While the rice is cooking, dry roast the peanuts in a heavy-bottomed pan, on medium flame, till crisp. Take care to ensure that the peanuts do not burn.

4. Transfer the roasted peanuts to a plate. Allow them to cool down completely.

Top left: Step 1, Bottom right: Step 2, Top right: Step 3, Bottom left: Step 4

5. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down fully, get the cooked rice out. Place it under the fan and allow it to cool down fully.

6. While the rice is cooling, peel the ginger and chop very finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the curry leaves, lemons and chopped coriander ready.

7. Once the cooked rice has cooled down completely, fluff it up gently using a spoon. Ensure that no lumps remain.

Top: Step 5, Bottom left and right: Steps 6 and 7

8. Now, we will start preparing the Lemon Rice. Heat the oil in the same heavy-bottomed pan we used earlier. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Now, add in the finely chopped ginger, curry leaves, slit green chillies, roasted peanuts and asafoetida. Reduce flame to medium. Saute the ingredients on medium flame for about half a minute.

9. Add the cooked rice to the pan, still keeping the flame at medium. Also add in the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well, gently.

10. Cook everything together for about a minute on medium flame. Stir well to make sure everything is well incorporated together. Then, switch off gas.

11. Add in the finely chopped coriander.

12. Add in juice from the lemons. Mix well. Your Lemon Rice is now ready to serve. Serve it warm or at room temperature with chips, fried papad or vadam.

Top left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Above leftmost bottom: Step 10, Leftmost bottom: Step 11, Bottom right: Step 12

Is this Lemon Rice vegan and gluten-free?

The above recipe for Elumicchai Saadam or Lemon Rice is completely vegetarian and vegan, suitable for those following a plant-based diet.

However, due to the addition of asafoetida in the tempering, this is not a gluten-free recipe. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. Rice varieties like Ponni or Sona Masoori are quite commonly used for making Lemon Rice. Use these for best results.

2. Adjust the quantity of water you use and the number of whistles you allow in the pressure cooker, depending upon how grainy you want the rice to be. The above method works just perfectly for us. This way, the rice gets cooked thoroughly and us neither very grainy nor very mushy. For best results, that’s the texture the cooked rice should be.

3. Allow the cooked rice to cool down completely before proceeding to prepare the Lemon Rice. Do not attempt to use the rice while it is hot, for this will let to a mushy, tasteless lemon rice.

4. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice, salt and green chillies as per personal taste preferences.

5. I dry roast the peanuts before using them to make Lemon Rice. This keeps them crisp and tasty. This is a tip I picked up from my mother-in-law, and it works like a charm.

6. Traditionally, some chana dal is added to the tempering in Lemon Rice. However, we are not big fans of the crunchy texture of the chana dal in the tempering, so I usually avoid it. Alternatively, you could soak some chana dal in water for about half an hour, drain out the water and then use it in the tempering – it becomes nice and soft that way.

7. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to make the Lemon Rice, and prepare it on medium flame. Do not cook it for too long – just about a minute on medium flame is good.

8. The chopped coriander and lemon juice is best added after the heat has been switched off.

9. Sesame oil goes well in this Lemon Rice. However, if you don’t have it, regular refined oil can be used.

10. Make sure the ginger is chopped real fine, for best results.

11. Here, I have cooked the rice fresh and cooled it down, to make the Lemon Rice. If you have grainy cooked rice left over, you can use that instead, too.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!


3 thoughts on “Elumicchai Saadam| Lemon Rice

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