Zarda – Pakistani Sweet Rice with Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

How beautiful does Zarda look? It is definitely, in my opinion, one of the best looking Pakistani desserts out there – it doesn’t even need much garnishing to make it look stunning! Aside from it’s gorgeous hue and it’s colourful speckling of nuts and raisins, Zarda is definitely a favourite in my house due to how delicious and satisfying it is after a salty and spicy meal. Traditionally served on special and happy occasions such as weddings and Eid, I made this batch of Zarda to celebrate landing a job as a Secondary School teacher!

Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

In my opinion, the best Zarda is one where each grain of rice is long, separate and firm with no evidence of mush or overly softened rice, all whilst being coated in the sparkling syrupy goodness of the sugar. Finished off with a confetti of candied nuts and raisins laced in each bite, this becomes a little party of flavours and textures in your mouth! Zarda is best served warm and I love it with a very strong cup of unsweetened tea after dinner.

Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

The recipe I’ve seen the women in my family use is very long and complicated, some involving boiling the rice separately and making a ‘chashni‘, a sugar syrup infused with the cardamom and food colouring to pour over the plain rice seperately. I feel like those steps are unnecessary, makes  no difference to the flavour of the Zarda and just means more dirty dishes to wash later when you could be enjoying your divine Zarda. My recipe is as simple as it gets – cook the rice with the food colouring and cardamom whilst the nuts and raisins roast in a pan on the side, drain the rice and then mix in the sugar, nuts and raisins and let it steam for 10-15 minutes! Done! Could it be any simpler?* I cooked a huge batch of this and I had a couple of comments telling me it had a distinct taste of ‘khoya’ (heavy cream) and the leftovers (or lack thereof) proved to me how successful this recipe went. I have yet to try making Zarda with khoya, or any dairy product for that matter. For now, this easy and uncomplicated Zarda which uses minimal ingredients is my go-to for a quick, absolutely delicious and luxurious dessert.

 

Enjoy, with love x

 

Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

*The reason why we don’t cook the rice and sugar together is because the sugar will make the rice mushy. Additionally, when we drain the rice we will lose some of the sugar, meaning we would have to add more sugar at the end anyway!

My new book, ‘The Clueless Pakistani Cook’, is now available to purchase! ‘The Clueless Pakistani Cook’ is a guidebook written for people who want to get started in the kitchen and learn how to cook Pakistani food, but aren’t quite sure where to begin. It includes information about what you should have in the kitchen, spices, cooking a masala, rice, desserts, common Q&As and 5 recipes to get you started! It is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn Pakistani cooking! Click here for more information about ‘The Clueless Pakistani Cook’ and here to purchase it on Amazon!

 

Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom
Zarda - Pakistani Sweet Rice with Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom
Print Recipe
Servings
12 large servings
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings
12 large servings
Cook Time
30 minutes
Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom
Zarda - Pakistani Sweet Rice with Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom
Print Recipe
Servings
12 large servings
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings
12 large servings
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
  • 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
Servings: large servings
Instructions
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Once the rice is 80% done, drain everything in a colander.
    Zarda - Sweet Pakistani Rice Laced With Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom
  5. 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
  6. 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.
Recipe Notes

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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9 thoughts on “Zarda – Pakistani Sweet Rice with Nuts, Raisins & Cardamom

  1. I tried your recipe but my rice became first hard and then on adding some milk and wate mushy any tips to deal with this problem

  2. After adding sugar rice tends to harden up a bit. If we cook rice only 80% don’t you think they will be sort of little uncooked ??

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