Zarda Pulao

  • 4 C long grain Basmati rice
  • 4 C sugar
  • 1/2-3/4 C Ghee
  • whole cardamoms, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon, and bay leaves
  • 1 t (heaped) saffron strands
  • 1 C each: almonds (blanched and split), raisins, dry coconut slivers, and dried dates
  • 3/4 C crystal sugar(Misri) – optional


Wash the rice, drain and keep aside. Boil water (about 16 cups) in a large pan. Add the rice. Bring to a rolling boil and let the rice cook till it is 3/4 done (about 5 minutes). Drain the rice and keep aside.

Meanwhile, soak the saffron in a few teaspoons of water or milk and grind in a pestle and mortar.

Heat ghee (between 1/2 cup to 1 cup; I used half a cup). Add all the spices except saffron. Let them sizzle for a bit. Add sugar, stir and add 1/2-3/4th cup of water. Bring to boil – there should now be a thick syrup.

Drop in the prepared dry fruits. It is easier to chop the dried dates if you soak them in water for half an hour. Give a stir and add the partially cooked rice. Carefully mix to incorporate the syrupy dry fruits. Add the saffron liquid, swirling with a spoon. If you would like the pulao to have an even colour, then add the saffron to the syrup before adding the rice. I like the varied tones of yellow and saffron in my pulao. Add the crystal sugar, if using. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hr. Longer if you like a crispy layer at the bottom. Gently mix to separate the rice grains. Serve warm.

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