Meetha Pulao or zarda
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Fragrant long grained basmati rice cooked in a heady concoction of milk,green cardamom and earthy nutmeg, flavored heavily with saffron and the desi ghee. Load up on your favorite dry fruits and as much sugar you want to make this dish a tradition for every festive occasion.
Recipe type: main course
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
  • Basmati rice - 1 cup
  • Water - 3 cups
  • Milk- 1 cup
  • Sugar - ½ cup or more, depending on your taste.
  • Saffron/ kesar - a big pinch, almost 1 tsp
  • Nutmeg - ¼ teaspoon,grated or powder
  • Ghee or clarified butter- 4 tbsp
  • Green cardamom - 4-5 pieces. You can use about ½ tsp powder too.
  • Assorted dry fruits - cashews, blanched and peeled almonds, raisins,pistachios.
  1. Start by washing the rice clean under running water, ensure you dont break the fine long grains.
  2. Soak it in the water for about 30 mins.
  3. Drain and dry completely before beginning.
  4. Next, in a very heavy bottom pan, heat 1 tbsp of ghee and lightly saute all the dryfruits(except raisins). Remove when golden brown. Set aside.
  5. In a small sauce pan, add milk, 1 tbsp ghee and 2 cardamom. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Once warm, add the saffron, sugar and nutmeg.
  6. For the pressure cooker method:
  7. In a pressure cooker add 2 tbsp ghee, the green cardamom and let it pop. Then add the dried rice and saute till lightly roasted (around 3-4 minutes). DO NOT do this step if you are going to use the absorption method listed below.
  8. Add about double the amount of liquid; 1 cup water + 1 cup of the milk sugar mixture.
  9. Let it come to a boil. Add the lid.
  10. Pressure cook for just 1 whistle. Let sit for 20 minutes before opening the lid and fluffing it gently. Garnish with the dryfruits and serve.
  11. For the absorption method (takes more time ):
  12. In a pan , par boil the soaked rice in about 3 cups of water. Make sure the rice is almost 80% done.
  13. Drain the rice, add 2 tbsp of ghee to the warm and mix through gently.
  14. Next in the same pan, add the milk and the ghee rice, let it simmer and cook till done. Takes 15 minutes more or less..
  15. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes before fluffing.
  16. Garnish with dry fruits and serve.
For a healthier alternative, you can omit frying the dry fruits in ghee. Use pan toasted ones instead.
Always soak the rice. It ensures the grains to elongate to their optimum size.
Use very good quality saffron, the pricier, the better in this case.
Never add saffron to hot milk. ALways wait for it to be just warm.
I have listed two methods to make this dish, you can choose one acc to your preference and time on hand.
You don't have to dry the rice for the absorption method, but its a must for the pressure cooker method. Just spread it out on some old newspaper and leave it under the ceiling fan for quick drying. Takes 15 mins.
Use sugar acc to taste. I dont like it to be cloyingly sweet.
You can use rose water in it too. Just add it before the final boil/cook.
Recipe by La Petit Chef at