Instant Pot Lemon Rice


Tangy, golden-hued, lemon-flavored rice that’s bright, refreshing, and makes for the perfect light meal. This popular South Indian dish is made with curry leaves, crunchy peanuts, and fresh lemon juice.

instant pot lemon rice

What is Lemon Rice?

Lemon rice is also known as chitranna or nimmakaya pulihora. This classic South Indian dish is a mildly-spiced, tangy-flavored rice.

I vividly remember my first time eating lemon rice. I was at an Indian restaurant many years ago with my South Indian husband (then-boyfriend). I couldn’t stop eating the rice – I was so amazed by the flavor! It was so different than the North Indian food I grew up eating. I remember asking my husband if he had ever tried anything like it before, and he actually laughed in response because he thought I was joking (the answer was yes… just in case I needed to spell that out). Trust me when I say this is a very popular South Indian dish – loved by kiddos and adults alike.

instant pot lemon rice

Lemon Rice Ingredients

Lemon rice is very allergy and special diet-friendly. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and made without onion or garlic – two ingredients typically avoided during fasts. So what is in lemon rice?

Well, lemon juice and zest make this rice both tart and bright! Adding a serrano pepper (or two if you’re like my husband) gives it some heat, and the dal and peanuts add a bit of crunch. We can’t forget the curry leaves – those give the lemon rice LIFE! And by “life,” I mean an aromatic flavor that any other spice or herb can’t replicate. 😉 You can find fresh curry leaves at your local Indian grocery store for around a buck or pay a small fortune for them on amazon).

How to Make Lemon Rice

Press the sauté button, add the oil, and then black mustard seeds, split chickpeas, split/skinless black lentils. Once the lentils turn golden in color, add the raw peanuts and stir-fry.

Add curry leaves, Serrano pepper, ginger, coriander powder, salt, and turmeric. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add lemon juice, lemon zest, water, and rice. Mix well.

Then, pressure cook!

how to make lemon rice
instant pot lemon rice

You can enjoy lemon rice year-round, but my favorite time to enjoy it is in the spring and summertime. Its bright flavor reminds me of warm weather. ☀️

How to Serve Lemon Rice:

Enjoy this fragrant rice as a light meal, a side dish, or a snack. Here are some ideas:

  • Keep it simple and serve with a side of raita (Beet Raita would be great!), Salad, and a side of Indian pickles (achar).
  • Pack it up for a picnic – it travels well!
  • Serve it with potato curry, like this Aloo Curry or Dum Aloo
  • Enjoy it as part of a filling meal with a bowl of Sambar
instant pot lemon rice

Instant Pot Lemon Rice

instant pot lemon rice

Instant Pot Lemon Rice

This popular South Indian rice dish is light, tangy and refreshing. The citrus flavor in the rice really comes through. You can eat this for breakfast, as a snack or as part of a meal. I enjoy eating lemon rice with a side of yogurt and Indian pickles.
5 from 9 reviews
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Servings 4


  • 1 cup basmati rice soaked for 15-30 minutes
  • 3 tablespoons oil of choice
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon split chickpeas chana dal
  • 1 tablespoon split and skinless black lentils split and skinless urad dal
  • cup raw peanuts*
  • 15 curry leaves
  • 1 Serrano pepper or green chili slit but intact, adjust to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest optional
  • 1 cup water


  • Soak the basmati rice in cold water for 15-30 minutes. Drain the water, rinse and set aside.
  • Press the sauté button, add the oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add the mustard seeds, split chickpeas, split/skinless black lentils. After 1-2 minutes, or once the lentils turn golden in color, add the raw peanuts and stir-fry.
  • Add the curry leaves, Serrano pepper, ginger, coriander powder, salt and turmeric. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add lemon juice, lemon zest, water and rice. Mix well.
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 6 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure for 10 minutes. Open the valve to release any remaining pressure.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.


  • *I prefer using raw peanuts in this dish, which can easily be found at any Indian grocery store or online. You can use roasted peanuts or cashews instead, just wait to add them in with the spices.
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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Jessica says

    Do you soak the small amount of Urad dah and Chana dal before adding to the recipe? Thank you so much! I love ALL of your recipes!

  2. Surati says


    Love your recipes.
    Can you tell me what I can substitute for curry leaves ,
    as they are accessible in my area.

    Thx !

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