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.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @myheartbeets on Instagram and hashtag it #myheartbeets!

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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 !

  3. Jessica S says

    Am I supposed to take the seeds out of the Serrano pepper? Or just slit and use the entire pepper? Thanks so much!

  4. Suranjita says

    Lovely recipe! Made it today thinking of my sister who loves lemon rice. Being a bong it wasn’t a natural fish fur my mum to learn but she made sure she got an authentic recipe from our South Indian friends and used to make it for her. My ode to my mum but only possible with your inspiration!

  5. Lauren says

    5 stars
    Mind-blowing! Thank you!
    i’m a white girl who loves the Keralite food of my husband’s culture. He was floored I made this, and honestly I was too. I kept eating and eating thinking “I can’t believe i made this myself.” Hubby thought the same thing. I double the recipe and between 2 people it was gone by the end of the day. I’ve spread the recipe to my best food friends as a “drop everything and make this!” Can’t wait to try others.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Lauren, that’s so awesome! Way to go! Glad you guys liked this so much 🙂 Thanks for letting me know how it turned out – let me know what you guys think of any other recipes you try!

  6. Melissa says

    5 stars
    This is soooooooo good!!! I didn’t have any problem with the burn sign so I wonder if different brands of basmati make a difference? I used Kohinoor Extra Flavourful. I love the little bite in the peanuts and channa dal. I didnt have anymore split urad dal so used split masoor dal instead and it worked perfectly. Another winner!!

  7. Prerna says

    Hi – I tried this recipe and it tasted really good!! My rice however was super sticky and not at all fluffy. Any tips? In addition do you have a stovetop variation for this recipe? Thanks!!

  8. Tasha says

    Hi, any advice in how much of a Serrano pepper to add if I don’t want the rice to be very spicy? I’m aiming for kid friendly.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Tasaha, you can always leave it out completely. Or if your child can tolerate some heat, remove the rib (inside spicy portion of a pepper) and then maybe use an inch and see how that goes?

  9. Jen says

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday for lunch. I had never made lemon rice before but have had it at restaurants and friends’ places. This was fantastic…. and quick! My fam wiped the pot clean! I think its a great combo with your coconut chicken curry. I think I am gonna make this again tomorrow and will double the recipe

  10. Namrata says

    Hey so when I followed the same exact steps, my rice got burned and insta pot started showing “burn” so I opened it ASAP and looked, rice was uncooked but the bottom rice were all burned. Any idea where I went wrong? Thank you 🙂

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Namrata, was the pressure valve closed from the start? Otherwise sometimes too much steam can escape, causing there to be less water. That’s my guess but it’s really hard to say what could have caused it for sure… any other details you can provide would be helpful for troubleshooting!

    • Drew Peacock says

      I bet it was an 8quart pot, mine burns stuff a lot if I don’t add extra water or elevate rice off bottom surface (layer it on top of other ingredients and don’t stir it until after it cooks).

  11. Reena says

    What brand of rice do you use? As you mentioned the cooking time can vary from brand to brand. I’m currently using the TJs basmati white rice, have you tried this lemon rice receipt with the TJs basmati rice? If so did it require 1:1 ratio and 6 mins cooking time?

  12. Anya says

    I doubled the quantity but followed instructions exactly – the rice turned out to be quite mushy/ sticky. I’m not sure what went wrong!
    In all your recipies – 1 cup do you usually mean the little plastic cup provided w instant pot?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Anya, I use a US measuring cup – not the rice cup. However, if you are using equal proportions of rice and water then the consistency of the rice still should have turned out okay so I’m not sure what went wrong. All brands of basmati are a little different so you may need to adjust the cook time – try less time next time?

  13. Jordan says

    I love this recipe! I’ve tried a few of your recipes now, all of them fantastic. Can’t wait to buy your book. I have a question though- how could I scale this recipe to make twice as much in the instant pot if I’m having guests and want to make more? I feel like the water to rice proportion might be different but I’m not sure. Thanks!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks, Jordan! I’m so glad you’re liking my recipes 🙂 As for scaling the recipe – if you want to double it then double the ingredients but keep the cook time the same (the pot will just take longer to reach pressure due to more content in the pot). I’ve had readers tell me they have doubled and even tripled the recipe without issue 🙂

  14. Jana says

    My son has a severe peanut allergy. But why muck up a good recipe? We can’t wait for him to go back to college in two weeks.

  15. Irene says

    5 stars
    Hi, Ashley, I loved your lemon rice but had some leftovers, and the next day it was a bit on the hard side when I took it out of the fridge and heated it up in microwave. What do you suggest? Any better method to warm it up and make it soft again? Thanks!

    • Anisha Mehul says

      I put it in a bowl in an instant pot with some sprinkled water. and then put it on pressure for 2 mins. It becomes fluffy. I do this with all the left over rice. Store it in a glass container and if there are left overs put the glass container in the instant pot and manual high for 2-3 mins.

  16. Lizzie says

    Made this tonight. My husband and I were floored with how delicious it is. Just incredible, so good. There’s something special that happens in combining the smooth, rich, umami flavors of nuts, coconut and oil that contrasts and balances out the brightness of the lemon. A very pretty dish, too. Watch out, though- it’s hard to stop eating this one.

  17. My Heart Beets says

    Anusha, could it be that your valve was open by any chance? If you join my instant pot for indian food facebook group you can try asking about this there – many people have made the lemon rice successfully and have shared pictures! We can all help troubleshoot what went wrong.

  18. Anusha says

    Hi Ashley, I tried this recipe word to word but I got burn signal. Frankly when I saw the recipe, I was doubtful about it and was fearing if I would get a burn signal and the same happened. Usually I use 1:2 ratio for rice to cook. But here you told to use 1:1 ratio. Moreover recipe says to soak rice for 15 to 30 min. A soaked rice cooks faster than unsoaked rice, so why pressure time is 6min on high pressure? I got burn signal even before pressure build up and coundown timer started. Please clarify my questions. Thank you.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Anusha, could it be that your valve was open by any chance? If you join my instant pot for indian food facebook group you can try asking about this there – many people have made the lemon rice successfully and have shared pictures! We can all help troubleshoot what went wrong.

      • Pragya Gupta says

        Hey I tried it too, this time I tripled the quantity n it gave me a burnt error, but I changed the pressure level to normal and continued, also I took out some pressure, 3 min after it was done cooking and left some pressure for natural release. It came out gr8. My first time was classic… thanks for the recipe

  19. Purvi says

    Does the lemon juice have to be fresh-squeezed or can it be the bottled kind (RealLemon). If using the bottle kind, is 1/4 cup the right amount?

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