This recipe for meethe chawal (also known as zarda pulao) is a sweet rice dessert that’s aromatic and delicious! This sweet saffron fruit and nut rice is a popular Indian and Pakistani dessert often served for special occasions such as weddings, Diwali, Eid, etc.
A Sweet Rice Pilaf Speckled with Fruit & Nuts
Meethe chawal is my mom’s signature dessert – she makes this sweet dish for almost every special occasion and has done so for as long as I can remember. Everyone who tries her meethe chawal raves about it so I’m sure you’ll love this dessert! Today I’m sharing my mom’s famous meethe chawal recipe – adapted for the instant pot making it even easier to make!
My family’s recipe calls for spices like floral green cardamom, smoky black cardamom, sweet cinnamon and fragrant cloves and saffron. It also calls for pineapple, shredded coconut, raisins and nuts. You can easily make different variations of this rice: try garnishing it with sweet (canned) mandarin! Or use different nuts! I prefer pistachios for both the flavor and the pop of color it adds to this rice but cashews or sliced almonds work great too!
A Dessert with Two Names: Meethe Chawal & Zarda Pulao
This sweet rice dish is known by two names: in Hindi this dish is called meethe chawal which means “sweet rice” and in Urdu this dish is called zarda pulao which means “yellow rice.” Typically yellow food coloring is added to this dessert to give the dish a brighter yellow hue so feel free to add that if you’d like. I prefer making this without food dye and so my rice only has a faint yellow hue thanks to the saffron.
This sweet pulao is a recipe straight out of my cookbook, Indian Food Under Pressure. One of my blog readers left me a book review on amazon and this is how she described this dish:“The rice dessert smells like Christmas and tastes like love.” I love that description so much because this really is a special occasion dessert that tastes like love.
I hope you make and love this festive and fragrant sweet rice pilaf!
This sweetly spiced saffron and cardamom flavored rice is a well- known Punjabi dessert. While my mom makes a lot of different desserts, I always think of meethe chawal as her signature dish. She has been making this sweetly spiced pulao on special occasions for as long as I can remember and it is always a hit with guests. This dish is traditionally yellow in color and while many cooks choose to add yellow food coloring to their meethe chawal for presentation purposes, I always leave it out. Feel free to add it though if you’d like! For a variation to this dish, try topping the rice with sweet (canned) mandarins.
- 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 10 whole cloves
- 5 green cardamom
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ stick cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon (golden) raisins
- 2 cups water
- Pinch of saffron
- 2 cups ripe pineapple chunks or 1 (20 ounce) can of pineapple chunks, drained
- 1 cup (frozen) grated coconut*
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ¼ cup chopped pistachios or nuts of choice, garnish
- Soak the basmati rice in cold water for 1 hour. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Press the sauté button, then add the ghee. Once the ghee melts, add the whole spices to the pot. As soon as the spices begin to sizzle, add the raisins and give them a stir, then add the rice, water and saffron.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 7 minutes at high pressure.
- Open the valve to quick release any remaining pressure.
- Add the pineapple chunks, grated coconut, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of water and mix well. Carefully pour the sugar on top of the rice, making sure it doesn’t get on the edges of the steel pot. Do not mix the sugar into the rice.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 1 minute at high pressure.
- Naturally release pressure.
- Mix well, garnish with chopped pistachios and serve.
- *Find frozen unsweetened grated coconut at your local Indian grocery store.
- Try topping it with canned mandarins for a variation.
- You can use yellow food coloring if you’d like to make it look more yellow.
- You can soak the saffron in a bit of milk or water before adding it to the rice if you prefer. I’ve found the steam from pressure cooking also helps impart color.