Lemon Rice is a South Indian favorite! Here used as an easy side dish, this quick recipe is flavored with garlic, turmeric , mustard and lemon! A simple recipe to add to your family’s dinner table with a bright yellow color and kid-friendly flavors.
When it comes to adding foods from other cultures to your family dinner table, it can seem overwhelming with where to start. How will your kids react to these new flavors, textures and smells? Sometimes if it just looks different than what they are used to, they might revolt.
This lemon rice recipe is a great way to start introducing your family to more Indian recipes and flavors. It takes known favorites (like rice, and lemon!) and comes them in a new way that just barely pushes the boundaries of what they are already familiar with.
Add the great flavor and color of this easy side dish with the kid friendly steps below, and your whole family will be loving this recipe from South India in no time!
Other Kid Friendly Indian Recipes:
- Kids Chicken Curry with Papaya – Warm and comforting and mildly spiced with a rich sauce, its a great beginner curry recipe for the family!
- Easy Chicken Tikka Masala – This easy dinner recipe is ready in about 20 minutes thanks to the pre-made masala paste that turns this into a pantry-staple, quick make meal your family will love!
What is South Indian Lemon Rice
This rice is a really fun and easy side dish for your family!
Actually, this dish is traditionally served with chickpeas and lentils as a complete vegetarian meal. But I have taken some artistic liberties and changed the meal to suit busy parents who need an easy yet flavorful side dish to serve to their family! I did try to keep the same flair and flavor of the traditional South Indian recipe, though!
I also swapped out the black mustard seeds, which can be hard to find for some people with just plain mustard – you get the same tang of flavor, but not any black specks that kids might turn up their noses at. The mustard also helps to add to the pretty yellow color of this dish!
How to make lemon rice
Indian lemon rice is really easy to make! Here is a general idea of the method used to cook it, but please make sure you scroll down to the recipe card below for the complete recipe.
- Cook the rice
- Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, mustard, turmeric, salt and pepper. Allow it to cook about 5 minutes, until fragrant, stirring constantly.
- Add in the cooked rice and stir to thoroughly mix (you will know its done when all the rice is yellow!).
- Add in the lemon zest and lemon juice and mix one more time!
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and cashews.
Prepping this ahead of time
This rice is an easy recipe to make at home. If you need to cut down on time in the kitchen, you can make the entire recipe ahead of time and reheat it when you are ready to eat. Leave off the cilantro and cashews until you serve.
You can also cook the rice ahead of time, and then start at the step where you saute the onions and mix everything together!
Another quick option (which I have been known to do when nights are really busy) is to use the ready made microwave pouches of basmati rice! You don’t even need to heat them, just open the pouch and pour it in the skillet.
How to serve Indian lemon rice to your family
This easy lemon rice recipe is a great meal to serve to the whole family.
- For toddlers, leave the cashews out (or, knowing how toddlers insist on having everything everyone else does, crush the cashews into very small pieces for their serving). Definitely add on the chopped cilantro, though!
- For preschoolers and older kids, offer them to garnish their own rice with the cashews and cilantro, this will help them to feel in control of their serving!
How to make this side dish kid friendly
Indian rice is a really kid friendly dish to serve with your favorite Indian inspired meals. It has a pleasing taste that is fresh and bold (but not spicy!), and the pretty yellow color makes it a fun interest on your plate!
Getting your kids involved and interested in this meal is a really simple way to help them actually want to try it!
Dinner conversations with kids
Family dinner time is a perfect opportunity to sit down and discuss your meal together in a fun and stress free way! Move the conversation beyond how many bites everyone is taking and instead look at your meal in a more analytical way. Discussing the flavor, texture, and smells of a food, along with how we feel about each one, takes the pressure off of trying a new food!
Try these conversation starters:
- What does this rice smell like? What does the smell remind you of?
- Isn’t it interesting how the turmeric changed the color of the rice? What else do you think it would change the color of?
- Do you think the texture of this rice is different than the rice we normally eat? How would you describe it?
- What are your favorite parts of this rice? What would you change to make it better the next time we make it?
Read more about how to explore the sense of taste with your kids.
Impress your kids: This lemon rice recipe gets its pretty color from turmeric! Turmeric is a rhizome in the same family as ginger. Turmeric has been used in many ways for thousands of years! It has been used as a medicine, as a dye for clothes, and as a spice for food!
Kids in the kitchen: How your kids can help you cook
Getting your kids in the kitchen is an amazing way to help them be more interested in trying new foods! This lemon rice side dish recipe is great because it helps them stretch their boundaries of new flavors and colors in a familiar food.
This recipe is perfect for beginner cooks because it is so simple to make! And it is a great recipe for kids to experiment and become more comfortable with new flavors – which means they are more likely to eat it!
- Kids aged 1-3 can help you measure the ingredients, wash the cilantro and pick the leaves off the stems and help you garnish the final dish.
- Kids aged 4-6 can do everything above, plus help you stir the seasonings into the pan.
- Kids aged 7-10+ can help you do everything above, plus help you chop the onion, with supervision, and help you saute!
*Please note that these recommendations are generalized, and to please use your personal discretion with your child’s skill level. And always, always supervise! Read more about how to have your children help you in the kitchen.
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Indian Lemon Rice Recipe
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ white onion diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- ⅓ cup roasted unsalted cashews or peanuts
- 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Cook the rice with the water. I prefer to use a rice cooker , but you can use a pan on the stovetop, too.
- When the rice is almost done, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
- Add the white onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is starting to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, turmeric and mustard, and stir for 30 seconds.
- Stir in the cooked rice, and stir well to combine thoroughy (all the rice will be yellow!).
- Turn off the heat.
- Stir in the salt, pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- Top with the nuts and chopped cilantro. Serve.