June 25, 2012mayurisjikoni
Blog post

What is Thandai?

Thandai is a cooling drink that is prepared during the Holi Festival. With the beginning of the hot days during Holi festival and also Shivratri, it’s ideal to serve cold Thandai to the guests. Actually, when one says thandai, it refers to the powder or syrup used to make the drink and also to the drink itself. Ideally made with dairy milk, one can easily substitute it with almond, cashew nut, soya or coconut milk. As a matter of fact, in Hindi it means cooling.


There are two forms:

  • Powdered form where nuts, poppy seeds, pepper, fennel seeds, cardamom, dried rose petals, saffron, seeds like melon, pumpkin, are crushed to make the powder.
  • The syrup form – The ingredients are crushed into a smooth paste and added to sugar syrup. It is then strained through a cheesecloth to obtain the flavored syrup.


How is this drink prepared?

Usually, milk is boiled the previous day of the festival, thandai powder or syrup are added and the flavors are allowed to infuse into the milk overnight. Before the festival, either the flavored milk is put in the freezer to cool or ice cubes are added.


My favorite

Personally, I love milk be it plain, with chocolate, rose syrup, kesar(saffron), etc etc. The options are endless. No doubt then Thandai too is one of my favorite drinks. Not only cooling but it provides the necessary nutrients and energy to get through the hot festival day.


Traditional Method of making Thandai

Commercially prepared thandai syrup and powder usually contains artificial food colour and flavors. Therefore, I don’t like to use them. Traditionally the paste is made by grinding all the ingredients using a sil batta  (a large flat stone and a stone rolling pin) to a paste and then is strained and squeeze in a muslin cloth to obtain the flavour. I personally prefer just grinding the dry ingredients to a powder and storing it as I feel that the traditional method results in wastage of fine and expensive ingredients.



  • With so many people wanting healthier options, the sugar can be replaced by using honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or stevia.
  • Homemade thandai powder or syrup taste will vary according to the proportions of ingredients used. Some prefer a slightly hot taste, therefore will add extra peppercorns and some like it sweetish.
  • Replace dairy milk with almond, cashew nut, soya, oat, coconut or any other vegan milk.


Can the  Powder or Syrup be stored?

Due to the humid climate in Mombasa, I usually store the powder in the fridge in an airtight container. The syrup too is best stored in the fridge if the climate is humid where you live. I usually use up the powder in a months time. Its best to prepare small quantities for freshness.


Is Thandai only used in milk?

Not at all, thandai powder or syrup are used in a variety of different ways. Here are some ways you can make something different for Holi Festival  to please your guests, all thandai flavored:


Dietary Tips:

  • Gluten free
  • For vegan option use plant based milks
  • Satvik, as no alcohol is added in this recipe
  • Nutritious

 4 servings

Thandai masala/powder:

1 tbsp fennel seeds (saunf, valiyari)
4-6 peppercorns
1 tbsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
a generous pinch of saffron (kesar)
6-8 almonds (badam)
8-12 pistachios
¼ tsp cardamom (elachi)
1 tbsp dried rose petals
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

other ingredients:
6-8 tsp sugar
4 cups cold milk
crushed ice

  1. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods.
  2. Roast aniseeds, poppy seeds, cardamom seeds, peppercorns over very low flame till you get the aroma of the aniseeds and poppy seeds will begin to pop. 
  3. Take the pan off the heat. Mix in the saffron.
  4. Let the mixture cool down. 
  5. Put the spice mixture, nuts and seeds in a coffee grinder and process it into a fine powder.
  6. Divide the powder between 4 glasses.
  7. Add the cold milk and sugar. Mix well. 
  8. Add crushed ice and serve immediately.


  • You can add powdered sugar to the mixture and keep it. I don’t add it as I would like to use other sweeteners for diabetics and those who don’t take sugar.
  • If you prefer a slightly pungent taste add a few more peppercorns.
  • Serve as a dessert. Instead of ice top it with kesar pista or vanilla ice cream. 
  • Store the extra masala in an airtight container in the fridge.

Pin for Later:

A little request:

If you do try this recipe then please either

  • add a comment below,
  • send a picture to my email
  •  tag me as #mayuri_jikoni on Instagram
  • or tag me on Twitter as #Mayuri1962



  • poonampagar

    March 6, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Even i prefer making small batches of thandai powder and store it without any sweetener. Loved your entire post with so many innovative recipes using thandai powder. Can’t take my eyes off this thandai pic, looks so vibrant and festive !

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 6, 2020 at 9:35 pm

      Thank you so much Poonam.

  • Pavani

    March 9, 2020 at 6:08 am

    Beautiful post Mayuri. Believe it or not, I’ve never tried Thandai 🙂 Your post is inspiring me to make a small batch of thandai powder and try. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 9, 2020 at 10:19 pm

      Pavani, you’ve got to try the drink, its so cooling, delicious and nutritious too. Can always replace the sugar with a healthier option if you want to. But taste it first with normal sugar.

  • Shailender Sharma

    March 10, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    Holi seems to be incomplete without thandai and gujia. And when thandi looks to be this much tempting and inviting, it is must in one’s wish list for holi.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 11, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks Shailender, thandai or a thandai based food is a must during Holi.

  • Lata Lala

    March 11, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Thandai and Holi go hand in hand. I too love to make small batch of thandai always. While scrolling through the thandai recipes, loved all of them.
    Pics are fantastic and so colorful.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 18, 2020 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you so much Lata. Small batches of any spice powder keeps it fresh and tasteful.

  • jayashreetrao

    March 13, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    I had made thandai powder two years back. I think I should make it again no as I am tempted. Nice post.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 16, 2020 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks Jayashree and hope you managed to make the thandai powder.

  • Jagruti’s Cooking Odyssey

    March 13, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Holi and Thandai go hand in hand, and homemade thandai powder is the best to keep things fresh and tasty.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 16, 2020 at 3:08 pm

      That’s so true Jagruti, and can’t imagine Holi without thandai in some form.

  • Geetanjali

    March 17, 2020 at 9:11 am

    I am drooling over those pictures…Thandai looks so tempting! Who can say no to this. Truly a treat for the taste buds. Love the addition of pumpkin seeds.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 18, 2020 at 10:02 pm

      Thank you so much Geetanjali.

  • Uma Raghupathi

    March 17, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Thandai looks refreshing and flavorful. I had this in my child hood during holi. Now a days i miss this drink. May be i will try vegan version of this recipe.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 18, 2020 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks Uma, hope you enjoy the vegan version.

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