Lemon Rice

April 27, 2023mayurisjikoni
Blog post

Recipe: Lemon Rice

Lemon rice or Chitranna as it is known in Kannada, is the easiest but yummiest rice dish. With spices and lemon, this spicy tangy rice is best enjoyed with some some rice papad. Makes an excellent lunchbox or travel food option as it tastes equally good whether hot or cold. The other good thing about this rice dish it that you can use leftover plain rice.

Refreshingly Lemony

 The first appealing thing about lemon rice is the lovely fresh yellow colour and secondly it definitely the lemony taste. Eat it alone, hot or cold, have it with sambhar or yogurt it tastes yum. A good way to create a new dish with leftover rice. Simple ingredients make it tasty. 


The first time I had lemon rice was in India when I had to make a train journey from Mumbai to Jammu. That was a very long time ago. My sister in law’s house help back then was from Tamil Nadu. He said “mataji aap ke liye khana pack kiya hai, train mai kha lena”. Besides some packet snacks he had packed lemon rice for me. At first I thought how am I going to eat rice along? But I was hungry. A spoonful and I was hooked onto this lemony rice.

When I got back to Mumbai, asked him to show me how he made it. And he did. Since then leftover rice for me is either lemon rice or Gujarati style vagharelo bhaat.

A few days ago I had guests over for dinner. I made idli sambhar and wanted something simple to accompany it just in case someone felt  unsatisfied with just idlis. When in doubt, I find that any type of rice dish acts as a filler . Not only did they like the idli sambhar but also loved the lemon rice. 

Theme: Railway Recipes

This theme was suggested by Seema who blogs at Mildly Indian. She requested that we make any food that is served on the trains or something we carry to enjoy on the train. I’ve done quite a few train journeys in Kenya, India, Canada and a couple in UK. I  remember the delicious piping hot vegetable samosas we were served on the Rajdhani. Actually, was in a dilemma whether to make the samosa or lemon rice.  Lemon rice it was as I wanted to use the ingredients that my partner Sasmita suggested. She asked me to use peanuts and curry leaves which are more suitable for lemon rice than samosa. In return I suggested she use mustard oil and chaat masala. Using those two ingredients she has prepared  a famous, healthy and easy to make Jhal Muri Recipe.

My second partner for this theme is Seema. I suggested that she uses coriander powder and ginger. With those two she decided to make Indian Railway Aloo Curry a meal that her father would buy for the family to enjoy during their train trips to Delhi.


Food And Train

When the kids were growing up, train journeys between Mombasa – Nairobi were a delight both for me and the kids. The train would leave the station on the dot at 7 p.m. However, reaching at the other end at 8 a.m. next day was not always true. But these journeys on the sleeper train is very much memorable for the kids. At that time food requests for our dinner and early breakfast were numerous.

Some Of The Food I Carried For Our Train Journeys Were:

Mahamri is basically like a doughnut but it is flavoured with coconut and cardamom powder. Doughnuts are ring shaped, but Mahamri is usually triangular in shape or sometimes round. Generally mahamri is enjoyed as a breakfast item on its own with tea or coffee or with mbaazi (pronounced as mmmbaaazi). Mbaazi is soaked pigeon peas cooked in coconut milk. 
Check out this recipe
Handvo, is a famous Gujarati savory snack that is baked. Grated bottle gourd, fresh fenugreek and other vegetables are added along with spices to the lentil rice batter. Handvo is mostly enjoyed as a snack but we love to have it for dinner.
Check out this recipe
A famous Gujarati Fried Snack using millet flour and fresh fenugreek. Enjoy it with some yogurt or masala tea.
Check out this recipe
Eggless Banana Walnut Bread is so easy to make and an excellent way to use up over ripe bananas. Besides that, the eggless version turns out super soft just like the one with eggs.
Check out this recipe
Thepla - Gujarati Flatbread is a popular savoury, delicious flatbread that is enjoyed for breakfast, brunch or even as a part of a main meal.
Check out this recipe
Dhokla is a very famous Gujarati snack whereby a batter of rice and lentils is allowed to ferment before it is steamed. Its served as a snack on its own with chutneys or as a part of a full or thali meal. I've replaced the chana dal with moong dal.
Check out this recipe
Dunk Cornflakes Cookies in milk, tea or coffee and enjoy them as a snack or make them as edible gift for loved ones.
Check out this recipe

Crossing Kenya On The ‘Iron Snake’

Built by the British Empire to link the Indian Ocean with Lake Victoria this train service ran every day from Mombasa to Kisumu, via Nairobi the capital city. When I was young, have made train journeys from Nairobi to Mombasa. Back then steam engines were used. These were replaced by the diesel ones around 1980. Clean, white bedding was provided in the first and second class. Either you carry your food and drinks or opt for the meal provided by Kenya Railways.  The unmistakably British formal dining experience gives a faded glimpse into a bygone era of elegance; they still use the china, crystal and silverware. What I enjoyed the most if we opted for the KR dinner was the fresh fruit served with whipped cream.

Unfortunately, this iconic, historical train service ended around 2007-2008, due to mismanagement, corruption.

The New SGR

The standard gauge replaced the metre gauge. The journey between Mombasa Nairobi was cut down from almost 12-15 hours journey to just 5 hours. The maiden journey took place on 31st May 2017. Hubby and I travelled by the new SGR twice. Back then they served only snacks so we could carry our own food. During those journeys I took:

Instant Semolina Idli/ Rava Idli is a soft, fluffy and moist steamed breakfast or snack option. Healthy, filling and nutritious, it is so easy to make semolina, rava or sooji idli. 
Check out this recipe
Gujarati Steamed Muthiya is a delicious, easy to make and versatile snack. Usually, muthiya or muthia is steamed, cut into pieces and then stir fried with tempering ingredients.
Check out this recipe
Another favourite travel food of mine is Spicy Rice, Mango and Coconut Salad

Train Journey Of A Lifetime – Rocky Mountaineer

Hubby and I did this fantastic, picturesque journey in 2019. We opted for the Journey Through The Clouds package which started from Vancouver and ended in Calgary. The actual train journey is for 2 days, Vancouver to Kamloops and then Kamloops to Jasper. The same company organizes for a bus to complete the rest fo the journey. Trains cannot pass through the National Parks.

The food on the train was superb and served in style by the chef. We had two meals on board, breakfast and lunch. In between plenty of snacks and the journey would end with some tea time snack. Best ever Bloody Marys I’ve had on the train. And desserts are to die for.

Ingredients Required For Lemon Rice

  • Rice – you need cooked rice for this recipe. I have used leftover basmati rice. Use any rice that gives you separate grains and not sticky rice.  Alternately, Masoori rice is another recommendation.
  • Peanuts – without peanuts, this rice dish is incomplete. Use normal raw peanuts.
  • Cashew Nuts – optional. I like add them for that extra bite and flavour.
  • Urad dal – split black gram without the skin. Readily available in all Indian Stores and online.
  • Chana Dal – split chickpea. I prefer to use roasted chana dal for this recipe. Readily available in all Indian Stores and online.
  • Dry Red Chillis – adds a lovely flavour. Optional.
  • Curry Leaves – use 1 sprig fresh or dried leaves.
  • Ginger – peeled and minced or finely chopped.
  • Green Chilli – add according to your taste. Slice them or minced if you are making the rice for kids.
  • Oil – I have used sunflower oil. Use whichever oil you prefer.
  • Mustard Seeds – rai, sarson dana. Readily available in all Indian Stores and online.
  • Asafoetida – hing. For a gluten free version omit asafoetida as most contain wheat.
  • Salt – add according to your taste.
  • Turmeric Powder – hardar, haldi. Readily available in all Stores and online.
  • Water – need about 2-3 tbsp. It helps to soften the lentils. Optional ingredient if you like the bite that the lentils add to this dish.
  • Lemon Juice – adjust the amount required according to your taste.
  • Fresh Coriander – washed and chopped.





Watch How To Make Lemon Rice, South Indian Style




Lemon rice or Chitranna as it is known in Kannada, is the easiest but yummiest rice dish. With spices and lemon, this spicy tangy rice is best enjoyed with some some rice papad. Makes an excellent lunchbox or travel food option as it tastes equally good whether hot or cold. The other good thing about this rice dish it that you can use leftover plain rice.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish, Snack, Travel Food
Cuisine South Indian
Servings 4


  • 4 cups cooked rice the grains should be separate
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 dry red chillis
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp split chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp split black gram lentils
  • ¼ cup peanut
  • 2 tbsp cashew nut pieces
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 green chilli sliced
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander chopped


  • Heat oil in a wide pan over low heat. Roast the peanuts stirring them constantly till they turn light brownish in colour.
  • Remove the roasted peanuts and keep on the side.
  • Roast the cashew nuts. Remove and keep on the side.
  • Add more oil if required.
  • Add mustard seeds, red chillis, chana dal, urad dal and saute till the lentils turn light brown in colour.
  • Add the curry leaves, ginger paste and chopped green chilli.  Saute for a few minutes.
  • Add asafoetida and turmeric powder.
  • Add water. Allow the dals and spices to cook till the water evaporates. This makes the lentils a bit soft. Can omit this step if you want to.
  • Add the rice.
  • Add salt, peanuts and cashew nuts. Mix thoroughly but gently. Allow the rice to become hot.
  • Take the pan off the heat once the rice becomes hot.
  • Add coriander and lemon juice.
  • Serve immediately with some fried rice papad, yogurt or pickle on the side. Or pack it in suitable container to enjoy as lunch or travel food.


  • Can omit adding cashew nuts. I love the taste of them in the rice.
  • Adjust the amount of green chillis according to your taste. If preparing for kids add chilli paste instead of chopped ones.
  • Adjust the amount of lemon juice and chillis according to your taste.
  • Can use leftover rice. The grains should be separate.
Keyword chitranna recipe, how to make lemon rice, South Indian lemon rice

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 mayuri.ajay.patel62@gmail.com
  • tag me as #mayuri_jikoni on Instagram
  • or tag me on Twitter as #Mayuri1962


  • Indian Railway Aloo curry | one pot potato curry | Mildly Indian

    May 2, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    […] as railway recipes. My partner Mayuri prepared the essential South Indian classic travel essential, lemon rice. This recipe for aloo curry will pair well with the lemon rice […]

  • Renu

    May 5, 2023 at 5:31 pm

    5 stars
    OMG, loved reading your post. You have detailed so much memories and reading this, made me nostalgic. I remembered my train journeys when I was a kid :-).
    Lemon rice is one which I make often with leftover rice and generally pack in lunchbox. I add peanuts but never add cashew, and once I add, hubby will always ask for it as he loves it. Love your clicks, the rice looks so tempting, feeling to grab from the screen.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 6, 2023 at 3:04 pm

      Thank you so much Renu. Train journeys and memories, I have quite a few:) Love adding cashew nuts as I love them.

  • Kalyani

    May 12, 2023 at 11:11 am

    5 stars
    Mumbai to Jammu – that must have been quite a journey and the lemon rice was a saviour for sure. I am a HUGE lemon rice fan and sometimes make extra rice to make this the next day – mostly adding more green chillies, peanuts than usual just for myself 🙂

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 12, 2023 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks Kalyani,it was the longest train journey I’ve done in India. Extra peanuts sounds good.

  • Jayashree. T. Rao

    May 14, 2023 at 10:36 am

    5 stars
    I agree with you, it is tasty and good way to use the leftover rice. It makes a great menu for train journey along with curd rice. Looks good.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 14, 2023 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks Jayashree.

  • Vasusvegkitchen Vasusvegkitchen

    May 15, 2023 at 9:03 pm

    5 stars
    Very nice write up di, lemon rice looks very inviting. One of the favorite rice item in our house, even it’s prepared with left over rice or freshly prepared rice it tastes awesome. I just need some papads to enjoy with this lemon rice but my hubby love to have it with curd ☺.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 15, 2023 at 9:41 pm

      Thank you so much Priya, sometimes I make fresh rice just so we can enjoy lemon rice. I too love it with fried rice papad.

  • Preeti Shridhar

    May 16, 2023 at 1:35 am

    5 stars
    Your lemon rice looks so tempting. Agree, it’s one of the best ways to use leftover rice. One dish that can be prepared in a jiffy. I used to often pack it in my son’s tiffin.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 16, 2023 at 2:08 pm

      Thanks Preeti. Sometimes I purposely make more plain rice so that I can make lemon, tomato, tamarind rice or Gujarati style vagharelo bhaat.

  • Priya Iyer

    May 16, 2023 at 2:21 am

    5 stars
    What a beautiful post, Mayuri ji, full of nostalgia! Your lemon rice looks absolutely delicious.

    I love lemon rice to bits, and yours is so perfect. 😍 I have never made it with cashewnuts, though – will try it your way next time.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 16, 2023 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you so much Priya. Am so happy you liked my post. As for cashew nuts.. I love them so add them.

  • Seema Sriram

    May 16, 2023 at 9:20 pm

    5 stars
    One of the first things we pack for any travel is Lemon rice. For me, this is a recipe I cannot refuse anytime on a train. I am so glad you showcased this recipe along with your memories.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 17, 2023 at 8:26 pm

      Thank you so much Seema, and I loved the theme. I already have on my blog most of the Gujarati food we carried during our train journeys. This theme allowed me to share my favourite, lemon rice.

  • Sasmita Sahoo

    May 19, 2023 at 9:17 am

    5 stars
    Love this Lemon rice anytime… the easiest n yummiest rice-based dish. Such a perfect lunchbox or even travel food option

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 19, 2023 at 8:11 pm

      Thank you so much Sasmita, totally agree with you.

  • Preethicuisine

    May 20, 2023 at 11:59 pm

    5 stars
    Lemon rice looks so delish. A constant companion on many of our train journeys. It is so filling. Any dish you take is so delicious especially when we are travelling . Some pickle to go with it and it’s a complete meal. Nostalgic post.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 22, 2023 at 4:24 pm

      Thank you so much Preethi and I agree with you any food taken with us while travelling tastes extra good. Am glad you enjoyed my post.

  • Narmadha

    May 28, 2023 at 9:19 pm

    5 stars
    Looks so delicious. So many nostalgic memories of lemon rice during travel, school, etc. I would love to munch on those peanuts, and chana dal in the lemon rice. It is welcome anytime and would love to have it with potato fry.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      May 30, 2023 at 5:41 pm

      Thanks Narmadha, potato fry and lemon rice sounds like a lovely idea… will try that next time.

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