Zarda Paulo | Meethy Chawal Recipe

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Zarda Pulao is a traditional Pakistani and Indian dessert served on various occasions. This recipe will teach you to make delicious, satisfying, and shriveled-up Zarda pulao (meethe chawal) with only a few basic ingredients. 

zarda pulao recipe

Zara Pulao holds the top spot when it comes to Pakistani desserts. These meethe chawal are made on special occasions, weddings, and ceremonies just like the Seviyan

I frequently garnish this dessert with coconut, khoya, saffron, kewra, and a handful of assorted dry fruits to elevate this dessert into a more beloved treat. However, if these unique ingredients aren’t at your disposal, fear not—I’ve got you covered. You can still craft an impeccable zarda pulao by following this straightforward recipe.

Even though the Zarda pulao recipe looks simple, you must maintain the water, sugar, and food color consistency. A minor mistake can ruin the entire recipe, so be careful while making it. 

After numerous trials and tests, I made subtle adjustments to my recipe, making it easy for novice cooks. 

meehty chawal

Why You Will Love Zarda Pulao Recipe

  • A Best Festive Dessert : There are numerous desserts out there, but this one is special because it’s a national festive sweet treat that satisfy your palates. 
  • Dry Fruits : This sweet dessert contains many dry fruits, making it a culinary delicacy. You can add almonds, cashews, pistachios, dates, and other items based on your preferences. But they are not essential, and you can skip them too. 
  • Have Extremely Pleasant Aroma : The cardamom, kewra essence, and saffron bring a magical aroma to your kitchen while making Zara pulao.
  • More Appetizing : Unlike other rice recipes, the Zarda (meethe chawal) is more flavorful and relaxing. You can serve it with any of your main dishes or consume this recipe on special occasions.

More About Zarda Pulao?

I’ve been making zarda pulao since childhood and feel smart about it. This notable dessert is made with basmati rice parallel with cardamom, coconuts, almonds, and other dry fruits. 

The word zarda is derived from ‘Zard,’ which means yellow. While yellowish food colors are typically used in this pulao, some people also opt for green, red, or a combination of different colors. 

My grandmother always served this precious dessert on special occasions, such as Eid and certain Islamic days. Honestly, I got this recipe from her, and it’s like the epitome of all Pakistani desserts. 


zarda ingredients
  • Basmati Rice: Zarda pulao is specifically made with basmati rice. Don’t use white, brown, or sella rice for this recipe. 
  • Sugar: For sweetness, sugar is a must-have; I’m using white sugar for this recipe. 
  • Ghee: I’m using ghee to make the rice soft and moist. 
  • Kewra: This ingredient is so special for today’s recipe. Kewra infuses a pleasant aroma into rice, making it delicious and flavorful. 
  • Khoa: This is optional, but I believe Khoa makes the texture appealing and wonderful. Plus, it adds more umami and dairy to zarda rice. 
  • Food Color: Traditionally, yellow is mostly used color in the zarda, but based on your preference, you can customize the color combination. I’m a mix of both red and yellow colors. 
  • Dry Fruits: I use coconut, peanuts, dates, and dried grapes to make the recipe more appealing. For a more professional touch, you can also use almonds, cashews, pistachios, and other dry fruits. 
  • Cardamoms: This is an essential ingredient for a sweet, warm, and aromatic flavor. 
  • Some Milk: Hmmm! I know this item seems confusing in this recipe. But we need a splash of milk to make a food color. I use milk in food colors to make them thick and denser.

Check Out: Kabuli Pulao Recipe


  1. First, soak the rice in water for at least 30 minutes and then boil it in a large kettle for 15 minutes. I pour 1.5 liters of water into the kettle and throw half a tablespoon of salt. Keep the flame medium while boiling rice.  
boiling water
adding salt in water
  1. Filter The Rice: Now remove the water from the rice and transfer it to a bowl. I also prefer to rinse the rice with cold water to eliminate dirt and clean it further.  
rinse the rice
  1. Heat the ghee in the pan and add cardamom to spread the sweet flavors and aroma. Then add sugar and stir for 2 minutes. Keep the flame low at this stage to prevent the sugar from burning.  
add cardamom
adding sugar
  1. Adding All Ingredients: Turn the flame to low and add one glass of water; the water will act as a sweetener along with the sugar and cardamoms. At the same time, add the coconut, dry grapes, dates, and peanuts. Stir gently and let it simmer for 2 minutes on low flame.
add all ingredients
  1. Add Rice: Our ingredients are fried and ready to pair with rice. Add the boiled basmati rice and stir them gently. Be careful while stirring because rice might break with force. Mix the rice perfectly with the sugar to bring a sweet taste to every rice. This step seems tiresome for me, but this is crucial, so do your best to get the best results. 
adding rice
  1. On Dam (Steaming): It’s time to steam the zarda pulao. Most people skip the dam (steaming), but without this step you can’t perfectly mix the sugar mixture with rice. I put the griddle (tawa) under the pan and kept the flame low. Now, blend the food colors, kewra, and khoa at this stage. 
add tawa
add kewra
How To Make Food Colors:
Place food coloring in separate bowls and add one tablespoon of milk to each bowl. Now mix the colors perfectly so they become thick.
adding food colors
How To Add Food Colors:
Don’t sprinkle the food colors on the entire pan; instead, place each color separately on various pan spots (like shown in the picture). This technique will bring the perfect color combination after steaming.
  1. Steaming Process: Now close the lid; I used cloth as a cover; you can also use Aluminum foils and other such stuff to trap the heat inside the pan. Keep the rice on flame for 15 to 18 minutes for best flavor and taste.  
sweet pulao

Nabeela Pro Tip

Few folks can’t maintain a subtle consistency in the sweet rice, or their Zarda pulao is too sticky. So, to avoid such a scenario, I suggest steaming (dam) the sweet rice. 

Streaming is the only way to achieve the perfect consistency in sweet rice and mix the ingredients perfectly. Also, avoid overcooking the rice to prevent it from becoming slack. 

Secondly, I’ve seen many other Zarda recipes on the internet that tend to use sugar at the final stage of the recipe; this diminishes the authenticity of sweet flavors and leaves crudeness in the sweet pulao. 

I prefer to add sugar after heating the ghee; making a sweet syrup will initially bring more sweetness to the Zarda. And you know that the hard form of sugar is challenging to blend seamlessly compared to the syrup form. 


This sounds super scary because Zarda Pulao is always soft and moist. But luckily, there is a solution to this issue. Just wrap a moist or damp cloth around the lid while streaming (dam). This simple tip will introduce moisture to the rice and make it soft. 

If you use only one food color, blend it with rice during boiling time. In this scenario, you don’t need to mix food color with milk; just cut the packet and throw the food color in water. But if you’re using two or more food colors, follow the instructions that I have mentioned in step 6. 

Making zarda pulao aromatic is not a big deal. Just add a kewra essence to the rice, or you can use rose water if the kewra is not available. Cardamom and saffron are the other two ingredients that elevate the aromatic characteristics of sweet rice. 

meethy chawal recipe

What To Serve With Zarda Pulao?

Zarda is not a main dish; it’s a side dessert for appetizers. We often prefer a cup of tea (Chai) with it. Or you can use some Gulab jamuns, khoa, or any type of hot beverage with it. 

In Pakistan, Zarda is more like an occasional dish, and people eat it with main dishes like biryani, chicken korma, karahi, or other beef recipes. So, based on your preferences and taste buds, you can serve any type of dish with sweet rice. 

Other Rice Recipes

zarda pulao

Zarda Paulo

Zarda Pulao is a traditional Pakistani and Indian dessert served on various occasions. This recipe will teach you to make delicious, satisfying, and shriveled-up Zarda pulao (meethe chawal) with only a few basic ingredients. 
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Soaking Time 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 7


  • 1 Kg Basmati rice
  • Sugar
  • One bowl ghee
  • Half coconut 
  • 3 tbsp Dry grape
  • 2 tbsp Peanuts
  • Five dates 
  • 2 tbsp khoa
  • 1 tbsp kewra
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • Food colors


  • Soak the rice for 30 minutes, then boil it in a kettle with 1.5 liters of water and half a tablespoon of salt for 15 minutes. Keep the flame to medium.
  • I drain the water from the rice and transfer it to a bowl. Next, I rinse the rice with cold water to ensure its cleanliness and remove dirt.
  • Now heat the ghee in the same pan, add cardamom for a sweet aroma, then stir in sugar for 2 minutes on low flame to avoid burning.
  • Next, I'm adding all the ingredients. First, lower the flame and pour one glass of water to make a sweet syrup with sugar and cardamoms. Add coconuts, dry grapes, dates, and peanuts. Gently stir and let it simmer for 2 minutes on low flame.
  • Our sweet syrup is now ready to blend with rice. Add boiled basmati rice and stir gently to avoid breaking. Mix rice thoroughly with sugar for a sweet taste. This is a crucial step, so please give your best. 

Streaming (Dam)

  • After mixing the rice, it's time to steam (Dam). Place a skillet (tawa) under the pan, keep the flame low, and blend food colors, kewra, and khoa at this stage. 

Preparing Food Colors: Mix food colors in separate bowls, adding one tablespoon of milk. Stir until the colors become thick.

    Tips For Adding Food Colors: Avoid sprinkling food colors across the pan; place each color separately in various spots for a perfect color combination. 

    • Close the lid and wrap a cloth over it (I used a cloth, but aluminum foil works, too) to trap the heat inside. Keep the rice on the flame for 15 to 18 minutes for the best flavor and taste. 


    Keyword Zarda Pulao
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