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Pakistani Sweet Rainbow Zarda Recipe

Pakistani Sweet Rice With Rainbow Colors

Zarda is derived from the Urdu word “zard” meaning yellow, since yellow is the dominant color of rice after it is cooked and ready to be eaten and when other colors are added, it can easily be referred to as rainbow sweet rice. Usually, it is served as a dessert to bring a sweet flavor in the mouth after meals.


  1. Choice of rice is very important. Basmati-old and long rice is recommended. Rice must be soaked in normal water for thirty minutes before cooking it.
  2. Sugar may crystallize when added with water in ghee. It is alright because it will get dissolved.
  3. Care has to be taken in pouring of colors. They have to be sparingly spread over rice. Do not let the colors mix otherwise they will turn brown.
  4. Observe cooking time. Do not overcook or undercook. If overcooked, then rice will be soft and mushy and if undercooked, then it will be hard and tasteless.


  • 3 cups of basmati rice
  • 16-20 cloves
  • 10-14 green cardamom pods
  • 4 tsp of ghee
  • 5 cups of water mixed with ½ cup of caster sugar
  • 1 teacup pistachio
  • 1 teacup pine nuts
  • 1 teacup cashews
  • 1 teacup almonds
  • 1/2 teacup thinly sliced coconut
  • 1/2 teacup sliced cherries
  • Ashrafi-red and green candied papaya
  • Food colors-red, yellow, green and blue
  • 1 large pinch saffron, soaked in 1 tsp of hot water
  • 1 teacup khoya (whole milk boiled and condensed)


  1. Put water, 6-8 cloves and 6 cardamom pods in a pot and boil the water.
  2. Add 3 cups of rice and half boil it and strain it and keep it aside to cool off.
  3. Heat up ghee in a saucepan with remaining cloves and cardamom pods.
  4. Now put the sugar syrup in the pot of half boiled rice on low heat. Be sure to have rice covered in the water.
  5. Do regular 5 minute checkups and stir the rice each time. Keep the lid on the pot.
  6. Cook for 25 minutes. When rice is almost ready, put saffron and colors as suggested, while maintaining low heat.
  7. Cook for a few minutes and voila! Rainbow sweet rice is ready.
  8. Add candied peel, cherries, coconut and khoya and serve.

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