Masala Chitranna: The Village Style Masala Lemon Rice
Image Credit: Village style masala chitranna is elaborate, but worth it | Instagram - @deeps_drm_kitchen

In India alone, there are numerous ways of preparing the humble carb-rich rice. While there are the usual famous Biryani and Pulao, down south the most relished preparation of rice is the tangy Lemon Rice. A recipe native to the village of Karnataka, this Udipi style Masala Chitranna aka Masala Lemon Rice is unique in every aspect of its preparation. Unlike the lemon rice made in the northern states, this rice gets its tanginess not from the sour richness of lemons but from the goodness of tamarind. Along with that are the added crunch value through peanuts and the hotness from the natively dried red chillies grown around the region. Sure, there are more ingredients involved but the outcome will win even more hearts.

A preparation originating from the ancient times

If one were to scavenge through the medieval Indian cookbooks such as the 1130 AD Manasollasa, 1200 AD Pakadarpana, and Pavanapaakadharma – all written by Rajapani one will find the mention of the rice dish Chitranna as Chitrapaka. But there are also other evidences such as in the cookbook DOVE theory by Mahapramodamsa, opposing the existence of Chitranna. Beyond this, as per the people of Karnataka who have grown up eating Chitranna, their grandparents have also been eating it since their childhood.  

As for the terminology of this dish, the word Chitranna translates to mixed rice in Kannada. Likewise, there are multitudes of variations wherein all have different souring agents some of them be lime, green mango, tamarind, or lemon.

A rice preparation unique to the region of Karnataka, the other variations of Chitranna are known as Mavinakayi Chitranna, Nimbehannu Chitranna, Irulli Chitranna, and Kayi-Sasive Chitranna.

Lemon rice | Instagram - @fusionfoods_



  • Half grated Coconut
  • 4 dried Red Chillies
  • 2 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tbsp Urad dal
  • 1 spring of Curry leaves
  • Small piece of Jaggery
  • Handful of Peanuts
  • Lemon-sized Tamarind, soaked  
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 3-4 cups of cooked Rice
  • Salt


  • Grind coconut, two dried red chillies, and one teaspoon of mustard seeds into a coarse paste. Keep it aside.
  • Over medium heat place a pan, pour oil, mustard seeds, urad dal, dried red chillies, and curry leaves. Fry until all the ingredients splutter. Then add the peanuts and let them fry for a few minutes.
  • Now add the tamarind water, and jaggery. Cook till the jaggery is dissolved and it thickens. Then add salt and coconut paste. Give it all a good mix. Cook it for about five minutes.
  • Add the rice to the prepared masala and mix it well until each grain of rice is coated with the coconut masala. Keep mixing over medium flame. Serve.

This village-style cooking of the humble Lemon Rice may seem a little too elaborate but it is the classic style of preparation. Try making this next time instead of the rice pulao. It is best served with spice sambar or rasam. In fact, the tanginess of tamarind makes the rice so delicious that nothing else is needed to eat along with this.