Thandai is a sweet, nutty Indian drink made with chilled milk, traditionally served during the summer festivals of Holi and Shivratri. The word is derived from “thanda” which means “cool” in the Hindi language. 

It is popular in the northern parts of India and is made with a mix of nuts, seeds, and a few spices. These days, flavored versions are also made, by including fruit pulp, betel leaves (paan) etc. Bhang (cannabis) is also added to Thandai during both these festivals. The thandai paste can be made in bulk and refrigerated for a week or it can be frozen and used for up to 2 months. 

This Holi, let me treat you to my home-made Thandai, to celebrate the festival of colors & fun. The recipe is below!


1. In 1 cup of warm water, add 3 tablespoons of almonds (peeled or unpeeled).

2. Add 2 heaped tablespoons of pistachios or cashews.

3. Then add 2 tablespoons white poppy seeds (khus khus), ¼ cup melon seeds (magaz or kharbuja been), or pumpkin seeds 

4. Add 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals, or 2 tablespoons of rose water, or 2 tablespoons of gulkand.

5. Add 1 tablespoon fennel seeds and ½ teaspoon whole black pepper.

6. Cover and keep aside for a minimum of 2 hours, to soak well. 

7. Pour the whole mixture including the soaking water in a grinder or blender jar.

8. Add ½ cup sugar, seeds of 4 green cardamoms, and 1 pinch of saffron. 

9. Grind the mixture to a very smooth and fine paste. Strain the paste if needed.

10. Refrigerate in a closed jar and use as needed.

For serving:

– Take 4 tablespoons of the thandai paste in a glass. 

– Add 1 cup of chilled milk or milk and water combination or almond milk. 

– Mix very well. Add a few ice cubes. Garnish with rose petals, and chopped almonds/pistachios and serve.

– This recipe makes for 8 to 9 glasses. 

Flavored Thandai:

Mango Thandai: Add ¼ cup mango pulp, and 2 drops of yellow food color before adding the milk. Blend well.

Paan flavor thandai: Take 3 tbsp prepared thandai masala paste, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 betel leaves, and 2 drops of green food color and blend well, before adding the milk.

Strawberry Thandai: Add ¼ to ⅓ cup of crushed or pureed strawberries before adding milk.

Litchi Thandai: Mix in ½ cup of litchi puree to the paste and mix well with milk.

Chocolate Thandai: Dissolve 2 tablespoons of drinking chocolate and some sugar with the milk and thandai paste. 

-Deepa Perumal

Full-time Foodie, Author & Shutterbug

COO – PEAKS Academy

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