Thandai Recipe – Holi Festival Drink


Thandai is synonymous with Holi. A milk based drink, spiced with a whole lot of nuts and flavourings, it is often served spiked with ‘bhang’ during the Holi. As much fun as the fully-loaded version seems in the movies, I think most of us will be looking for a non-alcoholic (and kid friendly) version this Holi.

After a number of experiments, I’ve finally landed on my perfect Thandai recipe. I’m not going to sugarcoat this part – a good thandai requires a number of ingredients, and some of them are tricky to find

Serves 2

1/4 cup almonds
4 tbs cashew
4 tbs pistachio
1/2 tbs poppy seed (khus khus)
1 1/2 tbs melon seeds (magaz)
1/2 tsp whole black pepper
1 tbs fennel
4 cardamom pods (shells removed, just the inside bits)
1 tsp rosewater
3 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp Himalyan rock salt*
a few strands of saffron
4 cups of milk

*I didn’t see any recipes that call for salt in Thandhai and that might be because some people fast on holidays and you are not supposed to eat salt during a fast. For me the salt totally elevated the taste of this drink. 


1. Set the melon seeds and poppy seeds in a little water for 2 hours to soften. Do the same for the almonds but in a separate bowl (I learned through experience that the poppy seeds stick to the almond skin which is going to be removed later which is a pain).

2. While the almonds and seeds are softening, warm up the milk slightly and dissolve the sugar in it (do not let it boil). Set is aside to cool.

3. Make a smooth paste out of your almonds, pistachios, cashews, melon seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper, cardamom and fennel in the mixer. You may need to add a little bit of water to get them to mix together well.

4. Add your rosewater, a few strands (I used 6) of saffron, and salt to the cool milk; mix thoroughly. Add the flavouring paste to your milk and put it in the fridge for two hours.

5. This part is probably totally wrong and faux pas, but after two hours I strained the paste out of the milk because the Thandhai flavour was strong enough for us. I think you are supposed to leave it in the milk, but I didn’t like that texture or the flavour when I left it.

Serve it up in some fancy glasses, topped with a few strands of saffron and dried rose petals. If you want to spike your Thandhai, Mr. T recommends adding a little rum to it. Me I’m going to stick with enjoying all the various flavourings.




Raj is an editor at The South Asian Buzz, and the Director of Brand Relations at The South Asian Bloggers Network. She loves to test new recipes, take on over-ambitious home decor projects, and read everything she can get her hands on.