If there’s one thing that is synonymous with the festival of Holi (apart from colors), is the quintessential summer beverage Thandai which is a flavored spiced and sweet drink. So, on this post, I have shared an easy-peasy Thandai Recipe that is not just refreshing and delightful, but is healthy too. Make this traditional cooling, nutty and spiced Indian beverage, also known as ‘Shardai’ during summers or Holi festival. Or just about any other time as well. The recipe on this post has both a video and a step-by-step photo guide.
Table of Contents
The word Thandai means that, which is cooling or cools as it is derived from the word ‘thanda’ which essentially means ‘cool’ or ‘cold’ in Hindi language. Since the Thandai Recipe also is a cooling drink for the body, hence the name. This classic beverage is also referred to as ‘shardai‘ or ‘sardai.‘
Thandai is a traditional drink, primarily made during the festival of colors Holi and is popular in the northern parts of India. The main composition of this beverage consists of a sweetened mix of nuts, seeds and a few spices, which forms a paste. This paste is then diluted with milk that makes for the refreshing drink.
With a nutty, milky taste, the Thandai Recipe has a heady aroma and sweet scented flavors of the rose, cardamom and saffron coupled together with some hits of pungency from the black pepper.
Like I mentioned earlier, it is super cooling for the body majorly because of the water-soaked almonds (badam), poppy seeds (khus khus), fennel seeds (saunf) and rose petals or gulkand (rose preserve) in it.
Thandai is one of those drinks that is made during the popular Hindu festivals of Holi and Mahashivratri too. A typical bhang (cannabis) Thandai Recipe is also common during both these festivals. Once on our spiritual tour in Banaras and Rishikesh in North India, even we got the chance to try the bhang variant of this beverage.
About Thandai Recipe
My Thandai Recipe is simple, non-fussy and very easy to prepare. You only have to soak the nuts/seeds, blend them with sugar and spices and mix with milk or water.
So, the nuts/seeds that I use in my recipe of Thandai are almonds, poppy seeds and melon seeds. The spices that go into it are fennel seeds, black peppercorns, green cardamoms and saffron. An added flavor is that of dried rose petals or gulkand.
The beauty of this Thandai Recipe is that you can make ahead the Thandai paste and refrigerate for a week or freeze it for 1 to 2 months. And when you want to make the beverage, just mix the paste with milk and your cooling glass of Thandai is ready in no time.
This Thandai Recipe serves makes for about 8 to 9 glasses of the drink. It is easily scalable and you can make a small or large batch for a crowd.
How to make Thandai
Soak Nuts, Seeds, Spices
Before you begin with the Thandai Recipe, ensure that the nuts, seeds and spices are fresh and not rancid.
1. In a bowl, pour 1 cup warm water.
2. Then, add 3 tablespoons almonds, preferably rinsed.
Note: You can opt to use peeled almonds, if you prefer. Simply blanch the almonds in a separate bowl in hot water for 30 minutes and later peel them.
3. Next, add 2 heaped tablespoons pistachios (unsalted), preferably rinsed.
Instead of pistachios, you can also use cashews.
4. Then, add 2 tablespoons white poppy seeds (khus khus).
Omit, if you do not have these tiny white seeds.
5. Next, add ¼ cup melon seeds (magaz).
You can omit these seeds, if you do not have or as an alternative use peeled pumpkin seeds (unsalted).
6. The next ingredient to be added is 2 tablespoons dried rose petals.
If you do not have dried rose petals, add 2 tablespoons rose water or 2 tablespoons gulkand. If you plan to add gulkand, reduce the sugar to ⅓ cup in the recipe.
7. Add 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (saunf).
8. Then, add ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns.
9. Mix very well. Cover and keep aside for 1 to 2 hours.
If you use water at room temperature, then you can also keep overnight or for 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator.
10. The picture below shows the Thandai mixture after 90 minutes.
Make Thandai Paste
11. Now, pour the whole mixture including the soaking water in a grinder or blender jar. Make sure to use a good high speed grinder or blender.
12. Add ½ cup sugar.
13. Then, add seeds from 3 to 4 green cardamoms.
14. Next, add 1 pinch saffron or about 15 to 18 strands.
Saffron is optional and you can skip it.
15. Grind to a very smooth and fine paste. Remove in a bowl and keep aside.
You can cover and refrigerate, if not using immediately. No need to add extra water while grinding.
Note: You need to grind the ingredients to a super fine texture here so that you do no get a grainy or gritty taste in the thandai drink. If your mixer or blender is unable to make a fine paste, I recommend to strain the paste.
16. Take 4 tablespoons of the prepared Thandai paste in a glass.
You can add less or more as per your requirements.
17. Add 1 cup chilled milk. You can also use half-half combination of milk and water. You can use almond milk instead of dairy milk.
For some fruity variations follow these steps:
- Mango Thandai: Include ¼ to ⅓ cup mango pulp before adding the milk as needed. Taste and add more milk, if required.
- Strawberry Thandai: Add ¼ to ⅓ cup crushed or pureed strawberries.
- Litchi Thandai: Mix in ⅓ to ½ cup litchi puree. To make litchi puree, simply blend peeled litchi in a blender.
- Chocolate Thandai: Dissolve 1 to 2 tablespoons drinking chocolate with the milk and Thandai paste. Taste and add more sugar, if needed.
18. Mix very well.
19. Add a few ice cubes.
20. Garnish with rose petals. You can also garnish with some chopped almonds or pistachios.
21. Serve Thandai immediately.
Alternatively, make the beverage in a large mug or jug. Refrigerate and then serve chilled. While serving later, mix and stir the drink in the mug or jar and then pour in glasses.
The Thandai paste keeps well refrigerated for about a week and frozen for about a month. Keep it in a covered container in your refrigerator or freezer.
Later, thaw if frozen and mix the paste with chilled milk. Garnish with nuts and relish the lovely flavors of this summer drink.
The prepared Thandai drink keeps well for about 1 to 2 days in the fridge. You can opt to make the drink in a large jar and refrigerate for some hours until cold to be served later.
You can experiment with this Thandai Recipe and make a variety of other flavorful variations of this summer beverage at home. Some of the easy ones are:
- Chocolate Thandai: Just mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of drinking chocolate or drinking cocoa with milk and the thandai paste. If needed, add more sugar.
- Strawberry Thandai: Mix in ¼ to ⅓ cup of crushed or pureed strawberries made from fresh or frozen strawberries.
- Mango Thandai: Yes, the ‘king of fruits’ enhances the flavors of this drink all the more. Just add ¼ to ⅓ cup mango pulp (homemade or packaged/bottled) with the paste and milk. Mix well, taste and add more milk, if required.
- Litchi Thandai: If you are a litchi lover, add ⅓ to ½ cup of litchi puree made with fresh litchi fruits. To make litchi puree, simply blend peeled litchi in a blender.
In this way, you can go creative, make for your kind of Thandai Recipe and enjoy it with family, relatives and friends.
- Nuts: Almonds and pistachios are always added in a traditional Thandai Recipe. But you can swap the pistachios with cashews. For pistachios, do not use the salted ones. Make sure that the nuts, seeds and spices you add are fresh and not rancid.
- Almonds: You can use peeled almonds, if you want. Just blanch the almonds separately in hot water for 30 minutes and then peel them.
- Seeds: Both poppy seeds and melon seeds are essential to the recipe. If there’s an unavailability, omit adding these seeds. Replace melon seeds with unsalted peeled pumpkin seeds. However, with this, the flavor will change slightly.
- Paste consistency: Blend or grind the paste very finely, especially if preparing for kids. You can even strain the paste, if you want. A fine thandai paste will give you a smooth texture in your drink and not a gritty or grainy mouthfeel. If your grinder or blender is not able to make a fine paste, I suggest to strain the thandai paste.
- Flavoring: Add gulkand (rose petals preserve) or rose water in place of dried rose petals. If adding gulkand, reduce the sugar to ⅓ cup in the recipe.
- Vegan options: Swap the dairy milk with almond milk, cashew milk or light coconut milk for a vegan version of this drink. Almond milk is a better choice here.
A classic Thandai Recipe must have nuts like almonds and pistachios, then seeds like melon seeds and poppy seeds. These are soaked and then blended into a smooth, fine paste with some fragrant spices, sugar and additional flavorings like that of rose or even saffron. The drink is finally made when this paste is dissolved in milk or water.
Yes, of course. Since this drink has cooling ingredients, it acts as a super coolant for the body during summers. It also provides an energy boost to our system. The obvious reasons for it to be an essential part of Holi celebrations in India too. It also is a source of protein, calcium and other nutrients coming from the milk and other ingredients used in it.
With the same base, the major difference between Bhang Thandai and the regular Thandai is that the former has a ground paste made from the leaves of the cannabis plant which is referred to as Bhang in Hindi. Inclusion of bhang in the drink makes it intoxicating, heady and gives a high.
Like for any other thing in life, even excess consumption of this summer beverage can have adverse effects on our health. One of the most important reasons for the same is that this drink is high on sugar. So, if you drink more of it, it can lead to a spike in your blood sugar levels as well as add to your weight too.
More Indian Beverage Recipes To Try!
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Thandai Recipe – Traditional Holi Recipe
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons almonds – 30 grams, rinsed
- 2 heaped tablespoons pistachios – 20 grams, unsalted and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds white, (khus khus)
- ¼ cup melon seeds – 30 grams
- 2 tablespoons rose petals – dried or fresh or swap with 2 tablespoons rose water or 2 tablespoons gulkand (rose preserve)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole black pepper
- 3 to 4 green cardamoms – husks removed and seeds kept
- 15 to 18 saffron strands – optional
- ½ cup sugar – 100 grams
- 8 cups milk – cold or chilled, add as needed
- ice cubes – as required, optional
- few rose petals or chopped almonds or pistachios for garnish
Soaking nuts and seeds
- In a bowl, pour 1 cup warm water.
- Then add almonds, pistachios, poppy seeds (khus khus), melon seeds, dried rose petals, fennel seeds and black pepper.
- Mix very well. Cover and keep aside for minimum one hour or two hours. If you use water at room temperature, then you can also keep overnight or for 4 to 5 hours in the fridge.
Making thandai paste
- After 1 to 2 hours, pour the whole mixture including the soaking water in a grinder or blender jar. Do make sure to use a high-speed grinder or blender.
- Add ½ cup sugar, seeds from 3 to 4 green cardamoms and the saffron strands.
- Blend the mixture to a very smooth and fine paste. Remove in a bowl and keep aside. You can cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.
Making thandai recipe
- To prepare thandai, take about 4 tablespoons of the thandai paste in a glass. You can add less or more thandai paste as needed.
- Add chilled milk. You can also use half-half combination of milk and water.
- Mix very well. Check the taste and add more sugar if needed.
- Add a few ice cubes if you like.
- Garnish with rose petals. You can also garnish with some chopped almonds or pistachios.
- Serve thandai immediately. Alternatively, you can prepare the thandai drink in a large mug or jug. Refrigerate and then serve.
- For make ahead, store the thandai paste in the refrigerator and it keeps well for a week.
- Nuts: Traditionally almonds and pistachios are included. Swap cashews with pistachios. For pistachios do not use the salted ones.
- Rose flavors: If using gulkand (rose petals preserve), then reduce the sugar to ⅓ cup. Or instead add 2 tablespoons rose water.
- Thandai paste consistency: Grind the paste very finely, especially if preparing for kids. You can even strain the thandai paste if your blender or mixer is not able to make a fine paste. If the paste is not super fine or finely ground, it will give a gritty and grainy texture in the drink.
- Peeling almonds: You can use peeled almonds if you want. Just blanch the almonds separately and then peel them.
- Vegan option: Use almond milk, cashew milk or lite coconut milk. Almond milk is a better choice for this recipe.
- Seeds: Skip poppy seeds and melon seeds if they are not available in your country. You can replace melon seeds with unsalted peeled pumpkin seeds.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Thandai recipe from the blog archives first published in March 2017 has been republished and updated on March 2023.
I got Organic Palm sugar. Can you please suggest it’s usage. I added it in amla murabba and it got very sour in taste.
And also can I use it in Ragi malt I learned from your site.
Hi Mahek, I have already replied to your email with these queries a few days back. Kindly check your inbox. I have given a detailed reply.
Excellent recipe. I skipped the fennel seeds, kesar and pistachio. despite that the result was awesome. i often refer to your recipes. one thing amazing is that the quantity and proportion of ingredients is just apt! since we do not prefer spicy food, chilly is the only ingredient i reduce..rest i keep in exact proportion and it always works like a miracle! you are a saviour
thanks again adi. felt nice to read your comment. balance in various tastes and flavor is very important in any dish. i am glad that my recipes do have this balance even if some ingredients are removed or reduced. in any indian recipe, spices and chillies can be easily reduced for less spicy food. even we don’t have spicy food. the green chillies i use are not at all pungent or hot. in the market one get both hot chillies and less hot chillies. thanks again.
Very nice recipe. I’m a big fan of ur recipes. All recipes are very easy and very good taste.
thanks radha and glad to know.
Am a very big fan of Ur blog. Love all your recipes. Have tried lot many. Looking forward to surprise my husband with the thandai tommorw.
Please tell me if there is substitute for melon seeds?? If not can I skip it
I couldn’t get it in the stores here????
thank you ashwini. there is no substitute for melon seeds. so you can skip them. a close relative is pumpkin seeds, but it will give a different taste, so i would not suggest to add them.
Can we skip the poppy seeds ?
yes you can skip poppy seeds.
Very nice recipe. Should the milk be heated before and then cooled?
Or can we use the milk directly from the tetra packs?
Welcome Shiva. If the milk is pasteurized then you don’t need to boil it. If the milk is raw then you will have to boil it and cool it.