Thandai is a traditional Indian beverage popular in the North Indian states of UP and Rajasthan and is made especially for the festivals of Holi and Shivratri. It is quite refreshing to drink and is loaded with some rich ingredients like dried nuts & fruits, seeds, fragrant spices, and saffron. Here is a traditional recipe for this flavored spiced Holi drink (vegetarian, gluten-free).
Thandai is a traditional Indian drink popular in Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Rajasthan. It’s also known as Sardai in some parts of India.
This beverage is made especially for the festivals of Holi and Maha Shivaratri. No Holi celebration in North India is complete without this refreshing Indian cold drink.
The word Thandai comes from the Hindi word Thand means cold. Thandai drink has a cooling effect on the body, hence the name.
Made using milk and a lot of aromatic spices, dried nuts, and dried fruits, this festive drink is very refreshing and a perfect summer cooler.
Thandai was traditionally made with a dose of Bhang (Cannabis). Even today, some people add weed to it to make it intoxicating. But be very careful and try Bhang Thandai at your own risk. Getting high on it is not fun if you are not used to it.
Many readymade versions of this drink are available in the market, but nothing beats the taste that the homemade one gives.
The taste of these readymade mixes is quite far from the real stuff, and I highly suggest you make it from scratch at home.
Besides its delicious taste, Thandai has some great benefits for the body. I am listing a few here.
- Boost Immunity
- Gives instant energy
- Cool down the body
- Aids digestion
This recipe can be easily scaled if it is for a crowd.
Make this recipe for Holi celebrations, Maha Shivratri, or throughout the summer to keep your body cool.
Here are some more refreshing Indian drink recipes that you may like
- Saffron Milk
- Mango Mastani
- Mohabbat Ka Sharbat
- Rose Lassi
- Haldi Doodh
- Badam Milk
- Sol Kadhi
Milk – Best Thandai is made using whole milk (full-fat milk) as it makes it rich and creamy. Use skim or low-fat milk to make it healthier.
To make vegan thandai, replace dairy milk with plant-based milk like almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, etc.
Dried nuts, fruits, and seeds – You will need dried seeds, fruits, and nuts like almonds, cashew nuts, raisins, white poppy seeds, and magaz seeds (melon seeds).
You can also add some pumpkin seeds or watermelon seeds to the recipe.
If poppy seeds are not available, then skip adding them.
Spices – This drink is flavored with whole spices like green cardamom pods (hari elaichi), black peppercorns (kali mirch), and fennel seeds (saunf).
Saffron – Adding strands of saffron is optional, but it makes the drink even richer. It also adds a hint of yellow color to Thandai.
Sugar – Adjust the sugar as per your taste. You can also sweeten it with honey or maple syrup.
Rose Water – Rose water makes this drink very refreshing.
How To Make Thandai
Make The Thandai Paste
- 10-12 whole almonds
- 10-12 whole cashew nuts
- 25-30 whole black peppercorns
- 10-12 raisins
- 10-12 whole green cardamoms
- 1 teaspoon white poppy seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon melon seeds
- 1 pinch of saffron strands
to a medium mixing bowl.
Add ½ cup of water to the bowl and mix everything well.
Cover the bowl with a lid and keep it over the counter for 5-6 hours or overnight.
Note – If it’s too hot where you live, soak the ingredients at room temperature for 3-4 hours and refrigerate them for another 2-3 hours.
Add the soaked ingredients and the leftover water to a blender and blend to make a fine paste.
Add 2-3 tablespoon of milk if required while blending.
Scrape the sides of the blender a few times while blending. Set the paste aside.
Cook The Thandai
Heat 4 cups of milk in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat.
Stir frequently to prevent the milk from scorching at the bottom of the pan.
When the milk comes to a boil, stir in the paste that we made earlier, along with ¼ cup of granulated white sugar and ½ teaspoon rose water.
Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir frequently.
Check for sugar, add more if required, and cook for another minute.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool down for 10 minutes.
Transfer the milk mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate it for 3-4 hours for the flavors to mingle.
Strain The Thandai
Now pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, muslin cloth, or a nut milk bag, and discard the leftover pulp.
Pour the Thandai into serving glasses.
Garnish with fresh or dried rose petals and slivered dried nuts. Serve chilled. You can also add a few cubes to each glass.
Pro Tips By Neha
If you don’t like the spicy kick, reduce the black peppercorns.
Increase the fennel seeds if making it as a summer drink to enhance its cooling effect.
The leftover pulp after straining the thandai can be used in curries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, thandai drink has many health benefits; drinking a glass full of it daily will be great for your body. Add less sugar to make it healthier.
Thandai is a cooling drink and is mainly served chilled. It is advisable to avoid drinking chilled drinks at night. But if you want to drink thandai at night, you can heat it, froth a little, and serve it warm and bubbly.
Rose Thandai – Add some rose syrup-like rooh afza and rose preserve (gulkand) to the Thandai.
Paan Thandai – Blend a few paan (betel) leaves, gulkand (rose jam), and add this mixture into the classic Thandai recipe.
With Fruits – You can puree your choice of fruits like strawberries, mangoes, guava, etc., and add the puree to the Thandai for fruity flavors. Mango thandai is my favorite of the lot.
With Bhang (Cannabis) – To make Thandai with Bhang, soak 12-15 cannabis along with the ingredients mentioned in the recipe and follow the same process.
You can add readymade bhang paste to the Thandai instead of soaking the bhang.
However, I would like you to read this article before you decide to add it to your drink. Here you go.
Kesar Thandai is best served chilled, so make sure to make it a few hours before you plan to serve it.
You can also serve it for other festive occasions and special days.
You can add a few ice cubes to the glasses before serving.
This refreshing drink tastes best when chilled. So prepare it the night before and refrigerate it overnight.
You can refrigerate it for 3-4 days in an airtight container. Stir well before serving.
You can also freeze it to make thandai ice cream.
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Homemade Thandai Recipe (Flavored Spiced Holi Drink)
- 10-12 whole almonds
- 10-12 whole cashew nuts
- 25-30 whole black peppercorns (kali mirch)
- 10-12 whole raisins (kishmish)
- 10-12 whole green cardamoms (hari elaichi)
- 1 teaspoon white poppy seeds (khus khus) (skip if they are not available)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 teaspoon melon seeds (magaz)
- 1 pinch saffron (kesar) (optional but highly recommended)
- 4 cups whole milk (full-fat milk) (or skim, low-fat or plant-based milk)
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon rose water
Make Thandai Paste
- Add almonds, cashew nuts, black peppercorns, raisins, green cardamoms, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, melon seeds, and saffron to a medium mixing bowl.
- Add ½ cup of water to the bowl and stir well.
- Cover the bowl with a lid and keep it over the counter for 5-6 hours or overnight.
- Note – If it’s too hot where you live, then soak the ingredients at room temperature for 3-4 hours and then refrigerate them for another 2-3 hours.
- Add the soaked ingredients to a blender along with the leftover water and blend to make a fine paste. Add 2-3 tablespoons of milk if required while blending. Scrape the sides of the blender a few times while blending. Set the paste aside.
Cook The Thandai
- Heat milk in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from scorching at the bottom of the pan.
- When the milk comes to a boil, stir in the paste that we made earlier, sugar, and rose water.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir frequently.
- Check for sugar and add more if required and cook for another minute.
- Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool down for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the milk mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate it for 3-4 hours for the flavors to mingle.
Strain The Thandai
- Now pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, muslin cloth, or a nut milk bag, and discard the leftover pulp.
- Pour the Thandai into serving glasses. Garnish with rose petals and slivered dried nuts. Serve chilled. You can also add a few cubes to each glass.