Thandai is a traditional Indian beverage popular in the North Indian states of UP and Rajasthan and is made especially for the festival of Holi. 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 to make this flavored spiced Holi drink (vegetarian, gluten-free).
About This Recipe
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 fruits, this festive drink is very refreshing, and a perfect summer cooler.
Thandai was traditionally made with a dose of Bhang (Cannabis) in it. Even today, some people add weed to it to make it intoxicating. But be very careful and try Bhang Thandai at your own risk. It’s not fun to get high on it if you are not used to it.
There are many readymade versions of this drink available in the market, but nothing beats the taste that the homemade one gives.
In fact, the taste of these readymade mixes is quite far from the real stuff and I highly suggest you make it from scratch at home.
Apart from 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 making it for a crowd.
Make this recipe for Holi celebrations, Maha Shivratri, or make it throughout the summer season to keep your body cool.
Milk – Best Thandai is made using whole milk (full-fat milk). Having said that, feel free to use skim or low-fat milk to make it.
To make vegan thandai, replace dairy milk with plant-based milk like almond milk, coconut milk, or cashew milk.
Dried Nuts, fruits, and Seeds – You will need dried seeds, fruits, and nuts like almonds, cashew nuts, raisins, poppy seeds, and magaz seeds (melon seeds).
Spices – This drink is flavored with whole spices like green cardamoms, black peppercorns, and fennel seeds.
Saffron – Adding saffron strands 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
Add 10-12 whole almonds, 10-12 whole cashew nuts, 25-30 whole black peppercorns, 10-12 raisins, 10-12 whole green cardamoms, 1 teaspoon poppy seeds, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon melon seeds, and 1 pinch saffron to a medium mixing bowl.
Add ½ cup water to the bowl and keep it over the counter for 5-6 hours or overnight.
Note – If it’s too hot where you live, then soak at room temperature for 3-4 hours and then refrigerate the soaked nuts 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 tablespoon of milk if required while blending.
Scrape the sides of the blender a few times while blending. Set the paste aside.
Heat 4 cups of milk in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat.
Stir frequently to prevent scorching at the bottom of the pan.
When the milk comes to a boil, stir in the paste that we made earlier, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon 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 the heat and let the mixture cool down for 10 minutes.
Refrigerate the milk mixture for 3-4 hours for the flavors to meld.
Now pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer 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.
Rose Thandai – Add some rose syrup-like rooh afza and rose preserve (gulkand) to the Thandai.
Paan Thandai – Blend a few paan (betel) leaves along with gulkand (rose jam) and this mixture to 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 remaining ingredients as mentioned in the recipe and follow the same process. However, I would like you to read this article before you decide to add it to your drink. Here you go.
Thandai is best served chilled, so make sure to make it a few hours before you plan to serve it.
It is the perfect drink to serve for the Holi festival. You can also serve it for other festive occasions and special days.
You can also add a few ice cubes to the glasses just before serving.
This refreshing drink tastes best when chilled. So prepare it the night before and chill it overnight. You can refrigerate it for up to 3-4 days in an airtight container. Stir well before serving.
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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
- 10-12 whole raisins
- 10-12 whole green cardamoms
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (skip if they are not available)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon melon seeds
- 1 pinch saffron
- 4 cups whole milk (or skim, low-fat or plant-baed milk)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon rose water
- 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 water to the bowl and keep it over the counter for 5-6 hours or overnight.
- Note – If it’s too hot where you live, then soak at room temperature for 3-4 hours and then refrigerate the soaked nuts 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.
- Heat milk in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent 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.
- Refrigerate the milk mixture for 3-4 hours for the flavors to meld.
- Now pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer 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.