Thandai

Refreshing Indian drink, Thandai is made with nuts, saffron, rose water, fennel seeds, cardamom, peppercorns! 

This homemade version is so much better than the Thandi you get in stores. 

thandai in a small clay pot with small bowls with rose petals, cardamom on the sides and more clay pots of thandai in the backround

Holi, the festival of colors will be here soon and I am getting homesick as usual. I do miss home all the time but it’s during festivals that I get terribly homesick.

No matter how much you try, these festivals can never feel the way they feel back home. While I can’t do much about it, I try to feel festive by cooking all the special things that mom would make around this time.

One must make dish for Holi is obviously Gujiya (a sweet dumpling filled with dried milk) and the other is this drink, Thandai.

What is Thandai

Thandai is a refreshing summer drink popular in India and is always served during festivals of Holi and also Mahashivratri. It’s also known as Shardai.

For Holi, bhang (the leaves and flower heads of cannabis) in little amount is added to thandai but my version is minus the bhang since this is what we were allowed to drink when we were kids. No getting high for us!

Thandai is made using a number of nuts and spices which are said to have a cooling effect on the body and hence the name “Thandai”, which in Hindi means “cooling”.

The use of peppercorn, almonds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds along with saffron, cardamom and rose water makes thandai a very refreshing and delicious drink.

It’s a great drink to serve to especially during summers in India when temperatures are 110 F +!

3 small clay pots filled with thandai arranged on a black antique plate with two small bowls filled with rose petals and cardamom on the sides

How to Make Thandai

To make thandai you make a paste of almonds, peppercorns, poppy seeds, cardamom, fennel seeds and watermelon seeds.

This mix of spices and nuts is then mixed with milk along with sugar, saffron and rose water.

Once you have mixed in the spices-nut mixture with the milk, set it aside for around 1 hour so that the milk absorbs all the flavors.

Because we eventually strain the mixture it’s important for the milk to absorb the flavors before we do that.

Thandai is supposed to be served chilled, it doesn’t taste half as good when it’s at room temperature.

Remember to use whole milk for this thandai recipe. Yes, you can very well make this drink with fat free milk too but it just tastes so much better with whole milk.

The quantity of sugar and the amount of spices in this recipe can be adjust to taste.

If you want stronger flavors in your thandai, add more of peppercorns that for little heat or more of the fennel seeds for that cooling effect.

glass full of thandai with a yellow pitcher in the background

This recipe can be made in advance and refrigerated. So if you have a holi party planned, make thandai 1 to 2 days in advance and then just serve at your party.

For me, no Holi is complete without some homemade thandai so I am definitely going to make a pitcher full and enjoy it. 

Method

1- First blanch the almonds. You can soak them overnight or soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes and then peel off the skin. It would easily come off.

2- Transfer the blanched almond to a blender along with peppercorns, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, watermelon seeds and cardamom pods.

3- Grind to a smooth paste. You may add little milk for grinding if needed. I didn’t add any. This is the thandai masala, set it aside.

4- Add milk to a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Stir in between and let it come to a slight boil. 

5- While the milk is getting heated up, remove 2 to 3 tablespoons of the hot milk from the pan and transfer to a small bowl. Crush saffron strands between your fingers and add it to the hot milk. Let it sit until it gets a nice yellow color.

6- Once milk comes to a boil, lower the heat and add the thandai masala to it.

7- Use a wire whisk to mix it all together. 

8- Then add the sugar and mix until it dissolved. Turn off the heat.

step by step pictures of making thandai at home

9- Add the saffron-milk mixture to the pan and stir. Let the thandai sit like this for 30 minutes.

10- After 30 minutes, add rose water and stir. Let it sit for another 30 to 60 minutes. This is important for the milk to absorb all the flavors of the spices before we strain it.

11- After it’s been sitting for a while and all the milk has absorbed all the flavors, strain the thandai using a sieve into a pitcher. 

12. Press the solid thandai masala that collects into the sieve with the back of a spoon as you strain it- this is to get the maximum flavors out of the spices into the thandai.

step by step pictures of making thandai at home

Transfer the pitcher to a refrigerator and chill, preferably overnight. To serve, pour thandai into glasses and garnish with sliced nuts like pistachios, almond, rose petals and saffron strands!

thandai in a small clay pot with small bowls with rose petals, cardamom on the sides and more clay pots of thandai in the backround

If you’ve tried this Thandai Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in 2015.

Thandai

Thandai is a refreshing Indian drink made with milk, peppercorn, almonds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, cardamom, saffron and rose! It's especially served during the festival of Holi.

thandai in a small clay pot with small bowls with rose petals, cardamom on the sides and more clay pots of thandai in the backround
Course Beverage
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Thandai
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5
Calories: 277 kcal
Author: Manali
5 from 2 votes
Print

Ingredients

Thandai Masala

  • 35-40 almonds, blanched
  • 20 black peppercorns, whole
  • 4 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 4 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoon watermelon seeds
  • 15-20 green cardamom pods

Thandai

  • 1 liter whole milk, around 4 cups
  • 1/2 cup sugar , 100 grams, or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons rose water , 30-45 ml
  • strands of saffron
  • sliced nuts, to garnish
  • rose petals, to garnish

Instructions

Make Thandai Masala/Paste

  1. First blanch the almonds. You can soak them overnight or soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes and then peel off the skin. It would easily come off.

  2. Transfer the blanched almond to a blender along with peppercorns, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, watermelon seeds and cardamom pods.

  3. Grind to a smooth paste. You may add little milk for grinding if needed. I didn't add any. This is the thandai masala, set it aside.

Make Thandai

  1. Add milk to a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Stir in between and let it come to a slight boil. 

  2. While the milk is getting heated up, remove 2 to 3 tablespoons of the hot milk from the pan and transfer to a small bowl. Crush saffron strands between your fingers and add it to the hot milk. Let it sit until it gets a nice yellow color.

  3. Once milk comes to a boil, lower the heat and add the thandai masala to it. Use a wire whisk to mix it all together.

  4. Then add the sugar and mix until it dissolved. Turn off the heat.

  5. Add the saffron-milk mixture to the pan and stir. Let the thandai sit like this for 30 minutes.

  6. After 30 minutes, add rose water and stir. Let it sit for another 30 to 60 minutes. This is important for the milk to absorb all the flavors of the spices before we strain it.

  7. After it's been sitting for a while and all the milk has absorbed all the flavors, strain the thandai using a sieve into a pitcher.

  8. Press the solid thandai masala that collects into the sieve with the back of a spoon as you strain it- this is to get the maximum flavors out of the spices into the thandai.

  9. Transfer the pitcher to a refrigerator and chill, preferably overnight. 

  10. To serve, pour thandai into glasses and garnish with sliced nuts like pistachios, almond, rose petals and saffron strands!

Recipe Notes

Thandai should be served chilled. So chill it for 4 to 5 hours before serving, preferably overnight.

You can make thandai few days in advance. Keep it refrigerated. 

Nutrition Facts
Thandai
Amount Per Serving
Calories 277 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 17%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 89mg 4%
Potassium 424mg 12%
Total Carbohydrates 36g 12%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 30g
Protein 9g 18%
Vitamin A 6.5%
Vitamin C 1.9%
Calcium 32.1%
Iron 9.6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

24 thoughts on “Thandai

  1. Love the flavors in this drink and it does look refreshing! I know exactly what you are talking about, I’ve lived in the US for over 10 years, but get homesick at times,especially during some holidays, when I’m not there 🙂

  2. Absolutely stunning Thandaai Manali! I wish I could have that jugful thandaai right now! I feel for you dear!
    Even though I visit my family every year, but not on the festivals, and I feel the same! 3 years time is a long span!:-(
    But don’t worry you will get to see your parents in couple of months! Cheers to that! 🙂

    1. Thanks Anu! I visit India every year too, just that I feel homesick during festivals! But yeah mom dad will be here soon, so looking forward 🙂

  3. I love when you share traditional recipes like this. It’s fun to learn about Indian culture and different kinds of foods that I maybe haven’t been exposed to before. I’ve wanted to try saffron for the longest time, and haven’t gotten around to it. I need to try it! This drink sounds so refreshing and flavorful. So many good spices! I’m sorry that you are homesick, Manali! That must be so hard!! Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe!

  4. I have to try this drink! Looks delicious with all that spices, which I love. Interesting story about the addition of bhang, I think it would be a very popular drink in some communities around the globe hahaha. It’s amazing how food can bring so many memories, right?

  5. Manali, you won’t believe I was thinking to make Thandai! and there you already made it! It is such a staple during Holi in our family! Love the pictures! really refreshing, and yumm! want a glass right now! pinned

  6. This looks so delicious. I miss India and all Indian food too!! I can’t find all Indian ingredients here in Japan but I have everything already at home for thandai so going to make it today!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *