Thandai is a popular and refreshing North Indian drink prepared during the festival of Holi and Mahashivratri! It is a dairy-based drink made by blending milk with a nutritious mix of nuts, seeds, and spices. Learn how to make this delicious thandai recipe with homemade thandai masala from scratch!
Holi is just a couple of days away! It is also known as the festival of colors, the festival of love, or the festival of spring! Holi signifies the victory of good over evil. It celebrates the arrival of spring and harvest season.
People all across India and the world celebrate Holi with vibrant colors and lots of sumptuous food! Holi celebration is incomplete without festive treats such as gujiya, malpua, dahi vadas, and especially Thandai! It is the quintessential Holi drink!
Somehow I’ve never ended up sharing the recipe for Thandai on the blog. This year I just had to share this Holi special thandai recipe with you guys! Bhang thandai is another popular variant in the northern states of India, however, there is no bhang in this recipe 😀
Table of Contents
What is thandai and what is it made of?
Thandai is derived from the word ‘thand’ or ‘thanda’ which translates to cold in Hindi. It is also known as sardai or shardai. The mix of ingredients that go into the making of this thandai drink is believed to have a cooling effect on the body, and ergo the name ‘thandai’! It is popular in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan!
This aromatic beverage is creamy, soothing, and tastes slightly nutty and sweet, with a hint of spice from the black pepper.
Thandai masala can be made in two ways;
- By soaking the ingredients for a couple of hours and then grinding it to a smooth paste. Soaking is the more traditional approach.
- By blending all the ingredients to make a dry powder.
Today, I’m sharing the traditional method because I prefer it prepared this way. I think it makes for a more flavorful thandai drink. I will share a whole new post on thandai powder for another time since that comes in super handy to flavor various desserts!
Making thandai at home is not as complicated as you think. The traditional method just needs a little planning, since the nuts and spices need to be soaked for a while.
Sardai is not only delicious but is also an excellent drink to boost your energy whenever you feel worn out by the scorching summer heat! It will surely help you get rid of your tiredness instantly. Besides that, it also helps boost immunity and aid digestion, thanks to an array of spices and nuts used!
Why you will love this kesar badam thandai recipe
This thandai recipe;
☑ Is free from preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors
☑ Is very adaptable, you may skip if you don’t have certain nuts or spices
☑ Does not contain a lot of sugar
☑ Can be made ahead, in fact, it is best when made ahead
☑ Has many health benefits
☑ Is vegetarian and gluten-free
Homemade Thandai masala: This is a mix of almonds, cashew nuts, pistachios, melon seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, green cardamom, nutmeg, black peppercorns, and dried rose petals.
Almonds and fennel seeds are the most important ingredient in this masala, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping them. You can play around with the rest of the ingredients to suit your palate.
Milk: I’ve used full-fat milk to make this thandai recipe.
Aromatics: I’ve added a little rose water and saffron-infused milk to enhance the flavor and color of the drink, though it tastes just as good without it.
How to make thandai at home – Step by step process
Step 1: Soak the nuts, seeds, spices, and dried rose petals
In a bowl, add 1/4 cup unsalted almonds and 2 tablespoons shelled and unsalted pistachios, soak in 1/2 cup of water for 4 to 6 hours or overnight. (Photos 1 to 4)
In a medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted cashew nuts, 2 tablespoons of melon seeds, 1 tablespoon each of fennel seeds, and poppy seeds along with 1/2 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of green cardamom seeds, and 2 tablespoons of edible dried rose petals. (Photos 5 to 11)
Add about 3/4 cup of water, mix well, cover, and set aside for 4 to 6 hours or overnight. (Photos 12 to 14)
Step 2: Grind the soaked ingredients
This is what the nuts, seeds, and dried rose petals look like after soaking for 4 hours. (Photo 15)
Peel the almonds and pistachios and add them to a blender. (Photo16 to 19)
Transfer the remaining ingredients to a blender along with the water. Also, add 1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg and 1/3 cup of mishri dana (rock sugar). (Photos 20 to 22)
Blend to a smooth paste. Add more water if needed to achieve a smooth paste. (Photos 23 and 24)
Step 3: Boil milk
Boil 1 liter of milk in a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. (Photos 25 and 26)
Add 2 tablespoons of hot milk to crushed saffron in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside. (Photos 27)
Switch off the heat and set aside the milk until it turns lukewarm. (Photo28)
Step 4: To make the thandai drink
Add the saffron-infused milk and thandai masala paste to the lukewarm milk, mix well. (Photos 29 to 31)
Taste and adjust with more sugar if needed.
Once the milk has cooled down completely, add 1 tablespoon of rose water (optional), mix well. Taste and adjust with another tablespoon of rose water if needed. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until chilled. (Photos 32 and 33)
I transferred it into a glass bowl since I used nonstick cookware. If using a steel pot or pan, you could refrigerate it as such. (Photos 34 and 35)
When you are ready to serve strain the thandai using a muslin cloth (the traditional way) or a fine-mesh sieve over a pitcher. (Photo 36)
Press on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract maximum flavor. (Photos 37 and 38)
Serve it over ice cubes or crushed ice in a glass or clay kullad. Chilled thandai is just so refreshing! Especially after playing Holi in the sweltering heat, this drink sure gives a lot of respite!
For a festive look, garnish with slivered almonds and/or pistachios, dried rose petals, and some saffron if you wish.
Serve it along with other Holi special snacks like mawa gujiya, dahi vada, etc.
The paste will keep well for up to 1 week in an airtight container. If you use milk to grind it, use it within 1 to 2 days.
The drink itself can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.
Listing a few variations to make individual servings. If you’d like to make a big batch, scale up the quantity of the flavoring ingredients.
Base recipe: Blend 3 to 4 tablespoons of thandai paste with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar (or sweetener of choice), and 200 ml of chilled milk (previously boiled and cooled). You may strain this or enjoy it as such! If the milk has already been sweetened with sugar while boiling, skip adding it here. Taste and add if needed.
Rose: Add 2 tablespoons of rose syrup or gulkand to the base recipe.
Strawberries: Add 1/2 cup diced strawberries or 1/4 cup of strawberry compote to the base recipe.
Mango: Add 1/4 cup of mango pulp or ripe mango pieces to the base recipe. Taste and adjust with more mango pulp if needed.
Paan: Add 1 betel leaf, 1 tablespoon of gulkand, with 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds to the base.
Vanilla: Add about 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to the base recipe. You could also flavor the milk with vanilla pods.
Thandai with alcohol: For an alcoholic version, you can consider spiking the drink with 1 to 2 oz (30 to 60 ml) of gin, white rum, or vodka.
Tips to make the best thandai recipe
Quality ingredients: Make sure the nuts and seeds are fresh and not from an old batch. They might impart a weird taste if the oils in the nuts turn rancid.
A richer version: Mix in some malai and rabdi for a decadent version, the way they serve it in Varanasi!
Full-fat milk: Use full-fat milk for best results though nonfat milk will also work in a pinch. But I highly suggest using whole milk. For a thicker and creamier thandai, you can substitute half of the milk with evaporated milk or half-and-half (equal parts heavy cream and milk).
Sweetness: I’ve not added a lot of sugar while blending, but that sweetness is perfectly fine for us. We do not prefer it very sweet. You could also use honey, maple syrup, date syrup, or any other sweetener of your choice.
Allow the thandai masala to steep in the milk: Once the prepared thandai masala paste is mixed with the milk, let it steep for 4 to 5 hours or overnight in the refrigerator in order to extract maximum flavor from the thandai masala. Strain before serving and enjoy!
Adjust the spice: Black pepper gives a kick that hits you in the back of the throat. Add as much as you can tolerate. This quantity here was good enough for us. If you are unsure about the heat, start off with maybe 8 to10 black peppercorns.
For an individual serving: Blend 3 to 4 tablespoons of thandai masala with 200 ml of chilled milk. Taste the sweetness and adjust as needed. Enjoy it as is or strain and serve.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How can I make a vegan version?
Use your favorite plant-based milk to make a vegan version. Almond milk or oat milk would be my preferred choices.
Can I make thandai without poppy seeds?
Yes, you can! If poppy seeds are not accessible where you live, simply leave them out.
Why is black pepper added to this recipe?
Black pepper is a good source of antioxidants, helps in boosting immunity, and also aids in digestion. Besides this, it provides many health benefits making it an important ingredient in an authentic thandai recipe.
The addition of black pepper enhances the cooling effect of the ingredients used to make thandai. If you’ve ever had this drink, I’m sure you would understand better.
When should we drink thandai?
Thandai is normally served during Holi and Shivratri. But that doesn’t mean you need to restrict yourself to enjoying this cooling beverage on just these days. This drink is perfect for the summers when you need to keep your body temperature cool. It will definitely refresh you!
Is thandai healthy?
Not really! Even though it has ingredients like healthy nuts and seeds, they are quite high in calories. Additionally, sugar is used to sweeten the drink.
Having said that, yes this homemade thandai recipe is way healthier than the readymade thandai masala powder or syrup/concentrate that contains a truckload of sugar and preservatives.
Like everything else, this must be consumed in moderation as well. I strongly believe that one should eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to stay fit.
Is there a difference between thandai and bhang?
Bhang is a preparation made from the leaves and flowers of the female cannabis or marijuana plant. It is made by soaking the leaves and flowers in water and then ground to a paste. In essence, this paste is referred to as bhang. This is then added to thandai to make a spiked beverage. I do not advocate the consumption of bhang. However, if you wish to add it to the thandai I would suggest you read this article.
Thandai is a non-alcholic drink that even kids can enjoy. You would want to go a little easy on the black pepper though so as to not make it too spicy for the little ones.
You may also enjoy these refreshing summer beverages
★ If you try this desi thandai drink, I would love to hear from you! I’d appreciate it if you could rate and leave a review below in the comments. Your reviews help others know the recipe better too. Thanks so much 🙂
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For the thandai masala
- 1/4 cup raw almonds 40 grams
- 10 unsalted cashew nuts 20 grams
- 20 to 25 unsalted pistachios. shelled 20 grams
- 2 tablespoons melon seeds 25 grams
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds 10 grams
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds 12 grams
- 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorn, adjust as per desired heat
- 12-15 green cardamom seeds, about 1 teaspoon
- 2 tablespoons edible dried rose petals
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup mishri dana (rock sugar), you may substitute with regular granulated sugar, adjust as per desired sweetness
For the thandai drink
- 1 cup of prepared thandai paste
- 1 liter full-fat/whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron strands, crushed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of rose water
- In a bowl, add almonds and pistachios, soak in 1/2 cup of water for 4 to 6 hours or overnight in the fridge.
- In a medium bowl, add cashew nuts, melon seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom, and edible dried rose petals.
- Add about 3/4 cup of water, mix well, cover, and set aside for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
- Peel the almonds and pistachios and add them to a blender.
- Transfer the remaining ingredients to a blender along with the water used for soaking. Also, add grated nutmeg and sugar.
- Blend to a smooth paste. Add more water if needed to achieve a smooth paste.
- Boil milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add 2 tablespoons of hot milk to crushed saffron in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Switch off the heat and set aside the milk until it turns lukewarm.
- Add the saffron-infused milk and thandai masala paste to the lukewarm milk, mix well.
- Taste and adjust with more sugar if needed.
- Once the milk has cooled down completely, add 1 tablespoon of rose water (optional), mix well. Taste and adjust with another tablespoon of rose water if needed. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until chilled.
- When you are ready to serve strain the thandai using a muslin cloth (the traditional way) or a fine-mesh sieve over a pitcher, pressing back against the solids to extract maximum flavor.
- Add some ice cubes or crushed ice to a serving glass, pour the thandai. Garnish with slivered nuts, dried rose petals, and saffron strands. Enjoy!
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