Thandai for Holi

Holi, the Indian festival of colors is right around the corner and I’m in the mood for some cool, refreshing Thandai! It’s a mildly spiced, not too sweet, super refreshing milk-based cold drink that’s traditionally made for Holi in Northern India. While I didn’t actually grow up having it for the holiday celebrations, now after having tasted it, I absolutely love it! I’m sharing my simplified recipe for crafting the spice blend for infusing the milk. Additionally, I’m using almond milk instead of regular milk, transforming the traditional Indian beverage into a dairy-free and vegan Almond Milk Thandai for Holi.

Almond Milk Thandai

A new dimension to my holi

Growing up in Pune, Maharashtra, “puran poli” was the customary dessert I had for Holi every year. While I was familiar with Thandai as an ice cream flavor, it wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area and attended my first Holi event that I had the opportunity to taste the authentic drink. One sip, and I was hooked!

Almond Milk Thandai

Little did I know that discovering the authentic taste of Thandai would add a whole new dimension to my Holi celebrations. I could see why Thandai holds such a special place in the Indian culinary traditions, particularly during festive occasions like Holi. The cold milk-based drink with refreshing taste and aromatic blend of spices couldn’t be more perfect to welcome the fun and colorful springtime Indian holiday!

Almond Milk Thandai

the thandai masala

The Thandai milk derives its characteristic flavor from the Thandai Masala, a quintessential blend of various spices such as cardamom, fennel, white poppy seeds, peppercorns, saffron, ground together with almonds and rose petals. You’ll find variations with other nuts like cashews or seeds like watermelon seeds (known as “Char Magaz” in Hindi). The combination of spices, nuts, and seeds is ground to a fine powder, then stirred into cold milk and sweetened with sugar. After the masala has had a chance to steep into the milk, it is served chilled at Holi gatherings and celebrations. The infused milk drink traditionally served unstrained, but if you prefer a smooth texture, you can strain it before serving.

Thandai Masala

my simplified thandai masala

I have simplified the recipe for making the spice blend by using easily available ingredients like almond flour (made by grinding blanched almonds) or almond meal (made by grinding whole almonds with the skin). I tend to skip the watermelon seeds but include the white poppy seeds. If you can’t find white poppy seeds, you can simply use additional almond flour as a substitute. However, fennel seeds and black peppercorns are a must!

Thandai Masala

You can also substitute green cardamom seeds with ground cardamom, readily available in the spice aisle of your grocery stores. If you’re using whole cardamom pods, there’s no need to remove the seeds from the pods. In my recipe, I love to incorporate the sugar in the spice blend itself. It makes it even more easier to simply craft the blend and stir in the milk to make the drink. Moreover, you won’t need a special, high-powered food grinder or processor to make it. It’s a small batch recipe that can be made in your coffee or spice grinder!

Thandai Masala

Feel free to experiment with the proportions of spices or try adding your own twist to the recipe to suit your taste preferences. Whether it’s adjusting the sweetness level or incorporating alternative ingredients, Thandai can be customized to accommodate various dietary needs and flavor preferences. Additionally, you can multiply my recipe below and make a larger batch that you can store in the freezer for an extended shelf life. It comes in handy to make all kinds of Thandai-flavored desserts like Thandai Panna Cotta, Thandai Mini Cheesecakes, Thandai Sugar Donut Holes, and so much more!

almond milk thandai

Once the Thandai Masala is ready, simply stir it into milk to prepare the classic Holi drink. Traditionally, regular whole milk is used, but you can opt for any milk variety you prefer. Personally, I enjoy using almond milk instead of regular milk. Not only does it make my Thandai drink dairy-free and vegan, but it also amplifies the almond flavor from the Thandai Masala, adding richness and nuttiness that enhances the overall taste of the beverage.

Almond Milk Thandai

For those with dietary preferences or restrictions, feel free to experiment with alternative milk options such as soy milk, coconut milk, or oat milk. Additionally, consider enhancing your Thandai experience by adding a splash of rose water or garnishing with chopped nuts or dried fruits for an extra layer of texture and flavor. I’ve linked a short video below that I put together for you that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Almond Milk Thandai

  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


A simplified recipe for Thandai masala that’s used to infuse almond milk for a dairy-free & vegan twist on the traditional Indian drink for Holi.


Units Scale

Thandai Masala (makes ½ cup)

  • 1 tbsp white poppy seeds or khus khus (available in Indian stores or on Amazon)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 68 green cardamom pods (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 68 black peppercorns
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 cup blanched almond flour or almond meal
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp dried rose petals (or petals from dried rose buds)

Thandai Drink (per serving)

  • 1 cup of almond milk (see Variations)
  • 1 tbsp prepared Thandai Masala
  • sugar or sweetener of choice, as needed


Making the Thandai Masala

  • Transfer all the ingredients to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder (see FAQs & Notes for storage instructions)

Preparing Thandai Drink

  • Mix about 1 tbsp of the prepared Thandai Masala in 1 cup of cold almond milk.
  • Add more sugar to your desired level of sweetness and let it steep for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Strain it through a fine mesh sieve and serve chilled, topped with crushed rose petals.

Keywords: No-cook Recipes, Holi Special

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Can I use ground cardamom?

You can also substitute green cardamom seeds with 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, readily available in the spice aisle of your grocery stores. If you’re using whole cardamom pods, there’s no need to remove the seeds from the pods.

Can I make a larger batch of the Thandai Masala?

Yes, you can double or triple the recipe and make a larger batch of the Thandai Masala. Store it in an air-tight container, in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Recipe Variations

Use any milk of choice! You can use regular plan milk or it tastes amazing with almond, cashew or soy milk.!

Enhance your Thandai experience by adding a splash of rose water or garnishing with chopped nuts or dried fruits for an extra layer of texture and flavor

Happy cooking

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.


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