The raita is such a favorite side to round off any meal and today, I'm teaching you everything about it. It's a simple, fifteen minute recipe that has so many variations and can become spicy or plain, sweet or savory. I'm including recipes for vegetable, cucumber, boondi and mint raita to start you off!
This is awkward. Because this is probably the simplest recipe on the blog by far. But also the most versatile and I wasn't even sure about sharing it, but my love for raita has no limits and it's on our table every second day. Because if I want an extra side, I can just whip this up in minutes.
Let's circle back to how we can define this pretty dish. If you already know everything about the world of raita, feel free to skip my sermon and go straight to the recipe, but umm gimme a chance will ya?
Because maybe I have something new to say. Or maybe not. You'll never know.
Let's start with the main ingredient here - yogurt or curd as its called in India. These are not cheese curds, but basically plain yogurt. Not greek, because we don't want to make tzatziki here (which has some similarities to raita but is from Greece and is made mostly with cucumbers and really thick greek yogurt). Raita on the other hand likes to be thick, but also has a more liquidy consistency (also a choice thing) and is way more versatile.
What we are going to do is break down the raita mixture so that you can adapt it to whatever you want it to be.
How do you make raita?
I like to keep the yogurt to mix-ins ratio as 2:1 so if I'm using 2 cups yogurt, I'll add a cup of mix-ins which can include mixed vegetables, boondi, fruits (like pineapple, mango, apples) or mint. This keeps the consistency creamy but not super thick, while giving you a nice amount of mix-ins in every bite.
This is true of everything except mint which gets blended and is then added in. But the quantity remains the same.
Spice and herbs in raita
The most common spices used are roasted cumin powder (zeera) and red chilli powder. Some people also like to add coriander powder and chaat masala but I prefer without it. Cumin is added because it has cooling properties and is a great digestive. It adds a beautiful, smokiness and is definitely a must in my book. The most common herb that's used in this yogurt dip/side is coriander or cilantro, but mint is a great addition too. If you really like spice, add a few chopped green chillies or serrano peppers to get that herby spiciness that makes this dish even better.
Raita has many variations and you can add absolutely anything to it. Here are a few of my favorites:
Grate 3 large cucumbers and add ½ teaspoon salt. Let the cucumber sit for ten minutes and then squeeze the liquid out. You can use the liquid to dilute the yogurt if you like. Finally you'll be left with about a cup of grated cucumber. Mix this in two cups whisked yogurt with cumin powder, salt and chopped green chillies. Top with some chopped coriander for a herbed cucumber dip.
Blend together 1 firmly packed cup of mint leaves with one green chilli and a splash of water till smooth (or chunky if that's what you like). You can also pound this in a mortar pestle. Mix this into two cups of whisked yogurt with salt and a pinch of sugar. This is popularly served with kebabs, grilled tandoori dishes and with naan as a dipping sauce.
This has many variations, and in the south its called pineapple pachadi, but here's a super basic recipe that you can make quickly. Stew pineapple pieces with a little sugar till soft. Add this to whisked yogurt with chopped green chillies and salt. You can also temper mustard seeds and curry leaves in oil and add it on top for a really flavor packed side.
Boondi are crunchy, fried drops made with besan and they are incredibly delicious! Some people prefer soaking boondi in warm water for a few minutes and then squeezing out the liquid before adding it to whisked yogurt. But I prefer adding them whole, because they quickly soak up the yogurt and become soft as they sit. This way, you get a nice mix of crunchy and soft boondis. If you live outside India, boondi is available on Amazon or in Indian stores. Same ratio: add one cup of boondi for every two cups of whisked yogurt. Add some chaat masala, half teaspoon sugar and salt and mix everything together.
What I have for you today is a really simple recipe for vegetable raita which we eat almost daily. It has a mixture of cucumbers, tomato, bell peppers and coriander mixed into yogurt. It's simple, packs a lot of veggies in and goes so well with almost everything!! We mostly eat it with rice and dal, biryanis and pulaos or sometimes, I eat leftovers as an evening snack!
Pair this with:
Indian Raita - How to make it and its many variations!
- 3 cups Thick plain Yogurt Note 1
- 1 teaspoon Salt Note 2
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
- 1 Green Chilli finely chopped (or Serrano Pepper optional)
- ½ teaspoon Red Chilli Powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 Onion finely chopped (small)
- 2 Persian Cucumbers finely chopped
- 1 Tomato finely chopped (large )
- 1 Green Bell Pepper finely chopped
- ½ cup Loosely packed Cilantro finely chopped (Note 3)
- Whisk together yogurt, salt, cumin powder, green chilli and chilli powder till smooth. Add all the vegetables and mix well.
- Refrigerate for half an hour before serving. You will notice after refrigeration that the veggies will leave a little water. Just give it a quick mix and you are ready to go.
- Use fresh yogurt or curd that is not sour. If using day old yogurt or curd, be sure to taste before using. You also won't be able to store it for longer if you are using sour curd or yogurt.
- Plain yogurt can be easily replaced with greek yogurt, but since its thicker, add a little water to dilute it. ¼ cup water for this recipe should be enough.
- Raitas are usually mildly salted. Feel free to increase the amount of salt, and adjust according to taste. You can also add a bit of black salt and/or chaat masala for a bit more umami.
- If you are going to serve raita anywhere after two hours, add the coriander just before serving so that you can preserve its fresh flavours.
- Raita can be made the previous night or in the morning and refrigerated easily for 8-10 hours.