Culinary Arts

A Guide to Raita, the Yogurt Sauce That Goes With Everything

Written by MasterClass

Feb 26, 2019 • 1 min read

Indian food is all about balance: the spices with the sweet, the bright bite of garlic and ginger and onion tempered by silky cream. For every aromatic burst of garam masala, you’ll find a rosewater syrup-soaked dessert. The key to that equilibrium often lies in the assortment of traditional accompaniments, from pickled chutneys to breads to raita—the undisputed king of cooling condiments.


What Is Raita?

Raita is a condiment and side dish from the Indian subcontinent, made with plain yogurt (dahi), spices, and a variety of vegetables—usually cucumber. Cool yogurt gets a refreshing lift from fresh lemon juice; cucumbers bring a hydrating relief to the palate. In South Indian cuisine, it’s known as pachadi.

Since yogurt aids in digestive health, raita is often served after main courses or as a palate cleanser.

What Is Raita Served With?

Cool, creamy raita is an excellent foil to the searing heat of spicy foods. It’s best served with classic Indian dishes like:

...but it can also fulfill all your other yogurt sauce needs. As a close relative of Greek tzatziki, raita is a great addition to:

Classic Raita Ingredients

Traditionally, raita is made with:

  • Plain yogurt (Greek yogurt works great, too)
  • Ground cumin
  • Grated (or finely diced) cucumber
  • Lemon juice

Herbs like fresh cilantro or mint leaves can also be incorporated to preference. Boondi raita incorporates small pearls of fried chickpea dough (besan) for a toastier flavor.

Easy Cucumber Raita Recipe

Ingredient Checklist

Total Time 15 min | Serves 4-6

Some preparations call for everything from black mustard to whole cumin seeds to green chili paste, but this simple raita gets the job done and comes together with zero effort.

  • 3 cups plain yogurt (full fat works best, but low-fat is fine—the texture will just be more runny)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and either grated or small-diced
  • Juice of one lemon, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh mint leaves, optional

Add all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir well to combine. Adjust seasoning as necessary!

3 Variations to Simple Raita Recipes

  1. Switch up the veggies. Instead of (or in addition to) the cucumber, add diced radishes.
  2. Amp up the citrus. Add ¼ of a finely chopped preserved lemon. Preserved lemons are widely available in grocery stores, but can also be easily found in Middle Eastern markets or online.
  3. Brighten it up. For a South Indian take on raita, add unsweetened grated coconut or finely diced green chilies.