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.

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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.