Have you ever eaten something spicy at an Indian restaurant and noticed a timid bowl with a yogurt sauce? Well, let me introduce you to raita - the perfect, Indian yogurt sauce and awesome palate cleanser.
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. But if you're in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
💭 Why you'll love this recipe
- It acts as an awesome Indian palate cleanser: This yogurt-based condiment is meant to help you cool your palate, and balance spicy flavors in Indian cooking.
- Raita offers a ton of health benefits. Yogurt has almost nutrient that your body needs (calcium, vitamin B, and even protein). Yogurt that is not pasteurized contains probiotics which are great for digestion!
- Super customizable and versatile: In addition to being a core side for Indian dishes, raita makes for a great salad dressing, dip or sauce! For instance, I love drizzling raita on my gochujang cauliflower tacos.
📋 Ingredients and notes
There are two main ingredients that form the base - yogurt and salt. The toppings and spices you add on top are versatile (and you can find several in the variations below). I use onions, green chilis, cumin, and cilantro in my basic raita recipe.
A lot of traditional raitas will use cucumbers - however, if you've read my About Me page, you'll know I'm deathly allergic to them. And I'd never share a recipe here I don't make or eat. So, no cucumbers in the recipe, but feel free to add them in!
Top tips for raita ingredients
- Use plain yogurt, and try to avoid Greek yogurt. Indian yogurt (dahi) is less "solid" than Greek yogurt, and is unflavored. If you only have Greek yogurt on hand, add ⅓ cup of water per 3 cups of Greek yogurt and mix well to bring it to the optimal consistency.
- Chill the yogurt first. This is meant to be a cool yogurt condiment. So, I suggest chilling your yogurt and make sure to add any other fresh herbs right before serving.
- Salt to your tastes! Technically, raita can be sweet or savory. But the base almost always has a pinch of salt - my recipe uses a mild amount of salt (about ¼ teaspoon for every 3 cups of yogurt). You can increase or decrease to your liking (also depending on whether you want a sweet or savory version)
- Add an optional tadka at the end. My mother's version of raita contains some mustard seeds and green chili peppers toasted in ghee and added on top. This tadka (or tempering) is delicious, and I invite you to try it out if you're up for it!
📖 Raita ideas to try at home!
There are a million combinations, but they all involve whisking yogurt with the toppings and spices to ensure a smooth consistency (except for the mint one, but read to find out more about that)
- Mint Raita. You can pulse mint with cilantro and green chili pepper, and add that to the yogurt, along with finely chopped red onions and spices.
- Boondi Raita. Boondi are small, fried chickpea flour drops eaten as snacks in India. For this version, you make the basic raita and then add boondi on top. It's crunchy at first, but absorbs the yogurt so you get this mixture of crisp and soft boondi.
- Masala Raita. In addition to the basic raita, this version has carrots and other vegetables, as well as garam masala and red chili powder
- Mango Raita. Mango and other fruits are common in sweet raitas. You pulse some of the mangoes with the yogurt and top with slices as well.
👩🏽🍳Top tips and FAQs
It can be hard to find traditional green chili outside Indian stores - you can use Serrano pepper or jalapenos in a pinch, or Thai green chili peppers if you can find those.
Both use the same base ingredients (namely yogurt and cucumbers). However, raita uses softer yogurt, while tzatziki uses thick, plain Greek yogurt as well as lemon juice to add an acid component.
Yes, you can, though you'll want to thin it out first. Add ⅓ cup of water to every 3 cups of Greek yogurt and whisk well to get it thin.
Yes, though it's untraditional, sour cream works in raita. I suggest adding a squeeze of lemon juice and/or zest to balance the notes.
To make a tadka, first heat up some ghee in a pan. Then, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, and cumin seeds as well as red chili powder and turmeric. Sauté until fragrant (30 seconds) and pour this mixture on top of the raita.
It's the masala used to flavor raita. If you want to buy some, check for "chaat masala" or just combine cumin, coriander and salt.
Yes, you can use Greek yogurt, vegan yogurt or even sour cream as seen above. In a pinch, I used crème fraiche. You just need a cool cream component and some awesome toppings!
🍴 Serving and storage suggestions
You can store this in the fridge overnight (or up to 8-12 hours). Just make sure to add fresh herbs (like cilantro) right before you serve it since they can get really soggy.
What can you eat with raita? Almost anything! Here are a few ideas to get your started:
- Use as a palate cleanser for biryani or other spicy rice, like jollof rice
- Serve as an Indian yogurt dip or condiment with your favorite fried or grilled foods (like vegan fritters, smashed potatoes or avocado fries!)
- If you have leftover pita or naan at home, you can use it as a dipping sauce for that. Or you can serve it with crudités.
- Use as salad dressing! Some people consider raita to be a salad, but you can use the basic version on any hearty salad (like on my kale salad in lieu of the parsley dressing or in this vegan Caesar salad)
- Use it as a sauce for tacos - once in a while, when I want to tone down the spice for my gochujang cauliflower tacos, I add a raita sauce to it. Talk about mixing flavors from all over the world.
- Turn it into a chilled soup. You can add some cold water to it, thin it out and serve it as a chilled soup.
- Use it as a marinade, if you have a meat-lover in your life. If you add a few more spices to your liking, you can use this as a marinade for almost anything (salmon, lamb, chicken, etc.)
If you like this recipe, check out my other Indian recipes:
- 3 cups plain yogurt, see note for Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
- 1 red onion, medium
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 green chili pepper, de-seeded, Thai or Serrano
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- Chop onions and green chili peppers finely. Add this along with cumin powder and salt and mix well to combine.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve chilled!
- Typically, raita recipes include cucumbers, but I've left that out here because I'm very allergic to cucumbers! Please feel free to include 1 cucumber in this recipe.
- Greek yogurt is typically too thick for this recipe, so if using that, dilute with ⅓ cup of water per 3 cups of Greek yogurt to get to the right consistency
- For other variations featuring mint, boondi, and other unique toppings, check the main post.
Note: This recipe was originally published on August 2, 2020. It was updated on March 28, 2021 to include more details and answers to commonly asked questions.