Use this Cucumber Mint Raita as a creamy accompaniment to spicy dishes. This traditional Indian yogurt-based side dish has a crisp cucumber crunch complimented by mint and a few Indian spices for a perfect balance to your desi dinner.
Cucumber raita is a popular yogurt-based side dish that you'll typically see on every menu at any Indian restaurant. If the food ends up being too spicy, I always ask for a side of cucumber raita because the yogurt plus high-water content in the cucumbers are especially cooling.
My favorite way to enjoy it is in the summer during peak cucumber and grilling season. A heaping side of raita with grilled tandoori chicken or kebabs is just *chef's kiss*.
As a kid, I was always tasked with preparing the cucumber or boondi raita when we had family friends over for dinner. It's truly so simple and straightforward to make it.
Why you'll love this Recipe
A quick raita adds so much balance to Indian main dishes that are packing flavor and heat. Here's why we love Cucumber Raita:
- It's easy to customize with additional fruits or vegetables such as pomegranate arils, grated carrots, or raw red onion. You can also scale back the spices and just use salt and roasted ground cumin.
- Raita takes 5 minutes between dicing or grating the cucumber and mixing everything together.
- It can be used as a cooling side dish, a dip, or as a sauce for wraps and grain bowls.
- If you've had something especially spicy, raita quickly relieves the burning sensation thanks to the casein in cow's milk.
What is Raita?
Raita is an Indian side dish made with a base of dahi - or plain full-fat yogurt - with varying fruits, vegetables, herbs, hot chili, and spices. It's typically served as an accompaniment to spicy foods like biryani, kebabs, and pulao to take the heat down a notch.
It's also popularly used as a sauce or yogurt dip. It's also extremely similar to tzatziki, so it may taste familiar in many ways.
There are several ways to make a raita! Boondi Raita has small fried balls of besan, Cucumber Raita has grated or diced cucumbers, and some raitas are topped with a tadka. It varies household to household, region to region, as well as seasonally. But they're always a simple and quick side dish to make.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
Raitas are famously easy to make with a few simple ingredients. Only a few spices, mint, cucumber, and yogurt are needed for Cucumber Raita.
- Yogurt - Dahi, or curd, is traditionally used for Indian raitas. The next best substitute is whole milk yogurt. After that, plain whole fat Greek yogurt or skyrr can work as well. Low fat and vegan substitutes are totally fine as well.
- Cucumber - Use a seedless cucumber. If there are seeds, be sure to scoop them out so that the extra moisture doesn't thin out the raita or add an unappetizing texture.
- Spices - My mom's recipe uses freshly ground black pepper, roasted ground cumin, chaat masala, a hot chili powder, and something called kala namak. Kala namak translates to black salt, and it's a funky tasting Himalayan salt that can be found at Indian grocers or online. Use Himalayan pink salt or regular table salt if it's difficult to find.
- Mint - Our household uses dried mint, or pudina. Freshly chopped mint or cilantro work as well.
How to make Cucumber Raita
To prep, dice or grate about half of a large seedless cucumber for about a cup of cucumber. Whether you grate or dice the cucumber is completely dependent on your preferred texture.
If you dice the cucumber, you'll get a bit of a satisfying crunch. Grating the cucumber will release more liquid, so it'll thin down the yogurt and the texture will be chunky.
If you're using fresh cilantro or mint as opposed to dried mint, you'll want to finely chop it.
Transfer the yogurt into a serving bowl. Whisk the yogurt to reincorporate the whey. Add the spices, dried mint, and diced or grated cucumbers into the bowl with the yogurt. Mix it really well.
If desired, you can also add grated carrots, diced red onion, and garnish with kashmiri chili powder for a pop of color.
And that's seriously it! Taste it and make any adjustments to the salt and spices according to preference.
Serve it chilled.
Dishes to Serve with Raita
Raita is especially delicious with spicy food, because it'll completely cool down any heat you're feeling. You'll see it served with spicy meat dishes like Chicken Biryani and Butter Chicken, or served as a dip with Lamb Tikka or Butter Chicken Wings and Chicken 65.
Store the raita in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Past this, the cucumber will become mushy and rot, so it's best to use it within a day or two.
More Side Dishes to try
Cucumber Mint Raita
- ½ cup carrot, grated
- ¼ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Whisk the yogurt in a mixing bowl until smooth.
- Add the spices, dried mint, and diced cucumber into the mixing bowl with the yogurt.
- Taste for spices and adjust according to preferences.
- Serve chilled.