Raita is a classic yogurt salad that completes many a Pakistani and Indian meal. Here’s a basic, everyday cucumber raita I’ve grown up with. It’s an easy recipe that can be whipped up in minutes with ingredients you likely have on hand. I’ve also included optional add-ins to give you an idea of the endless possibilities.
A raita recipe? Really?
This reminds me of the time when Nigella Lawson, much to the public’s dismay, shared her avocado toast. Not that I’m comparing myself to her, but, you know, self-explanatory recipes carry the risk of underwhelming your audience. Especially when the recipes aren’t particularly creative, which mine isn’t. (At least Nigella had something going with the crunchy pink radishes.)
Nonetheless, I remember googling how to make raita many years ago when I would always eyeball the salt and it would always be too much. So exactly how much salt do you need? And how many vegetables? Should the cucumber be peeled or unpeeled? I had questions.
I find biryani, pulao, and many vegetarian curries (especially dry ones) incomplete without raita, if only in the form of whipped yogurt. It harmoniously balances the meal: yogurt for cool and creamy acidity, vegetables for crunch and texture, and herbs for vibrance and freshness. So it only makes sense to share my love and learnings on the blog.
How to decrease bitterness in cucumbers
I remember when I first saw my husband chop a cucumber. He cut off about half an inch from the stem and rubbed both parts against each other. He explained that does it because his mom did it, and he’s not sure how it works but it’s supposed to remove bitterness.
I thought it was a typical ‘grandma’s pot roast’ scenario. When you call mom to ask why she always cuts the ends off the pot roast and she says because that’s the way grandma did it. You ask grandma only to find out she cut it off to fit it in her oven.
But then I came to find out Julie Sahni in Classic Indian Cooking recommends the same trick – rub the stem end against the cucumber until a white film starts to build. Epicurious echoes this, explaining how cucurbitacins (a bitter compound) accumulate at the peels and ends. They suggest you cut off the ends before peeling it to avoid spreading the bitterness.
If you’re able to find young Persian cucumbers, you likely won’t have the bitterness problem. But if you do, now you know how to remove it. It wasn’t just a weird thing my in-laws did after all.
Now to answer the questions I may or may not have googled as a young lass:
- How much salt?
I like to keep the salt subtle. Start with 1/4 tsp kosher salt, then add up to 1/8 tsp more, if desired.
- What type of yogurt should you use?
I always use plain, whole milk yogurt. I wouldn’t recommend using greek, but if you do, you’d need to increase the milk to make it thinner for a raita-like consistency.
- Should you peel the cucumber skin?
If you aren’t using organic cucumbers, I’d suggest peeling it due to pesticide residue. Also peel if the skin is waxy or bitter, or if you just prefer it that way.
- How many vegetables?
Of course, this is preference, but I found each of my vegetables to measure in between 1/4 and 1/3 cup. If using more vegetables, use less of each.
- How do you make green raita for kebabs?
If serving raita with kebabs, blend 1/4 cup mint and cilantro leaves with a small green chilli pepper in spice grinder. Add a little yogurt or milk to help it mix. Then add this mixture to the rest of the yogurt and omit the vegetables and herbs.
Serve raita with:
If you try this recipe, please let me know in the comments below and/or tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations. I love hearing from you!
Everyday Cucumber Raita
This is a recipe for an everyday cucumber raita, a cool and refreshing yogurt salad that pairs perfectly with biryani, pulao, and many other Pakistani and Indian dishes.
- 1 small Persian cucumber or half regular finely diced*
- ¼ cup onion (any kind) finely diced
- 1 small tomato finely diced**
- 2 tbsp fresh mint or cilantro leaves (or a combination of the two) finely chopped
- 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
- 1-2 tbsp whole milk depending on desired consistency
- ¼ tsp + a pinch kosher salt or to taste
- 1/8 tsp cumin powder (roasted or regular) or more to taste
- 1/8 tsp red chili powder use less if yours is spicy
- pinch black pepper powder
- 1-2 tbsp sour cream
- 1/2 carrot finely chopped
- 2-3 radishes finely chopped
- 1 thai chili or serrano pepper finely chopped
- pinch chaat masala
Whisk the yogurt, milk, salt, and spice powders in a medium bowl.
Stir in the vegetables and cilantro or mint, reserving some for garnish. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
Tightly cover or place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with additional chopped cilantro or mint and serve. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
*Peeled if desired (see notes within text).
**If the tomato has excess pulp, remove and reserve it for other use.