Raita is a classic yogurt salad that completes many a Pakistani and Indian meal. Here’s an easy, authentic cucumber raita recipe I’ve grown up with. This raita recipe 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.
The Traditional Technique that makes the best Cucumber Raita
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 he 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.
A raita recipe? Really?
Sharing a raita recipe 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) to be 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.
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 per cup of yogurt, 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 should you add?
Of course, this is a 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.
Here are some recipes that you can pair with raita:
Easy, Authentic Cucumber Raita
- 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (~230-245g)
- 1/4 cup whole milk (2 oz) depending on desired consistency
- ¼ tsp table salt or more to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp cumin powder (roasted or regular)
- 1/8-1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp red chili powder or red chili flakes
- 1 small Persian cucumber or quarter large (~60g) ends trimmed, peeled, and finely diced
- ¼ cup red or yellow onion (~25g) finely diced
- 1/2 small tomato (~50 g) finely diced
- 2 tbsp fresh mint or cilantro leaves (or a combination of the two) finely chopped
- 1/8 tsp chaat masala
- 1 thai chili or serrano pepper finely chopped
- 1/2 carrot (See Note) finely chopped
- 2-3 radishes (See Note) finely chopped
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, salt, and spice powders.
- Stir in the vegetables and cilantro or mint, reserving some for garnish. Taste and adjust salt and spices as desired.
- Serve immediately 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.