Cucumber Raita

The popular refreshing side dish to serve with your curries, biryani, pulao, kebabs and more!  This Cucumber Raita recipe is quick and easy to make and is an integral part of a complete Indian meal.  Cooling and refreshing, it provides a wonderful contrast to the heavily spiced, savory foods at the table.

cucumber raita recipe authentic traditional indian restaurant yogurt sauce

Indian food is one of my very favorites.  I love how carefully orchestrated a full Indian meal is with its attention to representing and perfectly balancing so many flavor elements: spicy, sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent, bitter, etc.  And at most any well-balanced Indian meal you will find cucumber raita served.

What is Raita?

Raita is a cooling and refreshing yogurt-based dish from India and can be made with a variety of ingredients like cucumber, onion, tomato or other vegetables, and fruits.  The most popular raita is cucumber raita.  It’s traditionally made with yogurt, cucumber (either finely diced or shredded), fresh mint or cilantro, and cumin.  It’s served as a side dish or condiment to accompany a variety of spicy Indian dishes like biryani, pulao, curries, and kebabs.  It’s perfect for cooling your palate between bites of spicy or heavily seasoned foods and provides a balancing effect.

While some recipes call for things like garlic and lemon juice, these ingredients are not traditionally included in cucumber raita (lemon juice is used in tzatziki sauce, which is similar).  Raita is meant to be simple in its flavor profile so that it complements rather than out-competes the main dish.

What to Eat With Raita

Cucumber raita is a versatile condiment that pairs beautifully with any number of Indian dishes like biryani, pulao, kebabs, and curries.  But its versatility extends well beyond Indian food and is delicious served with roasted vegetables, grilled meat, chicken and fish, tacos, falafels, or as a dip for pita wedges or crackers.

You can enjoy it as a dip with pita bread or crackers, a dollop on top of soups or stews, or even a marinade for chicken or fish.

cucumber raita recipe authentic traditional indian restaurant yogurt sauce

Shredded or Diced Cucumber?

I have friends from India who prepare it both ways and I’ve seen it served in restaurants both ways as well.  It strictly a matter of personal preference whether you like your raita with larger or smaller chunks.  The main thing is that if you shred the cucumbers be sure to take the added step of squeezing and draining your cucumbers before adding them to the yogurt, otherwise they will saturate your raita with water, resulting in a watery sauce.

Tips for Making Cucumber Raita

Raita can be thick or on the runny side, it can be chunky or fine, and those are choices that come down to personal preference.  Ideally though cucumber raita should be neither too thick (it should be dip-able) or too runny (it should not be watery).  Here are some tips for achieving the best consistency and flavor:

  • If you’re shredding/grating the cucumber for a finer texture, be sure to squeeze out excess water from grated cucumber.  Shaking some salt over the grated cucumber and letting it sit for about 20 minutes will cause the cucumber to release much of its water and then you can squeeze it to eliminate even more.
  • Use thicker yogurt, i.e., Greek yogurt.  Alternatively you can strain regular yogurt through a cheesecloth to remove excess way and make the yogurt thicker and creamier.  (If you’re interested in making your own deliciously creamy yogurt, see our tutorial on How to Make Yogurt – it’s super easy!)
  • Add any seasonings gradually, tasting after the additions to determine if you want more.  Keep in mind that the flavors will become stronger as the raita chills.
  • Chill the raita for about 20 minutes before serving; just long enough to allow the spices and herbs to penetrate the sauce but not so long that the raita becomes watery.

Cucumber Raita Recipe

Let’s get started!

A note about the chaat masala: while it isn’t traditionally added to cucumber raita, many people today like to add a little for its complex, umami-rich flavor.  It’s completely optional.

To enhance the flavor of the cumin (very much a traditional ingredient in raita) we’re going to roast it first.  To do this heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add the ground cumin. Roast it until very fragrant, stirring frequently, being careful not to let it scorch or it will be bitter.  Let it cool completely.

Place the yogurt in a bowl and add the cooled roasted cumin, the cucumber, and the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.

Note: To make vegan cucumber raita simply substitute dairy-free yogurt.

cucumber raita recipe authentic traditional indian restaurant yogurt sauce

Cucumber raita can be served immediately but for the best flavor let it chill for about 20 minutes before serving to allow the spices and herbs to more fully penetrate the sauce.  Cucumber raita should be eaten fairly shortly after making to ensure it has a thick and creamy consistency.  The longer it sits, the more watery it will become.  

Serve your cucumber raita garnished with some fresh mint or cilantro leaves and, if you like, a sprinkle of chaat masala.

Enjoy!

cucumber raita recipe authentic traditional indian restaurant yogurt sauce

Enjoy this Cucumber Raita with any of the following Indian dishes:

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