Learn how to make grated cucumber and mint raita, the perfect accompaniment to a spicy curry! This version of the classic Indian side dish combines the cooling effects of yoghurt, cucumber and mint to soothe the palate. When made with live yoghurt, it offers our gut a probiotic boost too.
In the enchanting world of Indian cuisine, the staple side dish raita (pronounced ‘rye-tah’) is a star in its own right, skilfully taming the heat of spicy dishes.
This traditional yoghurt-based condiment, typically served chilled, helps soothe the palate, while adding an epic taste and temperature contrast to meals. As a Registered Nutritionist, I’m all for the digestive benefit that yoghurt brings to the table too👌.
This 5-ingredient homemade raita is refreshingly creamy, textured yet light, and well-balanced in flavour. It features grated cucumber (with a nifty technique to squeeze excess water out), fresh mint to enhance the cooling effect, and a hum of earthy cumin throughout.
Plain, unsweetened full-fat yoghurt. Its mild flavour serves as a versatile base, letting the other ingredients shine through. Greek yoghurt, typically tangier and thicker, isn’t traditionally used.
Telegraph (aka English) cucumber. An elongated, slender cucumber prized for its mild taste, thin skin and few seeds. You don’t need to peel or deseed before using it here – simply grate as is.
Fresh mint. Adds flavour, aroma, and a pop of colour. Its natural cooling effect, thanks to its menthol compounds, helps mellow the heat too.
Ground cumin. A popular spice to enhance raita. Choose plain cumin for a milder flavour or roasted cumin (bhuna jeera) for a richer, smokier taste.
Salt. Serves two purposes here: seasoning and helping remove excess water from the cucumber – more on this below.
Your Kitchen Tools
You’ll need just a few basic kitchen tools for this dish – a sharp knife, chopping board, box grater, a fine-mesh or regular kitchen sieve (with bowl to sit underneath it), measuring spoons and cups, as well as a bowl or two for mixing and serving. A regular spoon for stirring will come in handy too!
Step-by-Step: Raita with Grated Cucumber
Here are tips and tricks to help your kitchen skills grow while improving the outcome of this dish:
Salt then squeeze. Cucumber’s high water content, which is released like a tsunami when grated, can dilute raita’s flavour. Salting pre-squeezing helps draw out water through a process called osmosis (thanks food science!).
Make ahead. Get cracking onto the raita before you start cooking the main or while it’s simmering away. Time in the fridge will chill it, while also helping the flavours mix, mingle and develop.
Be the master of your tastebuds. Oodles of raita recipe variations exist, influenced by region, family tradition, season and more – so tweak to your tastebuds. Try popular raita additions e.g. a pinch of chaat masala, finely diced onion, chopped tomatoes or green chillies, more cumin or salt.
Raita verses Greek Tzatziki, what’s the difference? Think of raita like the Indian cousin of the Mediterranean sauce tzatziki – they have similarities, but are ultimately different. Raita, made with a plain yoghurt, can vary in herbs, spices and vegetables depending on recipe and regional nuances, and serves as a cooling side dish in Indian cuisine. In contrast, tzatziki is enjoyed as a dip or sauce, uses thicker Greek yoghurt and features cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and dill. Tzatziki is commonly served with dishes like gyros, souvlaki and pita.
Serving & Storage
Serve as is in a bowl, or garnish with herbs and a slice of cucumber or two. Enjoy with curry, dahl, biryani, tandoori dishes, kebabs, grilled vegetables and more.
This raita is best enjoyed fresh, but is still good refrigerated in an airtight container for a short period, up to 24 hours. After then, the flavours, particularly the grated cucumber, start to change.
Help, my raita has separated after time in the fridge! This is totally normal, thanks (or no thanks) to the differences in water content between ingredients – over time, a water layer may occur. No worries, a simple stir will restore its creaminess👌.
What is the nutritional benefits of raita? Raita isn’t just a flavourful companion to your meal; it can also bring nutrition perks to the table. For example:
If using ‘live’ or probiotic-rich yoghurt, it may offer benefit to your microbiota. Probiotics help encourage a healthy gut microbiome, supporting digestion, immunity, and nutrient absorption (1).
As well as a calcium bump. Dairy yoghurt is a great source of calcium, a mineral crucial for strong bones and teeth, as well as for proper muscle and nerve function.
Plus a protein boost. Raita is primarily made from yogurt, a source of high-quality protein. While the amount you eat determines the extent of this protein boost, it can still be a valuable addition at mealtimes, particularly to vegetarian curries.
1Telegraph (English) cucumber (around 35cm in length)
¾tspsalt (½ tsp to draw out water, ¼ tsp or more to season)
1 ½cupplain unsweetened yoghurt
2Tbspfinely chopped fresh mint leaves
½tspground cumin,or more to taste
Fresh mint leaves and cucumber slices
Slice an inch of each cucumber end and discard. Slice cucumber into chunks, then grate each (skin, seeds and all) against the largest hole of a box grater.
Place the grated cucumber in a sieve, sprinkle over ½ tsp of salt, mix together and then leave to drain for 15 minutes over the top of a bowl.
Remove the mint leaves from the stem. Discard the steam and finely chop the leaves.
Add the cucumber and mint to the yoghurt and mix until evenly incorporated.
Taste test and adjust seasoning (if desired). Serve in the bowl as is, or spoon into another serving dish.
Recipe inspiration This take on raita is inspired by a recipe in the (retro) 1970’s ‘South East Asia Cookbook’ by Charmaine Solomon. She used grated cucumber in her version of raita, which I tried and really liked! This recipe differs from hers in yoghurt quantity, spices used (I went for the more traditional cumin), and the addition of mint.I’m not an expert in Indian food, but enjoy exploring and experimenting with flavours from different cuisines. Please continue to support those with deeper knowledge, and who are experts in their fields.