This delicious onion raita (also known as pyaz ka raita) with a smoky hint of toasted spices will blow all thoughts of insipid cucumber and yogurt from your head. Ready in under five minutes, it’s perfect to ladle over a good vegetable biryani or to upgrade and replace your regular raita.
If you’d prefer a plant-based or vegan raita, or even a whole 30 compliant one, you can substitute the yogurt with thin cashew cream (not coconut milk, the flavor profile is all wrong).
I use natural yogurt thinned with a little water in this recipe, but you can use thinned Greek yogurt, or kefir (the consistency of kefir is perfect for onion raita!).
What is raita?
Raita is a traditional Indian side dish or condiment, normally made with yogurt, chopped vegetables or fruit, and spices.
Outside of India, most people seem to think that raita is always made with cucumber and thick yogurt, like a kind of tzatziki, but the truth is that in India there are dozens of types of delicious raita and they tend to have a thinner consistency.
When living in Bangalore I discovered how different the consistency was to the raita I found in restaurants in Europe. That thinner consistency is made by whisking dahi, sometimes with a little water.
I have never been able to get to the bottom of the dahi/curd mystery, as some people swore it was curd, and others swore it was natural yogurt!
Either way, try whisking natural yogurt next time you’re using it as an ingredient and you’ll see the texture smooths and thins out.
What can you serve onion raita with?
With the vast majority of Indian dishes. You can pour it on top of a hot curry, serve with a flavored rice dish such as pulao or biryani, have it in a small dish on the side to be spooned on top of food, or dip appetizers into it (Cauliflower pakora for example).
My favorite way to enjoy onion raita is with my easy one-pot vegetable biryani. I have to also admit to enjoying raita in lots of non-traditional ways.
I like to use it as another “curry” over plain rice or some delicious lemon coconut rice, especially in summer when it’s too hot to cook because it is definitely tasty enough to stand alone and not just be used as a condiment.
I have also used it as a salad dressing, believe it or not it goes amazingly well with spinach strawberry salad!
How do you make it?
This easy onion raita really does come together in less than five minutes! See how below and come back to this section if you have any doubts about any stage of the recipe, I find that photos really do help when you’re unsure.
Add the unsweetened natural yogurt to a bowl and whisk with two tablespoons of water until smooth and creamy.
If you use Greek yoghurt instead of natural yoghurt you may need to add up to 4 tablespoons to get the consistency right. If you find some nice sugar-free kefir to use instead you probably won’t need to add any additional liiquid as it has a smoother consistency.
Next, heat a non-stick pan on medium-high and add the ground cumin. I know that to make toasted cumin, an essential ingredient in many Indian dishes, a lot of the time people toast the seeds and then grind them, claiming that ground cumin sticks to the pan.
I’m not sure what pans they are using but I’ve never had it stick to a good non-stick pan, and I’m just too lazy to get the grinder out (it’s also just faster this way).
When the cumin starts to toast (you’ll smell it), shake the pan every five seconds or so until the cumin has darkened slightly (about 2-3 minutes max from start to finish).
Now toss the cumin into the bowl with the yogurt. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan to one side with the cumin in it as it will continue cooking and burn and be bitter. This way the cool yogurt will prevent the cumin overcooking.
Next chop up your onion and cilantro FINELY. Emphasis on the finely as it helps the flavours seep into the yogurt. I use a red onion in this recipe but you can definitely swap it out for a white onion.
Add the onion and cilantro to the bowl with the yoghurt and cumin, and add in the black salt, ground black pepper and Kashmiri chili powder.
You can find Kashmiri chili powder and black salt at most Asian food specialty shops. You can also substitute them with regular table salt and cayenne chili powder, although the taste will be slightly different.
Note that when I say ground black pepper here I’m referring to the stuff that comes preground in a jar, NOT freshly ground black pepper.
Stir everything together and voila, your delicious onion raita is ready. It will have a light brown colour from the toasted cumin. You can eat it straight away but I recommend chilling it in the fridge for at least half an hour to let the flavours develop.
It tastes even better the next day and will keep for up to five days in the fridge.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating in the recipe box, review, or comment below.
Or take a picture and tag me on Instagram (@the_fiery_vegetarian), I love seeing all your creations!
- 16.9oz (500ml) natural unsweetened yogurt (about 4 cartons)
- 2 tbsp water
- 1.5 tsp ground cumin
- 1 small red onion, chopped finely (about ¾ cup or 80 grams)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (roughly 8 grams)
- ¼ tsp Kashmiri chili powder (or ground cayenne)
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp black salt (kala namak) or regular salt
1. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt with the water until smooth.
2. Toast the ground cumin in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat for two-three minutes until slightly darker and it emits a strong nutty aroma. Add to the bowl with the whisked yogurt.
3. Finely chop the onion and cilantro and add to a bowl. 1/4 cup of cilantro should yield about two tablespoons finely chopped.
4. Measure and add the black pepper, black salt, and Kashmiri chili powder.
5. Mix well.
6. Serve immediately or for best results, chill at least 30 minutes.
You can substitute Greek yoghurt (just add an additional two tablespoons of water) or kefir (remove two tablespoons of water) for the natural yogurt.
Amount Per Serving Calories 57Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 5mgSodium 255mgCarbohydrates 7gFiber 0gSugar 6gProtein 4g