This delicious onion tomato raita recipe comes together in just a few minutes and is a great side for biryani, pulao, or your favorite curry. The secret ingredient is toasted cumin which I show you how to quickly make with a shortcut.
Why you’ll love it:
- It’s quick to make, no tempering needed.
- The toasted cumin really elevates it.
- It’s healthy.
- It’s vegetarian.
- It’s a no-effort side when preparing several dishes for a tasty Indian meal.
- It can be prepared well ahead of time.
- It tastes even better the longer it sits.
- Don’t like tomatoes? Just leave them out for onion raita.
Try serving it alongside this one-pot vegetarian biryani or a tasty curry like chickpea spinach curry, creamy black bean curry, or Indian-style tofu curry. It even tastes great with plain steamed basmati rice!
Ingredients and substitutions
This is a really simple raita recipe so there are not too many substitutions to be made and the quality of the ingredients is pretty important. Take a look at the photo below to make sure you have the correct ingredients, and then scroll down under it to see any ingredient or substitution recommendations.
Tomatoes: Make sure to use nice very ripe tomatoes as unripened ones will make your raita sour. If the tomatoes you have aren’t as ripe as you’d like, you can add a little sugar to taste to balance the flavors. Use between three to four medium-sized tomatoes. You can also omit them to make plain onion raita.
Cayenne: This raita is very mild so no need to omit the ground cayenne pepper. If you don’t have any you can substitute with another nice red chilli pepper powder (not chili powder for making chili con carne), I particularly like Kashmiri chilli powder. Don’t substitute with chili flakes.
Onion: I prefer to use red onion as it’s a little milder but you can use any other type if you prefer or don’t have any red onion to hand.
Cilantro: Also called coriander leaves. I don’t recommend omitting or substituting this as it adds a ton of flavor.
Water: You need this to thin the yogurt to the correct consistency.
Black pepper: Use preground black pepper, the finely powdered version that comes in jars. freshly ground black pepper is too strong and the flakes are too big.
Black salt: Also known as kala namak, it has a lovely strong taste, almost egg-like. Do try and get it (you can also use it in my masala corn recipe) but if not substitute it with regular (fine) table salt.
Cumin: I use ground cumin and quickly toast it, but if you don’t have any ground cumin you can toast whole seeds and then grind them (in a coffee bean grinder for example, or with a mortar and pestle). Don’t omit the cumin and make sure you toast it.
Yogurt: Use full-fat unsweetened natural yogurt (dahi or curd). You can also use Greek yogurt or Fage but you might have to thin it a little more with water.
How to toast cumin
First off, don’t skip this step. I HIGHLY recommend toasting cumin, it completely changes the taste and it gets rid of that slightly claggy after taste it tends to have.
Secondly, most recipes that use toasted cumin (bhuna jeera) call for the whole seeds to be toasted and then ground because it’s really easy to burn cumin that’s already been ground, but I never do.
You can totally toast ground cumin, just be mindful of a few things.
Step one, add the ground cumin to a dry, cold non-stick pan (this will stop it from suddenly burning if the temperature is too high). Do not use any oil. See the left image below.
Step two set the pan to heat on medium-high. As soon as you can smell the cumin toasting, shake the pan or use a spatula to move around the ground cumin.
Do this every twenty seconds or so until the cumin has darkened to a medium-brown color (see the image on the righthand side above). Not dark brown, not black, medium-brown. It should only take between a minute to two minutes to taste the cumin.
Step three tip the toasted cumin out of the pan straight away into a small bowl (or the bowl you have the raita ingredients in). If you leave the cumin in the pan, even if you take it off the heat the residual heat could darken and toast it even more and make it bitter.
Check out the colors of the cumin in the image below to see what color your toasted cumin should be.
As you can see it’s pretty simple and fast to toast ground cumin. Of course, if you prefer you can toast it the traditional way by toasting whole cumin seeds until darkened and then grinding them. McCormick also sell pre-roasted ground cumin.
How to make it
This is a very quick easy recipe to make but I’ve included some photos here and extra instructions in case you’re unsure.
First, toast your cumin following the instructions above. While the cumin is toasting, finely chop the onion and cilantro and add to a bowl. Seed and finely chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl as well (image one below).
Add all the other ingredients (yogurt, water, cayenne, black pepper, black salt, and toasted cumin) and whisk everything together, beating until the yogurt is really smooth and has incorporated the water and everything is well distributed (image two above).
You can eat it as it straight away but I highly recommend refrigerating for at least an hour to enable the flavors to marinate. If entertaining, you can sprinkle some extra cayenne pepper or add sliced onions and extra cilantro on top for garnish.
It’ll keep fresh for up to three days in a tightly sealed container.
No, the yogurt will separate and the flavors will become muted.
Yes, very. It’s low in fat, has some protein, and is packed with low-calorie vegetables.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, review, and/or comment below.
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Easy Onion Tomato Raita in 5 minutes!
This creamy onion tomato raita with lashings of cilantro, spices, and toasted cumin, is super easy to make and takes just five minutes.
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 3-4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
- 1 small red onion, chopped finely (about ¾ cup or 80 grams)
- ¼ cup cilantro (roughly 0.3 ounces/8 grams)
- 16.9oz (500ml) full-fat natural unsweetened yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons water
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon black salt
1. Toast the cumin. Add to a small pan and heat on medium-high, shaking the pan once the cumin becomes fragrant until the cumin has darkened slightly to a medium-brown. Immediately remove from the pan to the bowl where you'll be adding your raita.
2. Seed the tomatoes and finely chop along with the cilantro and onion and add to the bowl. If your tomatoes are not very ripe you may need to add a little sugar to balance the flavors at the end.
3. Add the yogurt, water, cayenne, black pepper, and black salt. Whisk the mixture well until the raita is smooth and everything is well-distributed.
4. Chill at least 30 minutes if possible and then serve. Enjoy!
You can substitute Greek yogurt or Fage for the natural yogurt, you may need to add another two tablespoons of water to get the raita to the right consistency as they are thicker.
If you don't have black salt you can substitute it with finely ground table salt.
Amount Per Serving Calories 59Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 3mgSodium 303mgCarbohydrates 10gFiber 2gSugar 7gProtein 4g
If you don’t have Kashmiri chili powder, can you use a smaller amount of a hotter chili powder?
The Fiery Vegetarian
Hi Bonnie! Yes definitely, I should have written that in, ground cayenne can be substituted, just use a smidge less
Would non dairy yogurt work for this recipe?
The Fiery Vegetarian
Hi Nicole, great question – yes it definitely would, you’d just need to be careful with the flavor profile. For example soy yoghurt no as even the plain ones have a strong after taste, but cashew or almond yoghurt yes definitely. You could also thin it out with some sugar-free plant milk until it gets to a pourable kefir-like consistency. Do let me know how it goes if you try it – plain no-added sugar yoghurts are thin on the ground here is Spain hence I haven’t tried it yet!
Delicious! And super-easy, but mine turned out a lot more brown than in the photo! Maybe next time I’ll cumin seeds instead of ground cumin.
The Fiery Vegetarian
Thanks for the feedback Fi! Let me know how it goes with cumin seeds – I generally prefer to toast ground cumin so it distributes more evenly, but the seeds do also have that lovely nutty texture…