Here's a delicious accompaniment for the Vegetable Biryani so many of you love and that's on our menu almost every week: a fresh, green, and traditional vegan Cucumber Raita that will blow your mind.
I have posted many vegan Raita recipes here on the blog over the years, but when I am looking for a vegan yogurt substitute, I have tended to go with tofu, or store-bought vegan yogurt. And those are delicious enough, but this time I decided to try out a version made entirely with a quick and easy vegan cashew "yogurt." I put that in quotes because the yogurt is not actually a cultured version: it is just made to taste like one with the lip-puckering tang of lime and a few other ingredients.
The role of raita on an Indian food plate is a bit of an oxymoron: on the one hand its mild, creamy, clean flavor brings out and highlights the spicy notes of foods like biryanis, parathas and curries. On the other hand, its gentle flavors provide a great counterpoint to all that spiciness.
But your raita recipe need not be saved for those times you cook Indian food. It can be a great dip for spicy chips, or a wonderful drizzle for those vegan sweet potato skins. The yogurt base can be a great salad dressing: in fact, it rather is one, because a raita is just a very overdressed salad.
The raita you are most likely to encounter on Indian restaurant menus is a cucumber raita, although in my childhood home, the one my parents most often made was a version with finely chopped tomatoes and raw onions. I sometimes throw zucchini into my vegan raita, or grated green peppers, and sometimes I add boondi, savory golden beads of chickpea flour.
Vegan Cucumber Raita
- 1 large cucumber (grated. Use an English cucumber preferably)
- ½ red onion (minced, optional)
- Juice of 1 lime if you like your raita very tangy)
- ½ cup raw cashews (soaked with ¾th cup of water for at least 30 minutes)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 green chili pepper (like jalapeno or serrano. Remove the seeds for less heat).
- ½ tsp ginger grated
- Salt to taste
- Blend the cashews with the soaking water, cumin, green chili pepper, ginger, salt, and lime juice until you have a very smooth paste. This by itself makes a great dressing for any salad.
- Remove the cashew paste to a bowl and mix with the grated cucumber and onion, if using. Sprinkle on some cayenne, if you wish.
- Serve on the side with any spicy Indian dish like a biryani or a curry or a paratha.