Yogurt Rice or curd rice is summer comfort food in India, and this vegan Cucumber Yogurt Rice with jalapenos is my delicious spin on an already delicious treat. Packed with tons of protein from tofu or cashew yogurt, with pockets of cooling green cucumber and crunchy nuts and lentils, this recipe is way healthier than anything you’d make with an animal product. A vegan, gluten-free recipe. Nuts are optional so can be nut-free.
On sweltering, hot and humid days in Washington, I’ll occasionally run into a person who will say sweetly, Oh you must be used to the heat– you’re from Bombay!
Let me make this clear once and for all for anyone who thinks that a hot, humid, sticky, icky day in Bombay is somehow worse than a hot, humid day, sticky and icky day in Washington. It isn’t. In fact, there are summer days in Washington when there are rivers of perspiration running down my face and back, when my clothes are clinging to my body because they’re soaking wet, and when I think I am right back in Bombay.
I didn’t get used to humid summers when I lived in Bombay, and I haven’t gotten used to them in the 21 years I’ve lived here in the D.C. area. And since those icky sticky days are right ahead of us (can you tell I don’t look forward to summers with the same enthusiasm some of my friends do?), I’ve got for you a wonderful, soothing, cooling dish that many in India eat to cool right down on an awfully hot day: yogurt rice, or curd rice.
I had posted a vegan version of a very traditional curd rice recipe on this blog many years ago, because it used to be by far the most requested recipe from Indian vegetarians who wanted to go vegan, but were reluctant to give up curd rice altogether (you could compare how an Indian vegetarian feels about yogurt rice to how an American vegetarian feels about cheese). Or from Indian moms who didn’t want their lactose intolerant children to miss out on a good thing.
More vegan cucumber recipes:
I have two options for you today on making this Cucumber Yogurt Rice, and one is for those of you who want to be soy-free, while the other works for those who want to be nut-free.
For the soy-free version, make yogurt using my cashew yogurt recipe, or use any storebought yogurt that’s unsweetened, and vegan of course. For the nut-free version, use tofu, and leave out the added peanuts and cashew nuts. Instead, use more lentils to add crunch to your yogurt rice.
You don’t have to be Indian to love yogurt rice. And it’s not a food you’re likely to get at any Indian restaurant. But try it once and I’ll bet you’ll be wanting to make it again and again. Better still, it’s ready in under 30 minutes so it makes a perfect weeknight dinner.
Vegan Cucumber Yogurt Rice or Curd Rice
- 1 cup finely chopped cucumbers (approx 2 medium or 1 large)
- 1 cup uncooked rice (a long grain rice like basmati is great here, but a medium-grain rice would work too)
- Approx 14-15 oz extra firm tofu, drained or 3 cups cashew yogurt, recipe link in notes (I used a sprouted tofu from Trader Joe's that I love, but use any brand)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp coconut oil (any unflavored oil like avocado is fine here. Don't use olive oil)
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp black gram lentils (udad dal). If nut-free, skip nuts and add 1 tbsp of the dal
- 12-15 individual curry leaves
- 1 large jalapeno pepper (deseeded and finely chopped. This is not at all hot, but if you want to, cut down to half a pepper)
- 2 tbsp cashew nuts (optional, but nice for crunch)
- 2 tbsp peanuts (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Place the chopped cucumbers in a colander with a bowl underneath to collect the juices. Sprinkle a little salt on the cucumbers and set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, press down on the cucumbers to release their juices. Set the juices aside. This step helps you control the amount of liquid you add to the yogurt rice while not wasting all of the delicious flavor of the cucumbers.
- Cook the rice. You can use the microwave or, if cooking on the stovetop, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the rice, bring back to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Let the rice stand a few minutes before opening.
- Measure out the reserved cucumber juices in a half-cup measure and add enough nondairy milk to make a half cup. Place this in a blender along with the tofu and the lemon juice and blend into a very smooth paste. If using cashew yogurt, you can skip this step.
- Add the blended tofu to a bowl along with the cooked rice and cucumbers and mix well. If using cashew yogurt, add it now to the bowl with the rice and cucumbers and mix in the cucumber juices. You can add some nondairy milk if the rice is too dry. Your curd rice should have the consistency of a risotto-- a little runny and very creamy.
- Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the mustard seeds and, when they sputter, add the black gram lentils. Once they start to turn a light golden color, add the jalapenos and curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds, then add the peanuts and cashew nuts if using. Saute until the nuts are lightly golden.
- Add the mustard seed-curry-leaf-nuts mixture to the bowl with the yogurt and rice and mix well. Add salt to taste.
- Serve at room temperature or cold.