Nothing beats the sweltering summer heat like a tall glass of Mango Lassi. My Vegan Mango Lassi is made with cashew milk instead of yogurt, and it tastes absolutely divine. Cardamom and vanilla complement the tangy sweetness of the mangoes. A gluten-free, soy-free and vegan recipe.
I grew up in a bursting-at-the-seams apartment building in Bombay and at any time of the day we were enveloped in the delicious scents and sounds and flavors of foods from around the country. The spicy-pungent perfume of the ajwain from Mrs. Sinha’s North Indian chana masala bubbling away on the stove. The popping of tiny black mustard seeds in oil which Mrs. Raval would then pour over her slippery-delicious, bright yellow rolls of Gujarati khandvi. The sizzle that rose from the red-hot griddle the instant Mrs. Iyer, a Tamilian, poured a ladleful of white dosa batter right in the center.
Bombay is not a very green city, but our neighborhood had quite a few trees, including a handful of fruit trees. There was a gooseberry tree that carpeted the ground with thousands of acrid-sour, translucent-green fruit for a few weeks each year. A guava tree that attracted beautiful parrots. There were a couple of coconut trees with their tall, ringed, brown trunks that shot all the way up into the sky and then burst into a cap of wide, dark green leaves with spiky fronds. And the crowning jewel: an ancient mango tree that each summer began to birth a profusion of green fruit: nothing ever stayed long enough on the tree to actually ripen, thanks to all the neighborhood kids who could aim beautifully with a pebble.
The mango tree was right outside our window, and it was a treat each summer to watch it bloom into tiny little flowers, a sign that mango season was around the corner. Ambyala mohar aala (the mango is in bloom), were beautiful words to hear, and it was even more beautiful to anticipate the stacks of orange-gold mangoes that would soon pile up outside fruit shops.
I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that within every Indian’s heart springs a deep love for this “king of fruit.” In fact, you almost never need ask an Indian what his or her favorite fruit is. It was only after I moved to the United States that I met people who said they don’t much care for the mango, but that probably is only because they’ve never tasted an Indian mango.
It is truly a gastronomic experience to bite into a juicy, ripe, perfectly golden mango, like an Alphonso, and feel the juices run down your chin. It is deliciousness such as you can never imagine, and one no fruit — however delicious — can match. Desi and I usually run shy of going to India during the summers, but the only reason that has persuaded me to do so in past years is the anticipation of eating a fresh Alphonso mango.
Out here I get Alphonso puree in tins, which I use to make my Vegan Mango Lassi, but if you have access to fresh mangoes, use fresh puree. You can find fresh mangoes at some Indian grocery stores in the United States after the relaxation of federal import standards in 2006, but I have never been so lucky with the stores here. If you can’t either, use a sweeter, softer-fleshed mango available here in North America, like the champagne mango, which tastes halfway decent.
A testament to the universal fondness for mango is the fact that Mango Lassi, by far, is the food most often requested by friends coming over for dinner. When I first became a vegan, those requests fell silent because the key ingredient in lassi, of course, is buttermilk or yogurt. So a few years back, I came up with this vegan version that I shared with you. I wanted to update the recipe because I’ve since made some revisions that I love, like adding vanilla, and more mango puree to make the lassi even more mango-ey. At our home, it is a drink we always look forward to, especially with a spicy accompaniment like chana masala or vegetable biryani.
As children, my brother and I would sometimes go down to a dairy farm in the neighborhood to treat ourselves to some lassi. Now before you imagine a verdant pasture with cows, a “dairy farm” in Bombay was usually a small storefront that sold all sorts of dairy products like milk, ghee, butter and yogurt. The vendor would sit out front, stirring a huge wok of bubbling, reducing milk. He’d pour the sweet, cool buttermilk in tall, steel glasses, top it with a thick slice of cream, and hand it to you. It was divinity in a glass. But this vegan version of a Mango Lassi surpasses even those sweet memories.
Vegan Mango Lassi
- Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Pour into tall glasses over ice.
- Garnish with chopped pistachios or mint.
More mango recipes from the archives: