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.
There’s really no better way to beat the sweltering summer heat than with a tall glass of mango lassi. Unless it’s a tall glass of Vegan Mango Lassi.
Vegan Mango Lassi
- 2 cups fresh or canned mango puree. You can also puree frozen mango chunks and use them here.
- 3 cups nondairy milk, preferably with a vanilla flavor
- 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp sugar or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 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.
I love my lassi thick and creamy, but if you want it to be more fluid, add more cashew milk. You might need to add a little more sugar to balance the taste.
More mango recipes from the archives:
Note: This update on Lucy, my dog who passed in 2012, was included in the original post for Vegan Mango Lassi, and I didn’t want to remove it because Lucy lives in my heart — and therefore this blog — forever. Her story, which I shared in many posts, has over the years inspired many dog parents and helped them through similar, malignant illnesses. Read it if you wish, or skip over.
I know many among you have been eager for news on Lucy who was diagnosed in April with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer. The road since has been at times tumultuous and unpredictable and difficult but not for a moment have we regretted our decision to have her treated so she can be happy and healthy as long as possible.
Five months since her diagnosis, Lucy’s doing really well. She lost a leg– the one where the cancer was found– in April, but she has adjusted quite well to being tripawed. Of course, she can’t run up and down the steep stairs to the backyard as fast and as confidently as she once did, but that does not mean she stays away from them either: she just takes them on more slowly and sometimes — rarely — with a little help from a sling.
Lucy went through four courses of intense chemotherapy during which platinum-based agents were injected into her body. While she came through the first three courses with mild side-effects, she gave us a real scare after the last session when she had to be rushed to the hospital with a fever of 107 degrees (dogs usually have a temperature of around 101 degrees). We found out her white blood cell count had dropped to zero as a result of the chemotherapy, leaving her body defenseless against the smallest of infections. For two days she battled the fever and we prepared for the worst. But with the help of her wonderful doctors and plenty of IV fluids and antibiotics she did pull back and slowly returned to her old self.
Lucy is now on metronomic treatment, which is a small, maintenance-strength dose of chemotherapy, that she takes in capsule form each day. She has been happy, healthy, and so far there seems to be no sign that her cancer has spread. She loves to walk, as she always did, although she needs more sitting breaks because her three legs tire more easily. She even races around the backyard chasing squirrels with her little scampy brother, Opie. And she still tries to eat everyone’s food.
Thanks to all of you who have sent your thoughts and prayers out into the universe for our Lucy. She sends a lot of sloppy, slobbery kisses and cuddles right back at you!