I had my first sweet lassi at a fantastic Indian restaurant called Tandoori (what else!) in Düsseldorf, Germany another lifetime ago. As it turned out, that was the best Indian restaurant I have ever been to (so far), and those were my only lassis, at least until about three weeks ago when I made one myself.
I do not even recall what made me think of sweet lassi. Maybe I saw one on Pinterest while looking for something else, or maybe I glimpsed a photo in one of the many e-mail newsletters I subscribe to (or find myself subscribed to) while in my daily scroll-and-delete process. However it happened, a desire was triggered, so I started looking up recipes just to be sure it was what I thought it was: a slightly sweet, diluted yogurt drink with flavors.
I found several recipes, all the same, yet slightly different: some thicker, some thinner, some sweeter than others, some diluted with water, some with milk, and so on. Most recipes used sugar to sweeten, some used honey. The only thing the recipes I found had in common was a recommendation to use a high quality, gelatin-free, preferably Greek-style yogurt. Cardamom seemed to be the spice to use, and the other popular version was the mango lassi.
At my next run to Whole Foods I picked up the basic necessities, plus a few more. While going through the isles for other things on my list, I thought that rose water would taste wonderful with cardamom, so I picked that up, relieved that WF had some in the spice section. I did forget to buy sugar, completely blanked on that one. And since the honey I had at home was not suited (poison oak honey that is as dark as molasses? I don’t think so), I ended up using some maple syrup. Of course, I also knew I would be using coconut water as my diluting liquid of choice.
The Rose Water and Cardamom Sweet Lassi turned out wonderful! And it is still my favorite, so refreshing and satisfying. But I have been playing with other flavors just to change things up. The basics remain pretty much the same, the main variations being the flavorings. With exceptions, of course. Here are the recipes for the Rose Water and Cardamom Sweet Lassi plus a few others I really enjoyed.
SWEET LASSI WITH ROSE WATER & CARDAMOM
yields: 1 tall tumbler glass (as in the images)
- just under 1 cup natural Greek-style yogurt
- just under 1 cup coconut water
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon rose water
- a pinch of ground cardamom (or to taste)
- a few organic dried rose petals/buds, if you like
If you are making more than one, you can add all the ingredients to a blender and give it a whirl. If you are making just one, like I do, you can assemble it directly in the glass, and then use a narrow metal whisk to blend. It is a simple as that, and it takes all of 3-4 minutes.
A few notes:
I like my lassi to be drinkable, so my yogurt-to-liquid ratio is about one-to-one. However, that works with the FAGE Greek yogurt, which is fluffier and thicker than other Greek yogurts I have tried. The FAGE remains my favorite. Should you choose a different yogurt, you may have to tweak the liquid amount, likely reduce it. But the thickness/thinness will be up to you.
I also use whole yogurt, not the low-fat, or 0%. Besides the fact that, as we should all be aware of by now, anything that says diet, low-fat, no-fat etc. really translates to ‘chemical shit storm’, I find the low-fat or no-fat yogurts to be too sour, unbearably so, at least to me.
Coconut water: the flavor unfortunately disappears, as the yogurt overwhelms it. This might be good news for those who do not like coconut water, but I was hoping for some flavor. That aside, what coconut water does, besides add healthy electrolytes to your drink, is add natural sweetness, which means you will need to add less maple syrup, honey or sugar. Just make sure to pick up a good coconut water, one that is just that, and has no flavorings and other crap added to it “to make it taste like coconut”. Believe it or not, there is some really yucky “coconut water” out there.
Other liquids I have seen used in other recipes are water and milk. So it is up to you. My other option would be simply cold water.
DO NOT lick the teaspoon you used to measure the rose water. Like vanilla, rose water tastes wonderful diluted with other ingredients, but alone and in concentrated form it will make your face scrunch.
When I found the Elderflower Cordial and Elderberry Syrup by Carmel Berry Co (featured in my Treasures for the Holidays post), I knew I would be trying those in a lassi. And so I did, and this is my second favorite sweet lassi.
Given that I was using these two syrups, both already quite sweet, I had to modify the recipe.
SWEET LASSI WITH ELDERFLOWER AND ELDERBERRY
yields: 1 tall tumbler glass
- just under 1 cup natural Greek-style yogurt
- just under 1 cup cold water
- 3 Tablespoons Elderflower Cordial
- 2 Tablespoons Elderberry Syrup
Blend and enjoy.
You can also use just the cordial, or just the syrup, for a total of 5 Tablespoons so that the delicate flavor of the elder will show up in the yogurt. I listed both because I have both and used a blend of the two. If you happen to have St. Germain liqueur, that should work, too. Of course, you will have some alcohol in your lassi.
I have not used coconut water because of the relatively high amount of syrup-per-glass needed in order to make the elder flavor show above the yogurt. It would have been too sweet otherwise, so I opted for simply cold water.
When I purchased the rose water at Whole Foods, I also saw orange blossom water, another favorite of mine. So on the next trip out, I picked it up. Orange blossom water is a little more delicate in flavor than rose water, but still shows up nicely in the lassi, and gives it a floral and refreshing taste. I wanted to combine it with something other than cardamom, but no other spice seemed to suit. Then one morning, during my daily hot water & lemon ritual, I cut into a little Meyer lemon with skin so floral and fragrant, I thought I would try that. Bliss!
SWEET LASSI WITH ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER & MEYER LEMON
The recipe amounts are the same as for the Rose Water & Cardamom Lassi, just substitute orange blossom water for the rose water, and a little finely grated Meyer lemon peel instead of the cardamom. You really need very little peel. I julienned it finely for the image, but finely grated will blend in better.
Finally, given the popularity of Mango Lassi, I had to give that a try. Being that this Dorothy is not in Hawai’i anymore, finding mangos that I would call good is a hit-and-miss situation. It was a miss. So I headed to the freezer section and decided to take a chance on a small bag of frozen mango. It worked! The mango was actually ripe, lovely and sweet. Of course, a blender was required in this case. Given that I have two blenders, a regular one, and an immersion one, both in storage, I hesitated. Then I found a super inexpensive one at Sur La Table, and picked it up. For $34.95 I decided I could own three blenders, or possibly give the new one away at some point.
Sidebar: Sur La Table in Carmel is just one block from where I am staying. It takes me all of five minutes walking to get there. Ok, now you know what a temptation that is for me. In the same location is also Anthropologie, which is where I found those gorgeous tumblers. Will I ever stop buying props? I can hear the Weasley twins in my head: “Never!”
SWEET LASSI WITH MANGO & SAFFRON
yields: 2 tall tumbler glass
- 1 & 1/2 cups mango in chunks
- 1 cup natural Greek-style yogurt
- 1 cup coconut water
- 2 Tablespoons maple syrup, or honey
- pinch of cardamom
- a few saffron stigmas
Place everything except the saffron in a blender. I used the immersion blender only because that is what I had, but I think a glass blender would be better. Blend then pour into glasses. Top with a few saffron stigmas. If the saffron is good quality, a little goes a long way. The mango-saffron flavor combination is lovely, but you don’t want to overwhelm one with the other.
I have been enjoying sweet lassi for breakfast and sometimes for lunch, with a little fruit on the side. Given the season, I thought a pomegranate lassi might be wonderful. Well, it is not. For as sweet as pomegranate can be, it is also quite sour, and combined with the sour of the yogurt, well it just doesn’t work.
I have also had other ideas, like using a shot of cold espresso, or pumpkin and spices instead of mango, but a sweet lassi is intended to be refreshing. If you start getting too fancy with it, it loses its appeal and becomes just a shake. However, experiment as you like!
The other versions I have been considering were slightly more savory ones, using cucumber, basil, mint, and other such ingredients. Maybe next summer.
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“May You Be Happy,
May You Be Blessed,
May You Prosper in All Things.”