When temperatures soar, it’s time to bust out the blender and whip up cool, creamy lassi to beat the summer heat. Sometimes sweet and sometimes savory, lassi is always soothing thanks to a heavy dose of yogurt. These popular drinks from the Indian subcontinent double as dessert and can even replace a midday meal when the humidity gets oppressive. Mango lassi might be the most familiar — and my favorite because it never fails to soothe and satisfy — but it’s far from the only variety. Take a deep dive into lassi-land and you might just never say the word smoothie again.
Both sweet and salty versions of lassi are widely enjoyed in India. The simplest version of a sweet lassi might contain just a bit of sugar to counteract the sour quality of yogurt. Make a classic mint lassi with 1 cup yogurt, a few mint leaves and sweeten to taste. Punch it up with lime juice for even more refreshment.
The popular mango lassi is easy, too: whirl 1-cup yogurt and 1-cup chopped, canned or frozen mango chunks. If using fresh or canned mango, add a few ice cubes to keep things extra cool. Add sweetener to taste.
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Salty lassi, as the name implies, is made with a touch of salt but no sugar. While many consider this drink an acquired taste, others declare it the ideal refreshment when the temperature hits the triple digits, especially when rounded out with spicy flavors of ground cumin, cayenne or fresh, hot, green chili that awakens the senses.
Simplicity is the key to the uniquely refreshing quality of lassi. The drink is generally made with just a short list of ingredients so the creamy yogurt remains the star. If you find yourself tossing bananas, frozen mixed berries, vanilla extract and splashes of orange juice or milk into the blender, along with chia seeds or protein powder, forget it: You’re headed to smoothie town.
Lassi should have a rich, yet drinkable, consistency that’s decadent without being too thick. Sometimes, achieving that texture takes a little tinkering, because the consistency of the yogurt and the juiciness of the fruit you’re using creates varying results. Generally speaking, however, it’s best to use plain, whole-milk yogurt to reach that just-right consistency.
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Ground cardamom, fresh lime juice and rose water are classic additions to lassi. Yet there are loads of other ways to add intrigue: Try mixing cayenne pepper and chile powder into a mango lassi to spice things up or take it in another direction by balancing the mango’s sweetness with earthy ground turmeric and freshly grated ginger. Try fresh summer berries, avocado or pineapple. Now that summer’s here, with all kinds of fruit at peak ripeness, keep yogurt on your grocery list and your blender on the counter: Lassi season has arrived.