Lassi recipes

Lassi Recipes, Origin and History

Lassie, what a great story, even movies were made about it. It was… wait a minute! This is not a movie blog; it is about drinks and recipes. Oh, I see now what misled me, a simple typo, Lassi, not Lassie.

Ok, let’s start again.

Lassi, a great refreshing and nutritional drink, is one of the traditional beverages in India, with a creamy texture, sweet-sour- savory taste, made with yogurt, water, and often with sweetener or salt.

Ancient Smoothie

Lassi is probably one of the first smoothies ever created, a truly ancient drink. It is believed to originate somewhere around 1000 BC, in Punjab and Multan in India.


The exact time is unknown, but considering that the yogurt was known to people in Mesopotamia since around 5000 BC, we can only imagine that with the establishment of the trade route between two these regions, most likely the timing of the smoothie creation was about right, 1000BC.
A simple mixture of yogurt and honey was referred to “as the food of the gods” 1, was it the predecessor of the Lassi, we can only guess, but surely taste good even today.

According to Arun Chopra, an executive chef of the Taj Mahal Hotel2.

“In the old days, when there were no refrigerators, the Punjabi farmers used to drink milk cooled in a clay pot and mixed with curd and sugar and stirred by a wooden stick,”

Yogurt and sugar sound great; however, many other flavors can be added, creating delicious twists to the traditional yogurt drink.
So the question is, where does the idea of adding additional ingredients like fruits and spices come from? Well, with the abundance of fruits everywhere, that was a no-brainer, and what about the spices?

I believe the reason was Ayurveda. Ayurvedic medicine is a healthy lifestyle system that people in India have used for more than 5,000 years. It emphasizes lifestyle behavior and herbal remedies to improve one’s well-being. Introducing spices, like cumin and cardamom, and herbs were very familiar to the locals, so naturally, they added these additional flavors into the lassi.


Some of these spices are known for/or believed to have healing properties and calming effects on the digestive and the immune system.

Types of Lassi Drinks

One might say that they are there are two main types:

  1. Lassi with yogurt
  2. Lassi made with buttermilk* – knows as chaas or mattha – the spicier version of chaas.

They might be prepared similarly or often be confused, but their base is different.

Buttermilk is the leftover liquid when butter is churned out of cream. It is less acidic, has a slightly sour taste compared to lassi, and is more watery than a lassi.
One way to make buttermilk* without churning the butter is to combine 1 cup of whole milk with 1/2 ounce of fresh lemon juice or vinegar.
Buttermilk is not only a very popular cooling drink but also helps digestion.

Lassi definition
Lassi- definition-Jan,1866 – Dictionary by Duncan Forbes.

I have to say, though, that buttermilk*, traditionally drunk in India, is not the same as the one known in North America, which is cultured buttermilk*. It has a different taste and is pasteurized and homogenized milk.

On the other hand, Lassi is made with yogurt (made by fermenting the milk and adding a culture of bacteria (Streptococcus lactis or Lactobacillus bulgaricus) to room temperature milk). It is kept for 6 to 8 hours to make thick yogurt. The yogurt is then churned with a blender to make lassi; whether we add water to it will depend on the creaminess of the yogurt.

bulg. yogurt science

Using yogurt made in or in Bulgaria and Greece will add the necessary creaminess, thickness, and health benefits to your mixture. The bacteria causing the milk fermentation (Lactobacillus bulgaricus) was discovered in 1905 by a Bulgarian scientist, dr. Stamen Grigorov (Стамен Григоров). Currently, his house in Bulgaria is a yogurt museum, and Google commemorated him in 2020 on its main page with a traditional doodle.

I have more information about this type of yogurt under the Health Benefits part of the post.

Lassi Tastes – sweet, salted, savory


Salted Lassi

It is made with a mixture of dahi (yogurt), water, and salt, traditionally popular in the southern parts. Very similar to what is known as Ayran (Айран) in Turkey and Bulgaria.
It is usually spiced and flavored with black Himalayan salt, praised in Ayurveda for medical qualities, roasted cumin powder, and mint leaves.

Sweet Lassi

It is mainly popular in the northern parts of India. It’s a creamy, iced blend of yogurt, water, fruit, sugar, and spices. The texture is similar to a milkshake, as it depends on the amount of water added. Very refreshing drink taken any time during the day.

Bhang Lassi – a special category

Bhang hemp variaty

Bhang lassi is a cannabis-infused drink that contains bhang, a liquid derivative of cannabis.
Bhang is a by-product of the Hemp plant, and even the Hemp plants and marijuana plants are both the same species; their level of THC is different.
Legally hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent or less THC, while marijuana is a cannabis plant that has more than 0.3 percent THC3

Whether or not you can drink or buy Bhang type of lassi outside of India will depend on the local laws.

Masala Lassi

Masala^ spices mixed with yogurt. Masala describes a spice blend used in a recipe.

Health benefits^

If we look at the health benefits of lassi, salted or sweet, they are mainly dependent on the yogurt being used. Here are the benefits of good quality yogurt.

Yogurt bacteria discovey
Stamen Grigorov

Yogurt contains some of nearly every nutrient that your body needs:4
• It’s High in Protein – it gives strength to the muscles
• Benefits Digestive Health – depending on if it contains live, active cultures, probiotics – it helps to develop healthy bacteria in the stomach
• It May Strengthen Your Immune System
• It May Protect Against Osteoporosis – it has calcium, it helps build strong bones and teeth
• It May Benefit Heart Health
• It May Promote Weight Management – probiotics
• It may reduce heartburn by coating the stomach lining and preventing the acids moves towards the esophagus. This is also one of the benefits of buttermilk.

The table below is a sample of some of the differences between yogurt and buttermilk*, and how they might affect lassi or chaas nutritional value.


All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50 for 2000 calorie diets.

Yogourt – one container 170gButtermilk per 100g
Fat 0.39 g0.88 g
Calcium 110116mg
Energy 59kcal40kcal
Carbs 3.6 g4.79 g
Cholesterol 5mg4 mg
https://foodstruct.com/ – All data is for information purposes only.The data will also vary based on the different dairy producers.

The big unknown here is the sugar; being part of most recipes will negate some of the benefits and increase the calorie intake. If looking for sugar substitutes, honey, maple syrup, fresh or dried fruits might be a suitable replacement in a recipe.
The same is true for the salted lassi; too much salt might increase blood pressure and create kidney problems.

By adding ingredients in the recipes, the nutritional values will vary, as there is no clear winner here; besides the Fat content, I can say once in a while have to treat ourselves.
If we look at the positives and negatives of the essential ingredients for lassi and chaas, one can say, “Moderation is the key,” enjoy and don’t get addicted to it.

Bulgarian yogurt vs Greek Yogurt

One is not necessarily better than the other, but there are some differences, like protein content, fat, and probiotic benefits.
Jigsaw Health TV’s short video has a good explanation of both kinds of yogurt.


Lassi variations around the world

There are many similar yogurt-based drinks in different parts of the world.

In the Balkans – the yogurt in Bulgaria, Greece, as well as in Turkey is a big part of the local cuisine where Ayran (Айрян in Bulgaria) is a very popular drink. It is made from yogurt, water, salt, and sometimes black pepper and mint. It is very refreshing to drink, especially in the summer months. In Bulgaria, the ayran producers also use buttermilk to make the beverage.
This drink is popular in the Balkans and throughout Southeast Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Tarator: is a delicious cold soup/drink found in the cuisines of Southeast Europe and the Middle East. It is made of salted strained yogurt or diluted yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs such as dill, mint, parsley, and thyme.

Kefir: originated in Armenia; it is a fermented milk drink similar to ayran. Numerous books and articles have been written about the kefir health benefits.
Tan: In Armenia is prepared by blending yogurt, water, and salt. It is consumed chilled.
Leben: refers to a food or beverage of fermented milk – buttermilk, and yogurt, in North Africa and the Middle East.

Tibicos: or water kefir, is a traditional fermented drink with water. It is commercially sold as a carbonated beverage.
Doogh: In Afghanistan and Iran, lassi made of water, yogurt, and spices are called doogh.
Filmjölk: known as fil, is a traditional fermented milk product from Sweden and a common dairy product in Nordic countries. It is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. It has a sour taste5.

The popularity of yogurt-based drinks, their refreshing and nutritional benefits is such that I’m sure there are many more similar locally created drinks.

In North America6, the lassi drink became popular around 40-50 years ago and is one of the staples in Indian restaurants. Major dairy brands realize the diversity of the society, the demand for new products, and the desire to explore new flavors led to the introduction of many Lassi types of beverages.
These companies realized that people are more likely to settle for “grab and go” products in fast past society. That led to the introduction of diversified product lines, such as Frozen Lassi, Aromatic blend Nut-flavored blends, High fiber, salty, savory, and fruity drinks, desserts, and even gin-lassi infused Crazy gin.

While this is a convenient choice to enjoy a refreshing drink, I’d instead make my own using fresh ingredients and flavor combinations without any additives.

Lassi Recipes

The texture of the drinks will depend on the creaminess of the yogurt. If the texture is watery, reduce the water or add cream to achieve the desired consistency.
The ratio of water to yogurt should not be more than 50%; in many cases, it is much less.

Sweet Lassi – Base recipe

The recipe is a base for sweet lassi flavor variations. It consists of only three ingredients.

2 cups of yogurt
1/2 cup to 1 cup of water -depends on the yogurt fat content and creaminess
2-3 level spoons of sugar or honey
Blend with a little bit of ice and pour over into a chilled glass.
Any flavors can be added to this recipe and blended.


Mango Lassi

1 cup chopped very ripe mango or frozen chopped mango,
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup water – optional for a thinner consistency
4 teaspoons honey or sugar more or less to taste – if using sweet mangoes, skip the sweetener
few ice cubes
Peel mangoes and cut pulp from the stones. Pulse pulp in a food processor
Add yogurt and sweetener. Blend and serve. Garnish with mango slice and mint.
Note: For drinks made with fruits that are best enjoyed right away, they might turn sour if left in a fridge for a long time.


Strawberry Peppercorn Lassi

1 ½ cup cold yogurt
½ cup of water
2 to 3 strawberries, sliced
5 mint leaves
1 oz honey
6 to 7 grinds fresh black pepper – crushed
Blend everything. Add ice if yogurt is not cold. Pour into a chilled glass garnish with mint.


Mango Cardamom Lassi

1 cup chopped very ripe mango or frozen chopped mango,
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup milk – optional for a thinner consistency
4 teaspoons honey or sugar more or less to taste
Few ice cubes
Peel mangoes and cut pulp from the stones. Pulse pulp in a food processor
Add yogurt, cardamom, and sweetener. Blend and serve. Garnish with mango cubes and mint.


Chocolate Chili Lassi

1 ½ cup cold yogurt
½ cup of water
1 oz chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
pinch of crushed pink peppercorn
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Blend everything except the pink peppercorn, pour into a chilled glass, and sprinkle on a top pink peppercorn.

Flavor ideas: Orange, papaya, lychee, Caramel syrup – made the same way – mix with yogurt, water, sweetener.


Salted Lassi–Base Recipe

2 cups cold yogurt
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon black salt or regular salt
Few mint leaves – optional
Blend everything and pour into a glass, if yogurt is not cold add some ice.
Garnish with mint.
Note:
The recipe can be used as a base to add additional flavors such as ginger, coriander, cumin, saffron, mint, chopped nuts – almonds, pistachio, cashews, etc. Nuts can be stirred into lassi after blending, or blend together – it is a personal preference.

  • If using whole spices, baked them for 3-5 min – to release more flavor and/or grind them to a fine powder, before mixing with yogurt. If no time for baking, grind directly the spices and blend.
  • If adding powder spices roast them in a shallow pan for 30 sec.
  • Cumin – roast cumin seeds, no oil, in a small skillet for about 30 sec. Grind in a spice/coffee grinder, add to the mix before blending.
  • Both methods are similar to chai masala preparation. Like with whole spices, if no time for roasting, grind to powder, and blend directly with yogurt.
  • By using spices in effect we are making Masala lassi.

Masala Lassi

1 1/2 cup Yogurt
1/2 cup Water
4 green cardamom- crushed seeds only, husks removed
¼ teaspoon black peppercorn – crushed
2-3 saffron threads
1 tablespoon shelled pistachios – chopped
6 Mint leaves
1/2 tbsp Ginger roughly chopped
Pinch of salt – optional

Instructions:
Add yogurt, water, cardamom, peppercorn, mint, ginger, to a blender. Blend very well. Refrigerate for around a couple of hours.
Garnish with saffron threads and some chopped pistachios.

Notes: Adjust or substitute spices according to your taste. Whole spices need to be ground to powder consistency before blending.


All recipes can be modified by adding liquid vanilla ice cream, a scoop of ice, then blend, and the result is a frozen smoothie. A drink pretty much everyone is familiar with.

Some other traditional Indian drinks are similar to Lassi but made with milk. They are called Thandai; one similarity between these two drinks is the use of masala blend in their respective recipes.

Lassi Smoothie Recipe

Yield: 4

Lassi Smoothie

Lassi
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups yogurt
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp yuzu marmalade*
  • 1/2 cup strawberries and sliced banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 scoops of ice, if making a frozen thicker consistency smoothie - increase the ice to 1 serving glass of ice per person.

Instructions

Blend well for about 30-40 seconds. Pour into a tall glass.
Garnish with chopped cashew and strawberry.

Notes

Different garnish - grated nutmeg with a slice of strawberry.
Put less ice for a thinner consistency.
* If yuzu juice is available - preferable, use 2 oz with 3 spoons of honey.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 256Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 187mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 2gSugar: 36gProtein: 14g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix.

Footnotes

  1. Batman, Najmieh (2007).  A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cooking
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/1989/08/09/garden/an-indian-drink-to-cool-summer-s-fire.html
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/hemp-vs-marijuana#legality
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-yogurt#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filmj%C3%B6lk#cite_note-kulturmjoelk-grundfakta-3
  6. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/whats-a-lassi-92519178/

3 thoughts on “Lassi Recipes, Origin and History”

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