Persian Cucumber Yogurt as Appetizer, Side Dish, Light Meal
While looking through a magazine last week, a colorful dish of Persian Cucumber Yogurt known as Mast-O Khiar caught my eye. After a bit of research, I adjusted and combined a few recipes to create today’s refreshing, creamy, crunchy and flavorful take on this classic condiment. Enjoy Mast-O Khiar as a dip with crudités, crackers, chips or as a side dish with almost everything. In Iran, no meal is considered complete without it. For me, wrapped in a few leaves of butter lettuce, Persian Cucumber Yogurt becomes a light and satisfying meal all on its own.
Translated as “yogurt with cucumber” and pronounced like this. Often Persian Cucumber Yogurt is prepared simply from just yogurt, cucumber, mint and salt. Or it can be made as fancy as today’s recipe dressed for the holidays. Experiment with stirring in most of the garnishes, or just sprinkling them on top. Feel free to modify the ingredients, such as adding yellow raisins, chopped dill, other herbs or more garlic.
So romantic to think of sprinkling Persian Cucumber Yogurt with dried rose petals. Though the romance ended too quickly as I couldn’t find them. Both of our two local stores with bulk herb and spice sections were out. And, neither store knew when they would be restocked. So I looked through the array of jars to find a substitute.
For a moment I thought Rose Petal tea might work. Then realized using it would entail having to handpick and dust the tea off each of the rose petals.
Then I saw the jar with hibiscus flower petals. Some even looked a bit like rose petals. From making tart and citrusy Aqua de Jamaica, I knew they were tasty. Hibiscus flower petals became my substitute. Though, I still needed to pick through them to find the palest and pinkest petals.
A word of caution
Dried hibiscus flower petals are rather hard. For the best flavor and texture, do crush them even more than I did in the photos. The same caution goes for rose petals. Although they are oh so pretty as a garnish, some people warn of their tough and bitter flavor, suggesting grinding the petals to a powder before stirring them into the yogurt.
Perhaps, like me, you question why this is called “Persian” Cucumber Yogurt. According to Wikipedia, “Today, both Persia and Iran are used in cultural contexts; although, Iran is the name used officially in political contexts.” Now, we know.
Persian Cucumber Yogurt – Mast-O Khiar
Enjoy Mast-O Khiar as a dip with crudités, crackers, chips or as a side dish with almost every meal. Perfect as a sauce for a grain bowl. I’ve come to enjoy Persian Cucumber Yogurt wrapped in a few leaves of butter lettuce as a light and satisfying meal all on its own. Prepare Persian Cucumber Yogurt simply from yogurt, cucumber, mint and salt.
Or make it as fancy as this recipe. Experiment with stirring in most of the garnishes, or just sprinkling them on top. Feel free to modify the ingredients, such as adding yellow raisins, chopped dill, other herbs or more garlic.
Makes 2+ cups Printer-Friendly Recipe
Active Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time will vary if you strain the yogurt yourself—see below
1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1-2 medium garlic cloves
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped mint or 1 tablespoon dried, crumbled mint
2 cups *strained plain, whole-milk yogurt or a combination of Greek yogurt and regular yogurt
1 ½ cups ⅛ – ¼ inch diced English or Persian cucumbers, peeled in strips
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnut halves and pieces
½ -1 teaspoon crushed, dried rose or hibiscus flower petals
Additional fresh mint or dried, crumbled mint leaves
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts for 7-8 minutes until deeply toasted. Set aside to cool. Break up larger pieces by hand.
- Pour hot water over the dried cranberries just to cover them. Drain after 10 minutes.
- Peel and finely mince the garlic. Sprinkle it with the salt. Use the flat side of a butter knife to mash the garlic into a paste.
- Finely chop the fresh mint. Or use your fingers to crush the dried mint.
- Place the yogurt in a small bowl and whisk it smooth. With a rubber spatula stir in the garlic paste, fresh or dried mint and 3 tablespoons of the soaked and well-drained cranberries.
- Just before serving, stir in the cucumber. Taste and adjust the salt.
- Serve Persian Cucumber Yogurt in a bowl, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with the toasted walnuts, rose or hibiscus flower petals, remaining soaked and drained cranberries and fresh or dried mint.
4 cups plain yogurt (I prefer full fat with “live and active cultures,” as I use the whey as a starter culture for some of my recipes for fermented vegetables)
- Set a strainer over a bowl. Line the strainer with a double thickness of cheesecloth.
- Place the yogurt in the strainer. Wrap the ends of the cheesecloth over the yogurt.
- Let the yogurt sit out on the counter for 2-3 hours. The longer the yogurt strains, the thicker it gets. (See my post on Labneh for more information.)
- Remove the strained yogurt from the cheesecloth. Transfer it to a covered container and store in the refrigerator.