Why Lassis Are Often Considered The OG Of Smoothies

Anyone who's ever slurped a smoothie has tasted ancient history. Long before inventive minds created the modern blender, animal herders in India were fermenting milk from their flocks to create yogurt, whisking it with other ingredients, and drinking it. The resulting beverage became known as the lassi, and it's gained worldwide popularity for its creamy texture, tangy flavor, and health benefits. Originally, folks drank lassis as a digestive aid, but today, they're a staple menu item at Indian restaurants.

While smoothies require technology (usually a blender) to combine frozen fruits and other ingredients with liquid, the lassi comes together with a few ingredients and a whisk or even a wooden stick. The word "lassi" comes from the Sanskrit word "lassiya," which means "to mix." In its most basic form, a traditional lassi recipe is a mixture of yogurt, water, and salt, but today, you may find this drink flavored with fruits like mango. 

History of the Lassi

The lassi was developed as a delicious conclusion to a big meal. However, the creation of the drink has less appetizing origins. Yogurt is its central ingredient, and animal herders first created it through a mildly icky process about 5,000 years ago. They stored milk from their flocks inside of containers made from their animals' organs. A chemical reaction from enzymes in those containers caused the milk to ferment and created yogurt. Consumers appreciated what happened when they ate yogurt every day, and the dairy product spread all around the world.

As yogurt became a staple in the diets of people in and around India, it gained a reputation as a digestive aid. Yogurt contains bacteria called lactobacilli that helps the body break down food. People found that when they ate it after a meal — or drank it in the form of a lassi — they digested their food more easily. Because lassi ingredients were readily accessible, this beverage crossed class lines and could be found in the diets of the ruling class as well as common people.

Flavors of lassi

Lassis can be either sweet or savory. Traditionally, many Indian restaurants offer a mango lassi, but what you should know before you drink another mango lassi is that you can make this drink with any fruit, spice, or herb you want. Once you have your foundation of yogurt, try blending in some fresh strawberry, mint, pineapple, or banana for a sweet drink at the end of your meal.

Or you can opt for the savory variety of lassi. Savory lassis are typically made with yogurt, salt, water, and cumin. Sometimes, cilantro or chili powder is added for additional flavor. Usually, the yogurt is thinned out with water or milk, but in some cases, people use buttermilk to achieve the consistency they want. Other times, they'll use the whey left behind from straining the yogurt. The latter two options result in a runnier texture that's similar to juice.

Lassis vs. Smoothies

Although the lassi is sometimes considered the original smoothie, the two chilled beverages are more different than they are the same. The only thing they really have in common is that they're served chilled. Smoothies were popularized in the United States during the 1960s and '70s and largely marketed as a health food option. Fresh fruit smoothies, which are typically chock full of fruits and vegetables, are limitless in terms of what you can toss in your blender.

However, the lassi is a simple beverage. It contains only a handful of ingredients — typically yogurt, water or milk, salt, and sometimes an additional flavor. And, unlike smoothies, lassis don't require a blender; A whisk can be used to combine the ingredients. A blender may be necessary to make fruit puree to flavor the drink, but the drink itself should be whisked together to maintain the textural integrity of the yogurt.