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Whether you’re barbecuing in the summer sun, or putting on a Greek night for dinner guests, our tzatziki recipe is an absolute must for a creamy, refreshing sauce that goes hand-in-hand with the sizzle and spice of juicy grilled meat.
No Greek platter is complete with a generous side of cold, lusciously thick tzatziki, ideal for dolloping on the hot, heavy meats in the likes of souvlaki and gyros, or dipping your freshly baked pita bread in.
Great food is all about balance and complimentary flavors, and that’s why tzatziki, and plenty of other cold yogurt-based dips, are integral parts of mezes and servings throughout the Mediterranean, Balkans, and the Middle East.
What is Authentic Tzatziki?
In Greece, tzatziki is typically served as a meze. It is a dip/sauce consisting of a mixture of strained yogurt, either from sheep or goat milk, grated cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and salt to season.
Acidity is commonly, but not exclusively, added through the likes of either lemon juice or vinegar (we’ve used white wine vinegar in our recipe), and herbs like dill, mint, thyme, or parsley are also commonly added.
Tzatziki is always served cold and compliments the density, heat, and spice of grilled meat, roasted vegetables, and breads that are abundant in Greek cuisine.
Lemon Juice/Vinegar – As mentioned above, it is very common to have one or the other in tzatziki. We have opted for white wine vinegar in our recipe, but you can substitute it with lemon juice. Many tzatziki recipes also opt for neither.
Herbs – We’ve opted for the grassy, citrussy notes of dill, but you will commonly see recipes that make tzatziki with mint, parsley, thyme, and even the likes of cilantro. As with lemon juice or vinegar, some traditional tzatziki recipes opt for no herbs.
Greek Glistrida me Yiaourti – When looking up tzatziki, you may come across a dish glistrida me yiaourti, meaning “purslane and yogurt salad”. This dish, classed as a salad rather than a dip or condiment, uses the same yogurt and cucumber base, but mixes in purslane (a succulent common in North Africa, South Europe, and Middle East also known as little hogweed) and other similar ingredients such as red wine vinegar, olive oil, and various herbs like mint, parsley, and cilantro, depending on the recipe.
Cypriot Talatouri – Talatouri is from neighboring Cyprus, and you will commonly see blogs and foodies online class both talatouri and tzatziki as the same thing. While they are no doubt very similar, Greek tzatziki and Cypriot talatouri do have their differences, and are dishes in their own right. While recipes vary, the use of mint in talatouri is often seen as a key difference between the two.
Balkan Tarator – I’ve included tarator in this list more so for reference, as tarator is commonly bucketed in the ‘yogurt-based condiment’ family, along with the likes of tzatziki, but is consumed in a different way. While, yes, tarator has a yogurt and cucumber base, commonly with the addition of dill, garlic, and olive oil, in the Balkans, and especially Bulgaria, tarator is thinner due to the addition of water, and with walnut is instead eaten as a cold soup, not as a sauce or condiment to dip hot meats and bread in. Our refreshing tarator recipe will give you more information.
Yogurt Base – Delve a little deeper, and you will find lots of yogurt-based dishes like tzatziki in the Levant, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. While we go into specifics, one thing I would like to point out is key variations can be found in the yogurt base, which play an integral role in the flavor and consistency of the dish.
In Turkish cacik, for example, labneh, instead of yogurt, is often used to make the base thicker. Hence, for example, where we have used Greek yogurt in our recipe, you could substitute it for regular plain yogurt, which has a thinner consistency, hence you would get thinner, potentially sweeter tzatziki.
What you should avoid, however, is getting inspiration from ‘plain/Greek yogurt substitute’ lists, where you may end up using something like sour cream in the recipe, which will give you something very far removed from what tzatziki should taste and feel like (if you are trying to make traditional tzatziki and not making variations based on diet preferences).
To make our creamy and delicious tzatziki dip, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Yogurt – 1 1/2 cups (350ml) plain Greek yogurt
- Cucumber – 1/2 English cucumber
- Dill – 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
- Olive Oil – 2 tablespoons
- White Wine Vinegar – 1 tablespoon
- Garlic – 1 clove
- Salt – 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste)
- Ground Black Pepper or White Pepper – 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste), optional
Step 1 – Peel and grate the cucumber.
Step 2 – Put the grated cucumber and salt in a sieve over a bowl to drain for about 10-15 minutes.
Step 3 – Chop the fresh dill.
Step 4 – While the cucumber is draining, add the yogurt, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and chopped dill to a large bowl to be mixed. Use a grater to mince the garlic into the mixture. Once all ingredients are in, give everything a good, thorough mix.
Step 5 – Drain the grated cucumber (either with your hands or with a cheesecloth if you have one).
Really give it a good squeeze if using a cheesecloth, as we have below. Get as much of that moisture out as possible.
Step 6 – Add the grated cucumber to the mixture and mix together well.
Step 7 – Taste and adjust for salt, vinegar, and, optionally, pepper.
Cold – Always serve tzatziki cold, and keep it in the refrigerator to maintain a chilled temperature.
Pita Bread – Bread has huge significance in Greek culture and is a symbol of hospitality and community. Hence, fresh pita bread, Greek village bread, or any type of flatbread or fresh, crusty bread is always worth a space on the sharing platter with tzatziki.
Grilled Meat – If it’s barbecue weather, make sure you have a bowl of tzatziki to serve with the meat. Cold, refreshing, creamy tzatziki, as we’ve spoken about above, is an ideal pairing for hot and spicy grilled meat, be it beef, chicken, lamb, or other types of meat.
Grilled Vegetables – Again, to compliment the heat, the likes of grilled or fried eggplant, pepper, zucchini, and plenty of other vegetables, either skewered or on a plate, can all be coated with a hefty dollop of tzatziki.
Wraps – Two of Greece’s most famous dishes, souvlaki and gyros, are often enjoyed with a generous dose of tzatziki. Going beyond Greek cuisine, any type of hot meat, falafel, or vegetable wrap, especially in a pita bread or flatbread, can benefit from a dollop or coating of tzatziki over the filling.
Green or Mediterranean Salads – A dollop of tzatziki can work wonders with simple salads that largely consist of chopped herbs, vegetables, and greens.
Raw Vegetables – Tzatziki can make a lovely creamy dip for the likes of carrot or celery sticks, and other raw vegetables.
Tzatziki Recipe Card
- 1 1/2 cups (350ml) plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 English cucumber
- 2 tbsp of chopped fresh dill
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground white or black pepper (optional, to taste)
- Peel and grate the cucumber.
- Put the grated cucumber and salt in a sieve over a bowl to drain for about 10-15 minutes.
- Chop the fresh dill.
- While the cucumber is draining, add the yogurt, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and chopped dill to a large bowl to be mixed. Use a grater to mince the garlic into the mixture. Once all ingredients are in, give everything a good, thorough mix.
- Drain the grated cucumber (either with your hands or with a cheesecloth if you have one). Get as much of that moisture out as possible.
- Add the grated cucumber to the mixture and mix together well.
- Taste and adjust for salt, vinegar, and, optionally, ground pepper.
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