Tzatziki! Tsaht-ZEE-kee! Otherwise known as that yogurt and cucumber sauce you love at Greek restaurants but worry about mispronouncing (hear the pronunciation here). It’s a refreshing, chilled sauce or dip. Tzatziki is made simply with yogurt, drained cucumber, olive oil, fresh herbs (usually mint or dill), garlic, lemon juice and salt.
I tend to associate tzatziki with Greek food, but you’ll find it served across the Mediterranean and Middle East, sometimes under different names or in slightly different forms.
Tzatziki is often served with grilled meats and gyros, but I can’t think of a grilled or roasted vegetable it wouldn’t play nicely with. Bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus and green beans are all fair game. I might even slather it on grilled corn on the cob. Why not?
You can also serve up some tzatziki with your next appetizer spread. It would go great with toasted pita wedges, crisp raw vegetables, hummus, olives, cheese and crackers. Its many uses don’t end at cook-outs and cheese plates, though.
Tzatziki is also fantastic dolloped on falafel and spread inside pita sandwiches (you could use it instead of the avocado in that recipe). And, I don’t get mad when tzatziki lands on my tabbouleh, lentil salad or chickpea salad.
Fortunately, tzatziki is super easy to whip together. The only trick is to properly drain the cucumber before mixing it into the yogurt. Otherwise, cucumber waters down the sauce too much. Salting the grated cucumber and letting the excess moisture drip out takes a while.
The easiest and most efficient way to get rid of the excess moisture is just to squeeze the grated cucumber over the sink. The only wait required in my recipe is to let the tzatziki rest for five minutes after you mix it all together, to let the flavors meld. At that point, you can serve it right away or chill it for later.
Nutritionally speaking, tzatziki is a creamy but light sauce that you can dollop generously on your food without adding a lot of calories (unlike, say, mayonnaise or ranch dressing). It’s made mostly with Greek yogurt and cucumber, after all. I haven’t found a noticeable difference in texture whether I use whole-milk yogurt, low-fat or non-fat, so any of those will work.
Traditional Greek tzatziki is made with strained goat or sheep’s yogurt, but it’s hard to find those here. The Greek yogurt sold here in the U.S. is strained yogurt (that’s why it’s thicker and higher in protein than regular yogurt), so I use that. I don’t always love the funk in goat or sheep’s yogurt anyway, to tell you the truth.
I actually created this tzatziki recipe for a falafel-stuffed bell pepper recipe that didn’t make it into my cookbook. I wanted every single recipe in the cookbook to be TOTALLY EPIC, and I nixed the stuffed peppers because they weren’t quite worth the time and effort.
However, I loved the tzatziki so much that I included it in the sauces chapter at the end of the book. I was afraid you might miss it there, and I’m trying to up my sauce game on the blog, so I’m sharing it here as well. It might make an appearance in another Greek recipe on the blog soon.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 1 cup
- Category: Sauce
- Cuisine: Greek
Learn how to make tzatziki, a traditional Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce with fresh herbs. Tzatziki is a refreshing sauce or dip, and it’s so easy to make! This basic recipe yields 1 cup, so multiply as necessary.
- 1 cup grated cucumber (from about 1 medium 10-ounce cucumber, no need to peel or seed the cucumber first)
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint and/or dill
- 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Working with one big handful at a time, squeeze the grated cucumber between your palms over the sink to remove excess moisture. Transfer the squeezed cucumber to a small serving bowl, and repeat with the remaining cucumber.
- Add the yogurt, olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, garlic, and salt to the bowl, and stir to blend. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and add additional chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, and/or salt, if necessary (I thought this batch was just right as-is).
- Serve tzatziki immediately or chill for later. Leftover tzatziki keeps well, chilled, for about 4 days.
Recipe originally published in my cookbook, Love Real Food.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Substitute ½ cup cashew sour cream (available on page 217 of my book) for the yogurt, and thin the tzatziki with a small spash of water if necessary.