Greece is well known for its dips and sauces, and perhaps the most popular condiment/sauce — and the most familiar to us non-Greeks — is tzatziki. It is creamy and refreshing at the same time, with a nice delicate crunch from the shredded cucumber.
The tzatziki recipe’s main ingredients are cucumber, yogurt and garlic, and usually some fresh herbs. It’s a Greek staple, but it can be served with everything Mediterranean. Enjoy tzatziki as a dip with pita bread, as a condiment with grilled fish or meat, or as a sauce for gyros.
If you are as fond of tzatziki as I am, you may want to make extra to serve up with pita chips, or perhaps to dollop on a piece of grilled chicken or grilled salmon. Leftover roasted meat, thinly-sliced and piled into a pita with tzatziki, makes a great makeshift gyro — you can do this with roasted leg of lamb, beef, pork, or even roast turkey.
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The most popular, versatile and refreshing Greek condiment and dip, Tzatziki is made with chopped cucumber, yogurt, garlic, and fresh herbs.Tweet This
- Cucumber – People often ask me what kind of cucumber to use for tzatziki. My answer is that if you have a choice, go for a seedless cucumber: yes, there are still seeds in a seedless cucumber, but they are smaller, and there are fewer of them. These usually have thinner skins, as well, so there is no need to peel them. You could also do this with baby cucumbers.
- Greek yogurt – I love using whole yogurt for its richness, but you can use a lower-fat version if you prefer.
- Garlic – A key ingredient in tzatziki!
- Fresh herbs – Often, fresh herbs are added, such as dill, oregano, mint, parsley, or a combo of herbs. Even the fronds of fennel bulbs can be a great addition. For this recipe, I’ve included oregano and mint, but feel free to mix it up!
- Olive oil – Extra-virgin olive oil is often added for a bit of richness, anywhere from a tiny splash to a generous glug. Oil thins the sauce but adds another level of richness and silkiness.
- Lemon juice – Most tzatzikis usually include some sort of acid, like lemon juice, to give the dip a little kick.
- Salt and pepper – To taste. Make a note that in this recipe, you use salt to prepare the cucumber, so it’ll already be pre-salted when you combine all the ingredients!
How to Make Tzatziki
- Prepare the cucumber: Peel the cucumber if you wish. Slice it lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds.
- Grate cucumber: Grate the cucumber using the large holes on a box grater or the grating blade in a food processor.
- Salt the cucumber: Toss the cucumber with kosher salt and place in a strainer over a bowl or in the sink. Let rest for 10 to 30 minutes.
- Squeeze out liquid: Use your hands to squeeze the cucumbers to press out any extra liquid, then place the cucumber in a medium bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients: Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, mint, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper (don’t forget that the cucumbers were salted at the beginning!).
There are many versions of this Greek dip. Typically, most tzatzikis are made from a base of Greek yogurt and grated cucumber, to which garlic, lemon juice, and a mixture of fresh herbs are added, plus salt and pepper to taste.
In America, that “tz” sound is pronounced like the z in “pizza” — it makes a splashy, fricative noise — and the “i“s in this word are both long. Therefore the word “tzatziki” ends up sounding something like “tza-tzee-key.”
Some cooks say yes, some say no, so at the end of the day, it’s your call. I like to leave the skin on the cucumber unless it’s quite thick. The extra pop of dark green color that it brings to this dip is very pretty.
Tzatziki has a super refreshing taste that comes from fresh cucumbers. It usually has a little bit of a bite to it, coming from the garlic and lemon. Another layer of flavor comes from whichever herbs you choose to use in the mixture.
Tzatziki doesn’t keep very well. It is best eaten within a day of making, as the mixture can start to become a bit watery from the cucumbers.
What to Serve Tzatziki With
Tzatziki is a great dunk for any kind of raw vegetable, and also a great companion to crunchy pita chips or soft pita wedges. It’s excellent with fish and seafood, and very traditionally served with lamb. It’s also terrific on sandwiches like turkey burgers or gyros. Think of it as one of the more versatile additions to a meal — it really is a dip, a sauce, or a condiment, depending on how you use it.
More Greek-Inspired Recipes
- Greek Tabbouleh Salad
- Easy Greek Chicken Pasta Salad
- Greek Salad with Flank Steak
- Greek Tomato and Cucumber Salad
- Greek Turkey Burgers
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- Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Grate the cucumber using the large holes on a box grater, or the grating blade in a food processor. Toss the cucumber with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and place in a strainer over a bowl or in the sink. Let rest for 10 to 30 minutes.
- Use your hands to squeeze the cucumbers to press out any extra liquid, then place in a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, mint, and garlic. Stir well, and add pepper and any additional salt as needed (don't forget that the cucumbers were salted at the beginning!).
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.