Tzatziki is a delicious Greek sauce, made from strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon and dill.
Tzatziki can be used as a sauce for meats, a sandwich spread, an appetizer with warm pita or in a salad. There are many variations to tzatziki sauce, and what you end up using it for will determine how you should approach making it.
What You Need To Make Tzatziki
Strained yogurt is the base for tzatziki. You can strain your own right at home or purchase Greek yogurt, but make sure you buy plain yogurt and avoid any fat-free varieties because you’ll need fat for flavor. To make tzatziki, you’ll need:
- A 17 oz container of plain full fat or low-fat Greek-style yogurt
- 1 large English cucumber, peeled
- 2 cups of fresh dill (divided into two separate cups)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced, with the zest and juice separated.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
How To Make Tzatziki Sauce
- Add the yogurt into a large mixing bowl. Stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula to get a sense of its consistency. We’ll be making this tzatziki for dipping, so you want it a little thicker — if your yogurt is thin, you can strain it through cheesecloth over a strainer until thickened.
- Finely dice the cucumber and add it to the yogurt. If you have a food processor or blender that has a dicing option, you can use this as well.
- Mince the garlic using either a knife or a microplane grater and place it in the mixing bowl.
- Add the lemon juice and zest.
- Finely mince one cup of dill and add to the mixing bowl.
- Roughly chop the other cup of dill and add to the dip.
- Stir the mixture and swirl in olive oil as you fold it all together.
- Add salt and pepper and taste.
Spice Up Your Tzatziki
For this basic recipe, you can add spices and some other ingredients to change the taste or adapt the recipe for uses as a sandwich topping, salad dressing or sauce. Here are some tasty variations to try out:
Although it is a Greek sauce, its origins are based in Turkey and Persia, so it’s common to see tzatziki as an accompaniment to Middle Eastern cuisine as well. Add some of the following ingredients right to your standard recipe to make a great tzatziki for sandwiches:
- 1 tablespoon of Aleppo pepper. This earthy and spicy sweet seasoning will add balanced heat and deep flavor.
- 1 tablespoon sumac. Dried sumac adds a tartness that is unique and flavorful.
- 1 tablespoon zaatar. Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that mixes sesame seed, sumac, salt and dried herbs such as oregano, marjoram and thyme. It adds a lot of flavor to any dish.
- Preserved lemon. Swap out the lemon juice and zest for finely minced preserved lemon. The pickle-like flavor will add another level of tartness to interact with the sweet lemon flavor. Preserved lemon tends to be salty, so make sure to adjust your seasoning appropriately.
Herb Salad Tzatziki
Keep the same amount of dill, but add one cup each of the following fresh herbs:
- Flat-leaf parsley
- Cilantro. Some people despise this flavor, but others will love the bright citrusy taste it adds to tzatziki.
- Basil. Roll-up leaves and slice thinly across, creating ribbons of herb.
- Mint. Roughly chop or hand tear into the tzatziki.
Extra-Greek Style Tzatziki
If you are serving tzatziki with traditional Greek foods, such as gyros, add some of these ingredients to amp up the flavor:
- Chopped kalamata olives
- Minced red onion
- 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- Minced fresh oregano
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
South Asian Yogurt Dip
Raita is a dish similar to tzatziki and essential to Indian cuisine. The ingredients are similar to regular tzatziki, and use the same amount of yogurt, cucumber, garlic and lemon, but this recipe substitutes cilantro for the dill and adds cumin, dried coriander seed and a dash of garam masala spice to taste. Trying serving this with warm naan bread instead of pita, or add it as a side dish to curries and rice.
Spicy Chili Tzatziki
You can add some heat and flavor to the standard tzatziki recipe, which can make the dish a fitting accompaniment for grilled meat or barbecue. Add your favorite hot sauce, diced pickled jalapenos or chopped fresh chilies.