This is the best tzatziki recipe, resulting in a thick, rich, and super tasty dip - definitely more of a dip than a sauce. Serve with my chicken souvlaki, or just eat it with a spoon!
With the summer months coming up - and my souvlaki recipe on my upcoming to-post list - my mind has been on Greek food lately.
It’s a cuisine with such delicious recipes in general - baklava, anyone? - but where we really get into it is with grilling.
Greek cuisine lends itself really well to summer grilling, with so many easy recipes.
Summer vegetables and herbs have the best flavor, simple grilled meats and fish can easily be dressed up with fresh marinades, and everything goes SO well with one of my favorite sauces.
... and I have a great recipe for you!
What is Tzatziki?
Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt sauce, typically served as a dip, cucumber sauce, or salad dressing at Greek restaurants.
Yogurt is drained, mixed with shredded cucumber, and seasoned with various fresh flavors.
It’s known as a simple, generally low fat Greek sauce - you’ve probably had it at your favorite Greek restaurant, it’s a staple of Greek cuisine - but it’s also popular in other countries, in similar forms.
The same basic idea - with minor variations - is called “tarator” in Balkan countries, cacık in Turkey, and Jajeek across the middle east and parts of Africa.
It’s also similar to raita, a popular condiment in Indian cuisine.
This Greek tzatziki sauce recipe is made up of simple ingredients, easy to find in any grocery store.
Full-Fat Greek Yogurt
You’ll want plain, unsweetened, full fat yogurt, ideally. This thick yogurt gives the best texture to the finished dish, IMHO.
You can use more of a creamy Greek yogurt if you prefer, just be sure it’s plain!
I use one whole cucumber for this recipe, and I prefer English as it’s a seedless variety.
You can definitely use a fresh cucumber from your garden, you just may need to seed it before grating it.
I consider 3 cloves of garlic to be the minimum! Feel free to add more.
(I try to keep things measured here, I know not everyone is as much of a garlic fiend as we tend to be!)
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and Black pepper
How to Make Tzatziki
The full recipe follows - in a recipe card at the end of this post - but here’s a more detailed step by step pictorial walk through, with some additional tips.
Drain the Yogurt
For best results, start draining your yogurt the night before you want to make this recipe.
I recommend lining a fine mesh strainer with a layer - or 2, ideally! - of cheese cloth. Then I place the lined fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl.
You want the sieve suspended, not touching the bottom of the bowl. SO much liquid can come out of yogurt, give it room!
Measure your yogurt into the cheesecloth, and put it in the fridge overnight, to allow the excess water to drain out of it. This is what ensures a nice, thick dip.
The Next Day
Peel your cucumber if you’d like, and grate it. Squeeze as much water out of the grated cucumber as you can, then place it in a bowl.
Stir ½ teaspoon of salt into the grated cucumber, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. This will draw even more excess moisture out of the cucumber.
Once the 10 minutes are up, squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
If you’d like, you can spread it out on paper towels, cover it with more paper towl, and press out the excess liquid.
Take the yogurt out of the fridge - it’ll basically be a thick yogurt cheese at this point. Give it a good stir.
In a medium or large bowl, mix together the strained yogurt with the remaining ingredients, season this yogurt mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
Tzatziki will keep in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days. If more liquid appears (salt continuing to draw it out of the cucumber), just use a small spoon to stir it back in.
Tzatziki Sauce Variations
While I generally make this version of tzatziki as-is, one of the benefits of making homemade tzatziki sauce is that you can customize it to your tastes and ingredient availability.
For such a simple recipe, you can wildly vary the finished dip by even slightly altering an ingredient or two.
Here are a few ways you can customize this authentic tzatziki recipe:
I do tend to default to using dill, but you can vary the fresh herbs you use.
Try using fresh mint, parsley, and/or thyme in place of some or all of the dill.
Personally, I love the way this homemade tzatziki recipe tastes when based with thick Greek yogurt, but that’s not the only option to start with.
Regular plain yogurt will work just fine, it just might not turn out quite as thick.
Try goat yogurt! Goat's milk yogurt is actually traditional, and has its own unique tang.
Need it vegan, paleo, or AIP? Swap out the yogurt for a couple cans of coconut cream. (You’ll still want to give it the cheesecloth treatment). Note: This version will melt when served with hot food).
Can’t use yogurt for whatever reason? Sour Cream is a reasonable substitute in a pinch!
This is a cucumber dip, so I wouldn’t recommend swapping this ingredient out 🙂
That said, you can use regular hothouse cucumbers / garden cucumbers, just seed them before shredding them.
Also, feel free to skip peeling the cucumber, for additional colour and nutrition. (I find this works better with English / seedless cucumbers, than with regular cucumbers.)
I usually like to rough grate my cucumber for this, as I like the texture. Totally a matter of personal preference!
For a smoother / creamier dip, you can either grate the cucumber using the fine grating side of your box grater, or run the finished dip through a food processor.
Serving this as a bowl of delicious dip? Try garnishing with a drizzle of a good quality extra virgin olive oil, some kalamata olives, or just a sprig of fresh dill.
How to Use Tzatziki
Now that you’ve got a batch of this refreshing sauce in the fridge, what are you going to do with it? There are so many possibilities!
For a simple Mediterranean dish, serve up a bowl of this with fresh vegetables and pita chips.
It’s definitely an effective way to get more vegetables in your diet, as it’s incredibly easy to plow through a big plate of them, when this dip is involved!
This goes so well with pretty much all types of fresh veggies, but I find it especially nice with really crunchy vegetables - carrot sticks, celery, slices of green bell peppers, etc.
You can even make a whole mezze platter with dip, veggies, pita, falafel, olives, feta cheese, maybe some hummus, etc.
Every time I make my Chicken Souvlaki, I have to put a batch of this recipe on.
Get a nice fresh pita bread round, load it with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, kalamata olives, and delicious marinated grilled chicken, top the whole thing off with tzatziki - heaven!
For that matter, it makes a great spread for all kinds of pita sandwiches.
We’ll roast up a batch of red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant, stuff it in a pita with some of this - delicious.
Serve it with gyros, various styles of kebabs, etc. We actually order these amazing Iraqi beef kebabs from a local restaurant sometimes, it goes fabulously with them!
Why stop at grilled meats? This also goes really well with all manner of grilled vegetables!
We love it with grilled portabello mushrooms, thick grilled zucchini slices, asparagus even corn on the cob. Try it with your favourites!
I love using a big scoop of this with Greek salad, either in place of or in addition to the vinaigrette dressing, depending on what I’m in the mood for.
Tzatziki makes a really great substitute for sour cream, and I will definitely smoother a baked potato in it, when the opportunity presents itself!
More Seasoning & Condiment Recipes
Looking for some tasty ways to add a little something extra to your dish? Here are a few ideas:
Canadian Popcorn Seasonings
Candied Ginger, Ginger Syrup, and Ginger Sugar
Diana Sauces (Replica Recipes)
Homemade Hop Extracts
Homemade Seasoned Salt
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce
Hoppy Dill Pickle Relish
How to Make Compound Butters
Montreal Steak Spice & Marinade
Olive Salad for Muffalettas
Porter's Ice Cream & Yogurt Topping
Roasted Beet Ketchup
Smoky Dry Rub for Wings
Sushi Sauce Recipes
Tangerine Thyme Dry Rub
Thai Cilantro Pesto
Vanilla Extract Recipe
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- 3 cups Plain Greek yogurt
- 1 English cucumber peeled
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 3 Garlic cloves pressed
- 1 tablespoon Lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Chopped fresh dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Line a metal strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth, place over a smaller bowl. Place yogurt into cheesecloth, chill in the fridge overnight.
- Grate the peeled cucumber, squeeze out as much water as you can. Place grated cucumber into a bowl, stir in ½ teaspoon salt, allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Squeeze out remaining water.
- Mix together strained yogurt, squeezed cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and dill; season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.