The Greeks gifted the world with many delicious dishes, and tzatziki is one. The mildly tart yogurt-based sauce, seasoned with fresh herbs and a little garlic, is eaten all over the Mediterranean, and usually called by its original Greek name. In Israel, you don’t find it among the hundreds of dairy products in the supermarkets, maybe because it’s delicate and has to be eaten very fresh. But tzatziki is easy enough to make at home, and it harmonizes with almost any food you put on the table. As it’s always eaten cold, it makes a good summer dish.
If you’re using thick, full-fat Greek yogurt, you can go ahead without waiting. But if you don’t have Greek yogurt, you’ll need to strain it for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
The yogurt should be good and thick. There’s little handwork; mostly chopping up a cucumber and some herbs. Then just stir everything up, spoon the tzatziki onto a plate and garnish it with a dribble of olive oil. Serve as part of a mezze array. Or simply on its own, in a bowl, for hungry diners to add to their plates as they wish. I like to heap a tablespoon or so onto a wedge of pita.
There’s a big debate over which herb should flavor tzatziki: mint, or dill. It seems to change from region to region, and those who care for one or the other herb defend their choice fiercely. I prefer mint, but you can substitute the same amount of fresh dill if you like. There are even those who use a combination of both. Authentic? Well, you have to like what you eat, I think.
Tzatziki Sauce RecipePrint
- 18 oz (2 1/2 cups) full-fat Greek yogurt (or 24-oz/ 3 cups of ordinary yogurt)
- 1 large cucumber (about 10 oz)
- 1 large garlic clove (minced or put through a garlic press)
- Table salt for sprinkling
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp table salt (or more to taste)
- If using ordinary yogurt, use 3 cups. Place a clean kitchen towel inside a strainer, then pour the yogurt inside. Place the strainer over a bowl and refrigerate the whole setup for 2 hours. The yogurt will drip whey and become thicker.
- Peel the cucumber. Slice it in half horizontally. If it has seeds, scrape them out.
- Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater, or mince it very finely.
- Dump the grated cucumber into a fine strainer and sprinkle salt over it generously. Mix gently but thoroughly. Let the cucumber drain for 10 minutes.
- Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the cucumber, turning it over and either squeezing it with your hands or pushing it around in the strainer with the bottom of a heavy glass. A potato masher also does the trick.
- Mince or press the garlic. Chop the mint (or dill) finely.
- Move the yogurt into a medium bowl. Add the cucumber, garlic, mint, vinegar, olive oil and salt. Taste and adjust salt. Add a few grinds of pepper if you like. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving so the flavors blend.
- Tzatziki traditionally goes with pita, but if you dare go against tradition, try it with tortilla chips for a snack.