Tzatziki: Cool, creamy, and tangy, yogurt-based tzatziki is the secret sauce that makes Greek and Middle Eastern food so irresistible. Use tzatziki sauce to put a fresh twist on grilled meats and vegetables, boost a pasta dish, or make sandwiches into something special.
Hummus might be the popular kid in the family of Middle Eastern condiments, but tzatziki might be my favorite to play with. Tzatziki sauce is the chill kid that gets along with everybody—a snap to make at home, creamy without being fatty, tangy without being tart, with flavor that’s fresh and cool even when served at room temperature. With this easy tzatziki sauce recipe, you’ll want to keep homemade tzatziki around to have all the time.
What is tzatziki dressing?
Whether you call it tzatziki sauce or tzatziki dressing, it’s the same thing, and made of the same ingredients:
- Garlic (of course)
- Herbs (such as mint, parsley, dill, oregano—the combination is up to the cook)
- Lemon juice and olive oil are often involved as well.
Don’t the ingredients themselves make your mouth start to water? The word is Greek, but comes from Turkish and Armenian roots, kind of the same way great food always seems to come from different cultures mashing their best stuff together. It’s usually served as a sauce for meats, but is also wonderful as a dip. Try it as a dressing for cool pasta salads or to add creamy richness to sandwiches or wraps.
Is tzatziki good for you?
In the food world, “creamy” usually means “fatty.” But tzatziki is based on plain yogurt, so it’s much lighter than parallel sauces and gravies. And the yogurt isn’t a substitution, used in place of something richer—it’s what the sauce is supposed to be. Cucumber, herbs, lemon juice…everything there is good for you. Olive oil, if you use it, is a healthy, monounsaturated fat. As long as you’re good with dairy, tzatziki is about as healthy as you can get.
How do you make homemade tzatziki?
Tzatziki is easy to make Just combine plain yogurt with the other ingredients and let it sit so that the flavors combine. A few details, though, make all the difference:
- Cucumber has a lot of water, so you need to dice and press it so that it doesn’t make the sauce watery.
- The texture of the yogurt will be the texture of the sauce. It may take some trial and error to find the yogurt you like. Start with a good quality Greek yogurt.
- The yogurt needs time to fully absorb the flavors, so the tzatziki that has been in the refrigerator for at least an hour will taste much better than one you put together at the last minute.
Is Greek yogurt required for Greek taztziki?
Yogurt is milk fermented by bacteria cultures. Variations in fat content, amount of liquid, and style of fermentation produce the huge array of yogurt products around the world. What is sold in the U.S. as “Greek yogurt” is plain yogurt that has been strained to reduce the liquid content, and in some cases, further thickened chemically. The artificial thickening can result in yogurt with a pasty, gluey texture that I’m not fond of. Read your labels! The fewer ingredients, the better. Or, you can make your own…
Alternates: Wait—what? Make my own yogurt?
You know I love my Instant Pot. And you probably know that it can make yogurt. But have you tried? I was intimidated, too, but it’s easy! And delicious. And the best part is that you get pure, wholesome yogurt with no additives. If you’re used to sweetened yogurt, give plain yogurt a chance by serving it over fruit with a splash of maple syrup or agave. Here’s my recipe for Instant Pot Greek Yogurt just leave off the sweetener.
If the yogurt isn’t thick enough for you, strain it as recommended at the end of the yogurt recipe. The longer you strain, the thicker yogurt gets. In the Middle East, labneh is the name for the cream-cheese-like result you get as you keep going. Try it, too! Spread labneh on toast just as you would with cream cheese.
Do you love Greek flavors as much as I do? Try some of these recipes to keep the Mediterranean sun shining at your house:
- Instant Pot Greek Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki
- Sheet Pan Greek Chicken Bake
- Easy Greek Pasta Salad
- Greek Marinated Steak with Corn Feta Relish
- Easy Greek Salmon Salad
- 1 English cucumber partially peeled (striped) and grated
- 1 tsp kosher salt divided
- 1 Tbs minced garlic
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ Tbs lemon juice
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp mint chopped fine
- 1 Tbs dill fresh chopped fine
- The cucumber should be grated with a cheese grater, then strained of it's juices. To strain it, squeeze it really tight by the fistful letting the water run through your fingers or use a cheesecloth.
- Once as much liquid as possible is out, combine the strained and chopped cucumber with all other ingredients.
- Mix everything together with a spoon, and taste. Add more salt if needed.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour + before serving to let the flavors meld.
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