The authentic Tzatziki recipe
Tzatziki is one of the most popular Greek appetizers. It's a beautiful yogurt dip/sauce, and is commonly served as an appetizer, especially during the summer.
People in Greece often start a meal with tzatziki and fried vegetables (usually zucchinis and eggplants) during the summer months.
Tzatziki is mostly known for it's use as condiment for gyros and souvlaki. It's the main sauce for many grilled meats, like pork, lamb, goat or even chicken. But what most people don't know, is that tzatziki is used in Greek cuisine as a great condiment for grilled or fried vegetables as well! Try it with some grilled red Italian sweet peppers, fried eggplant or zucchini slices, fried or baked mushrooms and you will be amazed! It's also fantastic with french fries or baked potatoes (especially if you also use some Mediterranean herbs when you bake them, like oregano).
Tzatziki is a vegetarian dish, and is consisting of Greek yogurt (strained yogurt), extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, and wine vinegar (to provide some acidity). The versions that include lemon juice instead of vinegar, are not common in Greece; we actually never have been served tzatziki with lemon in any Greek restaurant, tavern or home/family gathering. The original, traditional version includes vinegar, and this is the version we will present in this recipe; but then again, anything is a matter of taste, so if you feel like having lemon juice, give it a try! The herb usually added in tzatziki is dill, but you can omit it if you don't like it, or you can also subsitute with spearmint (rarely used however).
There are many similar dishes available in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Middle East, but they either using different ingredients, or they have a different consintency (for example the Turkish cacik, is similar, but is more dilluted and may contain sumak).
This recipe is healthy, fast and easy to make. You can always make your own tzatziki at home, in less than 20 minutes, whenever you feel like it; This way you will enjoy fresh ingredients and will also avoid any food additives you might find in processed food. Another advantage of having homemade tzatziki, is that you can adjust the flavour to your liking (add more or less garlic, vinegar, olive oil, dill). Finally, you will probably save money, as it's cheaper to buy the ingredients and make a good quantity for your backyard gatherings.
So let's make some fresh homemade tzatziki!
- 400gr/14oz Greek yogurt (2 x 200gr/7oz containers)
- 1/2 cucumber (160gr/5.5oz), peeled, seeded
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or very finely chopped
- 90ml (about 1/3cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) wine vinegar
- 1 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 10gr/0.4oz (a handful) dill, finely chopped, only the leaves (discard the stems)
- 1 pinch of salt for the cucumber
Preparation: Peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds(using the tip of a teaspoon). Grate the cucumber (roughly), using a cheese grater. If you don't have one suitable for rough grating, then finely chop the cucumber. Place the cucumber in a colander with a pinch of salt, and let it strain for 15 minutes.
While waiting for the cucumber to strain, put the yogurt in a large bowl and add the garlic. Stir, using either a tablespoon or a whisk. Slowly add the olive oil, while stirring, until the oil is incorporated into the yogurt. Do the same with the wine vinegar. Put it in the fridge until all 15 minutes needed for straining the cucumber have passed.
Next, squeeze the cucumber with your hands, to remove any excess water, and add it in the bowl with the yogurt mixture. Using a tablespoon, stir until it is combined. Add the dill and stir once more.
Cover the bowl with some cling film and put it in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving, to allow the flavours to mix. You can also serve immediately if you don't have the time, but the taste won't be so strong and it will not be as thick and creamy as it should. Then again, as mentioned before, everything is a matter of taste so you can also have it right away!
1. Always keep the tzatziki in the fridge, before and after serving (especially during summer). Make sure that the bowl is covered well with cling film, as you don't want any garlic smell in your fridge:)
2. Never keep the tzatziki for more than two days. It will become watery and lose its beautiful texture. It's an appetizer that is served fresh.
3. You can also use low fat yogurt, but in this case you have to increase the amount of olive oil added, to create a rich taste.
4. You can also drizzle with olive oil when serving.