Cool, creamy, and soothing tzatziki is a rich and delicious condiment that comes to us from the Mediterranean, particularly the areas of Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey.
A modified version of Indian raita sauce, it found its way to Greece via the Middle East trade routes during the Persian Mughal Empire.
Referred to as cacık in Turkey and North Cyprus, it has become a staple in the cuisines of the area.
Originally used to cool down a spicy Persian rice pilaf known as biryani, today the fresh taste of tzatziki graces many dishes.
One Sauce, Endless Ideas!
As a full-bodied sauce and dip, it’s a natural with pita breads (try your hand at making your own delicious barley pita bread!), baked potatoes, calamari, seafood tacos, and grilled veggies and meats.
It’s a must with souvlaki or kebabs, and makes a tasty spread on sandwiches and wraps, like a gyro.
Fabulous on an appetizer tray with fresh veggies, it’s also divine as a dip with ripple potato chips!
Try a dollop on your corn on the cob instead of butter – you’ll love the flavor combo!
And this tangy sauce is also a standard ingredient on a mezze tray. Mezzes are a variety of Mediterranean bite-sized snack foods or appetizers, much like antipasto and tapas.
They’re always a hit at a party!
Our Zesty Version
Traditionally made from a strained and salted sheep or goat’s milk yogurt, it’s combined with cucumber, garlic, herbs, other seasonings, and either vinegar or lemon juice – we’ve opted for lemon juice in this recipe for its fresh taste.
The combination of the yogurt and lemon juice gives this sauce a sharp, tart flavor. If you’d like to mellow out that sharpness, cut the yogurt in half and replace it with sour cream.
This recipe will benefit greatly from being partially made ahead of time and left to sit – this allow the flavors to blend, and lowers the intensity of the garlic.
To make in advance, blend all of the ingredients as directed, except for the cucumber. Just before serving, remove from the fridge and stir in the drained cucumber.
Make this fresh and creamy condiment now – the recipe is below!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Get Organized
Step 2 – Prepare the Cucumber
Leave the skin on and grate the cucumber with a box grater.
Step 3 – Drain
Mix together the grated cucumber with a generous sprinkle of sea salt. The salt helps to draw out the moisture.
Place in a sieve or colander over a bowl. Alternatively, wrap it tightly in a square piece of cheesecloth tied on a wooden spoon and suspended over a bowl.
Drain for several hours in the fridge.
Step 4 – Press or Squeeze
To expel the excess water while draining, firmly press down the cucumber in the sieve, or occasionally squeeze it in the cheesecloth.
The more water you can remove from the cucumber, the thicker your sauce will be. And there’s a lot of water in a cucumber, so it pays to help it drain!
Step 5 – Mix the Garlic and Oil
Peel, smash, and mince the garlic. Alternatively, use a garlic press to easily mash the cloves.
Mix with the olive oil and allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for several hours.
Step 6 – The Final Drying
After the cucumber has drained for a few hours, spread it on a clean, dry dishtowel and pat gently to remove any remaining moisture. When finished, fluff with a fork.
Step 7 – Mince the Herbs
While the cucumber is drying, mince the fresh mint and dill, zest half of the lemon, then squeeze out the juice.
Step 8 – Pulling It All Together
Serve And Enjoy!
Spoon tzatziki into individual bowls, garnish with some fresh mint or dill, and serve with your favorite Mediterranean food – or whatever’s cooking on the grill!
Remember to squeeze the cucumber to remove as much water as possible, and allow the flavors to meld in the fridge before serving.
How about you folks – any questions about making this fresh Greek sauce? Drop us a line in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page!
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Photos by Lorna Kring, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.