Tzatziki: the best thing to happen to low-fat yogurt since smoothies.

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Tzatziki.

This yogurt-based spread/dip/salad is a must at most Greek-style meals. Including cucumbers, garlic, and mint, with a touch of cumin, it’s very similar to India’s raita.

And, it’s a snap to make. Really.

Once you see how easy this is, you’ll find yourself reaching for that big container of plain yogurt in the dairy section over and over again. Because, trust me – you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better to do with plain low-fat yogurt than make it into thick, rich tzatziki.

I like to use one of those long English cucumbers for tzatziki; the kind that usually come wrapped in plastic in the produce section at the supermarket. They’re not as juicy (cuke juice is your enemy here), and generally less seed-filled. Also, they’re not waxed, so no need to peel them.

Dice the cucumber by first cutting it in half lengthwise, then cutting each half into long strips.

If any of the strips are mainly seeds, slice out the seeds.

Dice small; 1/4” to 1/2” is about right.

Ah, there we are.

Layer the diced cuke in three layers in a sieve, lightly salting each layer.

Place a plate or piece of plastic wrap over the cucumbers, and put a weight on top: a heavy bottle, a jar filled with water, or something to press down on the cucumbers. Place the sieve in the sink, or in a bowl to catch liquid.

Let the cucumbers sit at room temperature for several hours, till they’ve given up quite a bit of juice.

Mix the diced cucumbers with the following:

2 cups thick Greek-style yogurt*
1 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic oil or olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice or rice wine vinegar

*Make your own Greek-style yogurt by draining 1 quart (32 ounces) whole-milk or low-fat yogurt in a yogurt cheese maker or cheesecloth for 24 hours. Like this:

1 quart low-fat yogurt in the Wave yogurt cheese maker.

Same yogurt, 24 hours later. Now that is THICK yogurt! And you’d never, ever know it’s low-fat, it’s so rich-tasting.

OK, back to the recipe. Stir it all up. While fresh mint isn’t always included in tzatziki, I love it. Add about 2 to 3 tablespoons snipped fresh mint, or to taste.

Stir-stir-stir…

…and scoop into a bowl. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, if desired.

Chill for several hours, for the flavors to meld. Serve with soft bread sticks, pita, bread, or with the crunchy twice-baked focaccia slices shown above. Tzatziki and bread are integral parts of a Greek meze (assortment of small dishes).

For best storage, store right in your Wave yogurt cheese maker. The cucumbers will continue to give up their juice as the tzatziki sits, but the juice will drain right out the bottom of the Wave, keeping your tzatziki nice and thick.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Tzatziki.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Mom24@4evermom

    I’m not wild about chunks of cucumber in my tzatziki, I shred the cucumber.

    Stupid question…if you’re making your own greek yogurt, I assume you refrigerate it?

    Reply
  2. Olivia

    I must object to the lack of dill in this recipe. Also greek yogurt can be made by putting a coffee filter into a strainer and placing it in a bowl (with plenty of clearance). Then scoop the yogurt into that and let sit covered overnight. No cheesecloth necessary. :D

    To each his own, Olivia – mint, dill, whatever you like, it’s very versatile. I make the mint recipe for a Greek friend of mine and she loves it, so I know it’s not “heresy” to use mint. But I’ll definitely have to try dill next time. Thanks for sharing – the dill, and the hit about the coffee filters. I’ve done it that way, too, and it’s just a bit more awkward (needed two filters and two setups for 32 ounces of yogurt), but does work well. Cheers – PJH

    Reply
  3. Lea Kiapos

    When we make tzatziki, we peel, seed and grate the cukes, then squeeze them in a flour sack towel. And instead of mint, we add fresh (or dried if desperate) dill, along with the crushed garlic. Nothing else. Makes for an even thicker (lower calorie) sauce. Tzatziki is an all-purpose kind of sauce – wonderful with fresh veggies, with meatballs, on lamb, with crusty bread/pita chips, or even on its own. Best of all, it’s quick, easy, and impressive – and healthy! Glad to see this delicious recipe on KAF site!

    Reply
  4. Lea

    When I make tzatziki, I peel, seed and grate the cukes, then squeeze them out in a flour sack towel. This keeps it from getting too runny as it sits. Then I add some garlic and fresh dill to the yogurt, but nothing else. It’s a wonderful all-purpose dip/sauce. We serve it with fresh veggies, grilled veggies, meatballs, lamb, stuffed grape leaves, crusty bread/pita chips, and eat it all by itself! It’s quick, easy, and healthy… and delicious! Thanks for posting this yummy recipe.

    Didn’t think of fresh dill, in place of the mint – sounds like a yummy variation. and thanks for sharing all the ways you use it! PJH

    Reply
  5. Shirley

    I have a recipe that is similar to this and I love it on grilled chicken. One difference in how I make it is to grate the cucumbers and then salt them and drain them. Love the mint in it and I use a bit more lemon juice. Love all the dips, great time of year for them. Thanks.

    Didn’t think of grating, Shirley – but that would definitely make a smoother spread. Thanks for the tip – PJH

    Reply
  6. Joelle

    This looks fantastic! I have a question, Greek yogurt has a lot more protein than regular yogurt. by taking regular yogurt and letting it sit to make it thick, you still have the same amount of protein, correct?
    Greek yogurt has a higher protein content because it’s been concentrated and since the serving size stays the same, you are getting more yogurt in every bite. Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  7. FRAN S

    Now that warmer days are upon us I am really in the mood to start making all the greek dishes we serve at our annual family reunion. I have made greek style chicken salad by taking this dip and adding some cooked diced chicken and a little bit of feta cheese and grape tomatoes, served in pita pockets.

    Nice idea, Fran – I love the addition of the cheese and tomatoes, with the chicken. Thanks – PJH

    Reply
  8. June

    Aha! I had recently watched a special about Chef Cat Cora as she visited her family in Greece and one of the foods she groaned in pleasure over was tzatziki, something I have never eaten. So your recipe was timely and sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try it along with some grilled bread and veggies- mmmmmmm!

    Reply
  9. SoupAddict Karen

    I have a fierce addiction to tzatziki. Thanks for torturing me while I’m sitting in my office, unable to do anything about this recipe but watch the clock. ;^)

    So, Karen, you’re going to buy an English cuke on the way home, right? And a quart of low-fat yogurt? VERY healthy! PJH

    Reply
  10. Carol

    I love this — I haven’t made it in years. Thanks for reminding me. I made it along with tandori bread — which I “baked” on the grill. And along a chop salad of tomatoes, leftover brisket, feta and olives (from the olive bar in the market). Perfect for a day like today– the air is out- it’s 90 degrees and just as much humidity. Very cooling.

    Reply
  11. Sophia

    Hi, it has been quite amusing for me to see how in the West countries this fine dish has been interpreted…
    It is not as hard as it looks. First and only thing that requires lots of effort is the dicing of the cucumber, which is done by slicing the cucumber into long “Juliens” and then cutting them across into small dices.
    Before the cutting is done, place a WET cheese cloth on the top of colander, pour in the plain yoghurt and place them over a big bowl where the whey will be drained.
    This dish varies slightly between a households or villages, but the main ingredients are the same – yoghurt, cucumber and garlic. In the traditional Greek cooking a garlic/walnut pesto (pound the garlic and the walnuts with a pinch of salt till paste) is a must! Not mint, but fresh dill. And vinegar is only suggested if the natural yoghurt could not reach the natural acidity typical for the Balkan or Mediterreanian region. If a housewife has pressed or shredded the cucumber is considered lazy or without cooking common sence, because the little liquid that the cucumber would produce is compensated from the drained yoghurt and the thick garlic and walnut pesto. The texture of the tsatsiki (aka tarator) should be with a crunch from the FINELY diced cucumber, not gummy.
    The dish has also soothing functions since the yoghurt, the extra virgin olive oil and the fresh dill are well reknown for their magic effect on the digestive system and the stomach.
    I would highly recommend that this dish be learned from some old lady in one of those beautiful places like Crete, where everything is natural and picked from the garden and the yoghurt is made overnight at home. Nothing healthier and tastier than the natural food!

    Wish we could all go to Crete to learn, Sophia. Thanks so much for sharing here – it’s great to hear about the “real thing” from someone who knows. PJH

    Reply
  12. Clare

    I made this for book club and everyone loved it. Thanks for helping me add another successful recipe to my collection. It was so much easier to make than I thought.

    Reply
  13. Julie T.

    Have been licking the bowl! I have made thickened yogurt occasionally for years to use for other spreads, this is a great addition. In the past I have used the whey for a partial substitute in the liquid for bread making. As one pint of yogurt yields approx. 1 cup of whey, do you have any other suggestions for use of the whey in baking? I hate to throw it away (awhey?) as it contains good protein. Would appreciate your suggestions. Whey has many uses in baking. Substitute it for liquid in any recipe where you’d like a bit of a tang. You might want to add a pinch of soda to the recipe to help deal with the acid. Here are 2 recipes to get you started. whey pancakes. and whey muffins. Mary @KAF

    Reply
  14. Andy Clemmer

    For Julie T.: Whey can be frozen in ice cube trays, then added to soups or stews in place of part of the liquid or into smoothies or protein shakes as part of the ice. Also can be added to food for farm animals (pigs,etc.) for anyone on a farm. Hope this helps. : ) Andy C.

    Reply
  15. Bob Galli

    I’ve been ‘straining’ for years – I use non-fat plain yogurt – the multi-purpose condiment!! I, too, use garlic and Greek oregano along with cucumber – can’t imagine without garlic. When I use it for baked or grilled salmon, I add capers and finely diced onion and spread on top after cooking. In Detroit’s Greektown (’60s & 70s), we used to lunch on (1) tzatziki, (2) Greek bread and (3) wine (Rodytis, Retsina and others!) – ahhhh the good old days!! I enjoy yogurt in many ways – great on baked potatoes with diced scallion greens, too!
    Best to all -

    Reply
  16. Louise

    Je vais certainement faire ce tzaziki prochainement, j’en ai l’eau à la bouche rien qu’à le lire. Depuis quelques temps j’achète cette sauce alors qu’il est si facile de la faire, j’ai toujours tout ce qu’il faut sous la main. Ce message me fait rappeler le merveilleux voyage que j’ai fait en Crête avec le pain, les brochettes et le fameux tzakziki, que de bons souvenirs.
    Thanks
    Louise

    Louise, si content nous pourrions rapporter des souvenirs heureux! :) PJH

    Reply

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