Looking for a light and fresh dip to complement your meals? Tzatziki is an incredibly flavorful sauce often served with grilled meats or alongside a simple but tasty hummus as a dip. In Greek cuisine, tzatziki is a staple along with pita bread and souvlaki. It’s an absolute must-have for a traditional Greek gyro, but is lovely even outside of mediterranean cuisine. It’s an amazingly versatile sauce that can be thrown onto roasted salmon, potatoes, or even steamed broccoli to add a little brightness to a boring dish.
Tzatziki is usually made with strained yogurt mixed with chopped cucumber, vinegar, lemon juice, and dill or parsley. Cool and creamy, a dollop of Tzatziki is a great way to lighten up a dish’s flavor profile. It’s also a refreshing summertime snack with a relatively low calorie count (Just 50 calories in two tablespoons. Compare that to a whopping 145 calories in two tablespoons of ranch!) Plus, it’s high in protein, calcium, and helps you sneak in a few extra veggies throughout the day.
If you’re familiar with tzatziki and looking for a simple twist on the classic sauce, try adding a bit of spice from horseradish, cayenne, or even wasabi. The heat will balance out nicely with the cool cucumber and creamy yogurt. So without further ado, here are three takes on how to make an easy yet delicious tzatziki sauce.
Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cucumber
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh dill chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cayenne pepper
Shred cucumber and remove seeds.
Drain the shredded cucumber using a cheesecloth or coffee filter and set aside.
Combine yogurt, minced garlic, dill, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, vinegar, and spices in a bowl, adding the shredded and drained cucumber last.
Stir until fully combined.
Store in fridge for 1-2 hours before serving.
STEP ONE – SCOOP YOGURT INTO BOWL
For this recipe, I’m using traditional plain Greek yogurt. However, you can use nonfat Greek yogurt or even sour cream if traditional Greek yogurt doesn’t float your boat. The only big no-no here is using regular yogurt, as it’s too thin and runny to hold up under the cucumber and garlic. Scoop the yogurt into a medium size bowl and set aside.
STEP TWO – GRATE CUCUMBER
Let’s move on to the most essential ingredient in tzatziki: cucumber. This is what gives tzatziki its cool, refreshing quality. For a smooth consistency, it’s important to grate the cucumber rather than simply chopping it with a knife. While some people like to skin the cucumber first, I like to leave the skin on to add color to the dip. However, I always remove the seeds or use seedless cucumbers.
STEP THREE – STRAIN THE CUCUMBER
Removing excess water from the cucumber is probably the most difficult yet most important step to making a good tzatziki sauce. Excess water will dilute the flavors and rise to the top of your tzatziki when you let it rest– not a good look. I like to use a cheesecloth to squeeze as much water as possible out of the shredded cucumber. You can use a coffee filter for this step instead if you don’t have cheesecloth in your kitchen. Then, sprinkle a little salt on top to help draw out the moisture and set the cucumber aside. This way, you can let it drain even more while you chop your other ingredients.
STEP FOUR – COMBINE DILL, GARLIC, LEMON ZEST, AND CUCUMBER
Add the chopped dill, garlic, and lemon zest to to the yogurt. The zest adds a lovely but subtle kick to the sauce that’s hard to replicate without a fresh lemon. Be sure the garlic is finely minced to avoid interfering with the texture of the sauce. It also helps to to add the cucumber last to let as much water as possible drain away.
STEP FIVE – ADD LIQUIDS AND FOLD IN YOUR INGREDIENTS
After pouring in the olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and vinegar, begin folding in all of the ingredients. The olive oil will add a slightly deeper flavor, while the lemon juice and vinegar will bring in a bit of acidity and brightness. Be sure to mix it thoroughly, but not so aggressively that you break down the thick and creamy texture of the yogurt. Give it a quick taste test to check how much salt and pepper you want to add, if any. After one final stir, you should be good to go!
At this point, you should have a delicious and traditional tzatziki sauce, perfect for dipping vegetables in or spreading onto a sandwich. You can stop here, or continue onto step six or seven to add a unique and flavorful twist to your tzatziki recipe.
STEP SIX (OPTIONAL) – ADD CAYENNE
Cayenne pepper is an easy way to add some spice and color to tzatziki. You can even add a bit of cumin in this spicy version as well to deepen the flavor. Swap your cayenne-infused tzatziki in for traditional sour cream in tacos or burritos for added flavor and personality.
STEP SEVEN (OPTIONAL) – ADD HORSERADISH
If you’re looking for tzatziki with a little kick that doesn’t last too long, mix in a tablespoon of horseradish. Horseradish pairs nicely with the garlic and dill flavors, but the cool cucumber and yogurt keep the heat in check for an addicting flavor combination.
If you have the patience, it’s best to store the tzatziki in the refrigerator for an hour before serving to let it firm up and give the flavors time to infuse with the yogurt. But if you can’t wait, I don’t blame you. Your tzatziki should hold up in the fridge for 2-4 days, depending on the expiration date of the greek yogurt and how well you drained the cucumber.
Made with just a few simple and fresh ingredients, tzatziki is great on its own or with a few simple tweaks. The yogurt and cucumber are incredibly accommodating to a wide range of flavors, making tzatziki open to a whole world of wild variations. Folks who don’t favor the distinctive dill flavor can swap it out for mint or parsley. You can also spice it up with a tablespoon of wasabi in place of horseradish or cumin. There are an endless amount of spices you can throw in to change up your tzatziki’s flavor profile, but nothing beats the fresh flavor of a traditional tzatziki recipe.
In addition to the sundry of flavor combinations to try out, you can also play with the texture of your tzatziki sauce to suit different dishes. Use it as-is on top of grilled or oven-baked salmon, or thin it out with a little extra olive oil and lemon juice to use it as a bright and fresh salad dressing.