Condiments and side dishes based on Yoghurt, especially when paired with cucumber, are popular all the way from Eastern Europe, through the Middle East, Central Asia, and across India. The Greek variety known as Tzatziki has a counterpart in the Turkish Cacik , Iranian ‘Mast-o-khiar’, an Afghan sauce for grilled meats, and also the popular Cucumber Raita used in Indian cuisine as a ‘cool-down’ accompaniment to spicy-hot dishes.
A basic Tzatziki generally consists of Yoghurt, chopped or grated cucumber, garlic and olive oil, but parsley, mint, dill, lemon juice are often added as well. It is always served cold and, while it can be served just as a dip with pita bread, or even crudités (for example), it commonly appears as a sauce for grilled meats. It is not a standard use, but adding sugar allows a tzatziki to make a pretty decent ‘Donair’ type sauce as well…
Ingredients for a typical Tzatziki:
- ¾ cup thick Greek-style Yoghurt;
- ½ cup very finely diced Cucumber;
- ½ tbsp. pureed Garlic;
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh Dill;
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh Mint (optional);
- ½ tsp Salt;
- 1 tbsp. Olive Oil;
- ½ – 2 tbsp. tbsp. Lemon Juice (See Notes below)
The method for making Tzatziki is no more difficult than mixing all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill for at least two hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop and then garnish with olives, lemon slices, a sprinkle of Paprika, or whatever turns your fancy. In my presentation in the first picture, a sprig of mint is used.
- I quite liked the lemony taste in this Tzatziki but my wife thought that the 1½ tbsp. I used was a little too strong. I would suggest you start with the lesser amount and add to taste.
- The thickness of a Tzatziki is quite variable… some like it runnier than others. With certain yoghurts, recipes suggest that you drain it with cheese cloth to remove excess fluid but that is not generally necessary if you use a good thick Greek variety. Also, you can salt your cucumbers, allow them to sit for a while and then squeeze to expel excess water.
- You will often see recipes for Tzatziki that use sour-cream instead of yoghurt and that seems to be becoming something of a trend. I’ll pass on venturing an opinion as to whether these should be considered true Tzatzikis or not.