Tzatziki

How to make traditional Tzatziki at home.

Greek Starter

The moment you become a parent, you begin to fret and it doesn’t stop. Is the baby eating enough? Is his bum clean? When the baby grows up in a toddler, you fret even more. What do you feed your children? Do you give them too many sweets? We are constantly being bombarded by the latest “studies” which very often conflict with each other as to what to eat and give our children.

Like most parents I worry about their fruit and vegetable intake. My youngest, Robyn, is quite open minded even though she’ll proudly announce “yuck!” and then happily eat what she has been presented with. On the other hand, my eldest, Gabriel, would run at the sight of any fruit or vegetable, except banana.

When I was pregnant, I swore I wouldn’t try to hide vegetables in dishes I prepare because that’s just lame. Since then I’ve been viciously kicked off my high horse and I’ve joined the legions of mothers already doing it. I’m guilty of even cooking two separate meals for dinner just so that my conscience can rest at ease at night, knowing that their tummies are full.


So in my ongoing quest to properly nourish my kids and try to get rid of the guilt media likes to smear off on us parents, I’ve discovered that a good way to get vitamins down their gullets is in the shape of smoothies and dips. Their favourite meal at the moment is avocado blended with cream cheese and bread sticks. The other day I was jubilant when they actually ate a pea dip – boiled frozen peas with a bit of cream, salt and sugar, all blended together. If any nutritionist dares to criticise me about the addition of fat and sugar he’ll receive the middle finger in return, because damn it, my boy actually ate a vegetable. A small victory, I say.

Although Tzatziki doesn’t really contain a lot of vitamins, it is a rich source of calcium and I thought I’d introduce new flavours to the children. Two bites and they turned it down. Hmpf. At least I had the rest all to myself!

If you can’t get enough of Greek food, the following cookbooks received plenty of positive reviews:

Versatile Tzatziki

Adjusting the recipe for Special Diets

Since the yogurt is pasteurised, it’s safe for pregnant women to eat. Vegetarians can enjoy it in abundance and the sauce is naturally gluten free.

In its authentic form, tzatziki is made with full fat Greek Yogurt but not everything can enjoy the luxury of all the calories and fat. Although low-fat products are available, nothing can replace the texture and taste of the original. If you are on a low-fat diet and live in the UK, Liberté’s 0% Fat Strained Greek Yogurt is an option.

Tzatziki Sauce

Can you substitute some ingredients?

Let’s get this straight, any dip that contains sour cream or mint is not real Tzatziki. That said, there’s nothing stopping you from using 50% yogurt and 50% sour cream when creating your own version. You can leave out the dill too!

What to Eat with Tzatziki

How to Store Tzatziki

You can’t freeze it but it will last up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container. If you’d like to make it ahead, it’s best to keep the ingredients separate, e.g. the garlic paste can be kept in the fridge for a month, the yogurt will keep a while and you just need to chop and sieve the cucumber at the very last minute. It really is that easy.

Recipe Photo Shoot

7 Ways you can use Tzatziki

Don’t know what to do with the stuff? Here are a few ideas to get you kick started:

  • Big fat potato chips
  • Flat bread, or any bread for that matter
  • Crudités: carrots, cucumber and red pepper work well
  • In sandwiches, souvlaki or with gyros
  • Served with any grilled meat, not fish though
  • Falafels
  • Cider and beer are fitting drinks

Fresh herbs

Charly Nicolle Chablis ‘Ancestrum’ 2010

Wine Pairing

However you’re eating it, here’s a great suggestion for a wine that will match perfectly to all the fresh, cool flavours of Tzatziki. Charly Nicolle Chablis ‘Ancestrum’ 2010 is a pure expression of the Chardonnay grape in a light, zesty, unoaked style. It has fresh acidity that works with the piquancy of the yogurt, lime and crunchy green apple notes to compliment the cucumber freshness and a hint of a white pepper tingle on the tongue giving a savoury quality to balance the garlic. Great for enjoying on a warm evening.

More Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use Tzatziki as a marinade? No. Rather use yogurt as a marinade with some paprika and olive oil.

How can I thicken my sauce? Use less cucumber, add more full fate yogurt. It’s possible that you didn’t drain the cucumber well.

How can I spice up my dip? Use more garlic and black pepper.


If ever I want to learn more about Greek cuisine, I visit The Real Greek. This time the photo shoot took place at the Bankside branch – it’s at a stunning location and worth a visit during the summer months. Last time genial Christos, the proud, 100% Greek operations manager, with the help of the kitchen staff showed us the perfect way to cook pork belly – you can see the recipe here. Ask him anything about Greek food and he’ll answer without blinking. Twenty five years and counting in the restaurant industry, there’s not a question that will make him falter. A special thank you to Christos for patiently answering all my questions in order to write the helpful guide above.

Top and tail cucumber

First things first, start with the cucumber!

Using a vegetable peeler.

When you’ve topped and tailed the cucumber, peel it.

Preparing Tzatziki

I just realised an important step was missed in these photos. To avoid the dip of becoming water, remove the seeds from the cucumber.

Cutting a Cucumber

Then halve the thing.

Two Cucumber Halves

Take each halve and cut it into thin, long strips.

Cutting Cucumber

Narrow cucumber pieces

Small Diced Cucumber

Finely chop the cucumber.

Salted cucumber

Place the cucumber in a sieve to drain for 5 minutes.

Preparing Tzatziki

Don’t forget to salt it! The latter helps getting the water out of the cucumber.

Salting Cucumber

Give the mixture and stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

Sieve the cucumber

Using a glass, cup or even your fist, squeeze out as much water as you can. Now it’s ready.

Garlic Cloves

Now to make the garlic paste.

Olive oil

Place the garlic and olive oil in the blender.

Garlic paste

Give it a thorough blitz and you’ll end up with a smooth, almost creamy garlic paste that will last up to a month in the fridge. It’s a good idea to make a big batch to save time if you’re an addict.

Yogurt on a plate

Beautiful, thick, full fat Greek Yogurt. Christos’ wholeheartedly recommends Total Greek Yogurt (available in the UK) which he says is pretty much just like the real deal you would find in his homeland. I have tried the product a few times since then and I can attest to it.

Stainless Steel Bowl

Place the yogurt in a bowl.

Dill Sprigs

Now to finely chop the dill.

Slicing Dill

Dill pieces

Tzatziki components

Add the chopped dill to the yogurt.

Tzatziki Elements

Remember the sieved cucumber? Now we need it.

Tzatziki ready to get mixed

A good dollop of garlic paste would do.

Condiment bowls

Read to mix Tzatziki

Lastly, no dish is complete without some salt and pepper.

Stirring tzatziki

At this point I lifted my head from my camera. Has the chef gone bonkers? Or has the kitchen run out of spoons? Nope, this is the way the Greeks do it. They mix everything with their hands to ensure all the components are dispersed evenly, not something spoons can easily do. That’s why I love learning about regional cuisines and other cultures – you never know what interesting tidbit will be flung your way!

Perfect Tzatziki

When everything is mixed thoroughly, serve up.

Finished Tzatziki

Garnish with dill and top with olive oil. Enjoy!

Of course, if you’re too lazy you can just visit The Real Greek and eat it there instead with a large bowl of chips and some cider to boot.

A big thank you to The Real Greek for all their time and trouble!

Looking for more dip inspiration? Here’s what other bloggers came up with:


4.3 from 6 reviews

Tzatziki
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 10
  • Serving size: 131.6g
  • Calories: 186
  • Fat: 9.9g
  • Saturated fat: 6.3g
  • Unsaturated fat: 0
  • Trans fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 19.2g
  • Sugar: 19g
  • Sodium: 31mg
  • Fiber: 0.2g
  • Protein: 5.5g
  • Cholesterol: 13mg

Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Total time: 

Learn how to make the best tzatziki in a few easy steps.
Ingredients
  • 250g (½ lb) cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20ml (4 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 40g (1½ oz) dill, finely chopped
  • 1kg (2 lbs) Greek yogurt
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the cucumber in a sieve, salt it abundantly and let it stand for 5 minutes.
  2. After the allotted time squeeze all the excess water out of the cucumber.
  3. Add the garlic and olive oil to the food processor and blend until it forms a smooth paste.
  4. Place the cucumber, garlic paste, dill and yogurt in a big bowl along with some salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients with your hands until all the elements have dispersed evenly.
  5. Place the dip in a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil and enjoy.
Notes
Serve with any barbecued meat or eat with vegetable crudités, chips or fresh bread.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Michel, I saw your post on facebook and I was curious to see what this was all about. First of all love all your pictures. However, the tzatziki you describe above has nothing to do with real Greek tzatziki but rather an Americanized version:
    I want to point what I disagree with the information given.
    1. First of all we (Greeks) use a pestle and mortar to crush the garlic together with salt.
    2. Greek cucumbers do not have seeds but I can understand that as it is probably addressed to people from all over the worls, so if there are seeds you should remove them. We don’t chop cucumber but we grate it and then squeeze the water out of the cucumber.
    3. We NEVER use dill in a tzatziki. Occasionally, mint is used.
    4. We never use our hands to mix tzatziki.
    5. Low fat Greek yoghurt with 2% fat makes excellent tzatziki.
    Cheers,
    Ivy

    • Dimitris says

      I agree with your observations EXCEPT the dill. I never had tzatziki anywhere in Greece 40 years now, that uses mint. Dill may or may not be present but never had tzatziki with mint.

  2. Dimitris says

    This is a true, authentic tzatziki, at last. The only thing missing, which is used in almost all homemade tzatziki I have tasted, is the vinegar – NEVER LEMON which is used in the US.
    And I’m native Greek living in Greece.

  3. Jen says

    Delicious recipe! I only had one minor setback as a result of not reading closely enough. 20ml is 4 TEASPOONS. NOT 4 tablespoons…

  4. Al says

    Great recipe! I’m confused however about the “any dip that contains sour cream or mint is not real Tzatziki”. I’ve just looked at The Real Greek menu and it says:

    TZATZIKI: Cool and tangy Greek yoghurt with cucumber, garlic, dill and fresh mint.

    So I’m confused as to why, if this is not authentic, it is not as above? I’d love to know which is actually the right way and which isn’t so I can ensure I’m making the most “authentic” Tzatziki at home. There seems to be a big debate on the Dill Vs. Mint subject. Maybe it’s just personal preference and not every Greek makes it using just one of either?

    • Michelle says

      Hey, Al.

      Indeed there is a roaring debate about dill vs mint. Ivy, who commented above, is a Greek, who lives in Greece. Meanwhile, Christos who featured in the photos is also a real Greek who lives in London and swears by dill.

      I think at the end of the day, you can take your pick regarding which herb to use in your Tzatziki. After all, you’re the one who has to eat it! :-)

  5. Kevin says

    Regarding the dill vs. mint debate. Maybe it’s simply a regional difference in Greece. Just a guess on my part.

  6. says

    Great as a starting point but Too much yoghurt surely!! Made this with 1/2 the yoghurt and shredded the cucumber instead of chopping it. Shredding gets out more water and makes the texture nicer. Added a squeeze of lemon juice and mint instead of dill. Yummy

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