Sweet cucumber meets tangy yogurt and lemon juice highlighted by the punch of garlic and citrusy aroma of lemon zest and dill. That, in a nutshell, is what tzatziki is. Always served cold as a delightful accompaniment to meat dishes, tzatziki is wonderful as a vegan dipping sauce too. Dip bread or vegetables in it, and you have a refreshing vegan snack. It was as a dip that we first experienced tzatziki at a Mediterranean cafe. We were so smitten that we ran out of the dip before we could consume all the pita it was served with.
Although mostly associated with Greece, tzatziki (or versions of it) are found across Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. The basic ingredients are Greek (or Greek-style) yogurt, grated and strained cucumber, garlic, lemon juice and dill. Olive oil may be drizzled over it before serving. In regional variations, other ingredients such as salt, mint, nuts and salt are sometimes added.
The key to a good tzatziki is to use Greek yogurt which is thicker and denser. Alternatively, strain regular plain yogurt to remove excess water so that what are left are thick curds. Another important step is to strain and squeeze the grated cucumber to remove excess water. Other than those two things, making tzatziki is pretty straightforward.
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup well-chilled Greek yogurt
- lemon zest
- juice from 1/3 lemon
- 1 teaspoon chopped dill
- Peel the cucumber then cut lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scape off and discard the seeds. Finely grate cucumber.
- Place the grated cucumber in a piece of cheesecloth. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth then squeeze out as much water as you can. Place the grated cucumber in a mixing bowl.
- Peel the garlic and grate. Add to the cucumber.
- Stir in the yogurt to the cucumber and garlic.
- Grate the zest of the lemon directly over the yogurt mixture.
- Squeeze the lemon juice into the yogurt mixture.
- Sprinkle in the dill and stir.
- Serve the tzatziki cold.