Homemade Tzatziki (τζατζίκι)

In the US, tzatziki is associated with Greek food (most especially as a sauce served with gyros), but the name comes from the Turkish side dish called cacık which features the same ingredients but is diluted with water. Although you can find it commercially (we especially like Hannah’s version), it’s a fairly easy sauce to whip up on your own using ingredients you might already have in the fridge.

You’ll Need:
2 cups of greek or plain yogurt, strained
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
4 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice

One of the most important steps in getting the right consistency is to strain the yogurt. To do so, spoon the yogurt into a colander that’s lined with a cheese cloth. Place a bowl under the colander and put it in the fridge for two hours. The extracted liquid (whey) can be used in all sorts of ways – drink it, add it to smoothies, use it to cook rice, or lacto-ferment some vegetables; either way, don’t throw it out!

Peel and cut the cucumber in half length-wise, and remove the seeds with a spoon.

Cut the cucumber into chunks and put it into a colander; sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, put the cucumber pieces in a cheese cloth and squeeze out most of the remaining liquid.

In a blender, add all of the ingredients minus the yogurt and blend.

You don’t want to blend it too long, because you want a little chunkiness!

Mix it in with the yogurt and refrigerate for another 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors mix.

15 thoughts on “Homemade Tzatziki (τζατζίκι)

  1. I’m Greek, so I can’t help it but say that this recipe is 90% authentic in the way we do it in Greece (although your recipe might be the way they make it in Turkey). The part that’s missing is that it takes a LOT of olive oil to do real tzatziki, not just 1 tablespoon. It takes 2/3s of a cup of it for your quantity, and there’s a trick for it. You’re supposed to beat the tzatziki with a mixer, and then *slowly* pour the olive oil, the same way you would for mayo (so it doesn’t become oily, but instead it blends with the ingredients). Every time you take it out of the fridge, some of the olive oil would reach the top, so you take a spoon and stir it before serving. The olive oil will keep the tzatziki fresh for longer, and it will give a more real taste, that’s not just some minty yogurt, but it’s actually fatty and filling.

    Tzatziki is best served with souvlaki (pork pieces or pork gyros — not made from lamb, lamb gyros/souvlaki is Turkish, not Greek, despite popular belief in the West). You cut the pork in 1″ pieces, you marinate them in lemon, olive oil, chopped mint/sage/thyme/oregano, salt & pepper for 3-4 hours, you skewer them, and then you grill them. Pour more lemon on them right before serving.


    1. Hi Eugenia, thank you for the thoughtful comment! You’re definitely right in that our interpretation of many traditional dishes in the West are probably far from the original/authentic product – I appreciate the added insight of a native Greek! I’ll definitely give more olive oil a try next time. Also, I plan on making souvlaki for the website in the future, thanks for the marinade tips! :)


      1. Red wine vinegar with the sauce sounds interesting, but I have no idea how authentic that would be! I usually scour the internet to verify my recipes’ authenticity before posting and I don’t recall seeing that in any ingredient listing. A great source for international recipes is recipesource.com, since it tends to have a large amount of genuine international voices!


  2. Interesting take on tzatziki! Perhaps this version is closer to the Turkish alternative, cacik, which many times includes sumac or paprika and is more watery as you mentioned.
    For a thick tzatziki, you should also try mixing the ingredients by hand. Grate the cucumber and let it drain with some salt. Add more olive oil as Eugenia suggested and opt for red wine vinegar instead of lemon. We never add lemon in tzatziki here in Greece. Lemon juice in tzatziki seems to be a Greek-American alternative. Also mint is very rarely used. The dill is the most common herb for this.
    We didn’t write the above as a criticism Russ, don’t get the wrong idea!!!:)
    Just as a suggestion for you to try a native Greek approach since you appreciate the flavors.
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Panos and Mirella


    1. Hi Panos and Mirella, I appreciate the feedback! I recently redeveloped this recipe for my latest cookbook, and I mix it by hand now. You’re right, I think lemon juice is an American twist on the sauce!


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