When you hear the word Tzatziki you probably think “that white sauce served with Greek food”. And you wouldn’t be wrong. While this easy Tzatziki recipe will immediately having you dreaming of pitas, gyros and grilled chicken, there’s so much more to it than that! A fascinating history tied to this sauce/dip/spread we’ve all come to love.
To better understand how Tzatziki came to be, we have to step back in time. Alllll the way back to the Ottoman Empire (mainly associated with modern day Turkey) whose rule spanned over 600 years from 1300 to 1922. You read that right- 1922. And we can’t leave out the Persians, since it was the Persians who introduced the Ottomans to the very concept that has evolved into this easy Tzatziki recipe.
The Persians and Tzatziki
See, the Persians ruled over Northern India for a while, and found a popular rice dish- biryani – to be far to spicy for their palates. To balance out the heat of the dish Raita was added for a cooling effect. What is Raita? It’s an unstrained yogurt based sauce that is much thinner in consistency and can be made in a variety of ways. A few variations include mint, cucumber, and pineapple, which are often paired with curries, vegetables dishes, or breads such as naan. Tzatziki and cucumber Raita both happen to pair perfectly with my version of Coconut Curry Beef. Both also make a baller dip for my Grilled Louisiana Hot Wings.
Ok, back to the Persians! It was the Persians who introduced the experience of Raita to the Ottomans. And guess what country was a part of the Ottoman Empire? Greece! You nailed it! The Greeks became obsessed with the yogurt sauce and developed it into what we now know as Tzatziki.
An Herby Sauce
Unlike Raita, Tzatziki is made with strained yogurt (Greek yogurt) which makes it much thicker in consistency. There are few variations to this sauce, if any, which provides a thick, refreshing accompaniment to many of their traditional dishes. The word- Tzatziki- as we know it today first appeared in English dialect mid 20th century, but was referred to as cacik (Turkish word) dating back to the 17th century. It is believed that the word Tzatziki is derived from the Turkish word cacik, which means “herby”. Makes total sense considering herbs are an important ingredient in this simple, delicious side!
8 servings per container
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Fat 4.2g 7%
- Saturated Fat .6g 3%
- Cholesterol 3mg 1%
- Sodium 311mg 13%
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Potassium 83mg 3%
- Total Carbohydrate 3.7g 2%
- Dietary Fiber .3g 2%
- Sugars 2.5g
- Protein .8g 2%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Why the history lesson? Because food is so much more than stuffing your face. Each recipe we consume really is all of a history tied together sitting on a plate. It’s empires conquering empires. A mix and blend of hundreds, more like thousands, of years spanning the rise and fall- and in some cases extinction of entire ethnicities.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
Our current culture glorifies the consumer. Not here to knock it. BUT, when and where I can, I hope to shed some light on the how, who, and why the recipes I share came to be. I didn’t simply think them into existence because I’m awesome. I can’t just leave it at “it’s Greek” and chomp away. And I certainly can’t take credit for what was never mine to begin with. Much like my Coconut Beef Curry recipe, which is totally inspired by Indian and Middle Eastern spice combinations, this easy Tzatziki recipe was inspired by my love of gyros and Raita.
I have 2 small berry Colanders, and this is one of them! The other, is a light blue one that was gifted and I haven't a clue what the brand name is. Both work like a charm for not just berries, but also for draining watery veg like cucumbers before adding to sauces!
I hope you’ll give this sauce a try! And are inspired to look up the origin of some of your favorite meals. Whether they’re meals you make or purchase eating out. It’s pretty amazing how connected we all are. Through something as necessary and simple as a meal.
Hugs, because handshakes are awkward~