Tzatziki Recipe in a bowl with lemon rinds and a napkin

An Easy Tzatziki Recipe That Travels Through Time

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!

Fresh And Easy Tzatziki Recipe

4 from 3 votes
Recipe by Susanna Grace Course: SidesCuisine: Greek InspiredDifficulty: Easy
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

40

minutes
Cooking time

0

minutes
Calories

42

kcal
Total time

40

minutes

A thick and creamy, refreshing and vibrant sauce that pairs perfectly with vegetables, grilled chicken, rice dishes, and spicy meals! My version is on the tart side, so feel free to omit the vinegar and taste first.

Ingredients

  • 24 ounce Greek style yogurt

  • 1 large Cucumber, seeded and salted to drain excess liquid

  • 4 Tablespoons Freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 lemons

  • 2 Tablespoons Red wine vinegar

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil

  • 1/4 cup Dill, chopped

  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced

  • 1-2 teaspoons Kosher Salt

Directions

  • Start by rinsing your cucumber and then slice it lengthwise. Use a spoon to deseed.
  • Next, finely dice and place in a colander that sits on a plate or in a bowl. Add 1-2 teaspoons of Kosher salt and mix thoroughly. Let stand for at least 30 minutes draining the liquid as needed.
  • While your cucumber drains finely chop your garlic cloves and rough chop your dill. 
  • Measure lemon juice, olive oil, and red wine vinegar into a small bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, scoop out 24 ounces of greek (or thick) plain Greek yogurt and add all ingredients except cucumber. Mix thoroughly. 
  • If your cucumber is still releasing a lot of water, wait a few more minutes and check again. The goal is to not have a watered down mix here! We want a nice and thick dip/spread. Once you are ready to incorporate the cucumbers, test a small bite to verify how salty it tastes. It is very rare that I have to rinse off any salt! Remember it’s getting incorporated into 24 ounces of yogurt. 
  • Once cucumber is mixed in, it’s time for a test test! You may want to add a bit more lemon to brighten, or vinegar if you prefer tartness, or even extra dill if you love an herby flair. Totally up to your taste buds at this point. OR, maybe it’s spot on just the way it is.
  • You can of course use right away, or place in the fridge for up to 4 days. The sauce will thicken slightly in the fridge, and I almost always prefer to let all the flavors incorporate for a few hours before using. 

Notes

  • My favorite yogurt is actually an Icelandic yogurt named Siggi’s. It’s extra thick and slightly tangy and the perfect compliment to this recipe. However, any plain, full fat Greek yogurt will work just fine! 
  • If you don’t have red wine vinegar, you can simple add more lemon juice. I’ve done this several times and the result is just as delicious. 
  • Should you not use a thickened yogurt (Greek) cut back on the lemon and skip the vinegar or it will be overpowering! Less is always more, because you can easily add more if needed.
  • If you are watching oil intake for any reason, you can also leave out the olive oil! I have also made this recipe without olive oil and it’s equally as wonderful. 
  • I say 8 servings, because we PILE it on. If you are severing as a smear or dollop or drizzle, you will get a lot more out of this bowl. Making it a wonderful dip and spread to feed a large crowd!
  • While I enjoy Tzatziki with finely diced cucumber, there are those who favor peeling the cucumber first and then grating it. Or others who find tossing it in a food processor is easiest. I do enjoy grated cucumber, but find the food processor obliterates the texture that I love about this dip. Play around with it and see which version you like best! That’s really the best advice! 
  • The herb of choice for this dip is typically dill. However, you can find some Tzatziki made with mint or thyme as well. Both offer a completely different, but equally refreshing experience. 
  • Please note the nutritional information below was calculated using a calculator designed by: Verywell Fit. This information is accurate to the best of my knowledge, but should not be taken as medical advice 🙂 

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Nutrition Facts

8 servings per container


Calories42

  • 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%
  • Calcium 5%
  • Iron 1%

* 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.

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05/18/2022 07:39 am GMT

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~

6 Comments

  1. Ok so ever since honeymooning in Rhodes, finding a near replica of this has been a must. I’ve come close and even messed around with the recipe myself. But then this. I’ve been transported back and I love that I don’t need to scour the internet anymore. Fav tzatziki recipe yet!

    • Oh goodness! This is the biggest compliment ever. So glad you enjoyed my Tzatziki and that it reminded you of such a special time in Rhodes 🙂 How I’d love to visit Greece one day!

  2. Allison Stiefeld

    Simple and delicious! I love the flavor of the fresh dill! I did not have vinegar on hand, so I used some extra lemon juice and thought it was wonderful, thanks for the recipe tip at the end for that substitution option!

    • Thrilled you guys loved my Tzatziki, and found my substitution tips helpful 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to try and review. It means the world!! Happy cooking!

  3. Samantha Denefe

    Yup.

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