How to Make Tzatziki Dip

Greek tzatziki dip with pita bread triangles

How to Make Tzatziki Dip ~ a refreshing and healthy Mediterranean appetizer that is absolute heaven on sweltering nights… if you’ve overdone hummus lately, (and who hasn’t?) this garlicky yogurt and cucumber dip has got your name all over it.

Greek tzatziki dip with pita bread and dill

The next time you’re having friends over, surprise them with this refreshing dip, it works equally well with crisp veggies, pita bread, or chips.

Tzatziki has been part of my life forever, at least it seems like it has. It was one of the earliest recipes I made on a regular basis. In fact I think most of us first learn to feed ourselves with simple no-recipe recipes like this. What a bonus that it’s so delicious and healthy, with a long culinary pedigree.

What exactly is tzatziki?

  • Tzatziki (ta – ZEE – kee) is a dip, sauce, or soup from Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
  • It’s made primarily with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and fresh herbs like dill and mint.
  • Tzatziki can be used as a dip, like I’ve done today, with cut veggies or pita bread. But it’s also commonly used as a sauce or side for grilled meats and chicken. And I make it frequently in its soup form, which is one of the most refreshing recipes on the planet.
A plate of tzatziki yogurt and cucumber dip

Tzatziki is incredibly healthy

Yogurt is one of the world’s healthiest foods, but some of us struggle to incorporate it into our daily diets, at least I know I do. My husband has yogurt and fruit every day for lunch, leaving me feeling sort of jealous and resentful. Tzatziki is a different (savory!) way to enjoy yogurt even if it doesn’t normally appeal to you. You can totally pig out on this creamy dip and still feel great about yourself ~ score!

Squeezing excess moisture from shredded cucumber for homemade tzatziki dip

This is a low tech recipe that’s been made in rustic villages for centuries ~ all you’ll need is your box grater and a clean kitchen towel to prep your cucumber.

Cucumber water in a small glass

The best way to make tzatziki

  • It starts with shredding cucumber, and then squeezing out the excess moisture. Do that with a kitchen towel, a nut milk bag, or a fine mesh strainer. You want to remove the water so it doesn’t release later and make your dip watery. The ideal texture of tzatziki should be thick and creamy, not goopy.
  • By the way, don’t toss that cucumber water, drink it up, it’s so good for you!
  • Some recipes have you drain the yogurt as well as the shredded cucumber, but I don’t find that’s necessary when you start with a good thick yogurt. I love to use whole milk yogurt for the best flavor and texture.
  • The flavorings are critical to tzatziki because the base would be quite bland on its own. I make a paste out of a clove of garlic and some sea salt…this way the garlic can be infused into the dip and nobody bites into chunks of raw garlic. Simply rub the garlic and salt together with the side of a knife on a cutting board until it’s a uniform creamy paste.
  • Fresh herbs are essential, do not try this with dried. Dill and mint are traditional, but you can also add parsley.
  • A little squeeze of lemon juice wakes it all up, and I like to garnish with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, or sumac, both wonderfully zesty Mediterranean spices that you can find in better stores, or online here and here.
Making tzatziki dip with yogurt and shredded cucumber

How to serve tzatziki

colorful cherry tomatoes

We had a little fun serving our tzatziki with skewers of burst cherry tomatoes…the charring brings out the natural sweetness in the tomatoes which goes beautifully with the dip. Just thread up your skewers and grill or broil for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to burst their skins.

Tzatziki with burst cherry tomatoes

About the garnish: what is Aleppo Pepper, Sumac, and smoked paprika, and how do they differ?

All three spices are a shade of beautiful crimson red, but they differ quite a bit in flavor. Any one of them will give you a lovely effect.

  1.  Aleppo pepper is a bright red Syrian/Turkish coarse ground chili powder. It’s got a moderate  heat and a deep fruity flavor. I love it! I’ve used it as a coating for my Jewel Box Labneh Balls, and in my Chicken with Cracked Olives and Herbs.
  2. Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from ground sumac berries. It’s not hot, but has a bright zesty citrus flavor. I use it in the dressings for my Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad (Balela) and my Fattoush Salad.
  3. Smoked paprika is a Spanish paprika, or chili powder, made from smoke dried chiles. It comes hot or mild, (I love the hot.)  I use it to make Chicken Paprikás and Muhammara Dip.
tzatziki with burst tomato skewers
A plate of tzatziki yogurt and cucumber dip
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4.12 from 18 votes

How to Make Tzatziki Dip

How to Make Tzatziki Dip ~ an incredibly refreshing and healthy Mediterranean appetizer that is absolutely heaven on sweltering nights.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Greek, Middle Eastern
Prep Time 15 minutes
Yield 10 servings
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • box grater

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cucumber (or 2 small cucumbers) about 9 ounces or 245 grams
  • 2 cups (490 grams) yogurt (I use whole milk yogurt, the thicker the better.)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice more to taste
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh mint
  • 3 Tbsp fresh minced dill
  • a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper sumac, or smoked paprika

Instructions

  • Wash but don’t peel your cukes and trim off the stem ends. Grate them on the large holes of a box grater. Put the shreds into a nut bag, cheesecloth, clean kitchen towel, or fine mesh strainer and squeeze or push out the excess moisture. Save the cucumber water to drink!
  • Put the yogurt and the grated cucumber in a mixing bowl. Mash the garlic clove and the salt together to make a paste, and then add to the bowl, along with the lemon juice and fresh herbs. Stir everything together to combine.
  • Plate the dip and spread out with the back of a spoon. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with spice.
  • Serve with vegetable crudité, pita bread, or chips. Tzatziki can also be served as a sauce or side for grilled meats.

Cook’s notes

Tzatziki can be made up to a day in advance.

How to serve tzatziki ~

  • Tzatziki is great as a dip, and I like to serve it with cut vegetables (see my crudités post for inspiration) when I’m feeling extra elegant and low carb.
  • It can also be served with fresh pita bread triangles, and for an epic experience, make our own homemade pita bread.  If you’re obsessed wtih crunch, you can also make your own homemade baked pita chips.
  • I’ve actually served it with corn chips and loved it.
  • Tzatziki can also be a part of a larger mezze or cheese platter.  Just be sure to place something dip-able close by.
  • Tzatziki can be served as part of a meal, and it works beautifully with grilled meats and chicken…try it with these chicken skewers.
  • I think it would be amazing as a base, instead of hummus, for these Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs.
  • Try it with falafel, too.
 
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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19 Comments

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  • Reply
    Michael
    February 8, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    5 stars
    Delicious and so easy to make. I have loved this as a Dip for eons (well into the previous Millennium at least) and I look forward to adapting this recipe further, to be a sauce with grilled meats as you suggest. Flavours are magnificent and so adaptable to Fish, Chicken, Lamb! My next self-imposed challenge is to adapt the recipe into a slightly more liquified version of the sauce to pour over roasted vegetables – for a super healthy fix!

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