Tzatziki

Recipe update from June 2007

What would a food blog from a Greek dude be without touching upon Tzatziki? I’ve been disappointed with the representation of Greek food in North America and in particular, Toronto. I found that once very good Greek eateries are going the way of serving pre-made foods & dips on their menus. Tzatziki has fallen victim to this drive for competitiveness and frankly, laziness.

Here’s the classic Tzatziki from a Greek, with little secret….

You will need:

  • 500 gr. of plain yogurt
  • 1-2 cloves of minced garlic (depending how garlicky you like it)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • splash of Ouzo
  • squeeze of lemon juice to taste
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

A good Tzatziki requires that you use strained yogurt. If you have a Greektown in your city, you can pay more & buy it strained or, go my way and take your plain yogurt and dump in a metal strainer with a pot underneath to catch the draining liquid. You’ll need at least 12 hours for the final thick, strained result.

Next step is to take your cucumber and seed it then box grate it into the strainer. Sprinkle some salt to help draw out the moisture. Give the cucumber 30 minutes and use a cheese cloth or your hands (in batches) to squeeze out the water.

Add your grated cucumber to the yogurt and now add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, your chopped dill, season with salt to taste, squeeze of lemon juice, the olive oil and lastly, a splash of Ouzo….yes Ouzo. It gives your Tzatziki that “je ne sais quoi”!

Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, give it a dill garnish and serve with toasted pita bread.

© 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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74 Comments for “Tzatziki”

Peter M

says:

Katerina, I do use the English cucumber variety but I do find some seeds still in it. Also, I do leave the skin on and remember…just a splash of Ouzo…OPA!

a la Grecque

says:

you should add 1/2 tsp of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp vinegar , cause this is what makes tzatziki perfect…

Kalyn

says:

Very interesting about the touch of ouzo. I’ve been to Greece and did learn to say “opa” with gusto! I love Tzatziki (it’s great on salmon!) but have to confess I’ve never made my own. Now I can’t find the brand I liked most, so maybe I will venture into making it. We do have a couple of very good Greek markets in Salt Lake.

Peter M

says:

Kalyn, don’t be intimidated by making your own…the strainer does all the work and simply need a plain yogurt from your local market. Also, you can make it as garlicky as you wish. You’ll never settle for store-bought again!

Helen

says:

Hi Peter,

Aha! So that’s the secret to great Tsatziki. Thanks so much for this awesome post. I usually use Total Greek yogurt, but haven’t thought of straining the cucumber and adding Ouzo. I’ll try it your way next time.

Thanks :)
-Helen

Peter M

says:

Helen, thanks for visiting! The bleeding of moisture & straining of the cucumber is very important. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a runny tzatziki. With this method, your Tzatziki will stay firm for a couple of weeks…enjoy!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

says:

Okay Peter – here’s a big question I asked over on my forum – I love Fage Greek Yogurt and I always use the o% fat version – just as creamy, just as thick. If I want to make my own 0% fat version, does this work with the straining? Will it be thick and beautiful like the Fage?
I love the addition of Ouzo as well! NICE!

Peter M

says:

Jenn, you’re lucky to have a Greek brand of yogurt in the US! As for straining, you will not reduce fat content by straining. You buy 10% yogurt and strain it, it’s still 10% fat, just thicker as the water content is strained – not fat. Stick to your 0% variety and strain it overnight. I promise your Tzatziki will stay thick (not runny) for a couple of weeks (provided you’ve also squeezed sufficient water out of the cucumber).

trupti

says:

I adore this stuff! I eat it with some spicy Jalapeno chips…its so good!

cheers from Newfoundland,
trupti

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

says:

Hey Peter – I know you cannot strain fat away, what I was asking is with straining a non-fat yogurt, will it still be as thick as straining a full-fat yogurt? Many people have warned me against straining a non-fat yogurt as it does not have the same thick consistency as a full fat yogurt being strained. This Fage that I use is a strained non-fat yogurt and it is THICK as a full fat version.

Peter M

says:

Jenn,
Unfortunately you will not get the same thick texture, so the warnings are coreect. You will sacrifice thickness for your lean choice. Besides, a little whole fat Tzatziki never sent anyone to Jenny Craig!

Anonymous

says:

Yes, I read some months back that the FAGE yogurt is available in the States (NYC?). That’s the best type I’ve had. Is it true that they fly it in from Greece?

Paul

Anonymous

says:

A trick my dad started a while back is to add sour cream to the recipe to thicken it and make it richer. Needless to say, when he started making it like this, people were BEGGING him to make it and sell it by the tubs. I could barely keep myself out of it.

Love your page! :)

Antonio Tahhan

says:

I would have never thought to add ouzo, but it sounds like a great way to add a kick to tzatziki.
I came up with a new recipe for tzatziki last month (on accident) after having strained my yogurt for way too long (to the point where it had a cream cheese consistency). In order to try and balance the moisture content, I decided not drain the cucumbers and otherwise followed a traditional recipe. I liked how it turned out because, in my opinion, the moisture in the cucumber has a more refreshing and tastier flavor than the moisture from the yogurt whey.

(sorry for the super long comment)

Parminder

says:

I had the same question… how long does this keep in the refrigerator? As long as the expiration date on the plain yogurt? It’s delicious but I have a lot left over and would love to keep it for a while.

Sara

says:

Today I made a huge batch of tzatziki for a dinner I’m having with some friends, and it was so runny! I googled tzatziki, found you, and am 100% grateful. I know it’s too late for this batch (which will still be lovely and tasty, but not thick). I used Dannon lowfat yogurt, which I’ve never used before. Upon reading the comments and responses, I understand why it’s so runny!

I strain my cucumbers in a strainer lined with coffee filters, so I will begin to do this with my yogurt. I also use lemon juice and dill, and once in a while sour cream (depends on what I have on hand and if I want to go grocery shopping). I’m in NW PA, and Wegman’s (in Erie) is a good place to get yogurt in the organic section.

Thanks for you recomendations!

Sara

says:

I made tzatziki today for a friend’s birthday, and it was really runny. Now I understand why–I’ve never drained the yogurt before (it’s never as thick as I had it in Greece), and I used Dannon fat free yogurt. Next time I will drain the yogurt!

I make tzatziki fairly often, and I usually use whatever’s on hand–yogurt or sour cream. I also add lemon and dill to mine.

For tzatziki makers in NW PA, Wegman’s in Erie has great choices of Greek yogurt in the organic section.

Anonymous

says:

Full-fat Balkan or Greek yogurt is the only way to go. The lo- or non-fat varieties contain GELATIN and don’t strain very well. They won’t give a good creamy dense result. Use the regular fat and just “restrain” yourself…if you can (ha ha).

says:

Great tzaziki HAS to be made at home! I use Lebanese labneh, a thick, ultra-luscious yogurt that does not need straining. My recipe is almost the same as yours, except for the ouzo, which sounds intriguing. I will try it. I like finely chopped fresh mint in my tzaziki, especially when pairing it with lamb. Thanks for taking tzaziki seriously!

says:

We don’t have Greek food but yogurt? The selections is huge – about like the chips selection in the US (sorry US). I can get at least 3 different brands of Greek yogurt, including sheep’s milk for only pennies more than plain. Which means I have no excuse not to make this more often.

says:

I make mine with FAGE 10% and I never strain the yogurt! The FAGE is already strained and if you make sure you squeeze the water out of the cucumber properly, you will end up with the right consistency! At least one that I am happy with….
As for the Ouzo, it sounds pretty good! I normally use a bit of red wine vinegar, but I might have to try this variation!

says:

You are right Peter: every Greek foodblog should have a tzatziki recipe! I also like the version with grated carrot, have you ever tried it? It is quite interesting.

says:

Oh I love tzatziki! Now I am feeling very dissatisfied with life because I don’t have tzatziki and I don’t have any of the ingredients (except the garlic and lemon juice of course – I’m not a complete philistine).

says:

That’s right! My aunt Mary puts ouzo in her tzatiki also! I haven’t made tzatziki in California for a long long time. True, we get lazy and buy Costco’s tzatziki. Bah! No more excuses, time to make it!

says:

Ελλάδα χωρίς τζατζίκι, είναι σαν καλοκαίρι χωρίς θάλασσα…με ούζο δεν το έχω δοκιμάσει αλλά σύντομα θα γίνει και αυτό…

Steve

says:

Similar to mine but my little secret its different. We never use dill in our tzatziki. I think that has to be a regional thing because every taverna i have eaten at around Athens and where i stay in Aegina has not put dill in it but my mothers friend from Rhodes (and a taverna I ate at down there) does include it. I don’t use lemon juice or ouzo. Instead I add a couple of teaspoons of white vinegar. Its something my grandma used to do and for some reason it just gives the tzatziki that little something. Ill give it a go with the ouzo though.

says:

Wow! This must be the best looking tzatziki I’ve ever seen. Just perfect. And love that je ne sais quoi! Thanks for the real Greek dude instructions. No we, too, can have perfect, delicious tzatziki!

says:

I heart tzatziki sauce. I put it on everything, even use it as a substitute for mayo in my chicken salad sandwiches. Yum.
Luckily, I get greek yogurt from the store; they sell the stuff everywhere around here. It’s lovely living in Chicago. :)

says:

Aha! The secret’s out – a splash of Ouzo!

Glad you’ve blogged about tzatziki, Peter. I’ve never had anything that remotely compares to what I’ve eaten in Greece so many times. Great to see an ‘authentic’ recipe, never mind with the added secret ingredient!

says:

Πολύ πρωτότυπο το τζατζικάκι με το ούζο, δεν το είχα ξανακούσει!
Θα το δοκιμάσω να δω πως είναι, μου κίνησες την περιέργεια!
Φιλάκια!

says:

We have a HUGE greek town near us…Tarpon Springs..aka..The Sponge Docks. I have had some pretty good tzatiki there. But I am just a white cracker, so I have nothing to compare it to!!! lol

says:

Nick (son) had been requesting tzatziki repeatedly last week until I could not hold myself any longer and I firmly put him in his place and said ” don’t call it tzatziki, it is called laban wkhyar!” . Very annoying when your own flesh and blood is asking for Greek food and you can only give him what you know!
That being said, my hat off to you, your tzatziki sounds fantastic, especially with the splash of ouzo, I will definitely spike mine next time!

says:

Love tzatziki! I like the ouzo flavor you added. Never heard of that before, will try it. Also, I too use strained plain yogurt. It takes more time, but it’s less expensive than buying the ready strained variety.

says:

I love tsatsiki and make it quite often, but it never occured to me to put ouzo in it. Την επόμενη φορά, όμως…

says:

Sometimes I strain my own yogurt, but sometimes I want it immediately and don’t have patience for straining. If it were a spur of the moment craving, what quantity of pre-strained yogurt would you recommend using? I know some of the volume goes away during the whey straining, but I am not sure how much.

says:

If you have access to strained yogurt from a local Greek deli/market…about 250gr. worth, which is half of what’s left when you strain a whole tub of plain yogurt.

Dimitris

says:

Hi,
being Greek, born, raised and living in Geece, I have to make 2 comments:)
a) we only use vinegar in Greece, never had any tzatziki with lemon. We know however, that’s the way Greek-Americans do it there for some reason.
b) we never put any alcohol in tzatziki. Even though, it sounds like an interesting idea for a different version of tzatziki!
Thanx for sharing.

says:

Dimitri, thanks for your comment. I use lemon juice or red wine vinegar, depending on my mood. As for the Ouzo, that idea came from my neighbor by our summer home in Greece. Never say never!

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