Prep: 10 min (no cooking involved)
The king of Greek cold appetizers needs no introductions. No Greek feast table would be complete without a tzatziki dip as a centrepiece. It's refreshing and healthy, it's gluten-free and packed with nutrients, and can be consumed as a salad with some pita bread for dipping or as a side with meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Oh, and kids absolutely love it too, dipping breadsticks or pita bread slices (like this one).
A Brief History of Tzatziki
The origins are said to be coming from Indian ‘raita’: a yoghurt sauce that accompanies spicy food to soothe the chilli burning. According to the legend, Persians brought the raita recipe back to where Iran is based today during their empire expansion and from there it was transmitted like a disease over to Ottomans and Greeks. The Ottoman (modern Turkish) version is slightly different, uses natural yoghurt which is further diluted with water along with garlic and different combinations of fresh vegetables and herbs which makes it a little watery. The Greek version is based on Greek yoghurt (not diluted, hence very thick and creamy), olive oil and vinegar and the main herb used is dill.
In my version, I’ve also added lemon zest which gives it a very refreshing citrusy kick. There’s also a very interesting version with spices (mainly coriander seeds) and mixed herbs (mint, parsley) that I like too. The spiced version is inspired by ‘The Palomar’ cookbook (one of the best Israeli restaurants that you should definitely visit in London), and I totally recommend trying that version too if you wish to experiment with flavours.
Speaking of books, if you are after a good modern Greek cookbook, I totally recommend checking out "Under the olive tree" by Irini Tzortzoglou, a Greek cook who won the MasterChef 2019 UK TV show competition (photos below - click to expand). If you are after a more classic Greek comfort food cookbook, worth checking the renowned chef's Akis Petretzikis book "Greek Comfort Food".
Usual Mistakes and the Secret to Success
Tzatziki is a very easy and fast dip to make and quite popular worldwide. As a result, there are tons of recipes online yielding several hacks and tricks, only leading to disastrous and misleading results. Believe me, I've seen all sorts of mistakes like using natural yoghurts, fake Greek "style" yoghurts or authentic Greek yoghurts that are 0% fat. All of these totally alter the texture and taste of tzatziki. I've also seen others blending the ingredients in a blender like preparing a milkshake (what on earth?), using tons of garlic (which will overwhelm your tzatziki and your stomach) or draining the cucumber for hours, or even overnight (which will obviously destroy nutrition). My recipe is humble, it's WORKING (has been tested and tried and passed over generations down to me), and thanks to the 3 secrets of success I'm sharing below, it makes it the best tzatziki recipe ever:
Buy authentic Greek yoghurt with a little fat (anything over 0% will do - the fatter the creamier and the tastier). Mainstream supermarkets are full of TOTAL brand nowadays and Waitrose also sells the Greek brand Kri-Kri which is 10% fat and is just AMAZING.
Raw garlic can be quite intense so keep garlic as low as suggested by the recipe. If you are a garlic lover and seek more, I'd suggest roasting the clove first, wrapped in a foil for 15 min at 180c, before adding more to the dip.
Extra virgin olive oil is more than important. Can't stress enough how much bad quality "extra virgin" olive oil is branded and sold out there. If you find authentic Greek brands, even better. Scroll down to my recommendations to glimpse a good Greek olive oil.
Ingredients (serves 4-6 persons as a dip)
300g Greek yoghurt (2% or higher fat percentage)
1/3 garlic clove, minced
Zest from half lemon
1 small bunch of fresh dill (around 2 tbsp) and some mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp White wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Peel and grate the cucumber with the large blade side of a cheese grater. I usually eat it skin on if it's organic. Add some salt, wrap it in a cloth or tea towel and set aside.
In a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients: yoghurt, minced garlic, lemon zest, dill and mint, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and mix vigorously with a fork.
Squeeze the juices of the cucumber out and stir it in the mixture and serve chilled.
Store in an air-tight container, refrigerate and consume within 3-4 days.
Tip: Raw garlic can be quite intense so keep it as low as suggested by the recipe. If you still look for a milder garlic taste, roast the clove first, wrapped in a foil for 15 min at 180c