Authentic tzatziki is a rich and creamy Greek sauce made from cucumber, yogurt, dill, and garlic. It’s wonderful as a marinade or dipping sauce for all kinds of savory foods.
Tzatziki sauce is one of those things that makes everything better, you know? This creamy Greek sauce can be used as a condiment, a dip, or even a marinade. All you really need is cucumbers, Greek yogurt, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and about 10 minutes. Once you realize how easy and delicious it is, I bet you’ll find all sorts of ways to enjoy this tzatziki recipe!
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
What Is Tzatziki Sauce?
Tzatziki is a traditional Greek dip that is served with pita bread and as a condiment alongside all kinds of foods. It has become beloved in many other countries though because it’s so tasty and versatile.
When you think about it, it makes sense that tzatziki goes with so many things since the ingredients are so simple. Tzatziki sauce is made of thick and creamy Greek yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.
What Kind Of Yogurt To Use In Tzatziki
You can use fat-free or whole fat Greek yogurt, or any other variety of plain Greek yogurt.
You can also use regular (non-Greek) yogurt. It’s not as thick as Greek yogurt though so you will get a thinner sauce.
Alternatively, you can strain the liquid out of regular yogurt to make it thicker. To do so, put the yogurt in a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (paper towel also works but can eventually tear from wetness, so watch out for that). Let the yogurt sit in the lined sieve set over a bowl for an hour or two in the fridge. Lots of the liquid will drip out and then you can use that yogurt for a thicker sauce.
You can also use sour cream instead of Greek yogurt for a slightly less acidic flavor. Sour cream is actually my favorite base for tzatziki sauce, but since I use the sauce on so many things I like to keep the fat grams lower by using fat-free Greek yogurt instead.
How Do You Shred Cucumber?
I shred the cucumber, without peeling it first, using a box grater. I use the side of the grater that I would use for shredding cheese. It’s the side with a bunch of medium-large holes. That gets you thin ribbons of cucumber that are perfect for tzatziki. If you want your shreds to be less long, you can run a knife through them after shredding.
To shred the cucumber, put several sheets of paper towel onto the counter and put the grater on top. Then grate straight onto the paper. The paper will start absorbing some of the liquid from the cucumber. If you want to drain the cucumber further, read on.
How Do You Drain the Liquid Out Of Cucumber For Tzatziki?
I’ve read and seen all kinds of methods for getting the liquid out of cucumber. Often, people salt the cucumber before or after shredding it. The salt is said to pull out the water. I have found this to be unnecessary and it takes too long. I like my tzatziki to be ready in under 10 minutes from start to finish.
I’m going to give you a quicker method for draining cucumber below, but honestly, you don’t have to get the liquid out of the cucumber at all, if you don’t want to.
If you’re going to be serving the tzatziki sauce immediately, it won’t matter at all whether you’ve drained the cucumber. Promise. If you’re going to serve it later on and you don’t drain the cucumber, what will happen is that some water will slowly leak out of the cucumber and into the sauce. When you open the container, there will be some little puddles of liquid. You can either pour those off, or you can just stir it in. It will make the sauce slightly less thick, but otherwise doesn’t do anything.
If you do want to drain the liquid from the cucumber, the easiest way is to grate the cucumber onto some paper towel. I usually use a triple thickness (three sheets) of paper towel for this. Arrange the shredded cucumber so it’s spread out on the top sheet. Then grasp an edge of all three sheets and roll them up so that the cucumber is in there jelly-roll-style. Now, hold your paper-and-cucumber jelly-roll over the sink and squeeze it gently all over. The paper towel will absorb a lot of the liquid and some will drip out as well. Keep squeezing until you fear the paper towel is about to break. Then unroll the jelly-roll and use your fingers to scrape the cucumber into your bowl. Done!
How Much Garlic To Put In Tzatziki Sauce?
The recipe below calls for 1 clove of garlic, which is what I use if I’m having people over and I don’t know whether they love garlic as much as I do.
If, however, the tzatziki is just for me or if it is for some fellow garlic-lovers, then I use 2-3 cloves. I’d therefore say that you should start with one clove but be ready to add more. Note that if you’re not serving the tzatziki immediately, it will get a bit more garlicky as it sits, so keep that in mind when you’re tasting and adjusting the amount.
What Herbs To Use In Tzatziki Sauce?
I like to just use fresh dill in my tzatziki sauce. You can use dried dill if you prefer. You’ll only need about half as much if you use dried.
A lot of people like to use fresh mint instead of dill, or in addition to the dill. I don’t really like mint in mine though. The flavor of dill and cucumber together is one of my favorites so I like to keep it right there.
You could use basil and/or parsley as well but I don’t. That’s not really authentic and also, as mentioned, it’s so good with lots of dill that I never want to do anything else.
Does Tzatziki Sauce Have To Include Lemon And Olive Oil?
Authentic tzatziki sauce contains both lemon and olive oil. However, I almost never add olive oil to mine. Why? Well, I think it’s delicious without it and that also saves a few calories.
As to the lemon juice, if I have fresh lemons, then I use a bit of lemon juice. If I don’t have lemons, I don’t add any lemon juice. You can use bottled lemon juice as well. It’s better with the fresh but only slightly.
My thinking though is that Greek yogurt is already pretty tangy and acidic so it doesn’t need it that much.
If you love the lemon flavor, you can also or instead add about 1/4 teaspoon of grated lemon zest. It adds a beautiful burst of freshness.
If you want the tang and don’t have lemon juice, add 1/4 teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Taste the finished sauce and then add more vinegar if desired.
Uses For Tzatziki
Nowadays, I put tzatziki on everything, not just Greek foods like pitas and falafel. It’s a fantastic veggie dip and is wonderful on just about any kind of sandwich. A scoop of it on hot rice will change your meal. Got pasta and no sauce? Mix in tzatziki. Are your roasted potatoes dry? Use tzatziki and dip them in!
Tzatziki is also great on meats of all kinds, and seafood too. Serve it alongside the cooked meat or seafood as a dip. It also makes for an amazing marinade, which totally makes sense since yogurt is known to be such a good marinating ingredient.
More Easy Dip Recipes
If you love this easy tzatziki recipe, be sure to try these other dip recipes too! They really make snacks and meals more fun.
Well, I think that’s all that I have to say about tzatziki sauce. Who knew such a simple sauce could have so much info to convey? I promise that it’s worth having read all of that if you want to make the best tzatziki possible though. And I know that’s what you want, right?
Enjoy! – Christine xoPrint
- 3 inches of cucumber
- 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill and/or mint
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil (optional)
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Lay 4 sheets of paper towel on the counter. Use a box grater to grate the cucumber into fine shreds onto the paper towel.
- Roll the paper towel around the cucumber and squeeze the liquid out as much as possible without tearing the paper. Transfer the cucumber to a medium sized bowl.
- To the bowl add the yogurt, dill or mint, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Stir.
- Taste and add more salt if desired.
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This post originally appeared in August 2016 and was revised and republished in March 2023.