What's Tzatziki?

What's Tzatziki?

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Meghan Splawn
Apr 5, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

You may have heard of this classic Greek sauce as tzatziki or tadziki. Maybe you know it simply as yogurt-cucumber sauce, Greek dill sauce, or even just gyro sauce. No matter its name, you're a big fan — so time to find out what goes into this tasty sauce so you can make it at home!

What Is Tzatziki?

Tatziki is a tangy yogurt-based sauce flavored with cucumber, garlic, and fresh herbs that is also served as a dip. Tzatziki is often served as part of a meze (a small meal of appetizers), alongside fresh pita bread, in both Greek and Turkish cuisine. This yogurt sauce is also served on gyros-style sandwiches with grilled meats or kebabs — especially lamb.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Okay, but What Is Actually in Tzatziki Sauce?

Yogurt

Tzatziki starts almost exclusively with yogurt. Sure, there are some rogue sour cream- and yogurt-based tzatzikis, but this is a sauce built on yogurt. Plain, full-fat yogurt is required for its tangy and full-bodied creaminess. We prefer Greek yogurt for its thickness and ability to hold up to the tzatziki's cucumber addition. Some recipes call for straining traditional yogurt overnight to remove some of the whey and thicken the yogurt, but you can skip that step if starting with Greek yogurt at home.

Cucumber

Cucumber is the key ingredient of tzatziki. Looking through traditional Greek cookbooks you'll often find this sauce under the title cucumber-yogurt sauce rather than just tzatziki. These recipes also call for grating and squeezing the cucumber in a clean kitchen towel before adding it to the yogurt. You can finely chop cucumber for tzatziki, but your sauce won't last as long since the cucumber's moisture will be drawn out, watering down the yogurt.

Garlic

This is another non-negotiable ingredient. Recipes vary from one clove to three, but part of the tzatziki's appeal on a meze platter is its ability to stand up next to other dips alongside it. It needs the bite of garlic to do that.

Fresh Herbs

Here's where tzatziki gives you some wiggle room: You can use a variety of herbs in proportions you love. Dill is often expected, but look through a few Greek cookbooks and you'll find that not every Greek cook includes it in their sauce. Mint and parsley are other welcome additions. My take on all this is fresh herbs bring tons of flavor and color, so add at least one to your recipe.

Tzatziki is finished off with lemon juice or vinegar for even more acidity and sharpness the overall flavor of the sauce. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and you're all set.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

How to Eat Tzatziki

Tzatziki is almost always served as an appetizer — a snacking dip alongside olives and a cocktail — in Greek homes. You can also use it as a spread for sandwiches, a sauce for cooked meats, or the base of a salad dressing or marinade. Personally I really love tzatziki paired with potatoes — French fries, potato salad, or simply as a topping for a baked potato.

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