Tzatziki, also known as tarator or cacık, is a versatile dip, soup, or sauce found in the cuisines of Southeast Europe and the Middle East. It's been enjoyed for centuries. So what exactly is tzatziki? Let's explore its history and find out why it's loved by many cultures.
What is Tzatziki Sauce?
Tzatziki, also known as cacık, is a Greek dip made with strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, dill or mint leaves. It has a creamy texture and its flavor profile features both savory and refreshing notes. It pairs well with meats like grilled chicken or lamb but can also be used to make sandwiches and salads more interesting.
The name “tzatziki” comes from the Turkish word for “dip” - cacık - which in turn was derived from the Persian word for “herb mixture” - "Persian zhazh". The recipe itself has roots in ancient Greece and it was documented as early as 1876 as a herb mixture with yogurt. As many recipes do over time tzatziki has seen some variations as it spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world.
Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients
It's creamy yet tangy, with an unmistakable garlic flavor. But what makes it special? Let’s look deeper into the ingredients that make up this authentic tzatziki recipe.
- Strained Yogurt: Strained yogurt is the base of the cool and creamy tzatziki sauce, lending it its signature creaminess. Straining excess water from the yogurt gives it a thicker texture and milder flavor than regular yogurt, which makes for a richer-tasting sauce.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are crucial in the preparation of tzatziki sauce; they give it its characteristic crunch! Before adding the cucumbers to the recipe, they must be peeled and finely grated, with any excess juice drained out. This keeps the sauce from being too liquid while providing that delightful crunch with each bite.
- Garlic: Garlic is one of the most important ingredients in tzatziki because its pungent flavor adds depth and complexity to the dish's overall taste. Make sure you mince your garlic finely so its flavor isn’t overwhelming!
- Salt: Salt brings out all of the other flavors in tzatziki and should be used sparingly (just a pinch!). Too much salt can ruin your dish, so use just enough to allow all of your flavors to come through, but not so much that it becomes too salty.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil helps give tzatziki a silky texture and adds richness to each bite. Just make sure you use high-quality extra virgin olive oil for the best results!
- Dill or Mint Leaves: Dill or fresh mint leaves are optional additions to tzatziki, but they provide a bright note to balance out all of the savory flavors in this dish. Feel free to experiment with different fresh herbs - basil or oregano would also work well!
- Lemon Juice/Vinegar (optional): Finally, if desired, lemon juice or vinegar can be used as an optional ingredient to provide a hint of tartness. If you prefer something more lemony, lemon juice is ideal, while vinegar offers a sharpness that complements this dish's other tastes.
Armed with this knowledge about what goes into making tzatziki sauce, you're now ready to create your own delicious version at home!
Tzatziki Sauce Uses
To some, tzatziki might appear as a simple condiment, but with a closer look, you'll discover its versatility. Let's explore five creative ways to use tzatziki in your everyday cooking.
- Salad Dressing - Tzatziki dip, with its tangy taste, makes a great salad dressing. Just blend one cup of tzatziki with two tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice for a tasty homemade vinaigrette. It complements Greek salads with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives for an authentic Mediterranean flavor.
- Sauce for Fish or Meat - When served in a meal, tzatziki can be a sauce for pan-seared fish or grilled meats like chicken or pork, adding a cool contrast to rich dishes. Pair it with roasted potatoes for an effortless weeknight dinner!
- Dip for Crudités - Tzatziki is a popular appetizer at parties, often served with veggies. To make it just fill a bowl with tzatziki and surround it with cut-up veggies for a stunning presentation.
- Spread on Sandwiches - Why use mayo for sandwiches? Try tzatziki for a twist! It's great on gyros, souvlaki wraps, veggie sandwiches, like falafel pitas or veggie burgers. Get creative—the options are limitless!
- Accompaniment to Grilled Vegetables - Grilled veggies are super tasty, but tzatziki elevates them. Brush it on eggplants, zucchini, and more before grilling for added flavor and moisture. Or serve it in bowls as a cooling accompaniment after grilling, letting everyone enjoy a dollop alongside their favorite veggies!
People Also Ask [FAQs]
The correct pronunciation of tzatziki is "tsah-TZEE-kee"
You can freeze tzatziki for up to 3 months with proper wrapping and portioning. To ensure the highest quality of your frozen tzatziki sauce, make sure to wrap it tightly in airtight packaging and portion it into individual servings before freezing. This will help prevent freezer burn and keep the flavor intact.
This recipe for Tzatziki Sauce contains 205 calories.
Wrap Up: Tzatziki Sauce
- The tzatziki sauce is a creamy, tangy, and delicious dip that has its roots in ancient Greece.
- The individual ingredients that make up this unique and delicious sauce include strained yogurt, grated cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, fresh dill or mint leaves (optional), fresh lemon juice, or vinegar (optional).
- We also discussed five inventive ways to use tzatziki dip in your cooking repertoire, there’s no limit to what delicious meals you can create in minutes without breaking out many pots and pans!
- It can be used as a salad dressing, sauce for fish or meat, dip for crudités, spread on sandwiches, or accompaniment to grilled vegetables.
- It has a tart and tangy flavor profile.
- The sauce is an easy weeknight dinner option with minimal effort required!
- Try this easy tzatziki sauce recipe today and let us know what you think! We love hearing from our readers so please leave a comment below letting us know how you liked it.
Authentic Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
- 1 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cucumber finely grated (medium-sized)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic grated (large or use two)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- First, begin by grating your cucumber into a bowl using a cheese grater.
- Next, take a clean tea towel or several layers of paper towel and place the cucumber inside. Then, twist and squeeze the tea towel until most of the liquid is extracted from the cucumber. This step is important, as too much moisture will make the Tzatziki watery.
- Once the cucumber is squeezed dry, add it to the yogurt along with the lemon juice, minced garlic, olive oil, dill, mint, and salt.
- Stir until all of the ingredients are evenly mixed, then taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the flavors to meld.
- Enjoy as part of an appetizer spread, or serve it alongside grilled vegetables and sandwiches.
- This dip also pairs well with lamb dishes, making it the perfect accompaniment to Greek classics like Souvlaki or Moussaka.
- For a healthier option to munch on, try swapping out the traditional dippers for crunchy vegetables like carrots, celery, or bell peppers. You can also use pita chips or whole-grain crackers to keep it on the light side. Happy Dipping!