This is my family's Authentic Tzatziki Recipe, a simple recipe that relies on excellent ingredients including a good quality strained Greek yoghurt. We love it in our 'meze' platters, on our souvlakia, with our calamari, with our dolmades - the list is endless!
This is an original tzatziki recipe that we make intuitively in our family, we start with the strained yoghurt and add the other ingredients, then taste and adjust until we are happy with the result.
Table of contents
What is Tzatziki?
First off tzatziki is NOT a sauce it is a dip and therefore should be thick and creamy, make it runny to drizzle over something if you have to but most Greeks make it as a dip and not a sauce.
Also, a traditional tzatziki recipe is never, ever made with cream cheese or sour cream (my Yiayia is turning in her grave right now at the mention of it!), if you are going to use them then you are not making tzatziki but just a Greek-inspired dip, sorry to disappoint you 🤷🏻♀️.
So what then is tzatziki?
Well, there are two schools of thought about where the word tzatziki comes from - the first is that it is from the Persian word "zhazh" which means herb mixture and the second is that it is from the Turkish cacık.
I know Tzatziki as a much loved and well know Greek traditional appetizer or "meze" made from Greek yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, olive oil and vinegar.
What does it taste like?
It is made wonderfully cool and refreshing from the cucumber and dill; tart with the use of vinegar; oh so creamy from the strained Greek yoghurt and garlicky, yes guys GARLICKY a real proper Tzatziki has lots and lots of garlic in it. So head for the fresh parsley which is great for combating garlic breath!
Around the world with tzatziki
There are versions of tzatziki that can be found worldwide, these are the ones that are more of a dip rather than a soup -
- In Turkey it is Cacık - made with cow's milk yoghurt, diced cucumber, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs such as dill, mint, parsley and thyme.
- In Cyprus it is Talatouri - made with strained yogurt, sliced cucumbers, minced garlic and either fresh or dried mint instead of dill.
- In Iraq it is Jajik Or Jajeek - a traditional Armenian recipe made with strained yoghurt, cucumbers, dried mint and a couple of ice cubes (to keep the jajik cold).
- In India it is Raita - made with dahi (a thinner salted yoghurt), cucumber, cumin, coriander/cilantro and or mint. There is also more vinegar in tzatziki making it a lot tangier than raita.
So are you ready to make an authentic Greek tzatziki recipe my Yiayia would approve of?
You Will Need
Let's Talk Ingredients & Substitions
Our family's authentic tzatziki recipe uses red wine vinegar because it is more flavourful and dill because it lasts so much longer in the fridge.
- Greek yoghurt - traditionally we would use a full-fat strained sheeps or goats milk yoghurt, which understandabley may not be that easy to come by here. So we use a full fat Greek-style yoghurt, or a regular (unsweetened yoghurt), regardless, it is important that you take the time to strain it well. Recently, I have started to use labneh (from Coles) which is beautiful rich and creamy - perfect for tzatziki making!
- Either a Lebanese/Persian or English cucumber - or any other seedless cucumber you like. The seedless varieties are great because they have thin skins, are sweeter and don't have large seeds which can make it runny. If you are going to use regular cucumbers, then I suggest your remove the seeds and peel the hard bitter skins.
- Fresh dill - perfect for a herby flavour hit you can swap for mint if you prefer but keep in mind that mint has a tendency go to brown if kept in the fridge too long.
- Red wine vinegar - we like it because it has a more intense, punchier flavour. You can certainly swap it for white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. You can use even lemon juice but keep in mind that it will taste extremely sour the longer it is kept in the fridge.
- Garlic - lots and lots of garlic for authentic Greek flavour! But, feel free to adjust according to your personal preferences 😉.
- Extra virgin olive oil - adds a velvety smoothness to this dip and is ideal as a garnish. It also acts as a thickening agent to your tzatzik if you find that you have added a bit too much vinegar.
- Salt - is used as a seasoning to enhance its flavour.
- Strain the yoghurt as this will make it creamier and thicker so that it doesn't become too runny after adding the oil and vinegar - we want a dip like consistency and not a yoghurt sauce remember.
- Coarsely grate the cucumber and squeeze out the excess water.
- Let it stand in the fridge for an hour or two before serving to allow the flavours to meld together.
How to Make It (step-by-step)
1 - Strain the yoghurt
2 - Prepare cucumber
3 - Mix it well
Tzatziki Serving Ideas
We love our Tzatziki as an accompaniment for barbecued meat such as souvlaki or lamb cutlets, it is also great with fried calamari.
For vegetarians, it pairs well with dolmades, Gemista (Greek stuffed vegetables,) grilled veggies such as carrots, zucchinis/courgettes, eggplant or capsicum/peppers and it is just superb served with our Black lentil salad!
Our authentic Tzatziki recipe is -
- Perfect with meat - use it in your homemade kebabs, gyros as well as any barbecued meat, poultry and even white firm-fleshed fish such as barramundi or perch.
- Great as a dip - it makes a great to serve with vegetable crudités and pita bread.
- Wonderful to add to your wraps - it makes a wonderful spread for wraps and sandwiches try your tzatziki with shredded chicken, tomato, lettuce, red capsicum (pepper) and onion.
- Sensational in salad dressings - a wonderful, light alternative to mayonnaise for your coleslaw or other salads like we have used in this tzatziki dressing great with green salads.
- Ideal as part of a meze plate - a great dip to include in a meze plate with houmous, pita, bread, dolmades, olives and chargrilled vegetables.
- Include it in a grain bowl - with brown rice, quina, chickpeas and fresh or roasted veggies.
Common Questions (FAQs) & Tips
This will really depend on the carb count in your yoghurt so check the package carefully, our recipe has 1 net gram of carbs per tablespoon.
The best that I can suggest is to use coconut yoghurt but you will need to add a bit more vinegar to give it the extra tartness that it needs. It will still have a hint of coconut in the background.
This should give you just over one cup of tzatziki if you have strained the yoghurt and comes to approximately 18 tablespoons,
Store it in an airtight container in a cold part of your fridge and it should last 3-4 days.
We have calculated the nutritional information per tablespoon using an ingredient database which means that these are only estimates, each serves contains 42kcals and 1 gram of net carbs.
- 2 cups Greek yoghurt (or 1 cup if you are not straining the yoghurt overnight)
- 150 grams Lebanese cucumber (1 small Lebanese cucumber, approximately 5.3oz)
- 4 cloves garlic cloves, minced (you could use 2 if you prefer a "light" version)
- 2 tablespoons dill, fresh
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- A sprig of dill to garnish.
- Tip your Greek yoghurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth (or thick paper towels) place a bowl underneath to catch the juices. Leave covered in your refrigerator overnight, this will reduce your yoghurt by half.
- If you would like to make your tzatziki immediately use just one cup of Greek yoghurt. Allow it to strain in the fridge while you are preparing the rest of your ingredients.
- Wash the dill, shake then pat dry then cut finely, then mince your garlic cloves.
- Rinse your Lebanese cucumber under cold running water, trim the ends then coarsely grate.
- Then either place in a strainer and press out all the excess water and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Or place the grated cucumber on a thick paper towel (cheesecloth also works for this) and squeeze out all the excess water.
- Put the strained Greek yoghurt, the strained cucumber, chopped dill, minced garlic, oil and vinegar in a medium bowl. Season the with some salt and mix well until combined.
- Taste and adjust seasonings according to your taste.
- Place in a small bowl, garnish with a sprig of mint or dill and serve.