Tzatziki and its variants are found in the cuisines of Southern Europe and the Middle East. Some are thick while others are thin enough to be served as a cold soup.
We always enjoy tzatziki as a dip. Preferably served with flatbread but, if we’re out of flatbread, toasted regular bread is just as good. The bread you see in the photos are actually homebaked though. I cut the loaf into thin slices, cut each slice into quarters, arranged the quarters on a tray and the tray went into the oven toaster.
Oven toaster? Yes. The bread has to be crusty enough to serve as a scoop to transport the tzaziki into your mouth. To give the bread the correct texture, slice it, cut into smaller pieces and toast.
Now, having dispensed with the “how to serve” recommendation, let’s dive into how to make tzatziki and why I say it can be made in three easy steps. But, first, a few notes about some of ingredients used in this recipe.
I used Greek yogurt. You may use any regular yogurt. From a tub or a carton that you’ll find in the cold section of the grocery. “Regular” means unflavored and unsweetened. It also means you CAN NOT use powdered yogurt mixed with water.
The yogurt has to be strained. Just set a strainer over a bowl, scoop the yogurt into the strainer, keep in the fridge and just let the excess water drip off while you prep the other ingredients.
Dill is a popular choice for making tzatziki. Citrusy and grassy at the same time, the flavor and aroma of dill blend well with the other ingredients. I used two stalks each about ten inches long. The leaves were stripped off and roughly chopped; the stalks were discarded.
In addition to dill, you may also add mint or parsley or combine them all together. For more about dill, see the linked post below.
English cucumber was used to make the tzatziki. Because of its girth, it is easier to grate. If you use a box grater, use the side with the largest holes. Grate the flesh only. Turn the cucumber around as you grate to avoid the center pith with the seeds.
The pith and seeds are discarded in this recipe. However, if you’re so inclined, you may drop them into a pitcher of very cold water and let them steep. Strain the water and pour into glasses with ice. But that’s just an aside.
About the skin. There’s no need to peel the cucumber but some people aren’t comfortable eating vegetable skin, so, your choice. Note though that the cucumber is more slippery after peeling so take extra care when grating.
When the cucumber has been grated, squeeze out as much water as you can. You can do this by placing the grated cucumber in a strainer and pressing down with the back of a spoon. Or, you can just pick up the grated cucumber with your hand and squeeze.
Plain salt will do. That’s the default. But I wanted to add a little more excitement to my waiting taste buds so I used cilantro lime pepper salt. How much salt you need to add depends on how much cucumber you’re using. Start with two generous pinches. You can always add more later, if needed.
Tzatziki doesn’t taste right unless you drizzle in a little lemon juice. I know that yogurt is already sour and lemon juice might sound like overkill but it isn’t. Lemon juice gives tzaziki a brightness that pleases rather than shocks the palate.
So, what are the three easy steps for making tzatziki?
- Strain the yogurt
- Prep the vegetables (chop the chill, grate the garlic and finely grate a clove or two of garlic)
- Season and mix
Strain the yogurt
- Dump the yogurt into a strainer set over a bowl.
- Cover and put in the fridge to allow excess water to drip.
Prep the vegetables
- Strip off the dill leaves and roughly chop; discard the stalks.
- Grate the cucumber; discard the seeds and pith at the middle.
- Squeeze out the excess water from the grated cucumber.
Season and mix
- Place the strained yogurt, squeezed cucumber, chopped chill and grated garlic in a mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle in salt and mix.
- Drizzle in a teaspoon of lemon juice, stir well and taste.
- Stir in more salt or lemon juice, or both, if needed.
- Chill well. Drizzle in a little olive oil before serving.