Just about any Greek dish can benefit from a big bowl of homemade tzatziki sauce on the side. It’s cool, tangy and uber fresh—perfect for pairing with grill meat and seafood, falafel and loads of pita bread.
Table of Contents
What is Greek Tzatziki Sauce?
Tzatziki is a Greek dairy condiment made from strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. It can be used a dip for pita chips, crackers and fresh vegetables. It’s also great used as a sauce for all kinds of fried dishes, and sandwiches like the gyro.
We also love to serve tzatziki with our Chicken Souvlaki Recipe (coming soon) and warm pita bread.
Test Kitchen Tips
- One of the most important steps in making homemade tzatziki is to drain and squeeze the excess moisture from the cucumber. Cucumber is a very watery veggie and can easily make your tzatziki sauce too thin. Toss the shredded cuke with some salt and let it sit for about 15 minutes in a colander before squeezing to release the moisture.
- The Zestful Kitchen Test Kitchen uses Morton kosher salt for recipe development. If you are using Diamond Crystal, use this conversion: 1 ½ teaspoons Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt. You can learn more about kosher salt here.
In the test kitchen we’ve found that we prefer to use thin-skinned English cucumbers instead of regular cucumbers for tzatziki. Not only do they have a much thinner skin, but they also have teeny tiny seeds that go undetectable in tzatziki sauce.
If you can only find regular pole cucumbers we recommend you peel some of the skin before shredding (or dicing) it for this tzatziki recipe.
Whole milk Greek yogurt (aka full fat Greek yogut) is the way to go here. It’s thick and fatty, which holds up well to the moisture-rich cucumber, tangy lemon and bright herbs. Any plain Greek yogurt will do. Avoid using regular plain yogurt as it’s too thin and loose for making a good tzatziki (and it’s not classic).
Traditionally, tzatziki is made with a combination of fresh dill and fresh mint. Those two herbs are absolutely essential, but if you’ve got parsley on hand, feel free to throw some of that in too.
All good tzatziki sauces have a drizzle of really good olive oil. You’ll want to reach for your best bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe. Because the dip is uncooked and served cold, you’ll get the fruity and spicy flavors of the olive oil in every bite.
The two can easily be confused but the first thing to know if that tzatziki is a Greek condiment while raita is an Indian condiment.
While tzatziki is made of whole milk strained yogurt, raita is generally a bit thinner made with regular whole milk yogurt (not strained). Raita is also made with a variety of chopped vegetables which can include cucumber, eggplant, potatoes or spinach and can also include tomatoes or bananas. Tzatziki is a bit simpler made with just shredded or diced cucumber.
And finally, the seasonings are quite different. Raitas are seasoned with black mustard seeds, garam masala and a handful of fresh herbs such as cilantro, tarragon, chervil, dill and mint. Most tzatziki recipes only use the latter two.
Yes and no. To make a classic tzatziki you need to use shredded or diced cucumber. But if traditional isn’t what you’re going for, you can make tzatziki with zucchini.
You can grate/shred the cucumber on a box grated or using the food processor fitted with the grater plate attachment
Homemade Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
- 1 english cucumber, halved, seeded, and shredded on a box grater
- Morton kosher salt
- 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup minced fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, and/or dill
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- Toss cucumber with ½ teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bowl. Let drain 15 minutes.
- Lightly squeeze cucumber to release excess liquid; transfer cucumber to a medium bowl with yogurt, herbs, garlic, 1 teaspoon minced lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper, or to taste.