A firm favourite at summer picnics, al fresco dinner parties and smoking barbecues across the land, there’s more to making the much-loved dip tzatziki that many may realise – it’s not just a case of combining cucumber with yoghurt.

Also known as cacık in Turkey and North Cyprus, this staple in Turkish and Greek cuisine is used to accompany mezze and warm bread, served as a more liquid sauce alongside grilled meats and salads. Assembled from just a handful of ingredients and requiring no cooking or equipment, what the perfect tzatziki recipe does call for is a little time.

An essential step is removing the liquid from the grated cucumber to prevent the yoghurt from becoming diluted and thin, which would affect both the flavour and texture. This is best achieved as described below, where the salt helps to extract the juice. Another key point is to use thick and strained yoghurt for an authentic texture – runny Greek yoghurt is more suitable if you want to achieve a sauce.

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HOW TO MAKE TZATZIKI

Serves 4 to 6 as a starter

½ a large cucumber
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 x 500g tub of strained Greek yoghurt
1 small bunch of fresh dill
a few sprigs of fresh mint
1 lemon
optional: 1 teaspoon dried mint

1. Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and cut or scrape out the seeds – this is where most of the water content is. Grate the remaining cucumber.
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2. Place the grated cucumber in a sieve, rest it on a bowl and add some sea salt. Give it a stir, and leave to drain for a few hours, or overnight in the fridge. Stir now and again, helping it along by pushing the liquid out with a spoon.
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3. In the meantime, peel and finely grate or crush the garlic, then combine with the oil in a large bowl. You can allow this to sit for a few hours to mellow out the pungency, but it’s not essential.
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4. When most of the liquid has drained from the grated cucumber, spread it out over a tea towel and pat dry. Combine with the garlic mixture, then stir through the yoghurt until evenly distributed.

5. Finely chop the dill and mint leaves, then fold through the yoghurt mixture along with a squeeze of lemon juice and the dried mint (if using). Season with salt to taste.

6. Serve with warm pita or Turkish bread and crudités, or alongside salad and grilled meats.
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If you want to get creative, feel free to pep up your tzatziki with paprika or sumac, or and a punch with slices of fresh chilli. Dress with a flourish of the chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve alongside this gorgeous Greek chicken with herby vegetable couscous or with traditional Greek souvlaki kebabs for a delicious summertime barbecue option.


Tags

dips, snacks

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  • dejadru

    Super delicious, especially during hot days. Wanted to devour with a spoon. Thanks!

  • Sol

    I was in greece last week! The recipie is without Lemon!! When I told them that Many sites included Lemon they told me that it was a sin!

  • cbb3657

    Is this recipe feedback site or a history/political lesson?

  • Christina Gustavsson

    This is life, live and learn. Keep an open mind.

  • michael desira

    the Greeks have a saying…. “never trust a Turk”. The Turks also have a saying…..”never trust a Greek”…It really all depends on which side of the fence you sit. However, here we are discussing food, not politics….

  • adie mohan

    I love a recipe with history and people living in the hand discussing it!

  • SallyT

    Food IS political, and its also historical, and geographical.

  • blackcloud

    You’re right. I lived in Athens for a year, then visited Crete many times for a couple weeks at a time, and adding lemon (or vinegar, for that matter) was never done, as far as I know (only saw it made 3 times though). Also, they seemed to use a LOT more garlic most of the time. The cucumber was grated using a very coarse grater, then put in a cloth (I use a heavy duty paper towel) and the excess juice squeezed out. This, combined with a good whole milk Greek yogurt (and NO lemon or vinegar) leads to a really thick sauce that stays where you put it and doesn’t run. A neighbor in Athens even used garlic powder instead of fresh, and it was excellent… with a minor drawback of it getting stronger garlic taste the longer it sat.

  • Laura Woodruff

    Hi, I would like to make a big batch to dish out each day with my work lunch. Would anyone be able to tell my how long the recipe keeps good for?

  • Sarah Jane Whitehouse

    This was fun to read 🙂