This authentic tzatziki recipe makes a thick, creamy cucumber sauce, packed with garlic flavor. Make it for a gyro sauce, to serve with grilled meats or poultry, or for an addictive dip!
If you can't imagine enjoying a gyro or Greek souvlaki without a topping of fresh tzatziki sauce, you are not alone. As dips and sauces are concerned, it's a favorite staple condiment found on dining tables in Greece and around the world.
Creamy and thick, the base of the sauce is strained Greek yogurt, cucumbers and plenty of garlic. Of course, it's commonly used as a gyro sauce, like my Lebanese garlic sauce (toum) recipe, but there are so many other ways to serve the delicious, addictive dip!
Beyond the Gyro Sauce: Uses for Tzatziki
As a sauce, it's fantastic with grilled lamb, beef, or chicken. Try it on koobideh kabobs- it's SO good! I also like to serve it as a dip with Briam (Greek roasted vegetables) and cauliflower fritters.
Or, serve it with some grilled or pan fried halloumi and veggies and crackers for dipping. It's the perfect no-cook summer meal!
What makes this an authentic tzatziki recipe?
I am not the type of person who takes the word "authentic" lightly. If I'm going to make an authentic version of a recipe, I typically do some research to find out exactly what should and shouldn't be included.
This being said, chefs and home cooks often change and adapt recipes, suiting them to their individual tastes, to make them allergy-friendly, and/or to take advantage of locally sourced ingredients. This is why you'll sometimes find "Americanized" versions of ethnic recipes.
There are a few "requirements" for it to be a "real deal" Greek recipe, and these items are why this is an authentic tzatziki recipe.
- Make tzatziki with mint, not dill.
Sure, cucumbers and dill are a delicious combination, but you will rarely, if ever, find fresh dill in an authentic version of the cucumber sauce.
- The recipe calls for vinegar, not lemon juice.
It can be plain distilled white vinegar or wine vinegar, but skip the lemon.
- Use full fat, plain Greek yogurt, not sour cream.
An authentic tzatziki recipe will never include sour cream, mostly because sour cream isn't found in most Greek grocery stores.
If you love cucumbers, make some mast o khiar; it's a delicious Persian cucumber yogurt salad! Or use fresh summer cucumbers for a chopped veggie salad with creamy lemon vinaigrette.
- Heavy on the garlic.
There should be a strong garlic flavor. Use at least 2 cloves of garlic, and more if you want to! Also, be sure to finely grate or mince the garlic cloves; don't chop them. You want the flavor but not the texture.
- It should have an ultra thick, creamy consistency.
The goal is to make tzatziki sauce so thick that it needs to be spread on with a knife rather than poured like a dressing. It should also be very creamy, with finely grated cucumbers rather than diced or sliced pieces.
The way to create the thickest consistency is to use full-fat Greek yogurt, and be sure to strain it in a fine mesh colander for several minutes to remove any excess water.
Also, use seedless cucumbers, or if you can't find seedless, remove the seeds from whatever cucumbers you use.
Cucumber seeds contain a lot of water, so if you leave them in, they'll thin out your tzatziki.
Cucumber plants contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin, which is more likely to be present if the growing conditions aren't ideal or if the plant isn't watered thoroughly. The compound is usually more concentrated in the stem end of the cucumbers.
To lessen the bitterness of cucumbers, trim off both ends of the fruit. Then, rub the exposed fruit with a tiny bit of salt, or rub the exposed flesh of the trimmed end against the exposed flesh of the cucumber.
After a couple of minutes, a white substance will form, which is the bitter compound, cucurbitacin. At that point, simply rinse the fruit under tap water to wash away the compound.
Tzatziki sauce is best when it's fresh and very cold. For the best flavor and consistency, use it within 2-3 days after making it. After that, it will start to become watery and lose its flavor.
Authentic Tzatziki Recipe
- 1 large seedless cucumber (See Note 1)
- 1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt strained
- 2 cloves garlic finely grated or minced
- 2 tablespoon white vinegar
- ¼ cup packed fresh mint finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- olive oil for garnish
- Trim ends from cucumber and remove peel if desired. Using the large holes on a box grater, finely grate the trimmed cucumber. Place in cheese cloth or paper towels and squeeze excess water out. Set aside.
- Whisk the yogurt, garlic, vinegar, mint, kosher salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper in medium bowl to blend. Add grated cucumbers and toss to coat. Season the mixture to taste.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve with chips, khubz (pita bread), use as a gyro sauce, or serve with grilled veggies, meat or poultry.
- Tzatziki is best served when fresh and cold. Use within 2-3 days for best flavor and consistency.
- No need to peel, grate on the large holes of your box grater. Feel free to use whatever variety of seedless cucumber you prefer. English and Persian cucumbers are good choices.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.