(Anti-Vampire) Tzatziki

October 24th, 2008 by Melina

The do’s and don’ts. . .

Welcome to Recipe Week!  First up — how to make tzatziki.

Let’s start with a few basics, shall we?

What is tzatziki? It’s a Greek meze (appetizer or small dish) made primarily from yoghurt, cucumber and garlic. It’s very thick.  So thick that you can serve it on a plate and spread it on bread.  And it’s absolutely delicious!

What tzatziki is not (or shouldn’t be):

Watery, runny, a sauce, bland, low in fat, easy to make


  1. 1 to 2 large containers of Greek or Greek style yoghurt
  2. Garlic (tons of it – we’re talking enough to keep all the vampires in Sunnydale away)
  3. Cucumber
  4. Lemon
  5. Olive oil
  6. Salt
  7. Dill (optional)

Note:  You’ll also need cheesecloth or a special yoghurt strainer.

A few notes on the ingredients:

You’ll notice that I didn’t include amounts/quantities for every ingredient.  I’m truly sorry.  I’m not good at that.

There are times in life to buy low or non-fat yoghurt.  In fact, my fridge if full of the stuff.  But get the real Greek yoghurt for this dish.  If it’s low or non-fat, it’ll be too runny.  Tzatziki is a bitch to make.  Don’t ruin it.

The world, unfortunately, if filled with non-authentic tzatziki.  Even in Greece. Sometimes, cheap restaurant owners add mayonnaise.

Uh – just don’t do that.

Like I said, dill is optional.  Personally, I opt against it.

About the garlic.  You know how the audience claps when Rachael and Emeril add garlic to their creations? O.k.  Seriously, those puny amounts of garlic won’t do squat for your tzatziki.  It’s supposed to be a garlicy dish.  Really, how much garlic you add is between you and your god(s), or perhaps more accurately between you and the person with whom you share a bed.  But you need to add enough garlic to satisfy the entire population of Gilroy, o.k.?  We’re talking at least 1-2 heads of garlic per container of yoghurt.  At least.

Tzatziki looks like an innocent, small little dish, but it is quite labor intensive.  As my mother says, Greek cooking requires a lot of pots and pans, which makes for a not so fun clean up.

But the stuff is good.  So worth it!  I promise.

You still with me?  Great!  Moving on. . .


Strain the yoghurt.  Because I make large batches of this stuff, I don’t use my yoghurt strainer. It’s too small.  Usually, I line a colander with cheesecloth, put the colander in a mixing bowl, cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. The point of all this messy work?  You have to get as much water out of the yoghurt as you possibly can.  Sprinkling a little salt over the yoghurt helps draw out even more water.

Peel and grate the cucumbers (but try not to grate your knuckles, o.k.?  It’ll just make me feel guilty).  I like to use the small, Persian kind.  They’re nice and crunchy.  Put the grated cucumbers into a strainer and add salt.  Put the strainer over a bowl and press the liquid out of the cucumbers.  Let it sit for a few hours.  I know I said it before, but I can’t stress this enough:  When you’re making tzatziki, water is your number one enemy.  Conquer it, wish it well, and send it down the drain.

Crush the garlic (see note above) and mix it with the olive oil and the juice of 1 or 2 lemons.

Now you must ask yourself, objectively, if you think you’ve removed enough of the water from the yoghurt and cucumber.  Have you really done your best?  Are you going to take your first bite of tzatziki and wonder what life would be like if you’d just waited another hour?  Sometimes, I mix the yoghurt and cucumber together and let it sit in the fridge just a few more hours.

Mix everything together.  Put the tzatziki on a pretty plate and garnish with Kalamata olives and parsley. Serve with a nice crusty bread and veggies.


Next up — Greek Salad!

Suzanne, I’m dedicating this post to you.  You live on through your recipes for tzatziki and lemonade.

Posted in Recipes

3 Responses

  1. Karen

    Love this stuff!

  2. Gloria

    I have tried and failed to make this dish. I have searched and searched for any and all directions! Thank you so much for the instructions! I’m making this tomorrow. Hopefully by Wednesday I’ll be indulging in one of my favorite Greek dishes! Does the happy dance. I got the lamb burgers on the ready for this one!!! Checking out the Greek salad recipe next!

  3. Gloria

    Update – I just made it and I think I’ve just got to work on my amounts but already this is without a doubt the best tzatziki I’ve ever made. I won’t be so stingy with the cucumber it eases the garlic. But so far it’s far and away miles and miles ahead and many more adjectives better than anything I’ve found so far! So thanks again!

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