Tzatziki is typically served as one of the many small appetizer options in a meze, which is a Greek multi-course meal that provides a sampling of a wide range of dishes --- and leaves diners typically stuffed to the point of discomfort.
And it’s also served as an option along with pita bread, as a kind of dip. And I personally like it with Greek souvlaki (pork shishkebob) or with souvla (lamb shishkebob).
But I know and love it best as a topping for falafel, the wonderfully flavorful and savory chick pea patties that are mainstay of Middle Eastern cuisine.
From my recollection, I would pay about $2.00 - a big difference from the $10 my colleagues would pay daily for a deli sandwich with a drink. For that price, I got a satisfying and delicious sandwich consisting of pita wrapped around flavor-packed chick pea “meat” balls, and stuffed with greens, tomatoes and cucumbers, and topped by a thick, creamy yogurt sauce, which was tzatziki.
It was an indulgence I enjoyed all the more for its rarity.
That’s rather a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been making tzatziki for a long time. And things have changed a bit since the days when I first learned about this lovely sauce.
In the old days, Greek style yogurt was simply not available the way it is now. With its arrival in our grocery markets, I’ve seen that most recipes call for Greek yogurt in making tzatziki.
However, I’d like to make clear that I’ve found that any full fat yogurt will do the job perfectly fine.
That can save you half the cost of some of the more outrageously priced Greek style yogurt brands. I refuse to pay $3-6 per pound for yogurt, but can often find the store brand on sale for $2 per pound. Still not as cheap as the yogurt I typically buy for $1.50 per pound, but a substantial savings over the regular price.
Still, regular yogurt really does work fine, so if that’s all your budget will allow, go right ahead and use it. It’s just a little more liquid than Greek-style, but I actually prefer that and will often use it.
And if you want to achieve a thicker consistency, you can always let the yogurt sit in cheesecloth or a fine strainer over a bowl or pan for an hour or so, and that will strain out some of the whey liquid and leave behind a thicker yogurt.
Also, some recipes for tzatziki call for removing the seeds of the cucumber to get rid of any excess liquid and make the mixture thicker. However, the only time I would see that as necessary is if you’re using a very large cucumber with a lot of seeds.
Generally speaking, though, today’s varieties tend to have smaller seeds, so I personally don’t think that step is necessary at all. And as you know, I’m never looking for extra work in my recipes, so I skip doing that.
Here's the recipe:
Makes 6-8 servings
Prep Time -10 minutes
Start to Finish Time – 10 minutes
Total Recipe Cost – approximately $1.50
Total per serving cost – approximately 50¢
2 cups full fat Greek-style or regular yogurt
2 -3 pickling cucumbers or ½ of a long English cucumber.
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dry dill (optional)
½ teaspoon dry mint (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
- Put the yogurt in a mixing or serving bowl.
- Wash and peel the cucumber, and slice it in half lengthwise, and then into quarters lengthwise.
- Slice across the quarter strips to make thin, small pieces.
- Add the finely cut cucumber to the yogurt.
- Measure out the seasonings into the yogurt (1/4 teaspoon of garlic, the 1/2 teaspoon each of dry dill and mint, as well as salt, pepper, and the lemon juice and olive oil)
- Stir everything together to mix well.
- Serve as a dip with crackers or pita bread, or as a topping or side garnish with souvlaki, souvla, or falafel.