Tzatziki Sauce

5 from 10 votes
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Homemade Greek tzatziki sauce is easy to make and adds a creamy citrus flavor to any meal. This versatile condiment goes well with meats, sandwiches, or warm pitas and vegetables.

bowl of tzatziki sauce

Creamy, cool, and tangy, it’s no wonder tzatziki sauce is a must-have at Greek restaurants. I always order extra to dip with warm pita bread or to drizzle over gyro meat and kabobs. It’s simple to make and adds the finishing touch to any dish. It can also shine as a dip for crisp vegetables.

The ingredients are straightforward- yogurt, cucumber, garlic, citrus, vinegar, and herbs. That’s it! However, preparation is crucial in yielding a thick and creamy sauce. You could just dump shredded cucumber into the mix, but don’t be surprised when it gets too runny. I’ll show you an easy technique to remove the moisture while making it taste even better.

ingredients for the recipe

Cucumber selection

English cucumbers have thin, tender skins and tiny seeds. That means you can skip peeling and removing the centers. I like how it adds a pop of color and a more interesting texture. I use the large holes on a handheld or box grater to shred them into small pieces. 

All you need is one cucumber, then measure out 1 cup for the recipe. You can peel off the skin for a lighter-colored sauce. If you purchased a variety with thicker, more waxy skin, I recommend removing the skin and seeds as they are tough to chew.

Recipe Resources

Drain the cucumbers

The moment you shred the cucumbers, you’ll notice a ton of water being released. The pieces feel heavy. If left in the vegetable, this can cause the sauce to become thin and runny as it sits. To avoid this, toss the grated cucumbers with a small amount of salt, then allow it to drain for 30 minutes. 

Press the shreds down to squeeze out any extra moisture. I was able to remove about ⅓ cup of liquid. That’s a lot that would end up in the sauce. You can also place them in cheesecloth to further ring out the water.

Yogurt selection

Use a very thick plain strained yogurt, like Greek, to make the sauce. It’s high in protein because the excess moisture has already been removed. I like the creaminess of whole milk. However, you can use nonfat or reduced-fat varieties. You can even substitute full-fat sour cream, but it will have a slightly tangier taste.

Using regular yogurt

If you only have unstrained yogurt available, it’s easy to remove the liquid yourself. Simply place a triple layer of paper towels over a fine-meshed strainer, set on top of a bowl.  Add double the amount of yogurt, then let it chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. You should see the water separate from the yogurt over time.

yogurt, dill, oil, and seasonings in a bowl

The power of alliums

Garlic is an essential ingredient in Greek cuisine to add depth. When minced, the small allium packs a strong flavor. The finer the cut, the more of the sulfurous allicin compound releases and the familiar lingering odor. 

Mixing it with the fat in the dairy product helps coat some of the pieces, so the flavors infuse into the sauce without overpowering it. I use a microplane grater because of its fine openings. As the grater breaks down the clove, the texture becomes more of a paste, making it easy to mix in. Alternatively, very finely mincing the garlic can be done. However, you might notice little bursts of the characteristic bite.

mixing shreds of cucumber into yogurt sauce

Citrus and vinegar add dimension

Greek yogurt has a sour taste due to the lactic acid production by the probiotics during the fermentation process. Mixing freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a bright citrus note. If you like, you can grate the peel for a more potent aroma and lingering taste from the lemon oil. A small amount of distilled white vinegar adds a tanginess that complements the tart flavor of the yogurt. A little goes a long way!

Add fresh herbs

You can enjoy tzatziki sauce without any additional herbs, but I like the herbaceous notes they provide. I add a generous amount of chopped dill. The slight grassiness and delicate citrus taste complement the lemon and garlic.

You can also use mint for a refreshing note. Just make sure it’s finely sliced. Chives and parsley are good additions. However, it starts to taste more like a ranch-style sauce

close up of tzatziki in a bowl

How to make tzatziki sauce

Combine the yogurt with lemon juice, garlic, dill, vinegar, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. The fat from the oil smoothes out the consistency and provides a lovely richness and fruit note. Once you drain the cucumber, stir them into the sauce. 

You can serve it right away, but for the best taste, let it chill for at least an hour. This duration gives all of the ingredients time to infuse together for a more harmonious flavor.

Serve this with

  • Lamb kabobs
  • Greek chicken skewers
  • Salmon greek salad
  • Greek chicken with roasted potatoes
platter of vegetables, pita, and a bowl of tzatziki

FAQ

What does tzatziki sauce taste like?

Plain strained yogurt (typically Greek) is the main ingredient, giving it a strong, slightly tart flavor profile with a cool, creamy consistency. Cucumber adds a hint of melon taste with a slight crunch. Garlic adds a little sulfurous note that is balanced with citrus and/or vinegar. Fresh dill or mint can be added for a herbaceous taste.

What do you use tzatziki sauce on?

The acidity in the sauce helps to cut richness from meats like lamb, beef, chicken, and pork. It pairs nicely with smoky, grilled, and rotisserie meat like gyro, kabobs, and kefta. Soft pita and vegetables are good to dip in the condiment.

Is tzatziki healthy to eat?

Yes! The combination of protein and probiotic packed yogurt with fibrous vegetables, lemon juice for vitamin C, and monounsaturated fatty acids in extra virgin olive oil. It’s a good choice for a topping or dip.

dipping a pita chip into a bowl of tzatziki sauce

Salt helps remove moisture from cucumbers

Cucumbers are incredibly crisp and refreshing because they contain over 90% water. A majority of it needs to be quickly removed for the tzatziki sauce to prevent a thin consistency. The sodium draws out the moisture from the cut plant cell walls by osmosis, releasing the liquid. It also seasons the vegetable for a slightly briny flavor.

Tzatziki Sauce

Homemade Greek tzatziki sauce is easy to make and adds a creamy citrus flavor to meats, sandwiches, or as a dip with pitas and vegetables.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine Greek

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 english cucumber, at least 10 ounces
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 cups plain greek yogurt, whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely grated or very finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Trim off the ends of the cucumber and cut it in half crosswise. Use the large holes of a grater to shred into pieces. Alternatively, chop into very fine shreds. Measure out 1 cup (7 ounces, 202g) for the recipe.
  • Set a fine-meshed strainer over a bowl. Add the shredded cucumber and salt, gently stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes to drain. Use the back of a spoon to press down on the shreds to remove most of the excess moisture.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, chopped dill, garlic, vinegar, and pepper. Stir in the drained cucumber. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and refrigerate for a least 1 hour before serving, or up to 5 days.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 2 cups
  • Serving Size: ¼ cup
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Stir before using.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 68kcal (3%)Carbohydrates 4g (1%)Protein 5g (10%)Fat 4g (6%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 3mg (1%)Sodium 92mg (4%)Potassium 132mg (4%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 2g (2%)Vitamin A 46IU (1%)Vitamin C 3mg (4%)Calcium 62mg (6%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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11 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy says

    Jessica I have always wanted a recipe I could trust for this sauce. Thank you so much. We like it with Soulvaki chicken

  2. Estela says

    Zucchini is not listed on tzatziki ingredients ; however, under instructions, #1 mentions using the large holes of a grater to shred the zucchini. How much zucchini is in the recipe?

  3. Esther says

    So rich, creamy and packed with flavor. I tried many tzatziki recipes and this is the one! Leaving peel on an English cucumber, draining liquid, whole milk Greek yogurt all contribute to what makes it better than other recipes. 2 c yogurt seemed like a lot for me so I ended up using 1.5 cup. I was going to leave out vinegar but when I added it, I couldn’t believe how much better it was! Not sure of the science but it actually cut that sour yogurty taste.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Esther! Thrilled to hear that you liked the ingredient tips to make the tzatziki. I do feel that the vinegar has a more complex pungency, that balances the sourness of the fermented yogurt.

  4. Denis Netto says

    This is absolutely delicious. The fresh flavors are addictive. I’ll never buy prepared tzatziki again thanks to Jessica’s recipe.

  5. Maria T. says

    I just finished making this. It was easy and tastes refreshing and light. I will serve this to company tomorrow as a veggie dip. I imagine it will taste even better.