Greek tzatziki sauce is a bright, delicious combination of Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and a few other traditional flavors that are incredible with meat, fish, veggies, or bread. It is so easy and takes all of 5 minutes to make your own batch that is vastly superior to anything you can pick up at the market!
Right after graduating law school in 2009 (how is that 7 years ago already?!), Paul and I spent the summer studying to take the California Bar Exam. After a traumatizing summer of bar prep and taking the 3-day exam that leaves most examinees feeling slightly catatonic (at least in this former examinee’s experience), we were free to take some time off, especially since we had the good fortune to graduate the year that the market was plummeting and offers of employment were getting rescinded or deferred. We decided that the extra time off was perfect for a 6-week backpacking adventure through parts of the Mediterranean, including Greece.
We flew from Rome to Thessaloniki, which is in the northern region of Greece, and then made our way down to Athens and then on to Santorini and Rhodes before ferrying over into Turkey and continuing our trip. One of my very favorite things about traveling is the food. I mean, you can get Greek food – even really good Greek food – here in the States, but it can be hard to find, especially once you have tasted the real deal. There is something about actually eating a gyro in Santorini that makes it take root in your soul. There was a little cafe there that we ate at more than once because of all the places we ate in Greece, this place made the most amazing gyros full of incredible seasoned meat, greek fries, tomatoes and onions, and just dripping with cool, tangy Tzatziki sauce. I don’t remember the name of the place but I could walk you to it if I was back on that island. And now I’m going to dream about it tonight I bet.
Anyway, you have probably had tzatziki before. It’s wonderful stuff – a yogurt based sauce with cucumber, garlic, dill and lemon juice. A lot of recipes call for the cucumber to be grated, but my preference is to do a small dice instead because I actually really love the little bites of cucumber in the tzatziki. Since watery tzatziki sauce is definitely not the goal, you are going to want to cut your cucumber and then salt it and let it sit for a while in order to let a lot of the liquid inside the cucumber to leech out. If you use an English cucumber like the one in these pics, you don’t even need to de-seed it or peel it since the skin isn’t as tough or bitter as other varieties of cucumbers. But if you feel like peeling it, then by all means, go right ahead. If you aren’t a fan of dill, then go ahead and just leave it out, but I love, love, love the flavor it gives so it’s always in my version.
Serve on gyros, over grilled meat or fish, with pitas for dipping, or on fries. Or, you know, just eat it straight out of the bowl with a spoon. It’s that good.
- 1 english cucumber, diced small (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon salt (for leeching water from the cucumber)
- 1 1/2 cups greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt over the cucumber and allow water to drain in a colander over a bowl for 30 minutes. If needed, you can rinse and dry the cucumber to get rid of some of the salt, but most of it will rinse off from the water that comes out of the cucumber anyway.
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except cucumber and dill. Stir together, then stir in cucumber and dill and refrigerate for 1 hour.
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