Often served with grilled meats, tzatziki offers the quintessential flavors that get me craving Greek food. In fact, there are variety of similar yogurt-based dips and sauces from throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Serve this version as a dip, a sauce for meat skewers known as souvlaki, or dive right in with some pita.
There are a few tricks to making tzatziki at home. First is to drain the liquid from the yogurt and cucumbers before mixing ingredients. This entails some waiting, but it’s well worth the time and prevents a watery sauce. Cucumbers are full of liquid, which can cause the tzatziki to separate. Another must is to use full fat Greek yogurt, both for its consistency and flavor. Finally, while this recipe relies on dill alone, tzatziki can be made with dill and/or mint, but it must be fresh. As soon as you start chopping and releasing that fragrance, you’ll know why.
2 cups Greek yogurt
½ cup seeded and grated cucumber
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
Begin by setting up the yogurt to drain. Lay cheesecloth in a metal sieve resting over a bowl. Pour the yogurt onto the cheesecloth, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in the refrigerator for about 3 hours.
Next place the grated cucumber in a metal sieve over a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for about 3 hours while the liquid drains, pressing with a spoon occasionally to encourage draining. By removing the seeds before you grated the cucumber, much of the liquid was released, but cucumbers take a while to drain more fully. Right before using, press firmly again with the spoon to release even more liquid.
While the yogurt and grated cucumber drain, combine the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and allow to set as well so the garlic infuses throughout the oil.
Spoon the drained yogurt into a bowl. Add the cucumber, garlic and olive oil mixture, lemon juice, dill, and salt to taste. Allow to chill and meld for at least two hours. I prefer to make tzatziki one day ahead so the flavors really develop.