Monday, May 11, 2009

Memories of Tzatziki

Growing up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, I was exposed to amazing Greek food; in fact, the quality of the Greek food is one of the things I am most proud of about my hometown. As a young girl, I developed an obsession with tzatziki sauce, the so-garlicky-it-burns condiment made of cucumber and yogurt. Whether I slathered it on pita while I shared a cold pikilia platter with my mom at Dimitri’s, or eat it spread on a Pano’s donair for breakfast at the Boyce Farmer’s Market on Saturday, tzatziki sauce has always held a very special place in my heart. I’ve eaten it with a spoon from the Styrofoam takeout container, people; true love knows no manners.

Now that I live in the neighbouring city of Moncton, I find myself hard to please when it comes to my favourite condiment. While there is a perfectly lovely Mediterranean restaurant here, it does not specifically identify itself as Greek; therefore, its version of tzatziki, which is neither thick nor garlicky enough for my tastes, just isn’t the same. Grocery store brand obviously won’t do, either, so what’s a girl to do? Well, this girl makes it herself.

I read dozens of online recipes for tzatziki sauce, and combined elements from the ones that sounded most like what I can get at home. After little tweaks here and there, I finally have a formula that I love to call my own.

If you think tzatziki is only good for pita bread or donairs, think again. I make it every single weekend in the summer, because it is so versatile. I love it as a condiment for sausage, chicken, burgers, steak, pork tenderloin, or potatoes, as a dip with any vegetable, dolloped on top of an omelette, as a dressing for pasta salad, and in a big bowl surrounded by chips or crackers. The possibilities are endless.

While it would be nice to be able to run out and pick up a container of delicious tzatziki sauce whenever I please, I don’t mind taking the time to make my own. It’s rewarding to satisfy my cravings in my own kitchen, by successfully recreating a taste that I've always adored. However, even though I really enjoy my own version of tzatziki, some things just can’t be changed: when I’m at Mom and Dad’s, it’s Greek takeout all the way.

Tzatziki Sauce: The Recipe

Amanda’s notes: Since I can’t get Greek yogurt around here, I buy the thickest I can find, Balkan-style yogurt (6% M.F.), and strain it to thicken it even more. This can be done by placing a couple of layers of paper towel in a sieve, adding the yogurt, and sitting the sieve on top of a bowl in the fridge overnight. Discard liquid.

Because there is a lot of water in cucumber, after grating and salting, I squeeze out as much as I can by scooping it into paper towel or a clean dishtowel, and wringing.

Unlike the smooth tzatziki I grew up with, this one is chunky from the grated, skin-on cucumber. If you’d like a smoother texture, you could peel then puree your cucumber in a food processor before adding it to the yogurt.

I usually use about 6 cloves of garlic, but I really like the sting. Use 3 or 4 if you’re unsure, and more if you’re a fanatic (I once used 10, but it was bad for my social life).

1 large container Greek yogurt (about 2 cups)
1 cucumber, grated
6 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Whisk olive oil and lemon juice in the bottom of a bowl. Fold in yogurt. Add cucumber and garlic; mix well. Salt to taste. Let tzatziki sit in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving. Garnish with paprika. Enjoy!


  1. next time you are here it's a real Greek feast at Dimitri's!!!!

  2. That looks delicious! How cute that your Mom commented above too! :)

  3. Sounds good, Mom!

    Thanks, Stacey! Yeah, my mom is pretty adorable. :)

  4. I love how versatile tzatziki is. I used to make up tub-loads for barbeques and parties when I was younger. I haven't tried adding paprika - might give it a go next time.

  5. Hi, Café Chick! That's how it's served at home, so I always do the same. Makes it really pretty!

  6. That looks really very good!!
    Nothing beats making it yourself because then you can truly have exactly what you want!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. Thanks, Melissa! You're right, it's worth the extra effort!
    You're welcome; hope you enjoy. :)

  8. Hi Amanda! Thanks for joining my blog! It's so exciting to have new followers :-)...Your blog is fantastic! Can't wait to try some of your recipes...especially the dog treats! :-)

  9. Thanks, Sarah! Thanks for joining mine. :) Enjoy the dog treats!