In Greece, the word for appetizer is mezé. Tzatziki is a light and refreshing mezé that is almost always served before a Greek meal. Adjust the garlic “hit” to suit your personal taste. The best tzatziki is made with drained yogurt, often referred to as yogurt cheese. Serve with crackers, pita pieces or pita chips (see recipe below).
Check labels when choosing plain yogurt to make yogurt cheese. Be sure to choose a brand without gelatin, starch or gums, as they will not drain.
Whey from drained yogurt can be used as extra liquid in soups or stews. As well, it contains B vitamins and minerals.
Yogurt cheese is also great for spreads, salad dressings, cream cheese replacement and on baked potatoes. I frequently use it as a low-fat replacement for whipped cream. Folded into a dessert mixture, it maintains a good texture and does not break down.
Makes2 cups (500 mL)
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCocktail Party, game day
Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, snack
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, healthy, high-calcium, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturecreamy, garlicky, herby, light, savory, tangy
Type of Dishdip/spread
- 2 cups (500 mL) plain yogurt (see Notes)
- 1 small seedless cucumber, unpeeled, grated (about 2 cups/500 mL grated)
- 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh dill
- Freshly ground black pepper
Yogurt Cheese: Line a sieve with cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter set over a medium-size bowl. Spoon yogurt into sieve. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Then, gather edges of cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out any remaining whey liquid (see Notes). (You should have about 1 cup/250 mL cheese.) Transfer to a bowl.
Drain and squeeze liquid from cucumber with your hands. Stir cucumber, garlic and dill into yogurt cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir just before serving. Tzatziki keeps well refrigerated for up to one week.
Cut 4 (6-inch/15 cm) pita breads into 8 wedges each. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake on a baking sheet in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 5 minutes or until crisp. Allow to cool then store in a plastic bag. Makes 32 pieces.
2002 Margaret Howard