Tzatziki recipes are everywhere. You know, that delicious Greek yogurt stuff served with grilled meats or as a dip? You’ll find some recipes with added vinegars, olive oil, all kinds of other frills and flavors that just, in my opinion, detract from delicious simplicity: the basic cool and tangy flavors that define tzatziki – exactly the way it is supposed to be.
I like to scoop my tzatziki with celery sticks, pretzels, and cucumber slices.
Believe it or not, as simple as it is, it’s pretty tough to get it to turn out the way you hope it will. I have played around modifying this recipe enough to give you a few tips…you’ll get perfect Greek tzatziki.
Here are my ingredients and the tricks I use to nail it every time:
Plain Greek Yogurt (3/4 cup)
Buy whichever greek yogurt you like and thicken it by straining. There are a lot of ways you can do this, and since I don’t usually have cheese cloth on hand I just take a small strainer, line it with a paper towel, position the strainer on top of a dish or bowl (to collect liquid that comes out) and place the whole yogurt-straining setup in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes. Now you have a thicker yogurt! So easy.
Garlic (1 tsp, minced/1-2 cloves)
Sometimes raw minced garlic can be really bitter and way too overpowering. You never really know what effect it will have until you taste your final product. Recipes can be adjusted for pretty much any problem, but an undesired effect of garlic is an especially tough problem to fix.
You can totally eliminate raw garlic’s bad or weird taste threats by just lightly toasting cloves in the oven. You are toasting slightly, not completely roasting it. It’s not going to get even close to sweet and gooey (although that’s yum) you still want to be able to finely mince it. Lightly toasting brings out raw garlic’s desired flavors and mellows out the harsh ones.
For this technique, separate but do not peel the garlic cloves. Place them onto a piece of parchment paper so they are not touching, then pop in the oven for 7-10 mins at the lowest temp possible – (like 250F). Take garlic out of the oven and let it cool completely before you mince and add to the cold yogurt.
* Note: I see no need to waste energy and preheat the oven, so I say 10 minutes if you put the garlic in and then start to preheat. If you preheat first, 7 minutes should do it.
Dill (3 T, chopped)
Mint (2 tsp, chopped)
First of all, rinse your herbs very well and then make sure to dry them very well. Tossing damp ingredients right in is one big mistake (with a super easy fix!) that I see people make. Even a bit of moisture will make the whole recipe watery, and you’ll reverse the work you did by straining the yogurt.
I say you can rough chop or finely chop herbs, or tear in pretty big pieces – nothing impacts the flavor they impart as much as the freshness of the herbs you use and amount of time you allow this recipe to chill in the fridge once it’s done. I think at least 12 hours (overnight) is best.
I love showing off my garden’s herbs, and I use a lot of fresh dill and some fresh mint, although the mint is not really traditional. It tastes awesome because it has that coolness that just enhances the coolness of the cucumber and yogurt.
Cucumber (1/2 cup, grated – I prefer english cucumber, but use any you like)
You may be catching onto the trend that we want to eliminate moisture. Make sure you really dry that cucumber very well, avoid using the middle part that has seeds. (Skin is ok to include)
Lemon (freshly squeezed juice -2 tsp)
How do you add lemon juice without the liquid (juice?) Ok, so I admit that you can’t avoid it here.The best you can do is add that lemon juice and mix it in completely. You can get more lemon flavor minus so much liquid if you use just a little pulp and zest. Also, it’s just a little lemon juice, and that’s not going to make your recipe too watery! Remember that you have been carefully minimizing moisture in every other way that you can.
So there you have it! I always try to be practical about tips. I don’t do any fancy tricks or use expensive ingredients or kitchen appliances to come out with a great tzatziki, and you shouldn’t have to either.