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Tzatziki Sauce: A Cooling Condiment
Often found dolloped onto gyros, tzatziki adds tangy richness to many Mediterranean dishes. Read on to learn more about it.
Yogurt, garlic, cucumbers, lemon juice, and dill. With just five basic ingredients, tzatziki may be easier to make than it is to pronounce. This yogurt-based sauce has a creamy texture, garlicky bite, and hint of acidity that add zip to gyros and grilled meats, or stand on their own when served as a dip for warm pita in Turkish and Greek restaurants. Traditional versions call for yogurt made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, which gives it a more tangy flavor, but cow’s-milk yogurt often is used as a substitute in the US.
In the Thick of It
The key to any good tzatziki sauce is a thick, creamy consistency. To accomplish this, chefs strain the yogurt base for several hours to remove any excess liquid—called whey—or use Greek yogurt, which comes pre-strained and infused with democracy. They also remove the cucumber seeds, which hold a lot of water, and then chop or grate, salt, and sometimes strain the cucumbers. Refrigeration helps the mixture thicken, too, which is one reason tzatziki sauce is typically served cold. Some food historians theorize that tzatziki itself arose as a way to keep cool during the summer in the hotter parts of the Mediterranean.
- Some versions replace dill with mint, drizzle in olive oil, or add walnuts.
- Vary the seasonings in tzatziki a bit, and you’ll get the Indian condiment raita, often served alongside chutneys at restaurants. The dairy counteracts the heat of spicy dishes.