Tzatziki is one of the dishes that the whole world loves. And that’s for a good reason. This savory cucumber yogurt salad makes the perfect side dish to most rice and meat dishes. Made of just a few simple ingredients, tzatziki is a staple in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and one of those dishes that people make on repeat.
Let me show you how to make Middle Eastern cucumber yogurt salad with this step-by-step recipe. You’ll also get some tips and insights on how to serve, store and complement your dish.
What is Cucumber Yogurt Salad aka Tzatziki?
Tzatziki is a yogurt cucumber salad made from plain yogurt, cucumber, salt and mint. It’s a staple in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries where it’s commonly served as a side to rice dishes, bulgur, grilled meat and vegetables. It can be served alongside other mezze dishes, with salads and bread.
Cucumber yogurt salad is one of those dishes that people across the globe love. It’s believed to have originated in Greece during the Ottoman empire (a Turkish empire) which controlled much of Southeast Europe and Western Asia. For this reason, there’s a controversy whether tzatziki is Greek or Turkish. Regardless of its origin, for me, tzatziki is above all a great dish to bring people together, because food is what connects people.
The Greek name tzatziki that is commonly used in most Western countries derives from the Turkish cacik. In many Arab countries, it’s called khair wa laban (which basically means cucumbers with yogurt), in Iraq it’s jajik, in Iran it’s mast-o-khair and in India it’s raita. Every region has their very own way of preparing it. For me, that’s what makes this dish even more special.
Today, I’m going to show you the Middle Eastern version of tzatziki, the way it’s prepared in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Yogurt Cucumber Salad Ingredients
To make Middle Eastern cucumber yogurt salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Whole-milk yogurt: Plain whole-milk yogurt is traditionally used for tzatziki. Use Greek or Turkish yogurt for the best result.
- Cucumber: Small cucumbers (also known as Persian cucumbers) yield the best result. They are less watery when compared to English cucumbers. You can grate the cucumbers or finely chop them. Either way is fine. You can use peeled or unpeeled cucumbers.
- Garlic: Garlic is one of the must-haves in every good tzatziki. Use fresh garlic cloves. These are peeled, crushed (or finely chopped) and then mixed with your salad.
- Mint: One thing where the Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern version of this dish differ is when it comes to the selection and amount of herbs. In the Middle East, mint is commonly used to flavor tzatziki (the European version uses dill instead). My personal favorite is a blend of fresh mint and dried mint. They have a distinct flavor and compliment each other really well. You can also just use one of these two, if you don’t have both available.
- Salt: A pinch of salt for some flavor. Adjust according to your taste.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Yogurt Cucumber Salad
Step 1: Pour yogurt in a bowl
Begin by pouring some plain yogurt into a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Finely chop cucumbers
Next, finely chop the cucumbers and add them to the bowl. You can peel the cucumbers if you like, but it’s not necessary. Chopped cucumber adds a nice crunch and fresh flavor to the dip. If you want your tzatziki to be more creamy (like a sauce), you can grate your cucumber instead of chopping it.
Step 3: Crush the garlic
Peel and crush the garlic cloves, then add them to the bowl as well. You can also finely chop the garlic instead of crushing or pressing it.
Step 4: Chop the mint
Pluck some fresh mint leaves off the stems. Discard the stems. Finely chop the leaves and add them to the bowl.
Step 5: Add seasonings and stir well
Sprinkle in some dried mint and a pinch of salt, then stir well to combine all the ingredients. The dried mint adds an extra layer of flavor, while the salt helps to bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients.
Step 6: Garnish and serve
You can serve the dip immediately, or refrigerate it for 2-3 hours before serving to intensify the flavors. The dip can be served cool or at room temperature, depending on your preference. To garnish, you can sprinkle some additional dried mint, fresh mint leaves, or a drizzle of olive oil on top. These garnishes are optional, but they add a nice touch of flavor and presentation.
What to Serve with Cucumber Yogurt Salad
In Middle Eastern cuisine it’s very common to serve yogurt as a side. This yogurt cucumber salad makes a wonderful and delicious alternative to plain yogurt. Cucumber yogurt salad can be used as a sauce. It’s traditionally served with “dry” main dishes which are dishes that don’t have a gravy.
Tzatziki pairs wonderfully with rice dishes, especially one-pot rice dishes and almost all types of grilled meat, be it grilled chicken, shawarma, kafta or kebab. Serve alongside other Middle Eastern salads and spreads, such as Tabbouleh (parsley salad), Fattoush (tossed salad with roasted bread), Muhammara (roasted bell pepper dip) or Mutabal (eggplant dip).
Make Ahead & Storage
Cucumber yogurt salad comes together in less than 5 minutes. Nevertheless, you can perfectly make a larger batch to consume over several days. What’s great about cucumber yogurt sauce is that the garlic taste intensifies as you store it. That said, tzatziki is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.
Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
Yogurt Cucumber Salad (Tzatziki)
- 250 g (1 cup) whole-milk yogurt Turkish/Greek
- 1 cucumber Persian cucumber
- 2 garlic cloves
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pour the yogurt into a mixing bowl.
- Finely chop the cucumbers. Add to the bowl.
- Peel and crush the garlic cloves, add to the bowl.
- Pluck the mint leaves off the stems. Finely chop. Add to the bowl.
- Add dried mint and salt to the bowl. Stir well to combine.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for 2-3 before serving to intensify the taste. Serve cool or at room temperature. Garnish with some dried mint, fresh mint or olive oil (optional).
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.