I should start a category for family recipe requests! This one comes, via Facebook, from my second(?) cousin.

I’ve had this recipe for many years now, but I never wrote it down. It wasn’t given to me – it was demonstrated to me, back in high school, by my high school BF’s Mom.

If there’s anything that stuck with me from my relationship with my high school BF, it was a love of Greek food. Really, I credit him with changing my mind about olives – I seriously hated them, but he was convinced it was only because I had never tried the Greek Kalamata olive. It sounded a bit arrogant at the time, but he was totally right. From then on, I would go over to their house and eat all of their olives and imported Feta cheese.

His mom liked to feed me, too. She was so kind to me that one day, when she brought us some lunch that had beef in it (which I did NOT eat at the time), I ate it without complaint.

I asked her for her tzatziki recipe, and she kind of laughed. I’m pretty sure she didn’t have it written down – she had made it so often that she didn’t NEED a recipe. We went into the kitchen and she showed me how to make it – how to take out the watery, seedy part of the cucumber, and how to strain the mixture afterwards to make it thick. At the time, I wasn’t cooking for myself much, so this was all new to me.

Tzatziki, as sauce on salmon
Tzatziki, as sauce on salmon

This isn’t your grocery store tzatziki. It’s pungent from the fresh garlic, it’s made with REAL yogurt (not ‘fat free’, or sour cream), doesn’t have parsley added for green flecks, and is simply incomparable.

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt sauce/dip)


  • 2 cups Greek yogurt (preferably full fat, real Greek or Balkan style yogurt)
  • about 2 -3 inches of a medium cucumber (about 3 tablespoons, grated)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black or white)
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic scape (optional — I just really like garlic scapes)

Will also need:

  • a large square piece of fine cheese cloth for straining
  • a tall container for draining liquid (a tall yogurt container will work, or even a plastic juice jug)
  • something to tie off the cheese cloth and secure it – some elastic bands, twine will work


  1. To prepare the cucumber, cut off a piece about 2-3 inches long. Cut it in half, lengthwise, and cut out the seedy core in the centre.
  2. Coarsely grate the seeded cucumber into a bowl.
  3. Grate the garlic into a bowl. If you have never made tzatziki before, I would recommend only using 1 clove. It gets stronger the longer it sits…
  4. Mix in the garlic scapes and yogurt, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Centre the cheese cloth over the opening of the container, and carefully spoon the yogurt mixture into the centre of the cheese cloth. Gather up all edges, and squeeze the yogurt mixture down gently. Where the yogurt stops, tightly secure with elastic or twine. Hang the mixture on the container using more elastic or twine, so that there is lots of space between the ‘ball’ and the bottom of the container. Lots of liquid will drain off.
  6. Allow to drain, in the fridge, for at least 3 hours. The longer it drains, the more liquid will drain off. Save the liquid for now, in case the tzatziki is thicker than you would like.
  7. Remove from cheese cloth, and put into a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed.
  8. To use as a dip, leave the tzatziki nice and thick. To use as a sauce, thin it out a little bit with the reserved liquid.

Keep in mind that the garlic in the tzatziki will become more pungent the longer it sits.