What Is Tzatziki?
Tzatziki is a type of dip or sauce used in cuisine across the Middle East and the Balkans.
It’s made with a base of yogurt that’s strained or diluted, then salted, and mixed with a combination of herbs like dill, parsley, and mint along with cucumbers, garlic, and olive oil.
Tzatziki is often served as part of a mezze platter, as well as a sauce in sandwiches and wraps, and even occasionally consumed as a soup.
Is Tzatziki Vegan?
Traditional Tzatziki is not vegan. It is made primarily from dairy yogurt, an animal product.
This means that most tzatziki you see in stores and restaurants will not be vegan unless labeled otherwise.
That being said, it’s very possible to make your own vegan tzatziki at home, which is still delicious and retains all the flavors of the traditional preparation.
You’ll also likely be able to find some vegan tzatziki in certain vegan-friendly or all-vegan restaurants.
To make your own vegan tzatziki, you only have to substitute the dairy yogurt with a plant-based alternative, such as soy or oat yogurt.
All other ingredients in tzatziki are completely vegan, so you can otherwise follow the traditional recipe exactly!
Alternatively, a similar dip can be made using tahini as the base for the dip, called tarator.
Popular in Lebanon, tarator is a very similar dip that the modern tzatziki developed from and is often served with shawarma.
Simply made from tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.
Quick Vegan Tzatziki Recipe
- Dice a cucumber then leave it in a strainer or sieve over the sink or a bowl, adding a sprinkle of salt. Leave it to sit for a few minutes to get as much water out as possible.
- Add plant-based yogurt, olive oil, a minced garlic clove, and the juice and zest of one lemon to a bowl, along with the diced cucumber.
- Mix the ingredients until it creates a creamy sauce that incorporates everything.
- Top it with salt and pepper to taste, a drizzle of olive oil, and some fresh chopped dill.
What Can I Have Tzatziki With?
Traditionally, tzatziki is served with a wide range of dishes. It is often included in shawarmas and complements falafel and other mezze bites very well.
If you’re conscious about having a vegan meal, then you’ll find tzatziki works well in falafel wraps or shawarmas.
It also works great as a snack when had with carrots and celery.
Stuffed peppers are another traditional option tzatziki can be enjoyed with, which is easy to make vegan.
It can even be had with many salads as a great dressing, with it being popular in combination with tabuleh, a type of bulgar wheat salad.
You can, alternatively, enjoy thinner tzatziki on its own as a soup, or with just bread.
Where Is Tzatziki From?
Tzatziki is a Greek dish, though it’s enjoyed in a variety of cultures. It seems to have developed from a dish in the Ottoman Empire, made of mashed walnuts with vinegar.
While parts of the world developed tarator off of this recipe using tahini, in Turkey and across the Balkans, it developed into a dish combining yogurt and cucumber, that only rarely contains walnuts.
As mentioned, there are many varieties of tzatziki. The Turkish have a dish called cacik that is extremely similar but is diluted with water, lending itself more to a soup.
Shredded carrot is also often included, and it is garnished with paprika and Aleppo pepper, making it a more spicy take on the Greek variety.
Countries like Albania and Bulgaria make a version of tarator that more closely resembles tzatziki than the tarator prepared in Lebanon, made with yogurt and cucumber, but keeping walnuts as part of the recipe.
Is Vegan Tzatziki Healthy?
Vegan tzatziki isn’t much different in terms of nutrients than traditional tzatziki.
Tzatziki is a very healthy dip that is low in fat and calories and contains a variety of healthy vegetables that give a lot of vitamins.
Tzatziki is both delicious and a good sort of calcium, as most plant-based yogurts are fortified in calcium, which makes it a great option as part of a healthy, balanced vegan diet.
What If I Don’t Like Cucumber In Tzatziki?
That’s fine! While cucumber is considered a staple ingredient of the dish, there are plenty of alternatives for making an equally delicious and similar dip.
Salsa Verde is a great alternative, along with the aforementioned tarator.
Additionally, you could try adding carrot and pepper to the tzatziki to provide a wider range of flavors that might be more acceptable to your palate.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can You Store Tzatziki?
Store it as you would any condiment or sauce, in an airtight container in the fridge. It should last for up to 3 days while retaining its freshness.
What Kind Of Cucumber Should I Use For Tzatziki?
Try to use a seedless cucumber for tzatziki.
English cucumbers can be bought seedless and contain less water than most cucumbers, which is perfect for making a thick dip.
Do I Need To Use Fresh Ingredients?
While you don’t need to use fresh ingredients in your tzatziki, you should try your best to get your hands on them.
That said, some ingredients are more important to have fresh than others.
Dill loses a lot of its flavor when dry, and if you’re including lemon, make sure to use a fresh one rather than bottled juice, as it will make an immense difference in the zestiness and freshness of the tzatziki.
We hope this guide helps you create your own vegan tzatziki, even if it isn’t traditionally vegan, as it is a delicious and healthy addition to any meal and deserves to be enjoyed by the wider vegan community!
Even if you can’t follow the recipe included exactly, feel free to experiment to create a dip that’s delicious for you!
The only real essential ingredients in tzatziki are yogurt and cucumber, so try out different herbs to create the perfect dip for you.