When it comes to refreshing, decadent-yet-strangely-light summer eats, tzatziki is my go-to dip and condiment of choice. It goes so well with everything from seafood to grilled meats and it’s a cinch to make ahead, making it a perfect addition to potlucks, cookouts and outdoor gatherings.
Traditionally made with full fat Greek yogurt, I’ve made my dairy free tzatziki with coconut yogurt instead, so if you’re dairy free, you too can enjoy this summer favorite.
I’ve based my recipe on the traditional, rich and creamy tzatziki that I experienced while traveling in Greece more years ago than I’d care to admit. (Shhhhh, whaddya mean I’m not twenty something anymore?!)
It’s less of a sauce and more of a thick dip, with the tang and consistency that’s more akin to a slightly thinned sour cream. Typically, tzatziki is made using already thick yogurt that is then strained again to remove as much excess liquid as possible, so I’ve taken a similar approach in method when making my dairy free tzatziki, too.
The final texture of your tzatziki will vary a little, depending on how thin your coconut yogurt is, how much you drain the cucumber and how long you chill it before serving.
If you want a thinner tzatziki, I’ve given you my best tip in the recipe below. I will strain my yogurt and discard that liquid to avoid a too-watery consistency. But when it comes to draining the cucumber, I’ll wrap it in cheesecloth and squeeze out any excess liquid over a bowl, reserving that cucumber water for later. Once I’ve mixed all the ingredients of my dairy free tzatziki together, I will add a splash or two of the drained cucumber water back if I want to thin it down a little more as needed.
(And if you don’t use any of the reserved cucumber water, I always like to take that, add it to a glass over ice, then top it with sparkling water and a squeeze of lime for a refreshing drink. I wouldn’t tell if you wanted to add a wee tipple of something to that glass either!)
Now, I’ve written a little before about my precarious relationship with vinegar here, so I’ve always made my tzatziki with lemon juice as the acid. If you like a tangier, more tart bite, then you can experiment with adding a splash of white wine vinegar, either in tandem with the lemon which gives a nice freshness, or as a substitute. Each of those variations — lemon only, white wine vinegar only, or a combo of the two — will give tasty results, you’ll just want to adjust the acid levels to suit your preference.
If you’re worried about raw garlic being too strong, it’s my experience that letting all the ingredients hang out together in the fridge has a mellowing effect on the garlic, but seems to bring out the dill more. So I always like to mince the garlic finely, then let everything mingle until chilled well before serving. That, too, will thicken up the tzatziki a little before serving and allow it to hold together a little longer if you’re serving it on top of something hot from the grill!
I’ve found that commercially available coconut yogurt is generally thicker than its homemade counterparts, which often have a noticeably watery bottom layer. So if you’re using a ready made coconut yogurt (the only AIP friendly variety I’m aware of is the Co Yo brand), you may not need to drain your yogurt at all. If, however, you’re using homemade, thinner coconut yogurt, I recommend you don’t skip the draining step in the recipe below. Here are some recipe links to get you started!
Coconut Milk Yogurt from Once A Month Meals
Instant Pot Coconut Milk Yogurt from Sweet Treats
Coconut Milk Kefire “Yogurt” from The Paleo Mom
Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt from Chocolate and Zucchini
Coconut Milk Yogurt from Gutsy By Nature
Since the amount of liquid that will be lost be draining the yogurt will vary according to how thin your coconut yogurt is in the first place, you’ll need to set up at least 2 cups / 480 ml or so of coconut yogurt in cheesecloth to drain in order to yield the 1 1/2 cups / 360 ml of yogurt you need for the recipe. Make sense? I hope so, because that was an insanely long sentence, ha!
While I love this dairy free tzatziki recipe as a dip or an accompaniment to grilled meats or as part of meze platters served with drinks, it also can do double duty in places where you usually use mayo or sour cream.
Classic Dairy Free Tzatziki
This is a thick and creamy, traditional style tzatziki. It’s perfect as a dip or as an alternative to mayo or sour cream in things like potato salad.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 15 mins
- Yield: About 2 cups / 480 ml 1x
- 1 1/2 cups / 360 ml coconut yogurt
- 12 oz / 340 g English cucumber (about 1 medium)
- 1 1/2 tbsp / 22 ml fresh lemon juice or 1 tbsp / 15 ml white wine vinegar, to taste
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh minced dill
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Optional, to serve:
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Extra chopped fresh dill
- DRAIN: If your coconut yogurt is thin and / or homemade, line a fine sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth, place it over a bowl and let it drain of any excess liquid for an hour or so (or overnight) in the fridge. You’ll want to measure out the yogurt you need after it’s drained of any excess liquid, so add an extra 1/2 to 1 cup or so to make sure you will have enough yogurt in the end.
- SQUEEZE: Wash the cucumber and discard the ends, but don’t peel it. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a box grater to coarsely grate the cucumber. Wrap the grated cucumber in a double layer of cheesecloth, forming a ball. Twist the ends of the cheesecloth to seal, then gently squeeze out the liquid from the cucumber over a bowl. Reserve the squeezed cucumber water for later.
- COMBINE: In a bowl, stir together the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, dill and sea salt until evenly combined. Taste and adjust the salt to your preference. If you would like a slightly thinner tzatziki, you can add a little of the reserved cucumber water and stir it through to thin. Add a spoon or so at a time — you won’t need all of the liquid!
- CHILL: Cover and refrigerate for two hours or longer if you would like to serve the dip chilled. Stir through once more before serving, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and extra chopped dill if you like.
- STORE: Keep in the fridge for up to three days.
This recipe was included in the Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable.