Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines, and I shared this with Anguel on our second date. It came up during one of those silly convos you have when you’re just getting to know someone, so you ask things like: “what’s your lucky number”, “name your spirit animal”, and “if you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?”. Clearly, the type of questions that accurately predict if you’ll be compatible into old age. Ha. Fast forward a handful of years, and we took our first trip to Greece. It was everything we hoped for. Cloudless skies, sapphire blue waters, and the freshest food you could ask for.
During this trip, Anguel and I may have consumed our weight in tzatziki. We were obsessed. Traditional tzatziki is made from yogurt, so if you’re someone who avoids dairy, then this stellar dip might seem off limits. Which is a shame, because it’s so good! Not only is tzatziki simple to make from scratch, but it’s also tastes great on so many things. And as much as I love it paired with warm pita and crisp veggies, tzatziki really is so much more than just a dip. Have you ever tried it as a spread for sandwiches/burgers (instead of mayo), or dolloped on a bowl of grain salad? SO GOOD.
I wanted to come up with a vegan version of tzatzki, and it honestly turned out even better than I expected. In fact, it’s well on its way to replacing the yummy yogurt version I shared earlier on. The taste and texture is enough to fool anyone into thinking it’s a yogurt-based dip, when in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s not a lick of dairy in sight. All the flavor, without the dairy?! Count me in.
I tested a lot of variations of this recipe - including using white beans or plant-based yogurts - but in the end, the creamy cashew base was the winner. White beans didn’t give the color or thickness I wanted. And, plant-based yogurts made me a bit nervous. I don’t know about you, but every time I visit the store there’s a new dairy-free yogurt on the shelf. Don’t get me wrong: this is a great thing. But each brand has its own distinct taste and texture, so when it comes to a recipe that so heavily relies on it, that leaves too much room for error. Especially in a recipe that makes for the BEST vegan tzatziki.
The key to a creamy sauce is to make sure you’ve properly soaked your cashews. That way, they’ll blend up nice and smooth. You can do the standard soak (minimum 6 hours, or even overnight); or if you’re short on time, opt for the shortcut method outlined below. Fresh lemon juice will give you the cleanest taste, and is especially important in mimicking the sourness of yogurt.
Best Vegan Tzatziki
- ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked and rinsed (see note 1)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ English cucumber
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Blend cashew base (see note 2): Add cashews, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and water to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
- Prep cucumber: Grate cucumber using the large holes on a box grater. Add the cucumber to a nutmilk bag, cheesecloth, or clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Transfer to the bowl.
- Mix: Add dill, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Taste and add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice if needed. Stir well to mix. Refrigerate until cool.
- How to soak cashews: Cashews should be soaked until soft when squeezed between your fingertips. To soak cashews, either cover them with boiling water (soak for about 30 minutes) or cover them with room temperature water (soak for 6 to 8 hours).
- Blender container: If you have a wide blender container (for example, some of the newer Vitamix models), double the recipe to create enough volume for the blades to spin effectively.
- Yield: One batch (1x) makes about 1 ¼ cups.
- Serving suggestions: Enjoy this dairy-free tzatziki as a dip with fresh veggies, bread, or pita. You can also use it in the Greek Collard Green Wraps with Tzatziki.