Best Vegan Tzatziki
Finally, a vegan tzatziki that tastes just like its dairy-based counterparts! Most plant-based tzatziki’s call for dairy-free yogurt, but given the inconsistencies across brands, we skipped it altogether. Cashews transform into a thick “Greek yogurt” - and makes this recipe much more reliable. Best vegan tzatziki, ever. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
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
MAKES 1 1/4 CUPS - vegan, gluten free
3/4 cup cashews, soaked (6 hrs or quick soak method)*
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1/2 a cucumber
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper, to taste
Rinse cashews thoroughly after soaking. Put cashews, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and water into a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy (approximately 2 minutes), scraping down the sides of blender as necessary. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
Grate cucumber (skin on) and use a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or clean kitchen towel to squeeze out all the liquid. Fold the grated cucumber into the cashew mixture. Add dill, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add 1 tablespoon of extra lemon juice (for extra tang). Mix well, and then refrigerate to cool.
-*If you're short on time, you can 'quick-soak' the cashews by pouring boiling water over the cashews and letting them sit for approximately 1 hour.
-If you use a wide blender container (like this), rather than a taller design (like this), then you may wish to double the recipe to add enough ingredients for the blades to spin effectively. This will yield the smoothest cashew base, without an extraordinary amount of scraping down your blender.
Vegan Tzatziki Sauce adapted from our "Falafel Tahini Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce" recipe