Arts & Culture

Celebrate End of Summer with Tzatski, an Unique Cold Soup

By Liliana Palmer

“Bulgarian Tarator served as soup” – Ikonact on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tzatski is a wonderful soup that you might not have had as it’s unlike most soups we usually eat. It has its roots in Bulgarian and Greek cooking, and you can find it at Ukrainian restaurants as a fitting foil to the legendarily Ukrainian borscht (another great soup). It is easy to make, healthy, and one of my favorite foods!

Tzatziki is a simple soup made from a base of yogurt. Walnuts and bread are pulverized and mixed into this to add a surprisingly rich, hearty body to the soup. Cucumbers, lemon juice, and dill finish it with a fresh summery taste.

My recipe is a heavy handed modification of several different recipes. The original inspirations are linked at the end of the article. There are a lot of different ways of doing this soup and the fact that it’s sometimes called ‘Tarator’ as well doesn’t make it easier to narrow down. This is my way of doing it.

Ingredients (Serves 3 people, prep ~20 minutes. Contains dairy, gluten, and walnuts)

¾ cup walnuts

2 slices bread (white sandwich bread torn into bits)

4 cloves mashed garlic

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cucumber, chopped

1 ½ cups yogurt

Juice of 1 lemon

1 small white onion, diced

½ cup cold milk

Fresh dill

Step 1: Base

Puree or grind walnuts along with the bread scraps and the salt and garlic. It’s easiest to use a food processor but you can also just grind the walnuts yourself if you don’t have one. Try to reduce the mixture as much as you can to make the soup smoother. If you use a food processor, you’ll get something roughly the consistency of granola, so that’s the goal. Slowly add olive oil while processing or grinding and mix it in.

Step 2: Main ingredients

Wash and chop the cucumber to small chunks, small enough to not make your soup experience weird. Dice either a whole or half yellow onion depending on preference (the yogurt mellows it out to a slight sweetness). Get a large bowl and throw the soup base from step one, the yogurt, and your cucumber and onion in it, as well as some lemon juice. Mix as thoroughly as possible!

Step 3: Decision

One of the unique things about Tzatski is that it can be either a soup or a condiment/dip. As a condiment, it’s used in a wide variety of things like gyros and you can just throw it in a pita with something if you’d like. I like it better as a soup, but it works great both ways! If you want to make a dip, finish the recipe here. If you want to make a soup, add the milk and mix again. The more milk, the thinner the soup. If you’d like, you can blend the final product again to make it really smooth, but it’s absolutely not necessary, the soup is good either way.

Thick Tzatski as prepared with this recipe. Photo by Liliana Palmer for the Beacon.

Step 4: Serving

Refrigerate the mixture as soon as you’re done with it. The recipe will make you about three filling bowls. You might want to serve a little less than you think you’ll want as the soup is surprisingly heavy. Garnishes are dill, olive oil, and if you are particularly fancy, more chopped walnuts. I like to make tzatziki for special occasions and pair it with Ukrainian potato pancakes (called Deruni). 


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