Cacik (Turkish tzatziki)

The perfect cooling accompaniment to grilled foods and meatballs, cacik is even better than the Greek tzatziki.
Cacik in an old copper cup, seen from eye level
Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Cacik (Turkish tzatziki)

The perfect cooling accompaniment to grilled foods and meatballs, cacik is even better than the Greek tzatziki.
Cacik in an old copper cup, seen from eye level
Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

In the heat of summer, there’s nothing like cucumber laden yoghurt. The famous Greek tzatziki has Turkish origins – and personally I prefer the original, cacik. The perfect accompaniment to grilled foods or meatballs!

When food is on a Turkish table, yoghurt is never far away. The creamy, but light and slightly tangy flavour goes well with the typical flavours of Turkish cuisine.

And let’s be honest: What’s better than some cooling yoghurt alongside dinner in the heat of Turkish summer?

While a simple (but huge) dollop of yoghurt, home made or shop bough, will often do, there’s also no shortage of yoghurt based dishes in the repertoire of Turkish home cooks.

What is cacık?

Cacik is a yoghurt and cucumber based meze or side dish. It’s usually flavoured with garlic and dried mint or, less often, dill. You can think of it as a Turkish yoghurt sauce with cucumber.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
Want to learn more about Turkish food?
Get new recipes & stories from Istanbul in my free newsletter!

The dish likely originated from the tarator dishes that became popular across the Ottoman empire, from the Balkans to the Middle East. Originally a simple meze of yoghurt, walnut and vinegar, several variations developed over time.

Cacik, which can also be thought of as a cucumber tarator, is thought to be Turkish in origin. It’s been documented to be in existence as early as the 16th century! At the time, it was likely herbier than most modern versions.

Cacik in a light blue bowl, seen from above
A more dip-like version of cacik

There are also versions using other dairy than yoghurt. According to Musa Dagdeviren’s The Turkish Cookbook, cacık can be made with a 50/50 mixture of yoghurt and lor peyniri, a Turkish fresh cheese similar to a dry ricotta.

The proper spelling of the dish is actually cacık. That is, the i is dotless. In the Turkish alphabet, this is a separate letter from the dotted i, and is pronounced like a short eh or uh (ə).

So if you want to sound like a Turk, you should pronounce cacik dzja-dzjək!

As its name suggests, the dish is similar (but not identical) to Greek tzatziki, itself thought to be a variant of the Turkish original.

What is the difference between Turkish cacik and Greek tzatziki?

Greek tzatziki is a garlicky and thick yoghurt dip with grated cucumber. The cucumber is typically squeezed off most of its water, ensuring a thick and spreadable dip. It’s always served as a meze, or as a side dish.

Turkish cacik includes much of the same ingredients, but is usually herbier. Dried mint is a common and powerful addition, though some may opt for dill.

The consistency and purpose is often also very different. In Turkey, cacik is commonly served as a cooling soup-like dish at the height of summer, either alone or as a side dish to hot food. It can also, however, be served thicker and more similar to tzatziki, like a cacik dip.

Because of this, the cucumber is rarely squeezed off its water like for tzatziki. Indeed, most Turks will simply great or chop the cucumber and add it as is.

How to make cacik

Making cacik is super straightforward. This is certainly a recipe that anyone can have easy success with!

Since it’s a simple recipe, the quality of the ingredients are paramount to getting the best results. This goes particularly for the yoghurt (get your favourite Turkish or Greek yoghurt) and cucumbers.

It’s best to use the shorter Lebanese or Persian cucumbers. They are smaller and firmer, but also have a lot more flavour than the regular English cucumbers. This will make a difference to your cacik! If using regular cucumbers, I recommend scraping out the soft centre, as this is usually mushy and flavourless, doing your cacik no favours.

Mountains of cucumber at a Turkish market with tomatoes in the background

Unlike tzatziki, where the cucumber is grated, cacik is usually made with finely chopped cucumbers. This gives the dip (or soup) a more interesting bite, rather than the mushy consistency often resulting from grating cucumbers. It also allows the flavour of the cucumber to come through in a better way.

While garlic is a key ingredient to elevate your cacik, take note that it should be subtle and not overpowering. Garlic can vary quite considerably in strength, and can get stronger if the dish isn’t served immediately. I therefore recommend adjusting the amounts in the recipe according to your own judgement, keeping in mind that the garlic should be noticeable, but subtle.

Finally, don’t forget the salt! It’s easy to leave out, but it helps elevate the flavour.

How to serve Turkish cacik

In Turkey, cacik is often served at simple köfte restaurants, as a side dish alongside meat and rice. It also works a treat alongside Turkish stews such as kuru fasulye or meats like Turkish meatballs or shish kebab.

If you’re making your cacik Turkish style, as a soup, make sure to serve it in individual bowls with spoons. This includes if you’re serving it with the dishes noted above!

If you’re going for a thicker, Greek tzatziki like dip, you can place it in a serving bowl in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. In this case, it’ll also work really well as one of several meze to start the meal.

The recipe serves at least 4, more if you’re going for a meze spread with lots of different dishes.

Cacik in an old copper cup, seen from eye level

Cacik (Turkish tzatziki)

Yield: 4 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed to a paste with a little salt
  • 500 g (18 oz) Greek or Turkish yoghurt
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 300 g (10 oz) Persian cucumbers, partly peeled and finely chopped
  • c. 200 ml (c. ⅘ cup) ice cold water (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, to serve
  • fresh mint, to serve
  • salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the garlic, yoghurt and mint. Gently add the cucumbers and season well with salt.
  2. If serving as a dip, add to your serving bowl and top with extra virgin olive oil and some fresh mint. Serve immediately, or as soon as possible.
  3. If serving as a soup, add water until you reach the desired consistency. Transfer to 4 small bowls, topping with a little extra virgin olive oil and fresh mint and serve immediately.

Notes

Once mixed, the cucumbers quickly lose their crunch. If serving as a thicker dip, the yoghurt will start releasing whey, which looks unappetising, quite soon after mixing. I therefore recommend making cacik as late as possible before serving.

Discover more

Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him

No e-books. Just inspiring emails.

Get delicious recipes & fascinating stories from the heart of Istanbul in my fortnightly newsletter.

got feedback or a question?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note new comments are moderated before publishing and may take a few hours or days to show up. Only comments in English are accepted.

Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

My books

I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

Popular

    Turkish red lentil soup being eaten, seen from side
    Barbunya pilaki in large pot, seen from above
Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him

No e-books. Just inspiring emails.

Get delicious recipes &
fascinating stories
from
the heart of Istanbul
in my fortnightly newsletter.

Skip to Recipe

Hi there! I'm Vidar, the author of this blog.

Would you like to receive free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul?

No, thanks

Get free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul.

No e-books or spam, just inspiring emails every fortnight or so.

By subscribing, you agree to the terms & privacy policy. You can always unsubscribe at any time.

Thanks for signing up!

I've just sent you an email – please check your inbox to make sure it's arrived safely.

 

I look forward to keeping in touch!

Close this window and go back to the recipe

Get free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul.

No e-books or spam, just inspiring emails every fortnight or so.

By signing up, you agree to the terms & privacy policy. You can always unsubscribe at any time.

Thanks for signing up!

I've just sent you an email – please check your inbox to make sure it's arrived safely.

 

I look forward to keeping in touch!

Close this window and go back to the recipe
Vidar Bergum drinking tea on front porch

Get free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul.

No e-books or spam, just inspiring emails every fortnight or so.

Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him
Vidar Bergum drinking tea on front porch

Get free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul.

No e-books or spam, just inspiring emails every fortnight or so.

By signing up you agree to the terms and privacy policy.

Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him
Vidar Bergum drinking tea on front porch

Welcome!

I'm very happy to have you on board!

 

I'll send you an email with more details about what you can expect shortly.

 

/Vidar

Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him
Close this window and go back to the recipe
Vidar Bergum drinking tea on front porch

Get free recipes & stories from my kitchen in Istanbul.

No e-books or spam, just inspiring emails every fortnight or so.

Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him