Souvlaki recipe and tzatziki tips: Know your Greek classics

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This … is … souvlaki.

Here’s one of my most requested recipes, just before the summer runs out. The Buffalo News video of me making it is here.

This recipe is for the Greek classic souvlaki, or kebabs, with tzatziki, yogurt-cucumber sauce flavored with fresh dill and garlic.

You have to drain the yogurt and squeeze the juice out of the shredded cucumber, or it’ll be too watery. But get the tzatziki right, with good whole-milk yogurt, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

Tzatziki recipes can be the source of arguments – too much garlic, not minced finely enough, the whole dill-or-no-dill divide.

Souvlaki recipes, on the other hand, varied little in the Greek and Macedonian houses where I’ve enjoyed hospitality. The meat was usually pork, marbled chunks from the shoulder, never loin. Garlic, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon, to taste.

Beef or chicken tenders will work as well.

Greek-style beef kebabs (souvlaki) with dill-yogurt sauce (tzatziki)

Souvlaki recipe:

2 pounds beef sirloin, cut in 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/8 cup dry red wine(optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

Combine ingredients and mix to coat meat evenly. Thread onto skewers, and leave alone in the fridge overnight, or for at least two hours. Grill over medium high heat to desired level of doneness.

Tzatziki recipe:

2 32-ounce containers plain whole-milk yogurt (or 2 500-gram containers Fage strained yogurt)

2 large cucumbers

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh chopped dill leaves, loosely packed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons cider or white vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

The night before, line a colander with a linen dish towel or several layers of cheesecloth, and pour in the yogurt. Let it drain for 8 hours or overnight, until half its original volume (or use Fage strained yogurt).

Peel, seed and grate the cucumbers. Gather the shreds in a dish towel and wring out to remove moisture.

Add the cucumber and all other ingredients to the strained yogurt and mix well. Taste after an hour and adjust salt-sugar-vinegar-oil as desired. (Resist the temptation to add more garlic until 24 hours have passed and the garlic flavor blooms.)

Serve alongside, or atop, grilled souvlaki, with toasted pita bread and salad.

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Filed under beef, grilling, pork, recipes

7 responses to “Souvlaki recipe and tzatziki tips: Know your Greek classics

  1. Andrew, I am with you on the dill in the tzatziki, but I tend to go 50%-50% red wine vinegar and lemon juice. As I like to say, a recipe is just someone’s opinion!

  2. billybobtoo

    oh dear, where’s the mint?
    plus i’d leave out the onion powder .
    oh, and fresh garlic!

  3. My Greek friend told me that in his family, Tzatziki only with Vinegar not Lemon juice as most commercial prepared or restaurants in Greece. I don’t know why…:-P

  4. I have some troubles with my browser AllWorld Explorer on your web site. The chimpanzees are still in the page :-(.

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  6. Buffalo At Heart

    I made this recipe tonight, and it was incredible! I have never made a recipe before that came out tasting exactly as it does in a restaurant. This tasted like anything you could get in any greek restaurant in Buffalo. Loved it.

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