Cacık is a dish of seasoned, strained or diluted yoghurt, eaten throughout the former Ottoman countries. It is similar to tarator in Balkan cuisine. It is made of salted strained yoghurt or diluted yoghurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and some herbs like dill, mint, parsley, thyme etc. It is always served cold.
Turkish Cacık is made of yoghurt, salt, olive oil, crushed garlic, chopped cucumber, and mint. Among these ingredients, vinegar (mostly white grape or apple), lemon juice, and sumac are optional. Dill and thyme (fresh or dried) and sumac and paprika may be used alternately.
Mostly, cacik is served to accompany main dishes. As a side dish, it is diluted with water, which results in a soup-like consistency. If consumed as a meze, it is prepared undiluted but follows the same recipe. Often, dill and thyme are added as well. Ground paprika may also be added if it is prepared as a meze and to be served with some grilled meat, other mezzes or rakı (a Turkish spirit similar to Greek ouzo). More rarely, it is prepared with lettuce or carrots instead of cucumber under the name of kış cacığı (winter cacık) or havuç tarator.
Haydari is a different mixture of herbs, spices, and garlic with yoghurt. The main differences to cacık is that cucumber is not included in the recipe and that strained yoghurt or labne is used.
Greek Tzatziki sauce is served with grilled meats or may be served as a mezze alongside other mezzes, dishes and ouzo. Tzatziki is made of strained yoghurt (usually from sheep or goat milk) mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, and sometimes lemon juice, and dill or mint or parsley. Tzatziki is always served cold.
In Cyprus, the dish is known as talattouri, and recipes often include less garlic and includes the herb mint, unlike the Greek counterpart.
There are similar dishes to cacık called as Tarator in many Balkans countries.
In Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, the same dish is known as “dry tarator”, or as “Snezhanka” salad , which means “snow white salad”, and is served as an appetizer. During preparation, the yoghurt is hung for several hours in a kerchief and loses about half of its water. The cucumbers, garlic, minced walnuts, salt and vegetable oil are then added.
In Bulgaria, tarator is a popular meze (appetiser) but also served as a side dish along with Shopska salad with most meals. Sunflower and olive oil are more commonly used and walnut is sometimes omitted. Tarator is seasoned with garlic and dill both of which can be omitted if so desired. Tarator is a popular dish in Bulgaria. A salad version of tarator is known as “Snowwhite salad” (Bulgarian: салата Снежанка- “salata Snezhanka” or “Snejanka” ), also called Dry Tarator. It is made of thick (strained) yoghurt, without water. It can be served as an appetizer or as a side to the main meal. It is a common refresher during the summer.
When cacik is served as soup
In Macedonia, tarator or taratur is made with garlic, soured milk, cucumber, sunflower oil and salt. It is garnished with dill and served either room temperature or chilled (sometimes by adding ice blocks).
Tarator is a popular salad and dip in Serbia rather than a soup; it is also known as “tarator salata”. It is made with yoghurt, sliced cucumber and diced garlic, and served cold.
In Albania Tarator is a very popular dish in summer time. It is usually served cold and is normally made from yoghurt, garlic, parsley, cucumber, salt and olive oil. Fried squids are usually offered with Tarator.
Similar dishes in Iraq are known as jajeek. They are normally served as meze to accompany alcoholic drinks, especially Arak, an Ouzo-like drink made from dates.
A similar dish is made in Iran, called mast-o-khiar literally meaning yoghurt with cucumber. It is made using a thicker yoghurt, which is mixed with sliced cucumber, and mint or dill (sometimes chopped nuts and raisins are also added as a garnish).
A variation in the Caucasus mountains, called ovdukh, uses kefir instead of the yoghurt. This can be poured over a mixture of vegetables, eggs and ham to create a variation of okroshka, sometimes referred to as a ‘Caucasus okroshka’.
In India a similar dish is made with yoghurt, cucumber, salt and ground cumin (sometimes also including onions) called raita.
- 500 g plain yoghurt
- 2 to 3 cucumbers peeled and finely diced
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 - 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or 1 - 2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- ¼ cup fresh dill weed, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped or ½ teaspoon dried mint
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or sweet paprika (optional)
- First, whisk the yoghurt and olive oil together to make a smooth mixture. Gradually whisk in the water until you get the consistency you want.
- Add the cucumbers, garlic and spices and mix thoroughly until smooth. Adjust the spices to your taste.
- It is best to refrigerate cacık for a few hours before serving. Serve ice-cold cacık in small, decorative bowls.
- Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in the centre of each one.
- Garnish each with a small sprig of fresh mint or dillweed.