Tzatziki is the yogurt-based sauce that is most often associated with Greek food but is actually a version of an Indian sauce called raita. Tzatziki is a great condiment if you are making kebabs or souvlaki at home. If you are out of the premade stuff, here are some options for good tzatziki substitutes:
Your best bet: Make your own tzatziki
Because it is made with easy-to-find ingredients, it is usually possible to whip up a batch from scratch without too much hunting. The main ingredients are Greek yogurt, cucumber and olive oil and you will need a handful of seasonings including garlic and possibly dill.
Aside from grating and draining the cucumber, there aren’t any advanced techniques involved in making tzatziki so it is easy to make a version that will be just as good as the one in your local Greek restaurant.
A decent second choice: Tarator sauce
Tarator sauce and tzatziki have the same root. The words tarator, tzatziki, and cacik all refer to essentially the same dish in different parts of the world. The original tarator sauce was made with yogurt just like tzatziki. The Bulgarian version of tarator does include yogurt but is traditionally served as a cold soup rather than as a sauce.
The best-known form of tarator sauce these days is probably the Lebanese variety, which uses tahini in place of the yogurt component and omits the cucumber. The other ingredients are the same in many tarator recipes which typically include olive oil, garlic and lemon juice to provide the tartness.
The Turkish version of tarator uses walnuts or almonds in a few cases instead of tahini or yogurt. The other ingredients are the same as in the tahini and yogurt versions.
You can use all versions of tarator sauce in the same way that you would use tzatziki. It can help cool down spicy flavor profiles even when it contains no dairy. It is also a solid accompaniment to vegetables.
In a pinch: Hummus
Classic hummus is a lot like tzatziki and often has a similar flavor profile. It will usually have a tahini component like a Lebanese-style tarator. In the traditional versions, garlic and olive oil play strong roles in the flavor profile. Hummus gets its richness and creamy, tzatziki-like mouthfeel from the combination of chickpeas and tahini.
Hummus is traditionally used in the same way that tzatziki is used, which is as a dip or spread for vegetables. Put it on your gyros or serve it with pita. In many parts of the world, premade hummus will be easier to find than premade tzatziki.
Ranch dressing is commonly used as an all-purpose cooling condiment in much the same way that the original versions of tzatziki were used. The classic version of ranch dressing is made with buttermilk and mayonnaise but yogurt or sour cream may be used instead of buttermilk and mayonnaise or in addition to them.
The resulting sauce provides the creaminess and tartness that you associate with tzatziki. Some versions will include modest amounts of garlic, parsley and other seasonings. Ranch dressing has the benefit of being easier to find in North America than premade tzatziki.
Ranch dressing won’t provide the same kind of mouthfeel and flavor that you would get from tzatziki. It is not quite as flavorful, which means it would be an inappropriate option for your gyros and kebabs but is a great option for dipping vegetables.