Cacik is a staple of a Turkish kitchen. This delicious mixture of yogurt and cucumber is perfect for warm days as a light appetizer or side dish.
My love for Turkish cuisine is deep and old, as I moved to Istanbul years ago before I came to the US. We have some lovely Turkish recipes on the blog such as Turkish simit, Lahmacun (Turkish pizza) and Turkish white bean salad which are all very tasty and a great way to introduce a new cuisine to your family.
Today's recipe is one of my absolute favorites and it's perfect for a summer day. It's easy, simple and very light. This Turkish appetizer calls for just a few ingredients and is ready in less than 15 minutes. You can have it as a side dish or an appetizer.
What is cacik?
Cacik, pronounced ja-jik is a Turkish yogurt and cucumber dish that's very common in almost all regions in Turkey. It's a simple dish that you often see in restaurants, especially self-service ones called Lokanta. There are similar dishes to cacik in the Mediterranean area however each recipe has its own twists and uniqueness. Cacik is very similar to the Greek yogurt sauce, tzatziki and we're going to take a look at the differences between these two.
How is cacik different from the Greek Tzatziki?
Even though tzatziki and cacik are very similar (both have the base of cucumber and yogurt), they are very different from each other. Tzatziki uses dill whereas cacik uses dried mint and tzatziki is thicker than a traditional cacik. It's common to add a bit of lemon juice to tzatziki, while cacik doesn't have lemon juice. All this being said, it's very obvious that both cuisines prize the combination of yogurt and cucumber and both developed the recipe is a way that serves families best.
Yogurt in Turkish cuisine
Turkish cuisine calls for yogurt in so many savory recipes such as cilbir Turkish eggs and yayla corbasi Turkish yogurt soup and it's also common to serve yogurt with pasta, rice and kabobs. There are different types of yogurt available in Turkish supermarkets such as goat or sheep's milk yogurt but the most common yogurt is made form cow's milk. There are many Turkish dishes and appetizers that are made with yogurt and we will be posting more yogurt-based Turkish recipes here on Unicorns in the Kitchen in the near future!
Turkish cacik ingredients
This simple yet delicious Turkish appetizer calls for just a few ingredients:
- Dried mint
Garlic is optional in this cacik recipe although I always use it because it gives a great flavor. I think yogurt and garlic also make a great combination! Also, it's common to pour some olive oil over the dish when serving. Turks tend to use dried mint instead of fresh mint because it has more aroma and flavor and mixes better with yogurt.
What kind of cucumber to use
A common question I get asked when I publish recipes that include cucumber in the recipe is that what kind of cucumber should be used. I always use mini cucumbers, also called Persian cucumbers, because of their fresh flavor and very tiny seeds. English cucumbers tend to have larger seeds which adds an extra step to the preparation where you have to take out the seeds. You can find mini/Persian cucumbers in almost every supermarket.
How to make cacik recipe
Start by whisking the yogurt to make sure it's smooth. Then slowly add the water and keep whisking until smooth and runny. Add in grated cucumber (no need to squeeze out the excess water in the cucumbers) and minced garlic. Finish by adding enough salt and dried mint to the yogurt and cucumber. Divide between bowls and pour some extra virgin olive oil over them if desired.
Do I need to grate the cucumbers?
We usually make cacik with grated cucumber however I have also tried cacik made with chopped cucumber in some restaurants and that works too.
About the consistency of this Turkish yogurt and cucumber
If you're wondering about the consistency of cacik, you're not alone. There are different consistencies out there and what you do depends on your preference. The cacik recipe that we have here has 1 cup of water so it has the consistency of soup or gazpacho. Restaurants and people in Istanbul usually serve cacik like this.
Some leave out the water and make cacik as thick as tzatziki. That works too if you would like to serve it as a dip.
How to serve cacik
This completely depends on the consistency of cacik:
- If it's thick like tzatziki or Persian mast-o khiar, then it can be served as a side dish, dip or sauce with some bread such as homemade pita.
- If the cacik you made is more runny like the one in this recipe, then same as Persian abdoogh khiar or gazpacho, it should be served as an appetizer in a bowl with a spoon, and maybe a side of bread.
What to serve with Turkish cacik
You can serve this delicious Turkish yogurt and cucumber as an appetizer or a side dish in a bowl. It's common to serve it with dishes like beef shish kabob or chicken shawarma. It also works great with Turkish bulgur or other grains such as rice.
Cacik Turkish Yogurt and Cucumber
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 1 cup water
- 4 Persian cucumbers or mini cucumbers
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp dried mint
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Whisk the yogurt in a large bowl to make sure it's smooth. Add water to the yogurt and whisk until it's completely incorporated.
- Grate the cucumbers in another bowl and if they're too watery, squeeze out the excess water. If they're not too watery, add the directly to the yogurt and water.
- Mix well and add garlic, salt and dried mint. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Chill cacik yogurt and cucumber in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
- To serve, divide it between 4 bowls and top each with a little bit of olive oil.
- Use mini or Persian cucumbers for this recipe because they have very small seeds. English cucumber has bigger seeds which would change the texture and flavor.
- If you would like to have a thicker cacik, leave out the water.
- You can store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Give it a nice stir before serving.