Skip to Content

What is the difference between tzatziki and tahini?

Tzatziki and tahini are both condiments commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. While they share some similarities, there are also some key differences between these two flavorful sauces.

What is Tzatziki?

Tzatziki is a creamy, yogurt-based sauce or dip that is popular in Greek cuisine. The main ingredients in tzatziki are Greek yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper. It has a tangy, cooling flavor that complements many Mediterranean dishes.

Some key facts about tzatziki:

  • Primary ingredients are Greek yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and dill
  • Has a creamy, thick consistency and white color
  • Features a tangy, cooling, refreshing flavor
  • Often served as a sauce or dip with grilled meats, gyros, pita bread, and vegetables
  • Popular in Greek cuisine and throughout the Mediterranean region
  • Also spelled tzadziki, tzadziki, tzatsiki, or tzatziki sauce

What is Tahini?

Tahini is a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds that is prevalent in Middle Eastern cuisine. The main ingredient is simply sesame seeds that are roasted and then ground into a smooth, thick paste. Tahini paste can be plain or flavored with additions like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices.

Some key facts about tahini:

  • Primary ingredient is ground, roasted sesame seeds
  • Has a thick, creamy texture and ivory color
  • Imparts a rich, nutty, and mildly bitter flavor
  • Commonly used in hummus, baba ghanoush, halva desserts, and salad dressings
  • Popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines
  • Also known as tahina or sesame paste

Differences Between Tzatziki and Tahini

While tzatziki and tahini both have a creamy texture and are common in Mediterranean cuisine, there are several distinct differences between the two condiments:


The main ingredients in tzatziki are yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, lemon, garlic, and herbs like dill. Tahini is made from pure ground sesame seeds, sometimes with small amounts of oil and lemon added.

Flavor Profiles

Tzatziki has a refreshing, tangy and cooling flavor from the yogurt and lemon. Tahini has an intense nutty, toasted sesame seed flavor and slight bitter note.


Tzatziki has a creamy, thick consistency from the yogurt but is also smooth from being blended. Tahini has an ultra-thick, dense paste-like consistency.


Tzatziki is often used as a sauce, dip, or condiment. Tahini is more commonly used as an ingredient in spreads, dressings, and desserts.


Tzatziki is white in color from the yogurt base. Tahini paste has an ivory or light brown tone from the toasted sesame seeds.

Here is a table summarizing the key differences:

Category Tzatziki Tahini
Main Ingredients Yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill Ground sesame seeds
Flavor Tangy, cooling, refreshing Nutty, toasted sesame, slightly bitter
Consistency Smooth and creamy Thick and dense paste
Common Uses Sauce, dip, condiment Ingredient in spreads, dressings, desserts
Color White Ivory or light brown

Tzatziki Ingredients

The primary ingredients that go into making tzatziki sauce include:

Greek Yogurt

Thick, strained Greek yogurt gives tzatziki its creamy, rich texture and tangy flavor. Regular unstrained yogurt can also be used but will result in a thinner consistency.


Finely diced or grated cucumber adds refreshing flavor and cools down the yogurt. The cucumber juice also thins out the yogurt slightly.

Olive Oil

Olive oil adds richness and moisture to balance out the tanginess of the yogurt. Extra virgin olive oil has the best flavor.

Lemon Juice

Freshly squeezed lemon juice gives brightness and acidity to the sauce. Bottled lemon juice can be substituted.


Minced or grated garlic provides a subtle backbone of aromatic flavor.


Chopped fresh or dried dill gives tzatziki its distinctive Mediterranean herbal flavor. Other herbs like mint can also be used.


Salt is added to season and balance out the flavors. Some recipes also add pepper.

Tahini Ingredients

Tahini paste is made from just one key ingredient:

Sesame Seeds

Toasted, hulled, and ground sesame seeds create the distinctive flavor, texture, and nutrition of tahini. The seeds are usually toasted before grinding to enhance the nutty, toasted aroma.

Additional ingredients are sometimes mixed into prepared tahini paste, such as:

Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil

Adding oil makes tahini smoother and easier to drizzle and mix. Olive oil also adds flavor.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice helps thin out thicker varieties of tahini and adds bright, acidic flavor that balances out tahini’s nuttiness.

Garlic, Herbs, and Spices

Minced garlic, salt, herbs, and spices like cumin are often incorporated to create flavored tahini pastes used in hummus, dressings, and other dishes.

Uses for Tzatziki vs. Tahini

Due to their different ingredients and flavors, tzatziki and tahini are used in different ways in the kitchen:

Tzatziki Uses

  • Dip for pita bread, crudités, and chips
  • Sauce for gyros, kebabs, grilled meat, and fish
  • Topping for tacos, nachos, sandwiches, burgers
  • Side dish accompaniment to grilled dishes
  • Dressing or ingredient in salads and slaws
  • Marinade for meats and vegetables

Tahini Uses

  • Base ingredient in spreads like hummus and baba ghanoush
  • Thickener and flavoring for dressings and sauces
  • Flavoring in halva and other sesame desserts
  • Substitute for peanut butter or other nut butters
  • Added to smoothies for creaminess
  • Swirled into soups for richness

Tahini’s uses tend to revolve around adding its distinctive sesame flavor and creamy texture to dishes, while tzatziki is more often used as a complete sauce or dip.

Nutrition Comparison

Both tzatziki and tahini offer nutritional benefits. Here is a comparison of some of the main nutrients in each:

Nutrient Tzatziki Tahini
Calories Around 60 calories per 1/4 cup Around 190 calories per 1/4 cup
Fat 2-3g fat per 1/4 cup, mostly from olive oil 17g fat per 1/4 cup, mostly from sesame seeds
Protein Around 2-3g protein per 1/4 cup 5g protein per 1/4 cup
Carbs 3-4g net carbs per 1/4 cup 4g net carbs per 1/4 cup
Fiber Around 1g fiber per 1/4 cup 3g fiber per 1/4 cup
Sodium Around 50-90mg per 1/4 cup 15mg per 1/4 cup

As you can see, tahini is significantly higher in calories and fat due to its oil and sesame seed content. Tzatziki is lower in calories but still provides protein, probiotics, and fiber from the yogurt and vegetables.

Popularity and Region

Tzatziki and tahini enjoy different levels of popularity around the world:

Tzatziki Popularity

  • Extremely popular in Greece as an appetizer and sauce
  • Well-known in the Balkans, Cyprus, and Turkey
  • Growing popularity in Europe, North America, and worldwide
  • Readily available in grocery stores and as a menu item at restaurants

Tahini Popularity

  • Essential ingredient in Middle Eastern and Levantine cuisine
  • Used in North Africa and Turkey but less common
  • Gaining recognition worldwide but still considered an exotic or specialty product by some
  • Carried by well-stocked grocery stores but not as ubiquitous as tzatziki

So in summary, tzatziki is now popular far beyond Greece, while tahini is still most prevalent in Middle Eastern and Arabic cooking.

Preparation Methods

Tzatziki and tahini require different techniques to prepare:

Tzatziki Preparation

Tzatziki is made by:

  1. Grating, dicing, or spiralizing the cucumber, then straining the excess liquid
  2. Mixing the strained cucumber with Greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill, and salt
  3. Letting the flavors blend in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours
  4. Serving topped with a drizzle of olive oil and dill

Tahini Preparation

Tahini paste is made by:

  1. Toasting and hulling raw sesame seeds
  2. Grinding the seeds into a smooth paste
  3. Storing the paste at room temperature after mixing in optional added oils, lemon juice, or flavorings
  4. Stirring the paste before use as the oils can separate

As you can see, tzatziki requires some assembly by mixing ingredients, while tahini is made solely from sesame seeds.

Storing Tzatziki vs. Tahini

Proper storage is important for maintaining the quality of both sauces:

Storing Tzatziki

  • Store prepared tzatziki in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • It will keep for 3-5 days when refrigerated.
  • The cucumber water may separate, so stir or shake before serving.

Storing Tahini

  • Store tahini paste at room temperature in a sealed container.
  • Refrigeration causes tahini to harden and makes stirring difficult.
  • The oil may separate, so stir the paste thoroughly before each use.
  • Properly stored tahini will keep for several months.

So tzatziki requires refrigeration while tahini does best at room temperature. Both need occasional stirring before use.


In a pinch, there are a few possible substitution options for each sauce:

Tzatziki Substitutions

  • Plain Greek yogurt mixed with lemon juice and dill
  • Sour cream, plain yogurt, or mayo mixed with diced cucumber
  • Raita, an Indian yogurt-based sauce

Tahini Substitutions

  • Natural peanut butter or almond butter
  • Sesame oil mixed with water to thin out
  • A combination of olive oil and ground sesame seeds

However, for the best authentic flavor it’s hard to duplicate these sauces exactly without their signature ingredients.

Cost Comparison

When comparing prices, tahini is generally more expensive than tzatziki:

  • Tzatziki: Approximately $4-$8 per pint if store-bought. Around $2-$4 to make at home.
  • Tahini: Approximately $5-$12 for a 16 oz jar. Buying the sesame seeds and making it yourself can lower the cost.

Factors like quality, brand, and geographic region impact the prices. But on average tahini’s specialized ingredient makes it a more expensive product.


While tzatziki and tahini both offer creamy textures and complementary flavors to Mediterranean cuisine, they are unique condiments with distinct ingredients, tastes, uses, and backgrounds. Tzatziki brings a cooling yogurt tang while tahini provides an earthy sesame seed nuttiness. Each sauce has its devoted fans worldwide. The differences in preparation, use, nutrition, and cost also set these two flavorful sauces apart. So in selecting between them, consider your specific recipe, flavor preferences, and needs.