If you're anything like Coach Dory, getting involved in a story makes you pretty hungry — especially after all the scrumptious descriptions of foods in The City of Eight. So why not try your hand at making a traditional Middle Eastern cucumber yogurt salad? This delicious recipe (call khyar bi laban) from Palestinian American recipe developer Heifa Odeh comes together quickly and works well as a side for grilled meats, a delicious dip with flatbread, or a cooling treat on its own!
What is khyar bi laban?
Dependent on the region, this cucumber yogurt salad has many names and slightly different preparations. In Turkey, it is referred to as cacik and in other regions as jajik. You may see this and think of the Greek tzatziki, which shares many similarities but is thicker in texture.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, yogurt is very popular. Whether we cook with it in dishes like mansaf or zahra bi laban or use it in a salad/sauce like this cucumber yogurt salad, yogurt is always in our fridge. Often, any rice dish in our cuisine is served with yogurt and/or salad, whether makloubeh or kabsa. It adds a refreshing creamy touch to most meals, and this cucumber yogurt salad is no exception. It pairs so well with grilled meats, a staple in warmer months. I, however, enjoy this salad all year round! It comes together quickly and is so flavorful that the ingredients are typically on hand!
Ingredients needed to make cucumber yogurt salad (khyar bi laban):
Yogurt: I use plain unsweetened yogurt, typically the one from the Middle Eastern stores, as I feel it has a natural zing or slight sourness that I prefer, but any plain yogurt or Greek plain yogurt will work great. I also whip the yogurt before adding other components to make it creamy.
Cucumber: I typically grab Persian cucumbers and finely dice them for this recipe, but any cucumber will do. I personally do not peel the cucumbers, but you can if you prefer. Just less work for me and tastes just as good, plus it adds a bit more crunch.
Mint: In this salad, I lean more towards using dried crushed mint for optimal flavor and only use fresh mint as a garnish, but you can use both if you finely chop the fresh mint. However, dried mint is my preference. It blends into the yogurt better while still offering a big flavor.
Lemon juice: Use freshly squeezed lemon instead of the pre-squeezed option; it will make a difference in taste. The lemon adds acidity and additional freshness. It sets this version apart from many other cucumber yogurt salads that don’t typically include this ingredient.
Garlic: Use fresh garlic; none of the already packaged pre-peeled or minced garlic from a jar. Grate a garlic clove freshly into the salad; I promise it will deliver flavor.
Olive oil: The olive oil here is more so a garnish as it is only drizzled on top, but it adds another dimension of flavor and color to this salad.
Prep Time: 10 mins Total Time: 10 mins Servings: 4
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 2 Persian cucumber, finely diced
- 1½ tablespoons dried mint, crushed
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (the juice of half a lemon)
- salt to taste
- olive oil garnish
- Whip the yogurt and then add the finely diced cucumbers, grated garlic, crushed dried mint, salt, and fresh lemon juice.
- Taste and adjust with more salt if necessary. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh mint if you would like. Serve chilled and enjoy!
About the Authors
Heifa Odeh is a Palestinian American recipe developer and the winner of Saveur Magazine’s 2019 Best Food Culture Blog. She created a popular online cooking course teaching classic Arab cuisine. Heifa is also the author of her own cookbook, Dine in Palestine. Heifa resides in Chicago, Illinois, with her family, where she is an active member of the community.
Ann is a writer, editor, homeschooling mother, voracious reader, full-fat baker, and musician. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters and chronicles the journey at Boyds’ Nest News.