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Strained Yogurt With Cucumber and Herbs (Van Cacik)
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2 c
whole-milk yogurt
1 ¾ tsp
fine sea salt, or to taste
1 lg
cucumber, peeled or not, coarsely chopped
1 ¾ c
coarsely chopped fresh dill and flat-leaf parsley or other mixed herbs, packed
1-2 tbsp
softened unsalted butter, for serving (optional)

Robyn Eckhardt documents Turkey’s expansive cuisine from all regions in Istanbul & Beyond.

In Van, yogurt made from sheep’s milk (sometimes mixed with goat’s milk) is drained in cloth-lined sieves for up to three days, resulting in a yogurt more sensuously rich and creamy than any store-bought Greek-style yogurt. With a little advance planning, it’s easy to achieve the same result at home. Add salt, fresh herbs, and chunks of crunchy cucumber, and you’ve got a wildly flavorful dip. My go-to herbs for this recipe are dill and flat-leaf parsley, but you can use cilantro, chervil, mint, oregano, or even tarragon. The yogurt must be drained for at least 24 hours; the longer it drains, the more delicious the result. Don’t throw away the whey your yogurt gives off. It’s a healthy, refreshing drink and makes a great pickle brine. This dish is an essential element of the Van breakfast and often shares a plate with soft unsalted butter, which diners mash into the yogurt with a fork. It also works well as a meze, and I like it alongside roasted vegetables.


  1. Line a sieve large enough to hold the yogurt with a double layer of cheesecloth. Or cut two large cone-shaped paper coffee filters open along their seams and lay them flat in the sieve, overlapping them at its bottom. Set the sieve over a small deep bowl, spoon in the yogurt, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.
  2. Unmold the drained yogurt, which will now be a solid mass, into a medium bowl. Whisk in the salt, then taste and add more salt if desired. Stir in the cucumber and herbs. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  3. Stir in any liquid released by the cucumber before serving the yogurt cold in a shallow bowl, with the butter on the side, if you wish.

STRAINED YOGURT WITH CUCUMBER & HERBS excerpted from ISTANBUL & BEYOND © 2017 by Robyn Eckhardt. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Robyn Eckhardt

Robyn Eckhardt is the author of Istanbul and Beyond and co-publishes the award-winning food blog EatingAsia. Follower her on Twitter at @EatingAsia and on Instagram at @IstanbulandBeyond.