If you ever find yourself in Bulgaria in the summertime, (and I recommend you do), you will likely notice a few restaurant items that appear on every single menu. Tarator—a refreshingly chilled cucumber and yogurt soup—is one of them.
And if you’re not in Bulgaria in the summer, stay with me! Tarator is also a year-round staple in our household in Canada. It goes well alongside whatever we’re having for dinner. It’s also a handy picnic option. Just throw it in a Thermos and remember to pack a few cups!
*Note: If Tarator finds a place in your regular rotation and if you love plain yogurt as much as I do, you might find it worthwhile to make your own Instant Pot plain yogurt. It’s pretty easy once you get into the habit of making it, and It’s way cheaper than store-bought yogurt. Having a lot of yogurt on hand means you can whip up Tarator (among other things) in a pinch!
In Bulgaria, Tarator varies somewhat from kitchen to kitchen. It will always have cucumbers, fresh dill, and salt, but garlic and walnuts are not always included. I’ve seen it with grated carrot too! And depending on where you go, it may be served in a bowl or a pint glass. (Sometimes the server will let you choose!) I personally prefer the pint glass option because drinking this stuff feels so much more satisfying than eating it with a spoon.
In my humble opinion, the perfect Tarator recipe includes the following:
- Plain yogurt – The higher the fat content, the richer your Tarator will be. But don’t bother with the thick Greek stuff, because you’ll just have to add more water to thin it out to a drinkable consistency. Try to find a good quality Balkan yogurt.
- Cucumber – The cucumber should be peeled and diced as small as possible. This is the most laborious part of the job, but it’s worth the effort. I have made this with grated cucumber in the past (to save on chopping) but admittedly, the texture of diced cukes is much better than grated.
- Fresh dill – Don’t be shy with the fresh dill here. It is a huge contributor to the overall flavour and adds so much freshness. I have used dried dill in the past, but I don’t recommend it. *TIP* Fresh dill freezes perfectly. So if you’re a dill-head like me, I recommend buying huge bunches of it when it’s available and storing it (washed and chopped) in the freezer.
- Garlic – A little goes a long way. I have enjoyed many a garlic-free Tarator, but I do prefer the savoury kick that garlic brings to the table.
- Walnuts – The walnuts add a nice crunch and a bit of heartiness to the soup. I like them raw (not toasted) because the toasted flavour overpowers the rest of the ingredients.
- Salt – Just enough to make it delicious.
How to make Bulgarian Tarator Soup at home
Making Tarator is as simple as it gets. Chop up the cucumbers, walnuts, and dill, mince the garlic, then add plain yogurt, water, and salt, and mix everything together in a bowl or a juice jug. To make it easier to get the lumps out of the yogurt, it’s best to add a small amount of water at a time. You can also use a whisk to bring everything together easily. Taste it for seasoning, and enjoy by the bowl (or glass) full.
I have included an actual recipe here, but in real life I never measure my ingredients. And after making it once or twice, I encourage you to freestyle as well.
Where did Tarator Soup come from?
I’m no historian, but the internet tells me that Tarator has been a staple in Bulgarian cuisine for centuries, with some sources tracing its origins back to the Ottoman Empire which ruled Bulgaria for nearly 500 years. Early versions are said to have been made with water and vinegar, but it has evolved over time to make use of the ingredients available (ie: Yogurt).
The Health Benefits of Tarator Soup
Isn’t it great when the number one thing you crave is also the best thing for you, nutritionally speaking? Nothing hits the spot like a big glass of Tarator on a hot summer day, and bonus: it also delivers a hearty dose of probiotics, fibre, healthy fats, and protein. It’s just what my body wants and needs to fuel those long beach days and leisurely city strolls.
What goes well with Tarator?
Tarator is great on its own as a quick snack, or it can be a great side dish on a hot day. Think: drinkable salad. It goes well with hearty stews, or roasted or grilled meat and fish. Its cooling effect also makes it a perfect companion to spicy foods. Non-traditional I know, but we love having it with takeout Korean Fried Chicken!
Can you make Tarator in advance?
I personally feel that Tarator is best when freshly made. A few hours in the fridge won’t hurt, but I wouldn’t recommend making it the day before you’re going to drink it. If you’d like to get ahead, you can chop all of the ingredients in advance and store them in containers in the fridge (except for the garlic), and mix everything together when you’re ready to enjoy it.
Ok now I’m hungry. How about you?
I hope I’ve convinced you that Tarator is a super delicious and refreshing summer soup that you need to try for yourself! Let me know if you make it, and if it becomes a staple in your house too.
Looking for more summer recipes? Try these next:
- Life-Changing Summer Spaghetti
- Minty Peach & Quinoa Salad
- Creamy Tortellini Salad
- Summer Fish Stew
- Kyopolou (Roasted eggplant & pepper dip)
Bulgarian Tarator Soup
- 625 millilitres full fat plain yogurt 2.5 cups
- 625 millilitres cold water 2.5 cups
- 2 medium cucumbers peeled and finely diced
- 2 Cloves garlic minced
- 30 grams fresh dill roughly chopped
- 75 grams walnuts roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust to your own taste
- Add the chopped cucumbers, dill, walnuts, garlic, and yogurt to a large bowl or juice jug.
- Add the cold water a little bit at a time and stir to combine and smooth out any yogurt clumps.
- Season the soup with salt to taste.
- Serve the soup chilled, and top with more dill and walnuts if you’d like.