You don't have to go to Greek restaurants to enjoy this spicy cheese dip at home! We've taken the classic flavors and slimmed the dip down in this Tirokafteri recipe for guilt-free enjoyment. It's a perfect dip to enjoy with carrot sticks and other fresh vegetables.
Salty feta cheese, creamy Greek yogurt, roasted red pepper, spicy red pepper flakes and more combine to make this Greek feta cheese dip. It's perfect on a vegetable or cheese platter.
What is Tirokafteri?
This traditional Greek dip is a spicy cheese spread or dip made with sheep's milk feta cheese. It's often served with warm pita bread as part of a mezze platter (a selection of small dishes or appetizers). The spicy feta dip is made with feta cheese, hot peppers, roasted red peppers, olive oil, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, garlic and sometimes oregano. It's very easy to make with all the ingredients blended into a creamy dip.
The translation of tirokafteri means 'spicy cheese' (here is how to pronounce tirokafteri). Though the preparation method and handful of ingredients used changes regionally the basic ingredients remain the same. It's a long time favorite of Greek cuisine right after Tzatziki sauce for dipping.
What makes this skinny?
We used reduced fat feta cheese. One quarter cup of reduced fat feta cheese is 50 calories and there are 99 calories in a ¼ cup of crumbled full fat feta cheese.
Fat free Greek yogurt. Lower in calories than full fat Greek yogurt.
Less olive oil. There is only 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the dip.
No oil or fat in the roasted red pepper. The roasted red pepper is roasted without any oil. Our substitution option is jarred in water too.
Recipe Ingredients Notes
Red bell pepper. Choose a large bell pepper that is firm and without blemishes.This will be roasted and adds fantastic flavor to the feta dip.
Reduced fat feta cheese. You'll need 8 ounces. Reduced fat feta generally is only available in crumble instead of whole block. Use larger crumbles if different versions are available.
Non-fat Greek yogurt. The full fat version of this is often used in Tirokafteri to blend into a smoother dip. We are substituting fat-free Greek yogurt. We recommend Chobani brand fat free Greek yogurt for the texture and the flavor.
Lemon juice. You'll use the juice of half a lemon freshly squeezed. We use a handheld juicer that is not only fast but fully extracts the juice and strains out the seeds. Any juicer will work.
Red pepper flakes. Instead of adding a fresh hot pepper we used red pepper flakes. You'll use ½ teaspoon.
How to roast Red Peppers
This method can be used to roast any type of pepper!
If using a gas stove top, turn on a burner to medium heat. Place the red pepper directly on the grate. Char the pepper until blackened on each side rotating it with tongs (about 2 minutes per side).
Turn the broiler to high and place the red pepper about 6” away from the broiler (either directly on the grates or on a baking sheet). Char on each side until blackened rotating with tongs (about 3 minutes per side)
- Remove the pepper and place in a heatproof bowl and cover it with plastic wrap (photo 1 below). Or place in a Ziploc plastic bag and seal.
- Allow the pepper to steam for 10 minutes.
- When the pepper is cool to the touch, scrape off the blackened outside (with fingers or a dull dining knife) and remove the stem and seeds.
- Chop the remaining soft red flesh of the pepper into small pieces and set aside until ready to use.
How to make lower calorie Tirokafteri (spicy feta cheese dip)
Combine the reduced fat feta cheese, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, non-fat Greek yogurt, red pepper flakes, oregano and chopped roasted red pepper in the bowl of a food processor (photos 2-3).
Process until smooth, scraping the sides as needed (photo 4).
It will be thinner dip just after blending. Place in a sealed container and chill for 30-60 minutes or until the dip thickens before serving.
Want it spicier? Add more red pepper flakes. Make and taste the dip before adding more in case it's too spicy.
Red wine vinegar. Traditional Tirokafteri used either lemon juice or red wine vinegar for some acidic flavor. You can substitute 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar for the lemon juice if desired.
Don't want to roast the pepper yourself? No problem. You can use roasted pepper in jars. Use one that is in water not oil. We tested Mezzetta brand Roasted Red Bell Pepper Strips (California fresh pack) and they worked great. If substituting use 1 ¼ cups and drain them on paper towels before adding to the recipe.
Want a thicker dip? Reduce the amount of Greek yoghurt used.
Want to use a fresh chili peppers? You can definitely add you favorite hot pepper instead of red pepper flakes. The seeds hold most of the heat so remove them before adding to the recipe unless you love really spicy food.
Salt and pepper. The feta cheese is salty though adding the yogurt tames that saltiness a bit. After making the dip, taste it, and season with salt and/or fresh pepper if desired.
Consistency. When the dip is processed it will still have some texture versus being completely smooth. The texture comes from tiny pieces of feta that add a salty burst of flavor to anything you dip into it.
Dairy lessens heat. Dairy products are the one thing that will reduce heat from spicy peppers so the addition of Greek yogurt will make the dip slightly less spicy. If you want it hotter add more red pepper flakes. If it's too hot you can add more yogurt.
How to store
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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