As a food editor, I’m constantly sorting through recipes that have 20-plus ingredients, a laundry list of steps and the unholiest of all, recipes within recipes. While a butternut squash and crispy leek risotto is undoubtedly delicious, it’s also a little time-consuming for a Monday night, and my preferred M.O. is much simpler: fewer ingredients, a fast cooking time and minimal cleanup.
I’ll also be the first to admit that simple cooking, while not boring, can often benefit from a little sprucing up. A sprinkle of fresh herbs or a little lemon juice can go a long way, as can flaky salt (always flaky salt).
That’s how my favorite dinner perker-upper was born. Enter the three-ingredient yogurt sauce that takes two minutes to make. It’s creamy, bright, versatile and customizable. It goes with meat, poultry, vegetables and grains; it tames spicy food and adds a welcome cooling element to anything roasted or caramelized. In its most basic form, it’s not even really a recipe. It’s just yogurt plus citrus juice plus kosher salt.
Frequently, this is what happens: I’ll think out loud about a potential dinner idea (spicy honey-roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas?), the words yogurt sauce will be thrown into the conversation and nine times out of ten, it works its way into the final meal. My motto? There’s never, ever a bad time for yogurt sauce.
Here’s how to make it.
3-Ingredient Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
1 lemon, halved
1. Grab a small bowl and a whisk, spoon or fork. Put the yogurt in the bowl, then squeeze the juice of the lemon into the bowl. (I juice over my hands, using my fingers to catch the seeds. You can use a strainer, citrus juicer or reamer if you want.)
2. Whisk or stir until the sauce is combined. Season to taste with kosher salt and adjust with more lemon if you want it tangier.
- Use lime instead of lemon.
- Add a clove of garlic, finely grated on a Microplane.
- Add freshly ground black pepper.
- For a drizzling consistency, thin your sauce with a splash of water.
- For a richer sauce, add a glug of olive oil.
- Add an assortment of chopped fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley, mint or tarragon.
You can get as elaborate as you want, but I usually stick to the basic yogurt-citrus-salt formula. Once you’ve settled on your flavor profile, the applications are endless: Serve it with rice, couscous or quinoa; thin it out to make a creamy dressing for a simple green salad (I think of it as fancy ranch); dollop it into a puréed soup like carrot-ginger; use it to garnish steak, chicken or lamb; or my personal favorite, swoosh a generous layer into a bowl and pile it high with roasted vegetables and crispy chickpeas. Dig in. Repeat.