What Is Milk Salad?

L. Whitaker

Sometimes referred to as Snejanka or "Snow White" salad, milk salad is a traditional side dish of Bulgaria that combines strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and dill. It became a popular food in Eastern Europe during the 20th century. Variations on the recipe can include lemon juice, vinegar, walnuts, mint, parsley, or other herbs. Milk salad more closely resembles a sauce than a salad and is often used to offset spicier dishes.

Dill is commonly used to season milk salad.
Dill is commonly used to season milk salad.

Milk salad is made by first straining plain yogurt through a cheesecloth for 30 minutes to rid it of excess moisture. A peeled, chopped cucumber is then added to the strained yogurt along with pressed garlic and salt to taste. Additional ingredients such as olive oil, dill, and walnuts are added. The milk salad is then refrigerated and served as a chilled accompaniment to the main course.

Garlic is used in milk salad.
Garlic is used in milk salad.

A similar recipe called tarator, or cold yogurt soup, is also found in Bulgarian cuisine. Like milk salad, tarator uses yogurt, cucumber, and garlic in combination with water or vinegar to give it a more soup-like consistency. Tarator is served primarily in the summer as a chilled dish similar to a gazpacho. Variations of this dish are found throughout southeast Europe and the Middle East, including Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Iran.

Straining plain yogurt is the first step in making milk salad.
Straining plain yogurt is the first step in making milk salad.

Bulgaria is located along the Black Sea in southeast Europe and was founded in the seventh century BCE. Its climate is diverse, varying from snow-capped peaks of the Balkan Mountains to the plains and coastal regions of the Black Sea. Until as recently as the 1990s, agriculture played a big role in Bulgaria's economy, with most of the foods in the modern Bulgarian diet produced within the country. The primary source of dairy for the Bulgarian people is yogurt and feta cheese derived from the milk of cows and goats.

The countries that surround it — Greece and Turkey to the south and Romania and Serbia to the north and west — often influence Bulgaria’s cuisine. Similar milk salad recipes appear in those cultures. Serbia and Croatia refer to this basic combination of ingredients as Tatarska salata, or Tartar salad, so called because it is similar in texture to tartar sauce. It is usually served with grilled minced meat. The Greek version, called tzatziki, is used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros, or served with bread or pita as an appetizer.

Chopped cucumber is an important component of milk salad.
Chopped cucumber is an important component of milk salad.

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Discussion Comments


@Scrbblchick -- Great minds think alike. I thought of raita, the cucumber-yogurt sauce you get in Indian restaurants. Raita also helps cool the spicy burn of their food.

It's so interesting how different cultures have similar foods, frequently based on geography.

Greek and Italian food are very similar; they just use slightly different spices. Then, there's Turkish food, which is like Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. I really love trying different cuisines to see the similarities, as well as the differences, between countries.


When I read the ingredients for this, I immediately thought it sounded like tzatziki sauce. First thing in my head.

I love a good, thick, tzatziki sauce. That's one of the best parts of eating in a Greek restaurant. I love to dip my pita in the sauce, and then put it on top of a gyro.

I'd like to try more Bulgarian food, but I don't know anyone who makes it. I'll have to talk to a friend who is stationed there with the U.S. Embassy. Maybe she can give me some good recipes. I've seen a couple online, but I'd like to explore the subject a little more.

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