When you come to a new land, you want to experience native cuisine, especially street and traditional food. If you like enjoying the Mediterranean taste, you can’t ignore Greek food. The dishes are from this Southeast European country, combining great culinary backgrounds, including Italia, Balkans, and the Middle East. Also, it is the Byzantine and ancient Greek cuisine’s successor.
Hence, Greek cuisine is suitable for people who are passionate about Greek and Mediterranean culture. In our article, we will help you discover Greek cuisine. Let’s list a range of delicious dishes before traveling to Greece.
What Do You Know about Greek Food?
What is Greek Food?
Greek food or Greek cuisine is Greece and the Greek diaspora’s culinary background. It has the same point as Mediterranean food with three main factors (wine, olive oil, and wheat). Besides, Greek people use grains, veggies, meat (goat, rabbit, beef, and lamb), fish.
Not only that, but Greek food also contains pasta (ex. hilopites), lemon juice, cheese, yogurt, herbs. Wheat bread appears everywhere with other cereal, primarily barley (ex. paximathia).
Moreover, the desserts are excellent, including honey, nuts, filo pastries, and fruits.
History of Greek Cuisine
Greek food is the Greek culture’s part, and ancient people recorded it in pictures and texts. Its influence is excellent, spread from Rome to the whole of Europe and farther.
The Ancient Greek cuisine’s characteristic is frugality, thanks to 3 main ingredients (wheat, wine, and olive oil). Greek people rarely eat meat, but fish is more popular. This eating trend continued in Roman and Ottoman times until advanced technologies appeared to help the meat be more available.
The Greek dishes usually include olive oil and wine because olive trees and grapes have been grown in the Mediterranean for a long time. The Greek colonization also impacted the Greek culinary background.
The Greek cuisine has the frugality Spartan diet with ‘melas zomos’ (black soup, cooking by boiling the pig blood with vinegar to avoid emulsification).
In Byzantine times, Greek people added new materials (ex, basil, nutmeg, caviar, lemon, etc.)
Overview About Greek Cuisine
Olive oil is the staple of Greek cuisine. Ancient and characteristic, people harvest olives from local fields to make dishes like traditional dip avgolemono (an egg-lemon soup) or rosé wines using this ingredient as well.
Wheat is the essential grain in Greece, although barley is grown commonly. The important vegetables are capsicum (green peppers), potato, okra, green beans, tomato, onions, and eggplant (aubergine). Greek persons also use honey from citrus and fruit trees, for example, bitter orange (bigarade trees), lemon, thyme honey, orange, and pine honey.
Greek food utilizes some flavorings more frequently than the Mediterranean, such as mint, oregano, onion, garlic, bay laurel leaves, dill, etc. Some Greek recipes (northern) use some sweet spices to combine with meat (ex., cloves, allspice, cinnamon, etc.) Parsley may be a garnish on a few dishes.
The beef dishes are not typical because sheep and goat breeding is relatively good, thanks to the terrain and climate.
The coastal regions and the islands often have fish dishes. Greek cuisine has various cheese types (Katiki Domoku – creamy cheese for spreads, Kalathaki – the Limnos island’s specialty, Feta, Kasseri, Kefalotyri. Anthotyros, Graviera, Metsovone, Manouri, Ladotyri cheese with olive oil, etc.)
Dining out is typical in Greece. You can eat the estiatorio and taverna at a reasonable price served at home. After dinner, you should enjoy street cuisine (roast corn, many different pitas, Souvlaki, gyros, spanakopita, tyropita, etc.)
Top List of Greek Food That You Must Try
After understanding some info about Greek food, I believe you want to know a range of more delicious dishes. Now, let’s scroll down to discover and write in your note a few names that you must try when going to Greece.
- Tomatokeftedes (Santorini Tomato Fritters)
Tomaotokeftedes (another name: tomato fritters). It is a traditional meze vegetarian in Santorini and Syros. After draining pieces of tomato, the cook will fry them. These rough edge fritters also include onion chunks and mint.
Gyros are an economical and mouthwatering choice. It is a vertically and returning roasted meat. After roasting, the cook will put Gyros slices in a pita with other taste enhancers (potato chips, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sauce).
Moussaka is a legendary dish with a juicy and creamy texture. You can find it in many tavernas in Greece. Sometimes, homemakers will make Moussaka for family gatherings. This dish is made from minced beef with tomato sauce, then coating a creamy béchamel sauce and sweet eggplants.
It can make you full quickly, so you do not need to eat various side dishes.
Pastitsio is a baked pasta with béchamel sauce and ground beef. You can enjoy it around the year. Green salads mix with virgin olive oil and wine vinegar, which are perfect side dishes for Pastitsio.
The most famous street food in Greece is Souvlaki, and it’s made with seasoned meat to be marinated on skewers. Chicken or pork are the main ingredients for this dish that can also include vegetables such as tomatoes.
Yemista is legendary Greek stuffed tomato. It has juicy tastes and vivid colors. Using other veggies can change their color to brown while baking.
Its kernel consists of minced meat, rice, and different herbs. Yemista also has many variations in regions with various spices and herbs.
Octopus is made from hung-out-to-dry octopuses from harbors. You may require the cook to marinate or grill them to make a starter or stew them in wine as a main course.
- Feta and cheeses
Feta or fresh cheese is a joy and an indispensable part of Greek meals. You can go to market counters to ask for some cheese types such as feta, graviera (hard cheese with golden-white, cubed, easy to eat), saganaki (fried cheese).
Besides, you can buy some dishes made from cheese (ex: tyropita – cheese pie, Cretan Dakos – a salad with a mizithra layer, a white and soft cheese.
- Papoutsakia – Stuffed Eggplants
Papoutsakia is a stuffed eggplant dish toasted until it is soft. It was then, coating a bechamel sauce, tomato-based meat sauce, and cheese. The cook continues to bake till this dish has a nice yellow. Its name means little shoes due to its shape.
- Stifado – Greek Beef Stew
Stifado is an old-age Greek stew beef. It is made from beef, vinegar, red wine, cinnamon, onions, and tomatoes with a range of herbs and spices.
You can enjoy it with egg pasta (hilopittes), potato chips, rice, or kritharaki/orzo pasta. Stifado is suitable for cold winter days.
- Giouvetsi – Beef Stew with Orzo Pasta
Giouvetsi is the best choice for weekend meals. The cook uses onions, beef, tomato sauce, and orzo pasta to create it.
Kleftiko is a traditional slow oven-cooked lamb. In ancient times, people used an earthen oven to cook it, and they also used this oven for heating and trapping the smoke. Thus, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice can infuse lamb.
Kleftiko means ‘stolen’ because of its origin, which is the Klephts. They are Greek descendants that are anti-Ottoman rebels. They often steal lamb or goats to cook in hidden underground ovens without smells or smoke. Hence, the enemy cannot detect and capture the Klephts soldiers.
- Gemista – Stuffed Veggies with Rice
Gemista is an old-age home-cooked dish. It has minced meat, a range of herbs, and tomatoes stuffed with rice. You can try to add various herbs, vegetables, and spices to it.
- Horta – Leafy Boiled Greens
Horta is a classic veggie. It consists of mild-boiled leafy greens boiled in water seasoned with vinegar or lemon, olive oil for extra flavor.
- Briam – Roasted Vegetables
One more choice is for those who love a dish full of green vegetables. It includes eggplants, zucchini, potato. You will mix it with tomato sauce, dress it up with oregano and an olive oil layer, and then make it to bring the Mediterranean flavor to your dining table.
- Gigantes – Giant Beans
Gigantes are huge beans roasted in fresh herbs and tomato sauce with a feta cheese layer. It is a healthy meal for all.
- Moschari kokkinisto
Moschari kokkinisto is a veal casserole dish with tomato sauce. It is the most popular stew in Greece. The lack of farms to feed large animals led to this dish’s birth.
The cook will pep up Moschari with rosemary sprigs, pickling onions, plus red wine. This stew dish contains high calories, so you should control your portion.
Ladera includes all veggie dishes in stew type (artichokes, zucchini green beans, ladies fingers, eggplants, etc.)
It is the main food in Lent or before major religious festivals happen when the Orthodox believers must not eat meat.
- Galeos skordalia
Galeos skordalia is the school shark with the same flavor as cod. It will be served in the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25 every year).
The Annunciation coincides with Lent, but it is a joyful occasion, and Orthodox churches still allow believers to eat fish.
Greeks still maintain this custom today. You can enjoy fish fillets with skordalia (a robust scent aioli includes crushed garlic, breadcrumbs/bran, and potato).
Kritharaki is a Greek Pasta type with long-grain rice. It often comes with tomato sauce or nuts (peas, nutmeg) or chicken. You can enjoy it with Giouvetsi.
- Lobster Pasta
Lobster Pasta is a perfect dish for lobster lovers. You should try it once when coming to Greece.
- Courgette Balls (kolokithokeftedes)
Courgette Balls are a veggie starter and are very common in Crete. It will mesmerize you right after taking the first piece.
It includes fresh mint and salty feta cheese. The original kolokythokeftedes have a crispy outer cover and inside creamy texture.
- Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Dolmadakia is a tiny roll with an outer grape leaf covering. The meat inside, usually beef or lamb but sometimes both are ground together into one patty and rice stuffing that’s then wrapped up in vine leaves to keep it fresh until you’re ready for your dinner table! This appetizer dish can be served plain as well, if not better than most other starters on offer – just add some lemon juice before popping them into your mouth.
- Greek Fava Dip (Yellow Split Pea Puree)
This is a dish the whole family will love. The creamy, salty flavor of this appetizer can either be paired with breadsticks or crackers for dipping in Greece and it tastes even better when you add some virgin olive oil!
- Choriatiki – Greek Salad
Choriatiki is an all-time favorite food in Greece and is a must-have dish in every meal. It is a must-have dish in Greek meals. It is made from cucumber, tomatoes, and a large piece of feta.
The decoration of this dish varies from region to region. You can opt for olive oil, salt, vinegar, and pepper to add to the salad.
- Keftethes – Meatballs
This meatball will bring crisp and juicy to your mouth when starting a meal. You can eat it with pita bread and creamy sauce. It is also a complete meal with feta salad and basmati rice to fill your hungry stomach.
- Saganaki – Fried Cheese
Saganaki is a wonderful choice for cheese lovers. It is cooked in a 2 handled small frying pan within under 10 minutes. The materials are also simple, which are cheese and flour. Additionally, there are some Sagnaki types (Mussels Saganaki or Shrimp Saganaki).
Spanikopita (Greek spinach pie) is a flexible dish. You can eat it at any time as a side meal or a starter. The cook will mix butter, olive oil, and feta cheese well, then roasting it until Spanikopita reaches perfect golden crisp.
Taramasalata is a creamy Greek dip. It is made from soaked bread, olive oil, fish roe, and lemon juice. Mashed potatoes or pita bread is a side dish; you may add peppers, garlic, or onions to Taramasalata.
- Tiropita – Greek cheese pie
Tiropita is a popular appetizer or mid-day snack in Greece. Its name comes from rolling into individual triangular servings. It contains much feta cheese and others with various sizes and shapes. Tiropita also has olive oil and melted butter.
Tzatziki is a classic Greek sauce made from fresh dill, garlic, thick strained yogurt, and olive oil. Although it has many ingredients, it is easy to prepare.
- Fasolada – Greek Bean Soup
Fasolada is a simple white bean soup with onions, carrots, celery, and crushed tomatoes. You can feel flavors from thyme, parsley, and bay leaves when eating this soup.
Calamari is Deep fried squid with spices (lemon and salt). Occasionally a sauce is served to create a top-notch appetizer.
Avgolemono is a chicken broth soup with perfect smoothness. It is made from chicken, whisked eggs, rice, and lemon juice.
Avgolemono may have lamb. And you can top pepper to increase the taste.
Amygdalota is a popular dessert and is suitable for those who are allergic to gluten. It contains almonds, and you can eat these cookies and sip a cup of coffee in the morning. In each region, the ingredients may be a bit different; however, almond is primary.
Baklava is a layered pastry with butter, sugar and different types of nuts. The bakers will bake it before pouring sweet syrup on top to make it crispy phyllo layers absorb all that deliciousness! When you eat Baklava in Greece-the festival atmosphere feels so close around you.
Bougatsa is a fewer sweet pie type compared to other cakes. It is made from semolina custard and phyllo pastry. You can enjoy it day and night based on your hobby.
If you see it in the roadside food court, sellers will sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon on top of these lovely cakes.
- Feta Me Meli
Feta Me Meli is not only a dessert but also a side meal. Before oven-baking, it is wrapped in a filo pastry layer with a honey coating on top.
The feta’s mesmerizing taste comes from the balance of sweet honey and salty feta.
Galaktoboureko is a fantastic dessert with a perfect crisp. After a Galaktoboureko mouthful bite, your mouth will fill with its juice.
It is an age-old Greek dessert made from crispy phyllo, and melted butter sprinkled on it. Greek people increase its flavor by pouring much fragrant syrup and creamy custard on folds.
If you are looking for a dessert without butter, milk, and egg, Halvas will be suitable for you. It is semolina pudding with a syrup sweetener. Nuts are studded on it. Halvas is an excellent combination of water, oil, sugar, and semolina to create a delicious and humble dessert.
Kataifi is a rolled pastry in the shape of an almond. The innermost layer, or “nut” has that satisfying crispy texture which you can feel as soon as your teeth sink into it–it’s not too hard to break through but just enough so there are no gaps for sweetness to escape from.
Loukoumades are small-sized golden fried dough cakes with a sweet syrup layer, sprinkled cinnamon, and walnuts. Let’s try the inner fluffy and outer crisp of Loukoumades right now.
Pasteli is a cake made from sesame seeds and honey. These bar pastries also include almonds, pistachios, and walnuts to create a rich taste. You can sip a cup of tea with Pasteli. Also, Pasteli is candy or lunch to boost energy.
Revani is a grainy and nutty dessert with some lemony tastes. It has the perfect amount of tanginess that you need for your dinner, but it’s not too sweet, so it can still be enjoyed as an after-meal treat.
- Yiaourti Me Meli
Yiaourti Me Meli includes wildflower honey and yogurt with high protein and delicate sour. Its flavor is creamy sweet. You can eat in for breakfast or a starter. Besides, Yiaourti Me Meli also has walnuts and thyme with depth and complexity to bring you a heaven dish.
- Olives and olive oil
From ancient times, Greeks have grown olive trees. According to Greek myths, Athena gave an olive tree to Athens city. Olive and olive usually appear in Greek meals. Greeks often soak olive in a strong sea salt brine, or eat with the wrinkly throubes or eat whole berries.
- Tirokroketes – Fried Cheese Balls
Tirokroketes is a starter for cheese lovers. These pieces of pastry are made from many different cheese types (feta, graviera, gouda). Before frying, the cook has to mix it with crumbled bread.
- Spanakopita – Greek Spinach Pie
Spanikopita has the same way as Tiropita. It is used for a snack or starter. Let’s enjoy these pieces of cake and remember Popeye – our brave sailor.
You can prepare it with spinach and crumble feta cheese. You can add onions, dill, and eggs to the spinach-feta filling. Then wrap this blend in a phyllo pastry, brush melted butter or olive oil, and roast it until golden and crisp.
Koulouri is a Greek round bagel made from yeast, sesame seeds, all-purpose flour. It has a soft filling with a slight crisp covering.
Melomakarona will appear at Christmas. They are egg-shaped cookies soaked in honey with walnut topping. The Greek family often bakes a big batch of Melomakarona, this time to treat guests.
- Ellinikos – Greek Coffee
If you are a coffee follower, you will like Ellinikos. It is served in the traditional long-handled coffee copper pot (briki).
You may consider 3 flavors (Sketos – sugar-free, Metrios – medium sweet, and Vari Glyko – sweet, almost honey).
The iced coffee Frappe is a beverage that can make you refresh in summer. The water and instant coffee granules will make you addicted and passionate about this frothy and delicious coffee.
Frappe is really a drink with an intense appeal without adding calories to the body.
- Retsina Wine
Retsina Wine is a traditional wine that brings full of cultures and rituals of ancient Greece over 2000 years. The unique wine began from using Pine resin to seal wine vessels.
Pine resin does not let the air from entering the bottles. Not only that, but pine resin also infuses aroma to wine. You can use this wine with dill, rosemary, and mint.
Mastika has a mild anise flavor. You can visit Chios island to enjoy it. This liquor is not stronger than Ouzo, but you should try it with some Greek dishes.
Krasomelo is the Greek mulled wine for Christmas.
If you like intense wine, you will like Ouzo with a robust anise taste. Its alcohol concentration is relatively high (38, 40, 42, 49 percentages). You can drink it with water to avoid getting drunk fast.
Greek food is truly a diverse and rich culinary background and influenced by many different cultures. Hence, the number of dishes and beverages is countless, so we can’t introduce them in this article.
Not only that, but Greek dishes are also healthy and balanced because they usually have nutritious ingredients (vegetables, fruits, fish, lamb, chicken, nuts, grains, olive oil, etc.). Therefore, let’s freely discover Greek cuisine to enjoy the best taste and flavor in the world.
Have you ever found yourself drooling over food? Who hasn’t, right?! Well, if that’s the case, then your turn is coming. It might be time for a little trip down memory lane and some traditional Greek food.