Call me crazy, but prior to traveling to Greece I had no idea how delicious Greek food would be. But, by the third trip to the Mediterranean country there was a deep love fest forming for the tasty traditional Greek cuisne. My days (and nights) were filled with dishes of moussaka, tzatziki and frappes.
My stomach couldn’t have been happier with Greek food.
Greek food spreads its culinary influence throughout Europe and beyond. It is known as some of the best food in the world! With an age old tradition, Greek cuisine has been greatly influenced by both Eastern and Western cultures. Fresh vegetables, fishes & seafoods play a significant role in the dishes mostly because of its long coastline while meat is treated as less popular, with the exception of lamb.
However, flavors of Greek food changes with season and geography. Here are some of the favorites not to missed when traveling through Greece.
Traditional Greek Foods You Must Eat in Greece
Amygdalota is gluten-free almond cookie that is wildly popular in Greece and are the perfect match to a warm cup of Greek coffee. Whether it is a family or friends gathering, Amygdalota reflects the images of good times warm relationships. This food may vary a bit in different parts of Greece, but almonds being the dominant ingredient throughout the regions.
Recipe > Almond Cookies by Saveur
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Baklava is the quintessential Greek food experience. This cuisine mostly contains nuts and butter along with sugar. After baking, sweet syrup is poured over it so that the syrup can be absorbed by the crispy layers of phyllo. It is probably the most popular food item among all Greek desserts. It brings a festive mood in the dining room through its exquisite flavor and flaky crust.
Recipe > Baklava by Michael Symon
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Bougatsa is a kind of sweet pie (less sweet if you consider Greek standard) made of phyllo pastry & semolina custard. This is a kind of food that tastes good in daytime, delicious at late night and best enjoyed with pleasant memories. If you want to eat this pie from roadside food court you will also get a sprinkle of powder sugar and cinnamon on top.
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4. Courgette Balls (kolokithokeftedes)
You are going to want to add this veggie starter to the list of your favorite dishes. This is a very popular Cretan meze, found in most (if not all) Greek restaurants. Your taste buds will be mesmerized by its flavored texture, salty & tasty feta cheese with a bit of fresh mint. The original kolokythokeftedes must be crispy on the outside with a creamy texture on the inside.
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5. Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
This is another sign of the versatile nature of Greek food. Dolmadakia are tiny dolmades that are made of stuffed grape leaves. Inside the leaf you will get meat of ground lamb or beef (sometimes both) and rice stuffing. Traditionally, this dish is served as appetizer with lemon wedges.
Recipe > Dolmades by Tyler Florence
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6. Tomatokeftedes (Santorini Tomato Fritters)
Tomaotokeftedes or tomato fritters are traditional meze and main course vegetarian food item in Santorini and Syros. Proper draining of tomato is essential for preparing this delicious food item. These fritters have rough edges with bits of mint, tomato and onion chunks.
7. Ellinikos (Greek Coffee)
Ellinikos is still the most favorite style of coffee adopted in Greece. The coffee is served in the traditional long handled coffee copper pot which is known as briki in Greek. There are three different tastes of Ellinikos like Vari Glyko which means strong & almost honey sweet, Metrios meaning medium sweetness and Sketos mening without sugar.
Recipe > Greek Coffee (Ellinikos Kafes)
8. Greek Fava Dip (Yellow Split Pea Puree)
This mouthwatering vegetable dish, made with yellow split peas, is mostly popular on the Greek island of Santorini, however, remains dominant in terms of popularity all across Greece. It is creamy with spectacular taste—great starter for winter days. Enjoy this Fava dish as an appetizer or dip with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
9. Feta Me Meli
Another Greek food dish that can be tasted as dessert or an entrée. Feta is wrapped in filo pastry before oven baked and honey is drizzled over it. The optimum balance between salty feta and sweet honey creates a mesmerizing taste.
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Frappe is an iced coffee drink that makes your hot summer days comfortable. Two main components of Frappe are water and instant coffee granules. Once mixed it becomes addictive, delicious and frothy. With such a strong appeal it’s a perfect pick-me-up drink without extra calories.
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Galaktoboureko is a great Greek dessert with crispy perfection. Take a mouthful bite of Galaktoboureko and let your mouth be filled with its juices. This age old Greek dessert is made of crispy phyllo sprinkled with melted butter. Greeks use the most creamy custard & scented syrup to increase the taste of this food by many folds.
12. Greek Salad (Choriatiki)
Greek salad is a must have for Greeks with almost every meal. Choriatiki are made of tomatoes, olives, cucumber and a large piece of feta cheese and served undressed. Dressing is left at person’s choice hence all restaurants serve vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil with the salad. With the tradition of being a starter, Greek salad can also be a great side dish.
Recipe > Bon Appetit Greek Salad
Gyros are an economical meal choice and so yummy! When the meat is roasted vertically and turning on the spit it is known as Gyro. Wait, it is not done yet. Slices of gyro are then placed in pita with various taste enhancers including sauce, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and potato chips.
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You will be surprised by the deliciousness of such humble food especially when you are looking for a no dairy, no butter and an egg free dessert. Halva is a great combo of four ingredients: oil, semolina, sugar and water. You will be mesmerized by the taste of these four ingredients when combined. In simple words, halva is semolina pudding which is sweetened by syrup and studded with nuts.
Recipe > Halva (A Greek Sweet Using Semolina)
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This is one of the most popular Greek desserts made with a special type of pastry called Kantaifi. When rolled up the pastry resembles shredded wheat. A delectable nutty center is rolled inside crisp, thread like strands of pastry, baked, and then soaked in sweet syrup. The pastry is full of strand so there is always a chance to get messy when you eat this. So don’t try too much to pull them or cut them.
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16. Keftethes (Meatballs)
Give this juicy and crispy Greek meatball a try and bring a delicious twist to your plate. Keftethes is mainly a Greek appetizer dish served with creamy sauce and pita bread. However, this item can also be eaten as a full meal with basmati rice and Greek feta salad.
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Loukoumades are little bite-sized golden puffs of fried dough that are sprinkled with sweet syrup, walnuts and cinnamon. With crispy outside and fluffy inside this Greek donut will give you absolute deliciousness.
Recipe > Loukoumades at All Recipes
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A legendary, traditional dish that is creamy and juicy. Moussaka is served in almost all tavernas in Greece. In the big family gathering this dish is prepared by Greek homemakers. In Moussaka, tomato sauce is used to cook minced beef which is subsequently layered with sweet eggplants and creamy béchamel sauce. This irresistible cuisine is filling so you don’t need too many side dishes.
Recipe > Bobby Flay’s Moussaka
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Pasteli is a Greek cusine made of mainly two components; honey and sesame seeds. These pasteli are known as the original power bars in Greece. In additions to honey and sesame different nuts like walnuts, almonds or pistachios are used to bring more variety. Pasteli fits very well as an accompaniment to tea. It can also be eaten as candy or lunchtime snack and energy booster.
Recipe > Pasteli at Epicurious
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Pastitsio is a baked pasta dish including ground beef and béchamel sauce. This mouthwatering food is something you can enjoy in every season. The food in Greece is served with mixed green salad dressed with wine vinegar and virgin olive oil.
Recipe > Nikki’s Perfect Pastitsio
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21. Retsina Wine
An age old wine bearing all rituals and cultures of ancient Greece for more than 2000 years. The unique test of this wine is believed to have originated from sealing wine vessels with Pine resin. Pine resin prevents air from entering into the bottle while infusing the wine with resin aroma. This wine matches superbly with dishes containing mint, rosemary and dill.
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Revani is a very popular dessert which is nutty and grainy with some lemony flavor. This moist cake is sweetened by simple syrup flavored with orange zest. This is not an overly sweet desserts and it is indeed a delightful addition to any dining table.
Recipe > Really Rich Revani Cake
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23. Saganaki – Fried Cheese
This is the food that holds the attention of all cheese lovers. Sagnaki is mostly an appetizer that is prepared in two-handled small frying pan. This beloved traditional Greek food is prepared in less than 10 minutes while using only two ingredients—flour & cheese. Sagnaki refers to many dishes (which are mostly appetizers) like Shrimp Sagnaki, Mussels Sagnaki etc. However, the most famed one is this Cheese Saganaki.
Recipe > Greek Saganaki: Emeril Lagasse
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Souvlaki is a very popular Greek food available in street side restaurants. The dish is well cooked with seasoned meat and then flavored with tzatziki sauce. In Greek language Souvlaki stands for ‘meat-on-a-skewer. Most Greek people call any type of pita wrapped meat a Souvlaki. However, they somehow distinguish the name by the meat that is used. As for instance, Souvlaki with pork skewers or Souvlaki with chicken Gyros.
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Spanikopita or otherwise known as Greek spinach pie is a traditional yet delicious recipe. With its versatility the dish matches with every time of the day. Be it dinner, as a snack or starter Spanikopita will definitely satisfy your taste buds. Feta cheese, butter, olive oil all are mixed and baked until golden crispy perfection.
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Tiropita, otherwise known as ‘Greek cheese pie’, is traditionally popular throughout Greece and can be eaten as a starter or a mid-day snack. This feta cheese food comes into different shapes & sizes. When it is rolled into individual triangular servings that’s when it is called Tiropita. The main ingredient used in this recipe is various types of cheese (feta cheese mostly). Melted butter and olive oil are also used while preparing this mouthwatering dish.
Recipe > Tiropita (Greek Savory Cheese Pie)
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Tzatziki is one of the classic Greek sauces or appetizers with as many varieties as there are cooks who prepare it. Basically, this spectacular food item is made of thick strained yogurt, garlic, olive oil as well as fresh dill. Although it’s a combination of various ingredients but it is simple to prepare and is able to rock any get together.
Recipe > World’s Best Tzatziki
28. Yiaourti Me Meli
Yiaourti Me Meli literally means yogurt with honey. This is simple filler which is rich in protein with creamy sweet flavor. You can have this food in breakfast dishes or as a dessert. Yiaourti Me Meli is a healthy combo of Greek yogurt, honey and walnuts. The subtle sour taste of yogurt, the sweetness of thyme or wildflower honey, the depth & complexity of walnuts—altogether it is a food from heaven!
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Yemista is a traditional recipe for Greek stuffed tomatoes that comes with vibrant colors and juicy flavors. Instead of tomatoes other vegetables are also used and baked until it turns to brownish color. The stuffing can either be with rice and various herbs or it may contain minced meat. There are countless variations of Yemista and you are allowed to experiment with different types of herbs & spices.
Are your taste buds salivating yet? If you’re ready to indulge in traditional Greek cuisine an easy way to do so is to take a food tour. For a mouth watering example read about taking a food tour in Chania, Crete here.
What is your favorite Greek foods, dishes or cuisine?
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