13 Traditional Greek Foods You Must Try in Greece
Greece is a country famous for its history, climate and way of life. Everyone knows that when you travel to Greece great weather and welcoming locals are pretty much guaranteed, which are some of the reasons why people visit this country. Another reason is the food. Traditional Greek food is considered to be some of the best food in the world. Due to the geographical location of the country, it fusions elements from both Eastern and Western cultures, making it very unique.
Here are some favourite Greek dishes you must try in Greece, as recommended by expert travel bloggers.
Dolmades (Stuffed Vines Leaves)
By Lavina DSouza from Continent Hop
When I first heard of Dolmades, I was quite excited as it was one of the first dishes that I had, that used vine leaves, i.e. grape leaves. Suitable for vegetarians based on the stuffing used, these appetizers use tender vine leaves and are usually part of a meze platter.
The leaves are blanched, and a filling of choice is stuffed into the leaves. They are then delicately rolled and boiled. Stuffings traditionally consist of rice mixed with herbs. However, many locals add mince or even replace the rice with veggies.
Once rolled, they’re placed at the bottom of a pan, above a layer of vine leaves, and a heavy dish is positioned above the dolmades to hold them down, and they are then boiled. Best had with fresh Tzatziki! Dolmades can be found across Greece as it’s a traditional favourite for many!
Fava (Yellow Split Pea Puree)
By Nathan Aguilera from Foodie Flashpacker
I knew I was going to love the food in Greece before I ever went. I expected that the seafood and souvlaki and moussakas were going to be delicious. I didn’t expect one of my favorite dishes to a really unassuming dish: fava.
Fava is comparable to hummus but I think I actually prefer it more than hummus. A strong statement, I know! Fava is a simple dish made of split pea puree, covered in olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon, and topped with capers and onions. It’s typically served with a side of bread as a starter before a Greek meal.
Make sure to ask for fava when you sit down for any Greek meal – you won’t be disappointed!
By Inma Gregorio from A World To Travel
I can’t tell you if it was its ridiculously affordability and convenience – you can find gyros pretty much anywhere all the time – or the fact that it is simply delicious; thing is that during my two Greece jaunts (mainland Greece and the mighty Meteora), I ate tons of gyros.
I’d travel there right now again just to get one. Meanwhile, though, I will need to calm my gyros hunger by eating kebab instead. They can be pretty similar, but if you ask me gyros is better!
Gyros are traditionally made of cooked pork or chicken. Once the meat is taken out of a vertical rotisserie, it was served along with tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce wrapped in a pita bread.
Today, luckily for everyone, you can enjoy them everywhere around the world. God save globalization!
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Kalamarakia Tiganita (Fried Calamari)
By Diana Millos from Diana Miaus
As Greece is surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that Greek cuisine has a variety of Mediterranean fish and seafood which are a pleasure to taste. One Greek dish worth trying is definitely calamari – also known as squid.
Calamari might be not the fanciest food you will eat while in Greece, but you won’t have a complete Mediterranean experience if you leave the country without eating them. You may have them as fried rings, grilled or even stuffed with feta cheese and they’re usually prepared with garlic, lemon and olive oil. They’re delicious (and cheap!) in every style.
Best place I’ve eaten calamari in Greece? Oh Xamos, a lovely restaurant located in the seashore in the island of Milos. The place is absolutely amazing, with a gorgeous view over the pristine Aegean waters. Most importantly, the food is fresh, freshly caught, plus the hand written menu is the cutest thing ever. Highly recommended! However, if you’re not visiting Milos rest assured: you’ll find calamari in every single Greek restaurant.
Keftethakia or Keftethes (Greek Meatballs)
By Stefan and Sebastien from Nomadic Boys
One of our favourite Greek dishes is keftethakia or keftethes (“kεφτεδάκια” in Greek). These are Greek fried meat balls, usually made from minced pork. The mixture is pre marinated with parsley, mint, oregano, bread, potatoes, cinnamon and sometimes a splash of ouzo.
For Stefan, this is comfort food – his mother would do a delicious fry up which would make the house smell of freshly made keftethes, which were delicious.
Keftethes are popular throughout Greece and also in Cyprus. In Turkey, a non-pork equivalent is made called kefte, usually from beef or lamb. Keftethes will usually form part of a large mezethes meal in a Greek restaurant (or tavern)– this is when you order many different small plates of Greek prizes, in similar style to Spanish tapas.
Keftethakia can also be eaten as a main dish, usually accompanied with Greek yoghurt of a tzatziki dip.
Our recipe for it is inspired by Stefan’s mother.
Makaronia Me Kima (Greek Pasta with Meat Sauce)
By Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World
One of the nicest dishes to try in Greece is Makaronia Me Kima, which literally translates as “pasta with meat.” It’s the Greek version of Italian tagliatelle al ragù, and though it is much much simpler (there’s less ingredients, and the preparation is much quicker), it is equally tasty. The main ingredients are good minced meat; excellent quality olive oil; fresh chopped onions and good quality tomato sauce. These simmer slowly, and a bunch of herbs and spices are added. Makaronia Me Kima is typically served with grated Kefalotyri cheese.
Marathopites (Syros Fennel Pie)
By Elizabeth and Mark Rudd from Compass & Fork
In Greece, they love wild greens or horta, as they are called in Greek. When we traveled to Syros, the capital of the Cyclades Islands, we discovered one of their island specialties was fennel pie, or marathopites. Made with dough, fennel leaves (using the leafy portion of the vegetable, the greens growing above the fennel bulb), and some spices added, it makes a tasty lunch or starter for dinner.
Fennel pie was a common item on menus in Syros and while Syros, claims this as a native dish, and they are very proud of it, we did also see fennel pie on menus in Crete as well (another place that loves wild greens!).
A great place to try fennel pie in Syros is in the lively outdoor courtyard dining area of Stin Ithaki tou Ai (Address: Klonos St. & 1 Kyparissou Stefanou St.) a traditional Greek taverna.
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By Natalia Shipkova from My Trip Hack
Feta cheese, olives, pitas, vegetables – the mix of these ingredients form yummy dishes of the national cuisine. I couldn’t help but fell in love with the Moussaka.
Moussaka is a layered casserole made, as a rule, of potatoes, eggplant, meat, several types of cheese, vegetables. I’ve tried it in both continental Greece and in the island of Rhodes. Depending on the area you visit, you will experience a different taste and serving of this dish. In the hill areas I’ve tried a home-made moussaka in earthenware made in the stove, while in more popular beach destinations, they decorate it nicely and serve in the plates.
In addition to Greece, Moussaka is a popular dish in the whole Balkan area and some countries in the Middle East.
Psari sta Karvouna (Grilled whole fish)
By Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten from Travel By A Sherrie Affair
Being a Pescatarian I have no worries when I travel to island destinations, because I know there will be seafood! Greece was no exception. In Greece they cook pretty much all of their fish whole. So yes, you will have a plate served to you with a head and tail on it. But that’s what makes it so delicious!
We traveled to Athens, Santorini and Crete, so we sampled many kinds of fish. A typical Greek restaurant will let you know what fish they have for the day. Fresh fish, not frozen. You may have a selection that includes Lavraki (Greek Sea Bass), Bogue and Frangri (types of sea bream) or Pike. All are common and caught regularly. Sinagrida is the King of fish, more expensive but so good. Mourmoura is a Striped Sea bream fish very tasty but it can be difficult to get.
The fish is grilled, skin and all with Greek’s famous seasoning and olive oil (greener and more flavoursome than anywhere in the world!). It is presented to you in its full body (hehe). Yes, some people are a little taken back with a whole fish on their plate. No worries, if you do not know how to debone a fish, they will do it for you. I like to do it myself and work on my technique.
Regardless, of who debones your fish, please still be careful, you don’t want to choke on a bone! Finally, it’s time for the taste. Heaven, yes that’s how I describe the fish in Greece. Delicious!
Saganaki (Fried Cheese)
By Alison Roberts-Tse from Up&AtEm Travel
Cheese lovers, rejoice! In addition to delicious crumbly feta, which often tops crisp vegetables on Greek salads, the Greeks also eat another cheese as an appetizer: saganaki.
I first encountered saganaki, which is a fried cheese, in Santorini. However, I immediately became hooked and sampled it around the entire island – from Pyrgos to Oia. The actual cheese, which is coated in flour before frying, varies by region; but the hard graviera and kefalograviera cheeses are most common. Halloumi is the saganaki cheese of choice in Cyprus.
The warm cheese arrives at the table with an irresistibly crispy, crunchy crust and a gooey middle. To eat, squeeze juice from the lemon wedge on top, because the acidity of the lemon juice really elevates the dish. It’s important to eat cheese saganaki quickly, since the cheese becomes harder and chewier as it cools off. So be prepared to tuck in and down this delicious appetizer quickly!
By Margherita Ragg from The Crowded Planet
Souvlaki is probably Greece’s best-known street food, at a close par with gyros. The word souvla means stick in Greek, and souvlaki basically is ‘meat on a stick’ – cubes of either pork, lamb, beef or chicken marinated on a stick then cooked on charcoal.
You can have souvlaki as is, straight on the stick, wrapped in pita bread with tzatziki on top or on a plate – or even all three, if you like! There are literally thousands of souvlaki spots all over Greece – my favourite secret spot in Athens for a souvlaki is Kostas in Platia Agias Eirinis, which is very popular with locals for its yummy pork souvlaki. I say ‘secret’ because it’s hard to find. My advice – look for the queue or ask around!
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
By Lavina DSouza from Continent Hop
Spanakopita is another vegetarian dish, easily found across Greece that’s hearty and comforting. Versatile either as an appetizer or as a main, Spanakopita or Spinach pie, consists of spinach, feta cheese, lots of onions and herbs with egg added to it and encompassed in filo pastry.
Spanakopita is also traditionally had during lent, and eggs are not used when so. Many locals sometimes replace the spinach with chard. A rustic homemade dish, Spanakopita is all about highlighting the flavour of spinach and keeping it simple.
What I love about Spanakopita is the crunch of the pastry and creamy filling when you bite into it. The cheese melts in your mouth, and a few pieces are enough to make you feel happy and fed! You can also taste the flavour of olive oil in the stuffing.
Spanakopita is mostly served with a helping of chick-pea salad but any salad works!
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Thalassina Sta Karvouna (Grilled Seafood Platter)
By David Angel from Travel with Little One
Our last European trip before we left the UK for Australia was to Corfu, our last taste of the Mediterranean before moving 10,000 miles away. We stayed in the resort of Benitses on the east coast of the island, in a hotel less than 100 metres from the beach, with a restaurant and a taverna right on the shore. The food was so good at both that we didn’t need to venture further all week.
One of the two restaurants had an open terrace, with a panoramic view across the water to the mountains of Epirus and Albania. One of the dishes we became hooked on was the grilled seafood platter, which in Greek is thalassina sta karvouna.
We’ve had variants of this elsewhere in Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, and each region has its own twists and tweaks. All of our dish was caught locally, along the east coast of Corfu, and included sardines, cuttlefish, prawns, mussels and marinated octopus, served on a bed of salad, with a dash of garlic and oregano, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and dill with lemon to squeeze over the top.
The dish was slightly different (but just as good) the second time we ordered it, the owner telling us that it all depended on what catch came in each day.
Is there a Greek dish that you love and is missing in this list?
Let me know in the comments!