35 Traditional Greek Foods You Must Eat in Greece
What to eat in Greece? What are the most Popular Greek Foods one must eat in Greece? Check our article and get ready to salivate!
During a holiday in Greece (including Santorini of course), not paying attention to food is a big mistake: the traditional Greek dishes are in fact part of a fantastic experience in the country and contribute to making Greece loved and chosen by an increasing number of tourists, attracted by the sea, by the beauty of the places and also by the food.
In this guide we take you to discover the most popular Greek foods to try during a holiday, to return home with an indelible memory of Greece.
Typical and Traditional Greek products
Popular Greek Foods are not hard to find during a trip to Greece.
Even if our mind automatically thinks fish is the number one food to try in Greece because of the sea everywhere, in reality things are a bit different: in fact the typical Greek dishes are a perfect mix of meat, vegetables and cheeses to which is added the fish on the islands.
As far as meat is concerned, pork, goat and lamb are the foods that are always present on the Greek tables (the lamb and ribs of Elassona have also been named as DOPs, Protected Designation of Origin) while for what concerns the fish, the blue one is predominant and especially sardines and octopus.
Vegetables play a fundamental role in Greek cuisine: tomatoes and cucumbers are always present at the table, along with aubergines, courgettes and potatoes. Cherries, figs, oranges and the sugary fruit typical of the Mediterranean is the main character on the Greek tables almost all the year.
Special mention for the Greek yogurt, internationally renowned, and for a particularly interesting dairy production.
Among the other Greek DOP cheeses we find the Grevena Fresh Anevato, the Peppered Kopanisti and the Mykonos Ladotiri, the creamy Manouri and the Metsovo smoked Metsovone, the Thessalian Batsos, the Pichtogalo and the Xinomyzithra of Chania, the San Micheli similar with Syros Parmesan, the Sphere of Lakonia, the Formella of Arahova, the Katiki of Domokos and the feta. Do not forget the Graviera of Naxos, Crete and Agrafa.
Everything about Greek olive oil
Do not miss the olive oil: in Greece the oil is, together with the wine, a fundamental element of the kitchen and it is no coincidence that Greece is the third producing country and the first consumer country of olive oil in the European Union.
That’s why olive oil is one of the many Popular Greek Foods you have to try in Greece: just grab a slice of bread and add a splash of oil to be happy!
The Greek extra virgin olive oil contains very high concentrations of oleocanthal and oleacein, polyphenols that are good for health and since it is produced in areas with ideal climatic conditions for the growth and maturation of the olives is also a very strong oil with flavor and never acid .
The best olive oils are those of Crete (the areas of Chania-Kolymbari and Sitia) and of the Peloponnese (Lakonia, Messinia and Argolide).
Olives are always present on the Greek tables in the various variants, namely Kalamata, Amfissa, Arta, Rovies, Stylida, Thasos, Chios, Rethymno, Pelion and Chalkidiki.
Typical Greek wine
Wine is of particular importance for Greece also at the historical level: in fact the nectar of the gods has always been associated with the idea of pleasure and it is no coincidence that in Ancient Greece it was also offered as a gift to the gods, as a sign of gratitude.
Today Greece produces both fruity and soft wines and more full-bodied wines and some wines have been assigned the Protected Designation of Origin, including: Zitsa, Mantineia, Mavrodafne of Kefalonia and Patras, Santorini, Malvasia of Monemvasia, Moschato of Limnos, Naoussa , Nemea, Paros, Rapsani, Robola.
In the areas of Drama, Imathia, Kilkis, Florina and Rhodopi a very full-bodied red wine and a very aromatic white are produced while the Peloponnese is famous for the reds of Nemea and the whites of Mantineia; produced in Epirus is the Zitsas, Santorini is the home of Assyrtiko, while in Limnos and Samos is the Moschato.
If you want to try Popular Greek Foods and Drinks, do not miss the retsina, the classic wine and still produced with traditional ancient methods that is produced in the areas of Mesogeia in Attica, in Boeotia and in the area of Evia; pine resin is added to Savvatiano type grapes and this determines its organoleptic characteristics.
Spirits and alcoholic beverages in Greece
As for the liqueurs, Greece goes from the tsipouro to the ouzo, passing through the raki without forgetting the masticha.
The ouzo is considered the Greek beverage par excellence and is produced by distilling the alcohol or mixing it with aromatic herbs and especially with the anise that during the maceration process helps to determine the whitish color of the ouzo.
Raki, the typical Crete liqueur, is prepared using grapes not suitable for wines that are distilled; the raki is served cold and is not flavored unlike the tsipouro which is prepared following the same method but adding natural aromas, especially anise.
Masticha is typical of Chios and is prepared by adding chews to the distillate; the mastic is obtained from the bark of the trees and releases a truly unique aroma, difficult to predict but unique.
Alfa and Mithos are the two national beers but these are flanked by many local craft beers, for example the Crazy Donkey from Santorini.
Popular Greek Foods You Must Eat in Greece
Here is a selection of typical Greek dishes to try during a holiday in Greece.
The classic yogurt-based sauce mixed with fresh cucumber, olive oil and other aromas is always present and is served with pita bread or classic bread. Unmissable.
One of the symbolic dishes of Greece, the moussaka is prepared by alternating aubergines, potatoes, minced meat, very creamy béchamel and cheese. The result is a rich and tasty dish.
Recipe > Moussaka (in Italian)
The simplicity of these meat skewers and their goodness represents the spirit of the Greek people and of the country. Souvlaki is prepared with pork, chicken or even lamb and is found everywhere.
A fairly high flatbread, the pita, filled with lamb, chicken or pork (or the mix of everything) with the addition of tzatziki, tomatoes, onions and fries. The street food par excellence in Greece.
On the islands, tasting the grilled octopus is imperative. Traditionally the octopus is left to dry in the sun after being fished before being grilled with salt and oregano.
A sweet moussaka, prepared alternating layers of puff pastry and custard: sweet, rich and creamy, it is perfect as a dessert or as a snack.
Fillo dough alternating with layers of honey and dried fruit: baklava needs no presentation, it must only be tasted in all its richness and goodness.
Fillo dough cut into very thin strands rolled around a filling of honey and nuts and soaked in syrup.
In Santorini, a taste of the famous sardines that are grilled and served with a little salt and oregano is a must. They can also be fried.
Horiatiki – Greek Salad
The Greek salad, famous throughout the world, in Greece is really a must and does not contain … green salad. In fact, it is prepared only with cucumbers, olives, feta, onions and tomatoes: the best of simple Greek cuisine.
The quintessence of goodness: Greek cheese, often feta, fried in a batter based on egg and flour which contributes to the formation of a golden crust.
Recipe > Saganaki greco
Kolokythokeftedes, Revythokeftedes, Domatokeftedes
Vegetable fritters are part of the appetizers but are usually served in large portions. The Kolokythokeftedes are zucchini fritters, the Revythokeftedes are chickpea pancakes and finally the Domatokeftedes are the classic Santorini tomato fritters.
A rustic cake with spinach: the base is a paste that reminds both the dough and the pizza dough and which is stuffed with cooked and flavored spinach.
Vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice or minced meat.
Recipe > Greek Dolmades
The Greek version of Italian pasta pie, it is prepared using the same creamy bechamel used in the moussaka. It is usually prepared with round pasta.
Rabbit, beef or lamb stewed in the oven and flavored with onions and tomato.
Taramasalata and Melitzanosalata
Together with the tzaziki, the taramasalata and the melitzanosalata are always present together with the pita. The taramasalata is a creamy and delicate cod roe sauce. Melitzanosalata is a cream made from eggplant with garlic, oil, salt, mint and spices.
Yellow pea cream typical of the Cycladic islands but available almost everywhere.
Zucchini balls with feta and mint: a really tasty side dish or appetizer, to be accompanied with tzaziki for a special result.
A simple and delicious dessert prepared with oil, semolina, sugar and water. The result is a really tasty gelatin-like brick with an unmistakable taste.
Recipe > Halva
The donuts that are traditionally eaten on the street. The traditional koulouri in Greece is a thin and round bread covered with sesame seeds. The Greeks eat koulouru for breakfast with Greek coffee.
Greek coffee: much more than just coffee
Greece means coffee, exactly like Turkey. The classic is prepared in the brikki, a copper container where the water is boiled together with the coffee powder; once ready, drink the liquid on the surface. Very typical is the milkshake which is nothing but freeze-dried coffee shaken with ice and sugar on request. The “cold cappuccino” and the “cold coffee” where ice is added but the mix is not shaken are also part of the same family.
Greek habits at the dinner table
Because of the climate and lifestyle in Greece, as in Spain, we tend to eat very late: during summer dinner can start even at 10pm and even in winter people usually never dine before 9pm. It is therefore not abnormal find restaurants and taverns closed before this time.
One of the most interesting peculiarities is the absence of division between the various courses: in the vast majority of cases, in fact, all courses and foods are served together, precisely in compliance with the spirit of sharing food that distinguishes the Greek food and wine culture.
And it is precisely from the point of view of sharing that people usually order dishes that can be shared.
Restaurants in Greece
Just as it is almost impossible to use the definition of Greek cuisine tour court, since the assortment is so much and depends on the area in the same way the assortment is vast when it comes to restaurants. There are generally four types of places to eat:
- Taberna (Diner)
- Psarotaverna (Fish Restaurant )
- Estiatorio (Restaurant)
- Psistaria (Fast food)
In smaller countries or in less touristy areas of the big cities there are still Kafenion, small local bars where men used to meet for drinking and playing cards.
In the case of places to eat in Greece there is only one rule: beware of excessively organized places because in most cases they are real tourist traps where the bill is too salty and the quality is really low. You can find popular Greek foods pretty much everywhere, but if you focus on being local your taste buds will be definitely much happy.
Our extra tip: always ask the locals. The Greeks are open and friendly and not only do they answer but they are generous with information, especially with regards to food.
Basic Greek Words for Food and Travel
To make the travel experience in Greece even more interesting, here are some words to learn for when you’re at the restaurant, want to order or want to thank:
- Gia Sas: Cheers!
- Kali Orexi: Enjoy your meal
- Ya Sou: Hello and goodbye (for one person)
- Ya Sas: Hello and goodbye (for more than one person)
- Efharistò: Thank you
- Kalimera: Good morning
- Kalinichta: Good night
- Malista: Yes
- Oxi: No
- Entaxi: Ok
- Parakalò: Excuse me
Eating in Greece: conclusions
Eating in Greece is not only a pleasure but also an extremely rewarding experience: if you know how to choose the place to stop, the typical Greek foods are rich, tasty and 100% satisfying. Moreover, the proverbial Greek welcoming and attitude can really make the difference. This list with the Popular Greek Foods is just the starting point of your food adventure to Greece, where it’s not hard to be amazed by the variety of the food!