Greek food is famous for being incredibly healthy. It is based on simple yet flavorful ingredients such as honey, yoghurt, wheat, fish, meat and vegetables. One of the most common ingredients in use since ancient times is olive oil. Though honey, herbs, and vegetables are also widely used.
From the Roman invasion of Greece in 146 BC, Greek cuisine has been influenced by other cultures. In the following decades, Turkish, Venetian, Slav and also English influence mingled with traditional Greek food to create delicious and unique dishes. Here are some dishes of authentic Greek food you have to try.
This delicious dessert (more popularly known as Turkish Delight) is a confection made from starch and sugar and commonly flavoured with rosewater and bergamot, though you also get fruit and mastic-flavoured versions. Loukoumi is usually an accompaniment to coffee and is famously produced in the city of Patras, where it’s called Patrina loukoumia, but elsewhere as well.
This baked Greek dish is one of the most famous. Moussaka is made with layers of fried eggplant, minced meat, potatoes, pureed tomato, and onion. It is covered with a creamy and cheesy béchamel sauce. Baked until golden brown, versions of this dish can also be found in Turkey and the Middle East. Vegetarians can opt for a meatless version.
3Horiatiki Salata (Greek Salad)
The traditional Greek salad is both healthy and delicious. While there are many variations, it usually does not use lettuce. Instead, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and bell peppers are mixed with olives and hot peppers. It is seasoned with salt, oregano, olive oil and crumbled feta cheese.
This egg-shaped Greek dessert is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. They are usually made around Christmas and are prepared with flour, olive oil, and honey. Orange zest, ground walnuts, cognac, and cinnamon can also be added before it is baked and covered in a sweet syrup and more walnuts.
Also known as koukouvagia, this Cretan salad consisting of a slice of dried bread or barley rusk (paximadi) soaked, and topped chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta or mizithra cheese, as well as olives. It is then flavoured with herbs.
6Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
Authentic Greek food is full of pies made with filo (or phyllo) pastry. The most common is the spinach filled spanakopita. In addition to spinach, the flaky pastry is stuffed with feta cheese and dill. It is usually eaten as a snack or an appetizer.
Baklava is one of the most popular Greek desserts. It is also found across Turkey and the Middle East. This pastry is layered with crushed nuts before being soaked in a honey-like syrup. In different parts of Greece, different nuts are used. In central Greece baklava is filled with almonds; in the east with walnuts, and in northern Greece with pistachios.
8Fasolada (Bean Soup)
This healthy white bean soup is filled with vegetables, olive oil, herbs and of course the nutrition-rich dry white beans. It is a signature food in almost all Greek houses and is even called the “national food of the Greeks”. Sometimes also called fasolia, it has its origins in Ancient Greece and variations can be found in Turkey (kuru fasulye), the Middle East (fasoulia), Italy (fagiolata), Spain (fabada) and Romania (fasole).
This typical Greek country dish is vegetarian spinach and rice pilaf cooked with dill, cumin, salt, black pepper, red wine vinegar, onion, and olive oil. It is often served topped with a fried egg and accompanied by with feta cheese and lemon.
This delicious sweet pie is made with semolina custard and filo pastry. It is often had for breakfast, and it can also be filled with cheese or meat. The sweet version is lightly dusted with sugar and cinnamon. It is quite similar to the galaktoboureko. This is also a custard wrapped in filo, though it is additionally soaked in lemon juice.
11Taramasalata (Fish Roe Dip)
Greek dishes are often incomplete without delicious dips. While tzatziki and hummus are well known, there are many others. Taramasalata is a creamy savoury dip made with fish roe, bread, olive oil, and onions. Lemon juice is added to make it tangy. Another delicious dip is melitzanosalata. It is made with red onion, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs. Both are served with bread.
Named for the frying pan in which it is prepared, Saganaki is an appetiser of fried yellow cheese (usually graviera, though it may also be halloumi, kasseri or kefalotyri). The cheese is melted in a pan until it is bubbling and generally served with lemon juice and pepper and eaten with bread.
These bite-sized balls of fried dough are a beloved Greek treat. A bit like a doughnut, they are crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. They are dipped in honey syrup and sprinkled with various toppings such as crushed walnuts or cinnamon.
14Tomatokeftedes (Tomato Fritters)
This dish consists of fried tomato fritters and is especially popular in the Cyclades. Crushed or pureed tomatoes are kneaded into a dough with flour, spices, parsley, onion, and mint. They are then fried in olive oil and served with fava (split-pea purée) as an appetizer.
Dolmades is a healthy appetizer made with grape leaves stuffed with spices, rice, and herbs. The bite-sized leafy packets are then steamed. They can also be filled with meat.
This popular Greek dessert is a pastry resembles shredded wheat that is filled with nuts. The rolled up pastry is baked and then soaked in sweet syrup. Its threadlike strands are delicious but quite messy to eat.
17Gyro and Souvlaki
This kebab like Greek sandwich is popular all over the world. The meat is roasted on turning vertical spits (gyro). Slices are served in a pita with salad, onions and a variety of sauces. The equally popular souvlaki (pictured)is quite similar. It consists of skewers of meat served with tzatziki, pita bread, salad or rice.
This dried pork sausage dates back to Hellenistic and Roman times. Loukaniko is usually flavoured with orange peel, fennel seed, along with other dried herbs and seeds, or even greens such as leeks, and may be smoked over aromatic woods. It is served sliced and fried as a mezze, with saganaki, and can also be cooked into other dishes.
These sesame seed candies can be found throughout Greece and Cyprus. They are made of sesame seeds and sugar or honey pressed into a bar that may also include other nuts. A version made with powdered blanched almonds is known as amygdalotá, and are considered wedding and baptismal treats.
Giouvetsi consists of chicken, lamb or veal baked in a clay pot with kritharaki (also known as orzo, a rice-like pasta), spiced tomato sauce, onions, garlic, and red wine. It is mildly spiced with allspice, cinnamon, cloves or bay leaves.
21Kakavia & Psarosoupa
Kakavia is a Greek fish soup dating back to ancient times, whose name comes from the kakavi tripod cooking pot used by ancient Ionian fishermen, and is thus associated with fishing villages. It is made with a flexible variety of fish (traditionally the smallest fish caught by fishermen), flavoured with olive oil, onions, saffron, and sometimes, tomatoes. It is similar to other Mediterranean fish stews, like the French bouillabaisse, Italian cacciucco, Spanish zarzuela, and Portuguese caldeirada.
A similar dish is Psarosoupa, which is also a fish soup, though it also includes vegetables like carrots, parsley, celery, and potatoes.
This Greek cake is made primarily with walnuts, soaked in a sweet syrup. There are several variations with lots of different flavourings such as, orange zest, cloves, spiced rum or cognac.
Greece is also known for its wide variety of cheeses, and while some are highly localized, a few well-known cheeses are the crumbly white Feta (pictured), usually made from sheep’s milk; Graviera, a slightly sweet hard cheese; semi-hard Halloumi, that is often fried or grilled; and other cheeses like the pale-yellow Kasseri, ricotta-like Mizithra, hard and pungent Formaela, and the salty Kefalotyri.
The perfect Greek dish is completed with Greek wine. Dating back over 6,500 years, Greece is home to the oldest known grape wine remnants in the world. Try the traditional Retsina, a dry white wine with lumps of resin; Limnio an ancient red wine, and dessert wines such as Mavrodafni, a sweet fortified wine made from black grapes.
If wine isn’t your thing, there are many other traditional Greek alcoholic beverages you can try, such as the anise-flavoured Ouzo (pictured); Tsipouro, a strong pomace brandy; Kitron, a citrus flavoured liqueur from Naxos; Tentura, a cinnamon flavoured liqueur from Patras, and Chios Masticha, a liqueur flavoured with mastic oil. Also try Rakomelo, a digestive drink made by mixing tsipouro and raki (another type of grape pomace brandy), which is then flavoured with honey and several spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, and drunk warm.
Thanks to one of the oldest culinary traditions, Greek foods have everything from meat, fish, vegetable and of course the cheese. The never-ending choices of Greek food can satiate both those who love sweet and savoury foods.