The Greek cuisine is without any doubt one of the tastiest in the world! As with other cuisines of the Mediterranean, like Italy, Spain and Turkey, Greece is blessed with a wide range of basic ingredients that flourish in its perfect Mediterranean climate soils. The main of all those ingredients, which is found in all Greek food is the olive oil, which is as basic as water to the Greeks. Then there are the fresh fruits, greens, vegetables and legumes that are produced in Greece along with other “natural gourmet foods” like honey, peppers, nuts, herbs, saffron, masticha that also make Greek cuisine so wide and diverse. Blessed with sea and plains, the Greek cuisine also includes a wide variety of seafood, meat and dairy products.
It would take a whole book to describe all the Greek foods and delicacies, so instead, we have created a list of the best and most popular Greek dishes.
A guide to the most popular Greek dishes
Traditional Greek Pies
Greek pastries are an old-time classic, much-loved dish. It can be consumed any time of the day, as a breakfast meal, appetizer for a lunch meal, a snack, or a “light” dinner. This dish had helped Greek families to survive during times of war and pandemics when food was scarce, as these pies require just a few basic ingredients. Traditional Greek pies are made with layers of phyllo, a very thin dough made solely by flour and water. The fillings are what make each pie different- cheese pie, spinach pie, chicken pie among other hundreds of different recipes.
Every Greek Region owns a special recipe, their own pita. The most famous region for Greek pies is the northwestern mountainous region of Epirus.
The most classic pita from all the pitas is the Tiropita, cheese pie, filled with Greek Feta cheese, which is made from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.
Also a cheese pie, Kaseropita is filled with Kasseri cheese, which is an unpasteurized yellow cheese from 100% sheep’s milk, medium to hard, and has a stringy texture. This pie is slightly more oily and buttery than the regular cheese pie made with feta cheese.
Spanakopita is a pie filled with spinach and other herbs. This is another beloved pie which is consumed a lot by Greeks as a side dish during their lunch meals. Some people also add feta cheese to the pie, which is then called Spanakotiropita.
A Greek sausage pie is perhaps the only one that can not be baked in a pan, as it has the shape of a flute, because of the sausage of course! The traditional loukanikopita is filled only with pork’s sausage, but there are variations that also add tomato sauce or cheese to the filling.
Kreatopita, is the Greek version of a meat pie. A warm luscious meat-filled phyllo pie is one of the most beloved and popular dishes in the area of Epirus. The traditional recipe includes three different ground meats, Greek cheese, and warm spices.
Bougatsa is a staple dish of Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki. It is a breakfast pastry made of phyllo filled with either semolina, custard, cheese, or minced meat.
There is absolutely no way you will visit a Greek Taverna and not try some of the delicious traditional Greek dips. In Greek culture, dips are served either as a bread spread – which Greeks eat a lot of – or to accompany main dishes, or to be eaten as appetizers. Except for the famous tzatziki there are many more Greek dips you should try.
Tzatziki dip is perhaps the most famous Greek dip of all, as it is used in the all-time favorite Greek food … Souvlaki! The traditional dip is made of sheep full-fat strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, crushed garlic, mixed with olive oil, salt, and a pinch of lemon juice or vinegar. There are a few variations to this simple recipe, as some might add oregano, grounded pepper, or another kind of herbs for variation.
Fava dip is made of yellow split peas, also known as fava, which grow on the volcanic island of the Aegean, the beautiful Santorini. These beans are full of nutrients and can aid digestion and lower cholesterol levels. The soft dip which is consumed as an appetizer is made from fava beans crushed to create a paste, onions, garlic, olive oil, a drizzle of lemon juice and topped with capers.
On the island of Santorini, you can ask for fava pandremeni, which is topped and mixed with fresh grilled eggplant.
Melitzanosalata (Eggplant Salad)
Although translated Melitzanosalata means “eggplant salad”, this is another delicious traditional Greek dip. Simple and delicious like any other Greek dip, melitzanosalata consists of crushed eggplants, which have been cooked before, onions, garlic, olive oil, a drizzle of olive oil and topped with thyme. It can be consumed on its own, in a meze platter, spread on bread, or to accompany a meat dish.
Spread some taramosalata in Greek- on pita bread and you have the best meze for your ouzo drink! This dip is made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of either codfish, carp, or grey mullet. This lightly smoked dip consists of the crushed roe, mixed with breadcrumbs, onions, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. On the northeast of the country, instead of breadcrumbs, some people used crushed almonds as the base of the dip.
More a puree rather than a dip, Skordalia typically accompanies fried bakaliaro (cod) and together they create a dish very popular one in Greece! Skordalia, which translates from Greek, means garlicky, which makes total sense, as this puree consists of a lot of garlic. The dip/puree main ingredients are soft-boiled potatoes, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. It can also be served with salads and as a dip to eat with bread.
Tiro= Cheese , Kafteri= Spicy. This spicy hot dip is made from feta cheese, roasted red peppers, spices, and occasionally garlic, depending on the region you will be eating it. Because feta is a hard cheese, in order to crush the cheese so it takes the form of a spread, a small amount of milk is added to the dip.
We can agree that pasta was created by Italians! However, Greeks also have created their version of pasta and pasta dishes that will make your mouth water. In Greece, people do not have pasta as a first dish, but mainly as their main meal.
Pastitsio or Pastichio, is a baked pasta dish, which although reminds of lasagna, it is not- and you should not call it a lasagna to Greek Chefs, it will not be appreciated. This dish is perhaps one of the most famous Greek dishes, as it is definitely one of the most delicious. The three layers of this dish include a traditional Greek pasta, which is like a very long penne, juicy minced beef sauteed with carrots and herbs, and a velvety bechamel sauce sprinkled with cheese on top to create a thin crunchy coat. All this is then placed in the oven where they are baked for 40 minutes before it is ready to be served.
Hilopites are a traditional Greek pasta made solely from flour, eggs, milk, and salt, which take the form of very small and thin squares, or in some regions long thin strips, very similar to the Italian Fettuccine. Hilopites are most commonly used in chicken soups or in oven-cooked chicken dishes. Alternatively, it can also be boiled, as a common pasta, served with olive oil and grated soft cheese. In some regions of Peloponnisos hilopites are called tutumakia and in Cyprus tumastia.
Kritharaki is the Greek version of the Italian short-cut pasta orzo. In Greece, kritharaki is made partly from white flour and from whole grain. The two most popular ways of consuming this Greek pasta is either in meat soups or baked in a casserole accompanying various types of meat coated on tomato and wine sauce.
Greek Bolognese: Makaronia me kima
Very classic Greek dish, you will find literally in any restaurant you go to when visiting Greece. The Greek version of Bolognese includes minced meat cooked in tomato sauce, diced carrots, spiced with herbs, a pinch of cinnamon, served on very thin spaghetti and the special touch is the grounded Greek soft cheese! Depending on the region, the cheese sprinkled on top could be either manouri, graviera or kefalotyri.
Soups are largely consumed by Greeks during the cold months and are also a rich source to get disease-fighting nutrients. A lot of Greek soups are made of legumes, others of various types of meats and fish as well!
Fakes, Lentil Soup
Lentil soup is on the top list of foods of a healthy Greek/Meditterean diet and Greek families consume this soup in winters and summers on a very regular basis. Lentils are slowly cooked with tomato puree or sauce, garlic, and onions and usually served with vinegar and olive oil.
Fasolada, White Bean Soup
Another very traditional and rich in iron and calcium Greek soup is a White Bean Soup. The white beans are soaked in water for a few hours before being cooked with tomatoes, carrots, onion, celery, herbs and olive oil and finally served as it is. It is not unusual for Greek tavernas to serve this soup during winters, but also in summer.
This soup of lamb offal and other lambs’ organs such as the lungs, heart, and spleen, is traditionally eaten in the early hours of Orthodox Easter Sunday, following the midnight service celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus. It is the meal with which Orthodox break the Lent Fast of 40 days before Easter. It is not an easy soup to prepare, therefore it is not very common for taverns and restaurants to serve this soup other than Easter time.
Kotosoupa, Chicken Soup
This soup sounds mainstream, but it is the special touches and Greek flavors that make it a Greek speciality. In a Greek chicken soup the key ingredients consist of chicken, vegetables like carrots, zucchini, onions and potatoes, a thin greek pasta called “fide” are boiled together and mixed with “avgolemono”, a carefully made sauce containing eggs and lemon. This soup is very popular during colder months and also Greeks will cook a kotosoupa when they are feeling ill, as it is a very healthy and full of nutrients meal.
This soup is made of tripe parts from either cow or sheep. A tripe is the edible lining from the stomach of farm animals. This soup is quite popular amongst Greece’s neighboring countries, as Macedonia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Albania. The Greek version of this soup is seasoned with red wine vinegar and garlic chunks and also uses calf feet along with the tripe. In older times in Greece, there were special taverns that would serve only Patsa Soup, the patsatzidika and most of them would work overnight and early day hours, as this soup is said to cure hang-over and aiding digestion. If you happen to be in Greece and are feeling a bit hungover from downing some ouzo the day before, ask your local guide where you could eat a patsas and see for yourself the miracles of this single soup!
Psarosoupa, Fish Soup
Another soup traditional to Greek cuisine is fish soup. This soup simply combines fish and vegetables which are slowly boiled before being served. The most commonly used fish to prepare this soup are mackerel, cod, turbot, haddock or carp, among other firm white-fleshed fish. Psarosoupa is the traditional dish that the Greek family and the closer acquaintances of a person who has passed away, will eat on the day of their funeral.
Vegetable Dishes – Ladera
Greece’s climate is perfect for producing legumes and vegetables, hence this is why the Greek traditional cuisine includes a wide array of dishes that are plant-based. Most of these dishes are called Ladera, which means oily, as the common and key component that makes all these foods extra delicious is the usage of olive oil. An interesting fact with most of the simple Greek dishes is that most of them were made up during difficult times for the nation, like in times of war, that food was scarce and Greeks had to feed their families from basic ingredients that were produced on the land. All of the dishes described below are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Anginares a la Polita
The name of this vegetable stew consisted of artichokes as a basis, derived from the dish’s origin city Constantinople, known as Istanbul today. A simple stew of artichokes and vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, peas, herbs, drizzled with lemon juice, is one of Greeks favorites dishes.
Briam is a very classic Greek dish and is basically a Greek vegetable roast. Typically it consists of tomatoes, sliced potatoes, eggplants, and zucchinis, seasons with olive oil, spices, and herbs. This simple, but very delicious dish can be enjoyed as an appetizer, a main course or it can also be an accompaniment for various meat dishes.
Spanakoryzo & Prasoryzo
These dishes are translated to spinach-rice and leek-rice. You could imagine this dish as risotto, but a Greek variation of it. The first contains spinach, while the second leeks, but the following process is the same. The main ingredient is sauteed with rice, tomato paste, olive oil, herbs, and loads of lemon juice to create a healthy full of nutrients and delicious dishes. These two dishes are enjoyed as the main course and can be accompanied by feta cheese.
Translated into little beans, this simple dish consists of green beans simmered in olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and potatoes, seasoned with fresh herbs. Different recipes also include other vegetables to this dish as onions, zucchinis, or carrots. Traditionally this dish is served as the main course dish, accompanied by feta cheese and bread, however, it can also be served as an appetizer to accompany other dishes.
Another Greek classic dish is the “Giants”. This dish bears together cooked white beans, fresh tomato sauce, herbs and olive oil, which are then baked in a pan. The name of the dish refers to the large size of the authentic Greek variety of beans, fasolia gigantes. This food can be served either as a main dish accompanied with feta cheese and bread or as a delicious appetizer.
The dish’s name Gemista is translated as stuffed. This is because the dish consists of vegetables, such as tomatoes, green peppers and eggplants, stuffed with rice and the vegetables’ inner parts, which are then baked in the oven. The basic dish is this, however, there are variations to the recipes, some including ground meat in the stuffing, others raisins or pines. This dish is more popular during summer, as it is when the vegetables are at the peak of the season.
Fried Kolokithakia & Melitzanes
Without a doubt, deep fried zucchini sticks and aubergine “fries” are the most simple and delicious plant-based appetizers you can find in any Greek restaurant. You can either eat it on its own with some salt or by dipping it into some yogurt dip.
Nothing is more refreshing than a fresh salad during the hot summer days. Greece produces an abundance of seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cabbage along with many delicious fruits. Greeks in general as a population consume a lot of salad and it is in their culture to always have salad with their main courses, either at their houses or at restaurants.
Horiatiki Salata, Greek Salad
The Greek Salad or Horiatiki Salad, which is translated into Villager salad, is the most traditional and popular salad, that everyone knows! Tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and sometimes green peppers are sliced and combined with olive oil, olives, feta cheese, and oregano, to create a deliciously refreshing salad. In any restaurant or taverna you visit, a Xoriatiki salad will always be a choice on the menu.
Cabbage and Carrot salad might sound like a very simple combination, but in Greece, this salad is very popular and is not uncommon for taverns and restaurants to have them on their menus. Cabbage season in Greece is during the summer months, July to October, therefore if you are visiting Greece anytime during summer and you are looking for some healthy food alternative, give this salad a try!
Xorta Vrasta, is translated into boiled leafy greens. This product is a staple in Greece and is considered a superfood, because of the various nutrients it contains. These leaves are hand-picked generally by the older people, who know how to “detect” them in nature. They are served with only olive oil, while some people also like to add vinegar to them.
Greeks love their meat as much as they love their vegetables and seafood. The most common meats consumed in Greece are beef, pork, lamb, chicken and rabbit, not necessarily in that order. Undoubtedly the best place where one could try the best meat in Greece is in small mountainous villages where the production is 100% natural. Greek cuisine has hundreds of meat dishes which would take more than 10 pages to list, therefore we created a list of our favorite meat dishes!
Gyro VS Souvlaki
The ultimate Greek dish, loved by everyone, “healthiest” and most delicious greek fast food, the Pita Gyros or Souvlaki. There is an ongoing debate for ages whether it is called Souvlaki or Gyros, but let us quickly clarify what the difference would be: Gyros is cooked as vertical cones of meat of pork or chicken and has a lot of fat in it. Souvlaki meat is cooked horizontally and the small chunks of meat go on skewers that are rotated on a grill. While in Athens ordering a souvlaki you can be referring to either a pita bread with gyros or with a skewer, in the north of the country, like Thessaloniki they will only serve you a single skewer if you order a souvlaki.
Either of them is wrapped in a delicious thick oily pita bread and filled with tzatziki sauce, or yogurt, tomatoes and onions. This is the original recipe. However, throughout the years’ fried chips were added to it and occasionally lettuce. It is up to you of course what you will want to add to your souvlaki. The dish can be consumed either as lunch, dinner, or even a midday snack. Greece has more Souvlaki shops than the world has Starbucks!
Keftedakia are small meatballs deep fried in flour or oven-baked as a healthier option. Either way, they are delicious and can be enjoyed as an appetizer or as a main course accompanied by fries or oven-baked potatoes and some tzatziki dip.
Moussaka is a three-layer oven casserole made of vegetables, ground meat and coated with bechamel. The most popular and common moussaka recipe consists of eggplant slices for the vegetable layer, however other recipes also call for potatoes or zucchinis. This is another very popular Greek dish which is also loved by many other countries around the world.
Kokkinisto- translated in English to “reddened”- itself is not a dish, but it refers to a family of meat stews with tomatoes. Very popular kokkinista (plural) dishes are: chicken kokkinisto and beef kokkinisto served with either spaghetti or oven-baked potatoes.
This dish is a very traditional food in Greece, however, it is not for everyone as it is a heavier and particular dish. This dish consists of lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal, including sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, or kidneys, and is typically grilled. This along with other Greek Meat dishes is a dish you will most probably find in meat taverns and restaurants and perhaps in Souvlaki shops.
Paidakia, Lamb Chops
Careful not to be misspelled with pedakia, which means little kids. Grilled Lamb Chops is a very popular food in Greece and the best place to find and have little lamb chops, this is the accurate translation, is in Greek meat taverns or in villages outside the urban cities.
Originated from Mountain Pelion, Spetzofai is a rustic spicy Greek dish made from country-style sausages, xoriatiko loukaniko, multicolored mild bell peppers, onions and eggplant, sauteed with red wine. This dish is very delicious, however, it is not suitable for those who can not tolerate spicy food as it is hot enough to make your eyes tear!
Similar enough to mousakas, papoutsakia, is a stuffed eggplant dish of the Greek cuisine.
The word “Papuc” is a Persian word, which means “shoe” or “slipper” and the “-akia” in the end of the word, makes the dish to be called “little shoes”. The eggplants are stuffed with ground meat, tomato puree, cheese, and a creamy bechamel sauce, which is then cooked in the oven, making a delicious dish that can be eaten either as an appetizer or as the main course.
Snails on tomato sauce is a very traditional dish and a specialty of Cretans. People from Crete say that snails are good for your stomach and to keep the youth on your face and skin! In mainland Athens or other islands, to find this dish is quite rare, as snails have to be fresh to be eaten, but if you are visiting Crete you must try Greek snails. Rumors have that they are better than the French ones!
It comes as no surprise that Greek cuisine includes a wide range of seafood and fish dishes since the country is surrounded by the sea. As with other Mediterranean countries the importance of fish in the Greek’s diet is crucial.
The Greek Dark Blue mussels is an extremely popular dish in Greece, mainly in fish restaurants of northern Greece. There are various ways mussels are cooked and served, either steamed in white wine and lemon juice, cooked in tomato sauce and feta cheese or served in seafood spaghetti. As with anywhere else in the world, you should always be cautious that the mussels are fresh, to avoid any stomach upsets.
Fried Squid – Kalamarakia tiganita!
There is no way you will visit Greece without trying fried squid. It is a very simple dish, fried squid covered in flour and loads of lemon juice. Fresh or not, you can’t go wrong with fried squid, which you can find in almost any traditional restaurant you visit, fish tavern or not. For a healthier alternative ask for grilled squid.
Lobster Spaghetti – Astakomakaronada
This summer dish might come a bit more pricey than any other Greek seafood dish, but trust us, Greek Lobster Spaghetti is a must-try dish. The spaghetti sauce is usually simply made of onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and a splash of white wine or ouzo, therefore combining a plethora of Greek tastes to your plate.
There is a rumor that Greek people compared to other nationalities, live a longer and healthier life, because of their healthy Meditterean diet. A good example is the high consumption of anchovies which are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids good for people who suffer from heart diseases and good for the memory. Anchovies is a very cheap fish, that’s why it is also a very popular appetizer dish. You can consume it either fried or brimmed in vinegar and olive oil.
Prepared in a two-handle heavy-bottomed frying pan, this Greek traditional recipe is another delicious dish on our list. Shrimps are sauteed with olive oil and deglazed with ouzo – yep the alcoholic strong anise drink! Then a slightly spicy tomato sauce accompanied by feta cheese and fresh herbs is poured in combination with the shrimps in a ceramic bowl and put in the oven to be warmed up before being served. As it is quite a filling and large dish, many would order this dish as the main one, however, shrimp saganaki is often suggested as an appetizer.
Fried Cod with Scordalia
Kind of like an English Fish & Chips, but not really, fried cod is a Greek speciality adored by Greeks. Because of the heavy deep frying and the very salty nature of this dish, this dish is quite a heavy one, therefore don’t get tricked by how delicious it is and eat too much of it! This battered fish is always served with skordalia, which is a thick puree made by potatoes and a bunch of garlic and dazzled with olive oil. (Another reason why you should go easy on this one!)
Last but not least on our list of the best seafood delicacies you MUST try when visiting Greece, is Octopus. In most parts of Greece taverns will most probably only prepare and cook the tentacles of the Octopus, as other parts of it are not always very safe, neither tasty to eat.
There are various ways you can try octopus, our favorite is an octopus salad! The Octopus is served cold – cooked of course- with plenty of olive oil, vinegar and oregano, accompanied with pepper cut in small pieces. Another delicious way of cooking octopus is grilled with plenty of lemon juice.
These popular dishes are found all over Greece. There may be some variations in the recipes, but the basics are all the same. While in Greece you can’t go wrong trying any of these.