This Mediterranean island is well known for many things, including its stunning beauty, delicious sweet dessert wine, and its diverse history. If you’re planning on visiting Cyprus, you will thoroughly enjoy indulging in Cypriot foods during your trip.
With its naturally warm climate and influences from Mediterranean countries, the food is as diverse as it is delicious. Traditional Cypriot food is quite heavy on meat, especially lamb. Still, there are always plenty of vegetarian options on the island.
Most Famous Food In Cyprus
If Cyprus was famous for one thing, and one thing only, it would be this – Halloumi Cheese. Enjoyed in many countries, not just in Cyprus, the popularity of Halloumi is growing rapidly. This white, semi-firm, and slightly salty cheese is very versatile.
Among many things, this cheese can be offered as a snack, part of a salad, cooked with pasta, and used as stuffing. If you have yet to taste Halloumi, give it a try when you arrive in Cyprus. You will understand why it is so popular. We’re sure you’ll be eating this tasty cheese every day if you could.
Meze In Cypriot Foods
Meze, basically ‘small dishes’, is extremely popular throughout the Mediterranean and especially in Cyprus. These Cypriot foods are just a few of the popular dishes that will be found in a Cyprus meze. They are great alongside some pitta bread, a glass of wine, or Ouzo.
Meze is an excellent way of trying a wide variety of dishes. It is also a perfect option if you just can’t make up your mind on what to choose from the delicious range of Cypriot food.
Taramosalata (Smoky Roe Spread)
Depending on the type of fish roe (caviar) used, this dip will either be a light pink or more traditional white in color. In addition to fish roe, Taramosalata is made with Tarama, a type of mayonnaise without eggs.
Other ingredients include bread or potatoes, olive oil and lemon juice. Taramosalata is a creamy and tasty dip without being overly fishy. It is a big hit in Greece, as well as Cyprus.
Pilafi Pourgouri (Bulgur Wheat)
Traditionally this simple and very healthy food of Cyprus is served as an accompaniment to many meat dishes as well as in meze. It comes cooked with bulgar wheat, tomato juice or puree, and onions; it’s a simple dish full of flavor.
Some variations can also include chopped macaroni, but it is just as fantastic on its own. If you are looking for a healthier option whilst abroad, this simple dish will fill you up. It is especially tasty with a salad or as a side to a meat dish. Pilaf Pourgouri is very versatile and also quite delicious when served with some plain yogurt.
Tzatziki (Yogurt Spread)
This Cypriot yogurt-based dip is perhaps the most well-known dip in Cypriot foods. It is made with a yogurt base, chopped cucumbers, and flavored with mint, olive oil, and garlic. This creates a very light dip with a lovely creamy texture and flavor. You will find that this dish is extremely common across Cyprus.
Tzatziki is a great accompaniment to a variety of bread, as well as Soulva and Sheftalies. Away from the major towns and cities of Cyprus, Tzatziki is also known by the more local term ‘Talatouri’ or ‘Tarator’. It is good to note in case the term Tzatziki isn’t recognized when you are exploring.
Koupepia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Whenever you order a meze in Cyprus, this will be a prominent feature. Its look may take you by surprise the first time you see it, but its flavors and fillings will have you reaching back for more.
In Cyprus cuisine, Koupepia is prepared with grape leaves and then stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, rice, spices, and onions. It is a little parcel of happiness and is commonly served in wineries across Cyprus. They are great with a glass of white wine, an excellent finish to a day in Cyprus as the sun goes down.
Tirokafteri (Cheesy Spicy Spread)
This is a Mediterranean import that the Cypriots have made popular, and it’s no surprise why. Also known as Ktipiti, its base ingredient is made from feta, along with some hot peppers, olive oil, garlic, and yogurt.
Tirokafteri is pretty spicy, so if you can’t handle spice, its kick may be too much. But if you love spicy food, this dip will blow your mind. Different variations can be found around the island, with each restaurant having its own take on this popular cheesy dip.
Koubes (Meat filled Croquettes)
This popular street food is excellent as a snack or as a part of a meze. Koubes are little ground meat bites full of spices and coated with a bulgur wheat shell. They taste even more fantastic when they have a squeeze of lemon juice drizzled over them; the zing of the lemon really helps to bring out the delicious spices.
If you have a craving for Koubes, you can easily find them in bakeries and supermarkets. They are quite unique visually, as they look like miniature torpedoes.
Soups In Cypriot Food
Cyprus may be more well known for their beaches, weather, and Halloumi. However, Cypriot soups are also a treat at any time of the year, not just in winter. Here are a couple of delicious soups you will regularly find in the restaurants. They have a special place as a popular food in Cyprus.
Trahana Soup (Ancient Wheat-Based Soup)
Amongst Cypriot foods and their soups, this is one of their popular additions. It is made from goat milk, wheat groats (dried wheat), lemon juice, and some spices. Trahana in its dried form will look like mini dried sausages; these are then covered with boiling water to make a soup.
To add to the flavor, stock and Halloumi will also be mixed in, as well as some yogurt. It’s a satisfying and delicious soup that is unique to Cyprus.
Gardiosupa (Seafood Soup)
This soup is a common sight in coastal restaurants around Cyprus and a must when visiting the coast. It is also known as Psarosoupa and is full of prawns; a great change from all the meat in traditional Cypriot food.
Gardiosupa is a fantastic soup, packed with a variety of vegetables. Some recipes blend it all together before adding the prawns, turning it into a creamier version. Either way, it is a beautiful seafood dish you may want to recreate when you’re home.
Mains and Street Foods of Cyprus
Cyprus cuisine has its fair share of great traditional mains. These hearty meals are great fillers and will satisfy any grumbling stomach. You may be familiar with some dishes from other cultures, but they also hold a special place amongst Cypriot foods.
Makaoronia Tou Fournou (Oven-baked Pasta)
If you have ever been to Greece, you may be familiar with this pasta. The Cypriots also call this dish Pastitsio and have adjusted this dish to use Halloumi as a replacement cheese. It is a delightful Mediterranean version of mac and cheese. Simply a blend of macaroni, minced meat, cheese, and tomatoes baked in the oven.
This Cypriot dish is a gooey cheesy delight, and it can be found in many places across Cyprus. If you are a fan of mac and cheese, try this version out, you will not be disappointed.
Louvi are also well known in other countries as black-eyed beans and are a staple of Cypriot foods. The dish will come cooked with a variety of vegetables, and it is a hearty little meal. Don’t be deceived when you initially order this on your travels as it can fill you up.
Since Louvi isn’t too heavy, it’s a great meal during the summer when temperatures hit regular highs. Perfect for when you want to grab something that will fill you up but not weigh you down. This dish will refuel you as you prepare to explore more of the island.
Klefitko (Roasted Lamb)
This is a very traditional food in Cyprus, which uses meat from the leg of a lamb. Some versions of this will also cook this dish with mutton.
Klefitko is marinated for up to 24 hours, with anything from red wine, bay leaves, lemon juice, cinnamon, garlic, and onion, all before being slow roasted for a few hours. The meat will fall off the bone and is often served with some potatoes.
Many street vendors and restaurants will serve this with slightly different variations of the marinade, but all will leave this dish smelling and tasting fantastic.
Souvlaki/Soulva (BBQ Meat)
Souvlaki is the Cypriot version of a barbeque, also known as Soulva, the latter being bigger cuts of the meat. This meat is slowly barbecued on a long skewer, using any meat from pork, chicken, beef or lamb; Souvlaki is popular around big occasions and in many restaurants across the island.
You are able to get vegetarian options that can come with mushrooms or Halloumi if you need a break from all the meat in traditional Cypriot food. Souvlaki is best enjoyed with salad or stuffed inside a pita bread with some tasty sauces.
Kolokasi (Taro Root Vegetable)
This root vegetable was initially grown in Southeast Asia but is now also grown in Cyprus and Greece. This vegetable is popular among Cyprus foods, especially in winter. However, it cannot be eaten in its raw form, as it is poisonous. Don’t let this dissuade you; it is a tasty vegetable once cooked and is similar to the sweet potato.
Kolokasi is regularly cooked in a stew, with tomatoes, herbs, and pork. Many recipes also swap out the pork for chicken. It will be hard to find this root vegetable outside of the Mediterranean, so if you find a stew or another dish containing Kolokasi, give it a try.
Moussaka (Eggplant layered with Meat and Potato)
A crossover dish from Greece and the Middle East, Moussaka is a staple of Cypriot food. If you’ve never had or seen Moussaka before, it is quite similar to Italian lasagne. However, instead of pasta sheets, the dish is layered with eggplant and potatoes instead.
The meat, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes are all layered up before baking in the oven until the bechamel sauce is golden on top. If you’re a fan of lasagne, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this Cypriot classic.
These meatballs are quite similar in appearance to kebab meat, but many will attest to them being more flavorsome. Sheftalies are prepared with minced pork or lamb, or a combination of both. They are mixed with some lovely spices such as cinnamon, onion, and parsley. The mixture is wrapped in a casing similar to a sausage before being grilled.
You can grab these meatballs in a pitta with plenty of salad and a variety of dips. They are also great on their own with some baked vegetables. Sheftalies are very popular at big celebrations and outdoor festivals, so pick up a portion when you get the chance.
Stifado (Beef Stew)
Its beautiful spice-filled smells will most likely hit you first when it arrives at your table. A traditional Cypriot food, this melt-in-the-mouth beef is the result of several hours of slow cooking.
Drenched with red wine, onions and tomatoes are thrown into the mix before it’s allowed to slowly bubble away; it’s a true comfort dish in Cyprus. It can come with orzo, small rice-shaped pasta, or bulgur wheat, depending on where you order this dish.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Desserts In Cypriot Foods
We can’t talk about traditional Cypriot food and not talk about desserts. Cypriot coffee shops and bakeries will sell a variety of cakes, pastries, and desserts. Here are a few to get your sweet tooth ready for your trip to Cyrpus.
Many desserts and sweets have had an influence from surrounding cultures, which we discuss more in-depth in our expanded list of Cypriot Desserts.
Shamali (Semolina Cake)
A tasty and popular dessert, Shamali is the Cypriot take on Basbousa, a traditional Middle Eastern cake. A key ingredient to this cake is matsoni, or mastic, a type of resin from the mastic tree, usually found in Greece.
It’s a very light and spongy cake, also made with semolina, butter, eggs, and sugar. Some restaurants and cafes also soak the cake in either lemon or orange syrup. It goes fantastic with a coffee on a sunny afternoon as a sweet treat.
Kataifi (Shredded Phyllo Nests)
This is a very popular crossover dessert in both Cyprus and Greece. Kataifi is made with very thin shredded pastry, rolled in sweet spices and nuts, and baked with a buttered dough before being drizzled with sugar syrup.
If that description doesn’t tempt you, we know you will be tempted when you see them in the flesh. They are a satisfying crispy treat with a delightful buttery sweetness. These are very moreish, so luckily enough, you will find this pastry all over the island.
Loukoumades (Balls of Honey Dough)
Commonly known as a honey donut throughout Cyprus and many other countries in the Middle East, these are a delightful twist on what you know to be a traditional donut back home. These little dough balls of honey goodness are available in many specialty coffee shops, stalls, and fairs.
Loukoumades will be deep fried in oil before being soaked in honey and served with a dusting of cinnamon, sesame seeds, or crushed nuts. They are very light and spongy. It is great when you have a freshly made serving, hot straight from the fryer. Who can blame you when you go back for more? This is an extremely common dessert in Cypriot food.
Enjoying Traditional Cypriot Foods Of Cyprus
The Cypriots have created some amazing dishes and as well as put their own twists on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. With some classics you may know of already; hopefully, this is an introduction to other delightful traditional food of Cyprus less known to the wider world.
Move away from the big tourist traps of restaurants and cafes, and find out where the locals are dining. Here you will find some truly authentic foods of Cyprus, for sometimes a fraction of the price. The Cypriot’s hospitality knows no bounds and this clearly shows in their cooking.
From their mouth-watering meze all the way through to their delicious desserts, there are numerous Cypriot foods that you will discover and love.