Greece is renowned for its vibrant flavors, fresh ingredients, and distinctive culinary traditions. And when it comes to Greek food, one of the most beloved aspects is the array of delicious appetizers, or meze, that are enjoyed throughout the country. From crispy fried calamari to tangy tzatziki dip, and from savory feta cheese pies to juicy stuffed grape leaves, Greek starters offer a tantalizing introduction to the country’s gastronomic scene.
Grab a glass of ouzo and get ready to embark on a culinary journey through Greece’s delicious meze culture!
What Makes Greek Appetizers And Starters Special?
The people in Greece have been growing olive trees for thousands of years. It’s hard to imagine Greek appetizers and food to be without them. Olive oil has always been inherently linked to Greek cuisine, creating beautiful taste palates and flavor contrasts in their savory food.
You’ll also find a lot of vegetable varieties and when meat is included in Greek appetizers and food, it is most often either lamb or seafood. The region surrounding the land of Greece has always been difficult to cultivate cattle and raise livestock, and thus, their food has evolved to get around this hurdle.
From street food to fine dining, let’s dive into the best Greek starters and appetizers!
The Most Famous Greek Appetizer
Greek Meze (Traditional Platter)
As one of the oldest examples of Greek appetizers, the Greek Meze platter has a big place in the hearts of Greek cuisine. Eating is a community activity in Greece, still to this day, and that is how this dish was founded.
This is essentially a platter of snackable traditional Greek food that is both visually pleasing and you can bet it tastes awesome too. There’s nothing like snacking away on these delightful small bites and chatting with your family and friends.
While there are usually standard items like olives, greek cheeses, and spreads, you can truly find an endless array of ingredients in these lovely Greek starters. From meat to vegetables to pastry dishes, it’s limited by your creativity and imagination only!
Delicious Meat-Based Greek Starters
Grilled calamari is one of the most popular Greek appetizers. Having so much coastal land in the country, seafood is an obvious choice. From fine restaurants to home grilled, calamari and other seafood dishes are much-loved across the country.
This popular Greek appetizer is served most often with a zesty lemon-infused sauce and other traditional seasonings. It all depends on where you order this lovely meal, as there are different traditional methods of preparation depending on the region in Greece.
When it comes to Greek appetizers, meatballs are almost certainly the most famous and much-loved choice. Juicy, soft on the inside, and crunchy on the outside, Greek meatballs are not just unique but taste outstanding.
Lamb, a favorite meat choice in Greece, is ground with numerous spices and herbs, like oregano, lemon juice, and other traditional flavors. The result is beyond your average meatballs, and makes for perfect Greek snacks!
Souvlaki (Chicken Skewers)
Souvlaki could be the oldest and most traditional choice of Greek appetizers and it’s hard to pinpoint how far back in history this food was made. It’s safe to say many thousands of years BC, and to this day souvlaki is a famous and much-loved Greek food.
Pieces of chicken are skewered onto kebabs and grilled to perfection, along with pieces of tomato sometimes. The marinade and sauce that is used for the chicken or lamb changes according to region, and is almost always served with other Greek sides and dishes.
Famous Vegetarian Greek Appetizers
Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
If you’re looking for delicious and authentic Greek appetizers, Spanakopita is the way to go! Nothing super fancy or complicated, but oh so delicious.
It’s a classic choice of Greek snacks that’s full of fresh spinach and cheese. The perfect pairing, along with a flaky pastry crust, makes it one of the most beloved appetizers in Greece. So if you’re looking for the perfect savory Greek starter, this dish is sure to hit the spot!
Saganaki (Greek Deep-Fried Cheese)
Saganaki is a fried cheese dish and one of the best Greek appetizers you can find. It originated in the late 60s, and since then, the popularity of saganaki has continued to grow.
You can make saganaki with any cheese, but the most popular types are Kasseri cheese and Graviera cheese. It is often served in the pan as a lovely choice of Greek starters with bread and other popular side dishes.
As one of the most classic Greek appetizers and famous dips, Tzatziki is composed of yogurt, minced cucumber, minced garlic, and minced olive oil. It is served in little pastry shells and is a refreshing and flavorful accompaniment to any Greek dish.
It is believed that Tzatziki originated in Persia (where it was also known as zhazha), but its evolving forms can be found in many countries today. The refreshing dip or spread is famous for its unique taste and versatility, which is why it is such a favorite choice of Greek starters!
Greek Puff Pastry With Kalamata Olives
The Greeks have mastered the art of puff pastries, and these out-of-this-world delights make for great appetizers.
The inside of the puff pastry can be filled with ingredients such as olives, feta cheese, and other classic ingredients. For those who want a light and well-balanced snack, these little pastries are the perfect choice.
The combination of flavors is not only phenomenal but also rich in antioxidants. So, if you’re looking for healthy Greek snacks, these little bites of joy are your hero.
Feta Dip Phyllo Cups
Phyllo cups aren’t just delightful Greek appetizers, they’re also incredibly cute to look at. As a popular choice of pastry, phyllo is of course included in these delicious little treats.
The dough cups are filled with a special mixture of ingredients, such as feta cheese, basil, chives, and tomato. The crumbly flakiness of the pastry and the filling make for mouth-watering Greek finger foods. It’s hard to not eat them all!
Kolokithokeftedes (Zucchini Balls)
Kolokithokeftedes are phenomenal examples of traditional Greek appetizers found across the country and the islands of Greece. The creative use of zucchini in these Greek snacks showcases the unique flavors and cuisine of the food in this region.
Both simple and delicious, the ingredients are fairly simple and include dough rolled with fillings of fresh feta cheese, grated zucchini, and often mint. What makes these Greek snacks so amazing are the crispy fried results of crunchy outsides and soft centers.
Typical Bread-Based Greek Appetizers
While bread is featured in almost all culinary cultures across the world, what makes Greek bread… Greek: is the outstanding and unique flavors and ingredients. These Greek appetizers taste as amazing as they look.
Bread slices are filled with traditional ingredients like olives, onions or chives, garlic, cheese (usually mozzarella), and often mushrooms. Once golden after baking, the soft cheese and crunchy bread are perfect Greek snacks that will change your idea of “grilled cheese”.
Greek Bruschetta With Feta Cheese
These lovely little Greek appetizers are a cross between Italian and Greek cuisine – two of the most internationally acclaimed. It’s a combination of bruschetta with feta cheese and olive oil. You can also add some chili if you’re a fan of heat!
If you’re looking for refreshing Greek appetizers that will rock your taste buds, then this is the dish for you. Just one bite and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of freshness and a rich flavor that contrasts beautifully.
Feta And Greek Yogurt Pita Appetizer
These are phenomenal Greek appetizers that bring together two of Greece’s greatest culinary contributions: feta and Greek yogurt. Imagine a soft, floury pita bread that is topped with a creamy mixture of feta cheese and yogurt.
Fresh mint and a dash of olive oil are added to the mix, then baked until it becomes a melty, fragrant slice of heaven. They also make for a lovely Greek breakfast choice!
Dakos (Greek Rusks)
Dakos is the name given to these magnificent Greek appetizers by the locals. It is made of barley rusks that have been soaked in water. It is usually served with chopped tomatoes and feta cheese and olive oil.
The rusks are made from barley flour or a mix of barley and whole wheat, and they’re usually made with sourdough to last a long time. That’s why they were the go-to bread when people didn’t have time to bake.
When it comes to Greek starters, these are delightful options to keep on the table.
Popular Salads For Greek Appetizers
While these Greek appetizers may not scream “exciting”, you’d be surprised how refreshing a Greek Salad is alongside platters of meat and other Greek sides and dishes. It’s also not surprising, as Greek cuisine and food culture have a great love for this salad.
You can expect fresh and soft feta, and olives (of course). Baby tomatoes, slices of cucumber, and occasionally other leafy greens top off these lovely little Greek snacks. For vegetarians, this is the best of both worlds!
Olive, Rosemary, And Garlic-Lemon Salad
These Greek appetizers feature some of the classic ingredients found in Greek food culture, like olives, lots of garlic, lemon zest, and rosemary. As an easy dish to prepare, you can be sure to find a bowl of this salad at gatherings and as a popular choice in restaurants.
When it comes to Greek snacks and side dishes, “the more the merrier” is the sentiment. Lots of vegetables and small Greek finger foods are displayed on a table and the colors and varieties are simply beautiful.
Popular Sauces And Dips In Greek Appetizers
Also known as Tapenade sauce, this is a common dish when it comes to Greek appetizers. It is an olive oil-based paste made from lots of garlic, anchovies, olives (of course), and other traditional herbs. Originating in Provence, France, tapenade is often translated as “olive spread”.
It’s usually served as a snack on a piece of bread or cracker, and you can also add a bit of feta cheese to it. You’ll often find these on the table of assortments at gatherings or included in the Meze as a popular choice of Greek starters.
Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Dip)
One of the most tantalizing and popular Greek appetizers, and food in general, is Tzatziki. You can find this savory and delicious sauce across the world in homes and restaurants: it’s that famous. Since the early 1600s and during the rule of the Ottomans, Tzatziki has been at the heart of Greek sides and snacks.
You can dip absolutely any food in this delightful dip, and it’s made from ingredients like Greek yogurt, fresh garlic and dill, lemon juice, and of course garlic. Each region of Greece may have a slight variation in its preparation, but one thing every province shares is a love for these Greek appetizers.
Taramasalata is a Greek meze and a long-lasting favorite among Greek appetizers. Because Greece has beautiful coasts and many islands within the country, seafood and fish feature prominently in the cuisine.
Taramasalata is prepared by using cod, roe, or other types of fish. In a mixture of peppers, vinegar, spring onions, and lots of garlic, the ingredients are blended until smooth and creamy, and delicious!
Traditionally the mixture was ground with stone (pestle and mortar) to give you the finished smooth consistency and then served with an assortment of Greek snacks and side dishes. Thus, it is a favorite among Greek finger foods and you can find them at most family gatherings and restaurants.
Traditional Tahini Dip
One of the most popular and world-famous dips is Tahini. The origin region is said to be Cyprus, and the world thanks them for this creation! If you’ve never had traditional hummus or tahini dip, you’re in for a lovely experience.
Made with fairly simple ingredients, such as fresh lemon juice, ground garlic, tahini paste, and cumin. They are blended until a beautiful creamy paste is made and are one of the most delicious Greek sides used for an endless choice of foods you can dip in it.
The Exciting World Of Greek Appetizers And Starters
Greek appetizers are a land of plenty, with a wide variety of tastes, colors, and dishes that are unique and mouth-watering. From the traditional tahini dip to the more simple Greek salad kebabs and Greek bread, there truly is something for everyone. And if you have a love of sweet things, Greek desserts will rock your world!
If you’re looking to learn about the culinary culture before traveling or want to start your very own journey in the comfort of your kitchen, Greek food is the perfect place to start!