30 Traditional Greek Food In Greece: A Look Into Greek Cuisine

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An introduction to Greek food could take you down a long and interesting journey. But the essential part of what makes Greek cuisine so special and unique is the rich history that has been evolving and influenced by long centuries and countless cultures. 

What’s Special About Greek Food?

As the birthplace of Western democracy, philosophy, and so much else that our world still holds dear, it’s no surprise that food in Greece is just as rich in history and story.

All across the Mediterranean and other European countries, you can find Greek influence and dishes deeply rooted within their own culture. And in turn, Greece adopted and evolved numerous foods themselves, many from Persian and other Eastern roots. 

Similar to other countries and cultures, you can find a beautiful melting pot of influences and flavors in Greece. Greek food has always been made from what is called the “Mediterranean triad”, which is wine, olive oil, and wheat. You’ll also find other favorite flavors like feta cheese, yogurt, lamb dishes, and regional spices.

As you explore all the impressive landmarks in Greece, don’t miss out on diving into the sensational world of Greek food and cuisine!

The Most Popular Sweet Greek Food: Desserts And Pastries

Bougatsa (Greek Custard Pie)

Bougatsa, also known as phyllo pastry or semolina custard, is a type of sweet cake (slightly less sweet by Greek standards) that can be enjoyed any time of the day.

If you grab a bougatsa from a roadside food court, you will also get powdered sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top. For sweet-tooth lovers, this is also the perfect Greek breakfast choice!

Bougatsa is a type of pastry that dates back to the time when Constantinople was still a part of Greece. Originally, it was stuffed with lots of different fillings, sweet and salty. But as time went on, it changed into a thin, hand-rolled, phyllo-like pastry. And thus, bougatsa is still a favorite food in Greece!

Amygdalota (Almond Biscuits)

Amygdalota are delicious gluten-free almond cookies that are all the rage and a very popular food in Greece. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of Greek coffee, and when you’re around family and friends, you can always count on them to bring a smile to your face.

The origin of this Greek food has a long-standing history. Early 18th-century explorers to the region reported that the surrounding fields were covered with sour orange and almond trees. This is a circumstance that is closely linked to the ingredients of this Greek dessert, which is made up of sour orange flowers, almonds, and rosewater.

Baklava (Greek Groundnut Pastry)

The classic Greek dish, baklava, is composed of a mixture of nuts, butter, and sugar. After being baked, it is covered in a layer of sweet syrup, which is then spread over the phyllo, allowing the syrup to absorb into the crispy layers. 

This Greek food is widely regarded as the most popular of all Greek desserts, and it evokes a festive atmosphere in diners due to its exquisite taste and flaky texture.

Although baklava originated in Turkey, Greece, and the Near East, it was introduced to Hungary by Ottoman conquerors in the sixteenth century. As a result, baklava was adapted and incorporated into Hungarian culture, where it is known as strudel, and has strong religious connotations.

Halva (Traditional Greek Semolina Dessert) 

Halva is one of the most famous examples of traditional Greek desserts that you can find in bakeries and homes across the country. It’s considered a staple food in Greece and is made with sugar, water, oil, and of course, semolina.

While the roots of the dish remain vague and unknown, Halva has been a part of Greek cuisine for many long years and is a popular dish for family gatherings and events.

Kataifi (Greek Style Almond Pastry Strands)

Kataifi is one of the most popular desserts and food in Greece. It’s made with Kataifi, which is a type of pastry that is rolled up like shredded wheat. It has a nutty center that is rolled into a crisp, thread-like shape, baked, then drizzled with sweet syrup. Like many Greek food choices, the roots of this dish lie deep in a past long forgotten.

Kataifi pastry is made with flour and cornstarch among other basic ingredients. The thin batter is then rolled out to form the pastry’s thin strands. Serve kataifi pastry with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a truly wonderful experience!

The Most Famous Traditional Savory Greek Food

Moussaka (Greek Style Potato Bake)

Moussaka is one of the best examples of traditional Greek food and can be found at many family events and gatherings. As the expression states, “a little goes a long way,” this cottage-pie type of dish is very filling, delicious, and easy to make. Which makes it a perfect combination!

Some of the fillings include eggplant that is fried, tender meat such as lamb and beef, a rich tomato sauce, and finally served with a beautiful bechamel sauce on top. The surface gets a lovely crunch after final baking and is one of the best meals in traditional Greek cuisine.

Papoutsakia (Greek Style Stuffed Eggplant)

The papoutsakia is a traditional Greek food featuring stuffed eggplants. It is filled with a meat sauce based on tomatoes, topped with a bechamel sauce and cheese, then baked until golden in color. 

The name “papoutsakia” translates to “little shoes” due to the shape of the eggplant, which resembles the shape of a pair of shoes. The dish has a similar flavor profile to Moussaka. However, the Greek version includes a béchamel topping, which is a relatively recent addition to the dish, introduced to Greece around the 1920s.

Kolokithokeftedes (Fried Zucchini Balls)

Herbs and feta go hand in hand in this classic Greek food. Kolokithokeftedes is a Greek word for fritters. Kolokitha means squash, and fritters are one of the most popular choices of food in Greece. Plus, they are a great way to enjoy the summer bounty. 

To create this delight, herbs, zucchini, feta, eggs, and a light touch of flour are mixed and fried. The result is a fragrant dish that is satisfying, filling, and a perfect display of Greek cuisine. Also, they’re the perfect snack for hot summer nights.

Pastitsio (Baked Lasagna)

Pastitsio is a Greek pasta dish that consists of layers of pasta cooked and baked in an oven and a lovely choice of food in Greece. It is topped with minced beef, bechamel sauce, tomato sauce, and melted cheese. The beef is then cooked in a sauce with tomato and spices. 

Pastitsio is believed to have originated in China around 1100 BC and became part of Greek cuisine as far back as 1000 BC. It is said to have been made with either wheat or rice flour then. Today, Pastitsio is a delicious pasta dish that can be served all year round.

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce)

Greek cuisine is well-known for its rich yogurt sauce, marinated in garlic and olive oil, and topped with fresh dill. This sauce is a popular appetizer, often served with a variety of Greek dishes. We are obsessed with it, as the refreshing aspect of it helps to balance out any grilled meat or fried stuff.

Tzatziki has been enjoyed by Greeks since the Ottoman period and is considered to be one of the best sauces in Greece due to its simplicity and easy preparation. This sauce is an ideal addition to any gathering and a favorite food in Greece for good reason!

Some of the most popular dishes served with tzatziki include pita bread, kebabs, platters, and a wide variety of other Greek food and dishes. 

Patates Riganates (Greek Style Lemon-Roasted Potatoes)

Patates Riganates may seem like a simple potato dish, but one thing Greek cuisine does is make the simple outstanding! These lemon-roasted potatoes are often gently fried in olive oil and a beautiful mixture of garlic and lemon. 

This process allows the soft pillowed insides of the potato to absorb the wonderful flavors of the broth. Once perfectly fried, they are baked to give you that universally loved sound of crunching roasted potato!

As a very popular Greek food and appetizer, Patates Riganates are often served with other meat dishes and sides, making for the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

The Best Traditional Meat-Based Greek Food

Souvlaki (Meat Skewers)

Chicken souvlaki is one of the most popular dishes in Greek cuisine. It’s important to remember that it’s all about where you buy it. There’s a recipe for every restaurant, and the quality of the meat and sauce is very important. Souvlaki comes in many different forms, but the most popular by far is chicken. 

Greek dishes, like the souvlaki, often consist of a variety of ingredients, and it’s usually served with potatoes and pita bread, as well as rice. Chicken souvlaki can also be served with vegetables or the classic Greek salad as a side dish. For that reason, it has become a favorite food in Greece, any time of the day!

The origin of Souvlaki can be traced back to the cuisine of Ancient Greece, where the dish was traditionally prepared on a ‘spits’ or ‘skewer’. To this day, it is still a popular Greek street food! According to Greek mythology, Homer speaks of ‘meat’ cooked on the ‘spits’, thus making Souvlaki one of the earliest Greek food dishes that are still enjoyed today.

Keftethes (Meatballs)

Keftedes, also known as Greek meatballs is a much-loved Greek food and appetizer, served with the ever-popular tzatziki and pita bread.

This dish can be anything from a light lunch to the main meal, but also a star of a mezze platter. It’s just as much like normal meatballs except with a delicious new Greek twist. 

Keftedes is ingrained in Greek cuisine, although the origin is not well known; some say the roots of this dish lie in Persia. But like most of the food in Greece, no matter the origin, you’ll find unique twists and flavors that are wholeheartedly Greek.

Kleftiko (Greek Slow-Cooked Lamb)

The traditional Greek dish of Kleftiko, which translates to ‘stolen lamb’, is renowned for its slow-cooked succulent lamb meat infused with olive oil and garlic, often topped with a squeeze of lemon juice. 

This food in Greece is derived from the tradition of the Klephts, a group of anti-Ottoman Greek rebels, who used to steal goats or lambs. They then cook them in underground ovens to seal off the smells and flavors. The dish was initially based on the earthen oven, which was used to trap the smoke and heat of the cooking process.

Some of the best dishes to serve with kleftiko are roasted potatoes, vegetables, greek salad, and so much more! This historic dish has also now become an important part of Greek cuisine, and is enjoyed across the country.

Stifado (Greek Style Beef Stew)

Stifado (Greek for beef stew) is a Greek stew made with beef, tomatoes, cinnamon, onion vinegar or wine, and various spices and herbs. This heart-warming Greek food is traditionally served with rice or pasta as the main ingredient. People also pair it with mashed potatoes on cold winter days for a hearty and comforting dish.

As one of the most delicious and hearty Greek food choices, the stifado has a place in the hearts of almost every local. And you’ll understand why after tasting this rich and hardy meal. It is certainly Greek cuisine on fine display!

Giouvetsi (Greek Beef Stew With Pasta )

Gioletti is a classic Greek food that’s always a hit with the family. It’s made with a mix of beef, orzo pasta, and onions, infused with red wine and a yummy tomato sauce. 

Serve it with rice, egg noodles, or even potato fries for a delicious meal. And if you’re feeling chillier the colder the day gets, it’s even better with some creamy mashed potatoes.

When it comes to Traditional Greek cuisine, you can’t give this one a miss!

Gyros

Gyros is a famous Greek food that you can find across the globe, in many different styles and flavors. Traditionally, Gyros is made with pork meat that has been grilled on skewers until perfectly tender. Once grilled, the meat is finely sliced and prepared in the style of a wrap using the Greek classic: Pita bread.

This versatile food in Greece can be served with an assortment of sides, but the most popular choice is potato fries and tzatziki sauce. When it comes to Greek cuisine, you can’t go wrong with the delicious and filling Gyros!

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Dolmades is another Greek food that’s extremely versatile. It’s essentially a tiny stuffed grape leaf filled with ground lamb meat or beef (or sometimes both) and some kind of rice stuffing. It’s usually served as an appetizer with some lemon wedges.

After stuffing, they’re rolled and cooked until cooked through. But Grapevine leaves can also be used as a substitute for cabbage. Stuffed vegetables have a long history in Middle Eastern cuisine. Stuffed eggplant can be found in Middle Eastern cookbooks from the Middle Ages. Fig leaves stuffed with sweet cheese were also very popular in Ancient Greek cuisine.

The Most Popular Vegetarian Greek Food

Spanakorizo (Spinach Rice)

Spanakorizo is a famous traditional Greek food for vegetarians and can be enjoyed both warm and chilled. A classic recipe consists of large grain rice mixed with freshly made spinach in addition to black pepper, olive oil, cumin, dill, and other ingredients.

As a delicious side dish, this Greek cuisine is both simple and quick to make while adding a refreshing and light balance to any meal. The contrast of flavors from the lemon and spices creates a combination of flavors that are unique and out-of-this-world.

It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of this Greek food, as some say it stemmed from the East, in countries such as India or even Spain. But like many foods, they share flavors influenced by many countries over the centuries of travel and evolution.

Choriatiki (Greek Salad)

The Greek salad is a classic Greek food choice that never goes out of style. It’s light and refreshing, made with simple ingredients like cucumber, feta, olives, and tomatoes. 

It’s served plain in the Greek style, so you don’t need to worry about dressing – it’s all up to you! Plus, it’s a great side dish, since it’s usually a starter and can be found featured with countless other food in Greece.

While the famous Greek salad is fairly modern in origin, dating as close as the 1960s, it’s safe to assume the Greeks have been enjoying vegetables in an assortment of ways and dishes.

Greek Pasta Salad

Pasta salad in Greece exemplifies the ease with which Greek cuisine can transform even the most basic ingredients into delectable dishes. This meal offers a local twist to the classic pasta salad, providing a balanced taste of all the Greek flavors in one dish. 

Ideal for light lunches or summer side dishes, this Greek food is composed of ripe, succulent tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and creamy Kalamata olives, all topped with perfectly cooked pasta and finished with a sprinkle of feta cheese and a simple dressing.

Tomatokeftedes (Tomato Fritters)

Tomato Fritters, commonly referred to as “fritters” or “fritters with tomatoes”, are a traditional food in Greece. They are usually served as a starter and as a vegetarian main course on the Greek island of Santorini. These fritters are characterized by a rough texture, but addictive flavor enhanced by the addition of mint, tomatoes, and onions. 

It is essential to drain the tomatoes thoroughly before preparation. The introduction of tomatoes to the cuisine of Santorini occurred between 1875 and 1880, with the seeds being brought from Italy by Catholic monks.

They are now an integral part of Greek cuisine, and once you’ve tried these little bites of heaven, you won’t be surprised!

Gemista (Stuffed Tomatoes)

The name “Gemista” comes from the Greek word “gemizo”, which means to “fill” or “stuff”, and is a very popular and healthy choice of food in Greece. It’s believed that the dish was first made in Greece after the First World War, brought in from Turkey by the Greeks who had escaped the war. 

You can make Gemista at home by filling tomatoes with rice and adding herbs, spices, and minced meat – the meat is totally optional! In addition, the herbs and spices are largely customizable based on your preference. You can even use vegetables like potatoes or green peppers instead of tomatoes.

There are a wide variety of Greek food and dishes that feature gemista, and each homemade recipe has its special twist. One thing they all share is how truly delicious this meal is.

Fasolada (Bean Soup)

Fasolada is another classic Greek soup and a staple in Greek cuisine. It’s a hearty, easy-to-make white bean soup. The classic ingredients include beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. Spices such as bay leaves, garlic, and thyme are commonly used to enhance the flavor.

The dish has its roots in Ancient Greece where it was traditionally served as a vegetarian stew in a ritual sacrifice to the Greek deity Apollo. The tradition is believed to have originated during the Trojan War when the warlord Theseus journeyed to Crete to slay the Minotaur. Talk about Greek mythology even in the cuisine!

The Most Famous Greek Food: Snacks And Quick-Meals

Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pie)

Tiropita, also known as Greek cheese pie, is a traditional food in Greece that is typically enjoyed as a snack or a starter. It’s made with feta cheese and comes in different shapes and sizes. When it’s rolled up into small, triangular pieces, that’s when it’s called Tiropita.

The feta cheese can be crumbled and mixed with other types of yellow cheese to give it an extra kick. The cheese is wrapped in a phyllo sheet, brushed with either olive oil or butter, and baked until golden brown.

This fantastic example of Greek cuisine and desserts date back many many years, and can be traced to the Byzantine era. To this day, tiropita has remained a favorite dessert and sweet treat.

Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

Spanakopita, or Greek spinach pie, is a classic but delicious dish and a very popular choice of food in Greece. Its versatility makes it suitable for any time of day. Whether it’s for dinner, a snack, or a starter, Spanakopita is sure to please. 

The first step is to break down the feta cheese. Once it is crumbled, you can add spinach and other necessary ingredients to the mixture. 

The spinach mixture is then wrapped in a sheet of phyllo (a type of pastry). The phyllo is then brushed with olive or melted butter, and baked to produce a warm and delicious slice of heavenly Greek food.

Saganaki (Greek Style Fried Cheese)

Saganaki is the Greek food that grabs everyone’s attention with its crispy top and chewy, melty interior. Most of the time it’s served as an appetizer. 

Best of all, this traditional Greek dish can be made in under 10 minutes using only 2 ingredients: flour and delicious greek cheese. Typically, Kasseri, kefalotyri, or halloumi cheese will be used. And the toppings only depend on your preference and imagination!

Saganaki is best enjoyed with a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of fresh parsley. The saganaki can also be cut into small pieces for a snack. It is not usually served with bread but rather salad or light Greek snacks to balance out the richness.

Fava (Greek Yellow Split Pea Dip)

Fava is the name given to a vegetable dish that was traditionally served in Greek pubs. 

Contrary to popular belief, Greek fava isn’t made from broad beans. The Greek word fáva means “yellow split pea”, which is the main ingredient in this yummy dip.

Although Fava is mostly popular on Santorini island where these peas thrive, it is also one of Greece’s most iconic dishes. 

The creamy vegetable dip looks similar to hummus. It tastes delicious and can be served with a topping of extra virgin olive oil. Fava was known in ancient Greece as the “food of the poor” because it was cheap and simple to prepare. Today, it is a major part of Greek cuisine.

Feta Me Meli (Feta And Honey Pastry Wraps)

Feta Me Meli is a wonderful Greek food that perfectly highlights the love of feta and phyllo pastry. Just imagine crispy feta cubes wrapped in crispy phyllo topped with raw honey and sesame seeds!

The origin of this flaky and delicious dish is shrouded in mystery, but the locals in Greece can’t remember a time without it!

Before baking, the feta is wrapped in a filo pastry and then drizzled with honey. The perfect combination of salty feta and honey creates a magical flavor. 

Tirokroketes (Fried Cheese Balls)

If you’re a cheese lover, you’re probably familiar with the term “fried cheese balls”. And so you’ll find these too in Greek cuisine! These small bites are made from a mix of different cheeses and often served as Greek appetizers.

These fried meatballs are a modern twist on the classic spiced balls that have been around since ancient Greece. They’re popular in the Middle East and the Balkans, and they’re usually made with breadcrumbs and three different types of cheese. 

While Tirokroketes are usually enjoyed as a side dish with other food in Greece, you can make them a main course with the perfect sauce and other finger food.

FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD

Greek Food And Its Ancient Roots

If you are looking to journey down the fascinating and ancient road of Greek cuisine, you can be sure to find some amazing dishes. There is a reason why Greek food is one of the most well-known cuisines around the world.

From starters like the traditional cheese balls to the more meaty lamb dishes, food in Greece is a wonderful and diverse assortment of flavors, spices, and unique dishes. It’s one of the best things and facts about Greece!


PIN THESE GREEK FOOD FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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