A complete guide to typical Greek food – 30 Traditional Dishes & Desserts explains dishes divided into vegan, vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes, sweets and typical drinks.
Typical Greek food is based on ingredients characteristic for the Mediterranean diet, such as variety of vegetables, freshly caught fish and seafood, seasoned with olive oil and aromatic local herbs (not exotic ones), however with more consumption of meat than in other Mediterranean countries. Greek dishes are characterized by use of few simple ingredients, but of great quality and prepared skillfully and with a lot of care.
List of contents
- Vegetarian Dishes
- Vegan Dishes
- Seafood Dishes
- Meat Dishes
1. Typical Greek Food: Vegetarian Dishes
1.1. Greek Salad
The classic of the classics and probably the most world-known Greek food is surely the Greek salad, made of feta cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, black olives and onions and sprinkled with olive oil and Mediterranean herbs, mostly oregano.
Tzatziki is an extremely popular dip made of yogurt and finely cut cucumber, with addition of fresh garlic and often dill. It is an appetizer or side dish.
1.3. Spanakopita / Tiropita
Spanakopita or tiropita is a layered filo pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese, similar to börek.
Saganaki is a fried slice of feta cheese. As simple as it sounds, it’s really delicious and makes a great appetizer.
Apart from feta cheese saganaki, there exists also a shrimp saganaki, which consists in pan-fried shrimps.
Kolokithokeftedes are definitely a typical Greek food – a delicious meze or starter. They are vegetarian fried zucchini balls with feta cheese and mint. The fritters are crispy on the outside and pleasantly melting inside. They are usually served with yoghurt sauce.
2. Typical Greek Food: Vegan Dishes
Fava is a dip similar to hummus, but made of yellow split pea, with a distinctive taste. It is served as an appetizer and it’s a really interesting taste to try.
Yemista (or Gemista) is a popular and delicious vegetarian dish consisting in baked stuffed vegetables – one of my favourite Greek dishes. These can be peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, aubergines or even onions hollowed out and stuffed with rice mixed with chopped vegetables and herbs, and baked in the oven.
There exists also a non-vegetarian version filled with minced meat.
Fasolada is a vegetarian bean & tomato soup with carrots, onions and olive oil and seasoned with Mediterranean herbs.
2.4. Dolmadakia without meat
Dolmadakia are grape leaves stuffed with rice with mint and lemon, forming little rolls. They exist in both vegan and meat version (description below), so always ask to be sure. You can find them in every Greek tavern.
For vegan desserts see below in the section 5: Desserts.
3. Typical Greek Food: Seafood Dishes
3.1. Grilled Octopus
Octopus is very popular in Greek cuisine. Usually it is served grilled, with lemon and sometimes garlic.
3.2. Grilled Squid – Calamari
Grilled squids – also called calamari – served with lemon is another classic Greek food – liked by many because it’s low on calories. Calamari are usually served simply with olive oil, salt and lemon, and sometimes with a sauce aside.
3.3. Fried Calamari & Prawns
A more caloric version in which calamari – and often prawns or shrimps – are served, are breaded and fried calamari and prawns, also served with lemon and sometimes yoghurt sauce. For some people this way of serving is more tasty.
3.4. Grilled Sea Fish
Fish freshly caught in the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most popular dishes in Greek food. The Greek way to prepare fish is simple, aimed at preserving its natural taste without ruining it with unnecessary additions. It’s just grilled and sprinkled with ladholemono – a lemon and oil dressing and salt, and only sometimes lightly fried.
Typical species of fish in Greek cuisine include: lavraki – sea bass, tsipoura – seabream, gádos – cod, barbouni – red mullet and marida– whitebait.
In Greek cuisine, mussels are a popular dish. They are usually served simply accompanied by lemon wedges and salt, without extra additions like herbs or vegetables.
Taramasalata is a typical Greek dish, eaten a lot throughout the country. It’s a paste made of olive oil, onion, lemon juice and fish roe. It is usually served as a meze or a spread for pita bread slices, often accompanied by vegetables.
4. Typical Greek Food: Meat Dishes
Moussaka is a casserole made of layers of fried aubergine with potato and spiced minced meat.
4.2. Dolmadakia / Dolma
Dolmadakia are small rolls made of grape leaves stuffed with rice and usually lamb or beef meat, with aftertaste of lemon. Often you can order also a vegan version. They are served as an appetizer.
Gyros is the world-known typical Greek food. It is pork meat roasted on a spit and then sliced. There are two ways of serving it: as a gyros plate – accompanied by French fries, vegetables and tzatziki, or more fast-food version as a pita gyros – meat rolled altogether with French fries and vegetables and yoghurt sauce and wrapped in a pita flatbread.
4.4. Souvlaki / Kalamaki
Souvlaki, also called Kalamaki, is a very well known Greek dish – it’s a brochette of pork and/or lamb meat.
Soutzoukakia are hot meatballs of beef or pork, soaked in tomato (and sometimes wine) sauce, with aromatic herbs such as cinnamon, cumin and garlic.
Kleftiko consists of pieces of lamb marinated in garlic and lemon juice and then baked on the bone in oven, together with potato wedges.
Pastitsio is a Greek traditional dish made of layers of pasta, minced beef and béchamel sauce, baked in a casserole.
Papoutsakia is a classic Greek food, highly popular in this aubergine-loving country. These are baked eggplants stuffed with spicy minced meat, tomatoes and béchamel sauce, sometimes served with yoghurt sauce and walnuts.
5. Typical Greek Food: Desserts & Sweets
5.1. Baklava (vegan)
One of the most popular Oriental desserts that you really have to try. Baklava is a very sweet small dessert pastry made of layers of filo with the filling of crushed nuts (usually walnuts or pistachios) and soaked in honey or syrup.
5.2. Kataifi (vegan)
Kataifi is a small sweet pastry similar to Baklava, but made of hair-like pieces of pastry, wrapped around a nut filling, also soaked in honey or syrup.
Bougatsa is a popular Greek dessert consisting in filo pastry with creamy custard filling, dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Galaktoboureko is a filo pastry baked with custard filling and soaked in a lemon-flavoured syrup. Its filling is thicker and a bit more firm than in Bougatsa.
5.5. Pasteli (vegan)
Pasteli are sweet bars of sesame seed “glued” together with honey or caramel and sometimes with almonds, nuts or other seeds. They were basically the world’s first “fit energy bars” dating back to the antiquity :)
5.6. Feta Me Meli
Feta me meli is a classic Greek dessert made of a slice of feta cheese, wrapped with a layer of filo pastry soaked in honey, fried and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The external layer is crunchy, while the cheese becomes slightly creamy. It has a very interesting sweet and salty taste.
Portokalopita is a juicy Greek orange cake made with fresh oranges, shredded filo dough and rich layer of syrup. It has quite an original taste.
Loukoumades are small sweet balls of crispy fried dough covered with syrup, and often with cinnamon and crumbled walnuts.
6. Typical Greek Drinks
6.1. Greek Coffee – Ellinikos
I always find it fascinating that although coffee is consumed worldwide, there are so many traditional alternative ways of brewing it in different countries.
Greeks are great fans of coffee and they drink it daily. It is brewed using briki – a traditional copper pot with an elongated handle, and when ready, it is often served in it, with a cup aside.
6.2. Greek Alcoholic Drinks
The most popular Greek alcohols include the following:
The richness of Greek alcoholic drinks is such that we are preparing a separate article about them. You can read descriptions of different types of Greek liquers in the article on Typical Greek Products.
Eating in Greece – Typical Greek Taverns
Greeks appreciate tradition and simplicity, which is reflected in a very characteristic style of many local restaurants and taverns. Their atmosphere is created by the simple, often worn-out wooden furniture in white and blue colour, typically arranged just on the pavement in the shade of trees, with cats wandering around. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this atmosphere.
Read about Nightlife in Athens
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