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Traditional Greek dishes

Those close to me will tell you: food is one of my passions, especially when it comes to traditional Greek dishes! Rich in Mediterranean flavors with an oriental twist, Greek cuisine delights taste buds with its generosity, but more importantly, it brings people together: in Greece, we share everything! Food is deeply rooted in Greek culture, and discovering its traditional dishes will allow you to immerse yourself in the local way of life… So, get your taste buds ready! Here are my favorite Greek specialties.

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In Greece, when meeting friends or family at a taverna (a Greek restaurant), we order mezze—traditional small dishes meant for sharing. It’s a moment I truly cherish in Greece, where you get to taste lots of flavors! Here are some of the most common Greek mezze.

Cold mezze:

  • Tzatziki: Greek yogurt mixed with cucumber, garlic, and olive oil.
  • Fava: a smooth puree made from yellow split peas, similar to hummus.
  • Gavros marinatos: marinated anchovies.
  • Dolmadakia: grape leaves stuffed with rice and aromatic herbs.
  • Taramosalata: a specialty made with fish roe.
  • Melitzanosalata: eggplant dip.
  • Olives: whether black, green, pickled, or spicy, Greece offers a wide variety of olives! Don’t miss the famous Kalamata olives.

Hot mezze:

  • Kolokithokeftedes: zucchini fritters.
  • Tyrokroketes: fried cheese bites.
  • Keftedakia: meatballs.
  • Kalamarakia: fried squid.
  • Chtapodi psito: grilled octopus.
  • Feta saganaki: feta cheese (a traditional Greek cheese) wrapped in filo pastry and served with honey and sesame.
  • Halloumi: grilled salty cheese served with a drizzle of lemon juice.

Halloumi cheese
Halloumi cheese
Traditional Greek dishes
Tzatziki, feta saganaki & Greek salad
Saganaki (fried cheese)

Authentic Greek food: baked/stewed dishes

Traditionally prepared at home by Greek mothers over long hours, these authentic Greek dishes can also be found in most tavernas. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Moussaka: a layered casserole with eggplant, minced meat, tomato sauce, and béchamel. It is mostly considered the national dish of Greece!
  • Gemista: tomatoes or peppers stuffed with rice and herbs.
  • Papoutsakia: eggplants stuffed with minced meat.
  • Kokkinisto: beef stewed in tomato sauce.
  • Giouvarlakia: lemony meatball soup with rice.
  • Pastitsio: pasta bake with minced meat topped with béchamel.
  • Soutzoukakia: spicy meatballs in tomato sauce.
  • Gigantes: large white beans stewed in tomato sauce.
  • Revithia: chickpea soup.

Papoutsakia - traditional Greek dishes

Follow a cooking class in Greece

Traditional Greek salads

Greek cuisine owes its magic to the exceptional quality of its ingredients. In Greece, fruits and vegetables are incredibly fresh and their flavor is simply unmatched! This difference is especially noticeable in salads. Greeks love them, salads are a staple of every family meal!

  • Choriatiki: the traditional Greek salad, featuring tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, feta cheese, and black olives, dressed with olive oil and oregano—refreshing! Served with bread, it also makes a really nice lunch or dinner.
  • Dakos: thick, black rusk topped with tomatoes, cheese (feta most of the time), olive oil, and oregano—a simple yet effective appetizer.
  • Lachanosalata: a salad of cabbage, carrots, and aromatic herbs, a winter staple.
Plats typiques grecs : la salade grecque
Traditional Greek salad with mizithra cheese (specialty from Crete)
Greek travel phrases guide Grecce travel guide

Greek fish and seafood

With its 15,000 kilometers of coastline, Greece offers an incredible variety of fish and seafood. In local tavernas, you’ll find a wide selection of fresh fish, including sea bream (tsipoura), my favorite fish, sea bass (lavraki), fried calamari (kalamarakia), shrimp (garides), grilled octopus (chtapodi psito), grilled sardines (sardeles psites)… Seafood is often prepared in a simple way, sometimes served raw with a drizzle of lemon juice, highlighting its exceptional freshness and unique taste!

Must-try fish and seafood dishes:

  • Garides saganaki: shrimp in tomato and feta sauce. There’s also a version of this dish with mussels, called midia saganaki.
  • Bakaliaros skordalia: Greek-style “fish & chips” made with cod, served with fries and garlic dip.

Traditional Greek dishes
Enjoying some grilled seafood by the sea!
Stuffed squid & anchovies - traditional Greek dishes
Stuffed squid & anchovies
Simple yet delicious grilled shrimps
Grilled squid served with olive oil & capers - traditional Greek Dishes
Grilled squid served with olive oil & capers
Plats typiques grecs
A delicious fish grilled on the barbecue and served with veggies
Grilled octopus

Snacks and quick bites: what is a typical Greek snack?

Want to eat on the go? You’ve probably heard of gyros—a pita bread stuffed with roasted meat, tomatoes, onions, tzatziki, and fries for the hungry ones—a Greek classic! There are various versions of this sandwich, detailed in my article on the differences between gyros, souvlaki, and kebab. A must-try in Greece!

You can also find delightful pastries filled with:

  • spinach and feta, spanakopita
  • cheese, tyropita

Or try koulouri, a sesame-seed bread ring that you can get at bakeries or from street vendors.

Souvlaki vs gyros vs kebab
A gyros

Greek desserts and sweets

The traditional dessert menu in Greece may not be extensive, but I highly recommend trying these specialties:

  • Bougatsa: a cream-filled pastry sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, can be found at every bakery.
  • Yaourti me meli: Greek yogurt with honey, a delightful treat. Alternatively, try Greek yogurt with glyko tou koutaliou, candied fruits in syrup.
  • Loukoumades: warm honey-dipped donuts with cinnamon. If you visit Athens, don’t miss the chance to try these delights at “Lukumades”!
  • Halva: available in two types—halvas makedonikos made from tahini (sesame paste) and halvas simigdalenios, a semolina cake with spices.
  • Koulourakia: various types of biscuits available at bakeries.
  • Baklava: oriental pastries with phyllo dough, nuts, and syrup, found all over Greece.
  • Watermelon: delicious and widely enjoyed in Greece, often served at the end of a meal.

Traditional Greek sweets
Lukumades with honey, cinnamon and nuts

Traditional Greek drinks

Greeks love coffee! And they are very good at it. Coffee is part of the local lifestyle and there are many ways to enjoy it:

  • Ellinikos kafes: Greek coffee, similar to Turkish coffee—ground coffee mixed with hot water in a cup. Greek women can traditionally read fortunes from the coffee grounds left in the cup, it’s a fun experience you must try if you meet someone who can do so!
  • Freddo espresso/freddo cappuccino: cold espresso variants, with or without sugar, served over ice—a favorite among Greeks, and one of my favourite Greek drinks!
  • Frappe: instant coffee served cold with ice cubes.

As for alcoholic drinks, you can’t miss ouzo and its anise flavor, which goes perfectly with mezze.

Greece also produces excellent wines, often coming from its islands. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice from local staff! Tavernas also offer house wine (krasi tou spitiou), an even more affordable option than bottled wine.

What do Greeks drink after dinner?

Greeks appreciate digestive drinks like raki, tsipouro, or mastiha, often served after meals in tavernas.

Enjoy a food tour in Greece

Here was a glimpse into my favorite traditional Greek dishes! You are now ready to enjoy your culinary journey in Greece, Greek specialties hold no secrets for you anymore. Each dish invites you to discover the richness of Greek culture, whether in a quaint seaside taverna or a bustling restaurant in Athens. Enjoy your meal and kalí órexi !