Our 20 Favorite Greek Foods to Try While Traveling in Greece

Everyone who loves Greek cuisine, from its more than 30 Michelin starred restaurants to farm-to-table cooking, is aware of how delicious it is. Did you know, though, that it’s one of the most healthy cuisines in the world?

As you cruise along Greece’s islands and mainland, the common touch in its culinary offerings is how local and fresh ingredients are. Core to dishes are herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano and lavender and vegetables such as olives, tomatoes, and aubergine. And Greece’s wine industry, which these days goes way beyond the retsina it’s long been known for, produces wonderful varietals like Agiorgitiko, a lush red and Assyrtiko, a bone-dry white with a touch of citrus. Its regionally produced roses are crisp and delicious.

And finally, before we launch into our fun-to-research list of the best dishes to try on your next trip, know this: Not all cuisine is the same. It varies from mainland to island and that’s, in part, because there are three distinctive regions that influence tastes in Greece: The Aegean Islands, the Ionian Islands, and the peninsula on which Athens and other areas on the mainland exist.

Take a look at our list – and please, if we missed one of your favorites, jot it down in the comments below.

Our Favorite Greek Dishes

1. Olives and Olive Oil

Best time to sample Greece’s olives? With a meze and a glass of local wine

Olives have a long history in Greece — many say they originated from the olive tree the Greek goddess Athena gifted to the city of Athens. Olives have grown in Greece for thousands of years, becoming a staple in Greek cuisine. Local olives, either uncured or soaked in sea salt brine, often accompany Greek meals. More importantly, olive oil is so essential to Greek food that it’s used in most dishes. From topping salads, dips and main dishes to cooking, olive oil is a constant across the board. 

While you’ve likely already tried some version of olives or olive oil, be sure to try them again in Greece. The Greeks have had thousands of years to perfect their craft, and the fresh, local products here are more authentic than in other areas. 

2. Taramasalata

A traditional Greek recipe most often served as a “meze,” or appetizer, taramasalata is a creamy dip typically eaten with pita. Taramasalata is made of fish roe, most often carp or cod, that’s been salted and cured. The roe is then mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and either bread or potatoes. The combination creates a smooth, velvety texture. You’ll find plain taramasalata most often, though garlic, onion or peppers are also often added for more flavor. 

3. Courgette Balls

Courgette balls, also known as kolokythokeftedes, are fried zucchini balls or patties. The dish includes zucchini, feta cheese, mint and olive oil, combined and formed into balls or patties. The outside of the courgette balls is crispy, while the inside stays creamy. Courgette balls are served hot with cold yogurt or tzatziki for dipping.

This appetizer is a popular choice on Crete, one of the Greek islands. However, courgette balls are on the menu in most Greek restaurants, even outside of Crete.

4. Tomatokeftedes

Tomato fritters, or Tomatokeftedes, are a staple of Santorini

The island of Santorini is home to the traditional appetizer tomatokeftedes, or tomato fritters. Santorini’s soil is volcanic, giving the tomatoes a unique texture ideal for these fritters. They consist primarily of diced tomatoes, feta cheese, onions and mint, formed into patties and fried until their edges are crispy. This dish is the perfect addition to a meze platter and a yogurt dip.

5. Dolmades

Dolmades are a popular appetizer, often served alongside others on a meze platter. These stuffed grapevine leaves can vary depending on who’s making them. Vegetarian dolmades are stuffed with rice, spices and herbs and commonly flavored with lemon. You may also find dolmades filled with rice and ground beef or lamb. Once the grapevine leaves are stuffed, they’re rolled up and secured, then boiled until tender.

Dolmades are a must-try because there are so many potential variations, from the seasonings and herbs to the meat inside. You may even come across dolmades that substitute the grapevine leaves with cabbage.

6. Tzatziki

Tzatziki is a classic appetizer dip and sauce that you can pair with many dishes. While most chefs put their own twist on it, basic tzatziki recipes consist of yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, olive oil and lemon juice. Because you can eat this dip with so many different dishes, it’s a staple on most restaurant menus. You’ll likely encounter it without even needing to ask! 

7. Tiropita

This popular Greek dish is a cheese pie most often enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack throughout the day. This cheesy dish consists primarily of feta mixed with other yellow cheeses for added flavor. The cheese is wrapped in phyllo dough and coated in melted butter or olive oil to ensure a crisp, golden crust when baked. You may also find tiropita with additional ingredients, like chicken.

Tiropita can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The name of the dish may also vary, depending on the shape of the pie. A triangle, which is the shape when the pie is called tiropita, is most common. 

8. Choriatiki

At its best, a Greek Salad is a simple, fresh side dish or main course

Also known as a Greek salad, choriatiki is available year-round in Greece. While you can enjoy it as the main portion of a meal, Greek salad is most often served as a starter or side to other dishes. 

Choriatiki consists of cucumber, tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, olives and a chunk of feta cheese. Greek salad is served with dressing options on the side, so you can choose how you want it dressed. Your options will likely include olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

9. Pastitsio

If you’re looking for traditional Greek comfort foods, try pastitsio. Pastitsio is known as a Greek lasagna because it has a similar taste and layered ingredients. Instead of the flat lasagna pasta you may be used to, pastitsio layers tubular pasta in a red beef sauce. This dish is topped with a thick, cheesy béchamel sauce and baked until the top is golden brown. 

This delicious dish is typically served with a refreshing salad to round out the meal.

10. Papoutsakia

Papoutsakia, which translates to “little shoes,” is a stuffed eggplant dish. The eggplant is halved and baked to soften the vegetable. Each half is then filled with a red meat sauce and mashed potatoes, topped with béchamel and cheese and baked again to reach a golden color. This juicy dish is similar to another popular Greek meal, moussaka, which includes many of the same ingredients.

Simple, traditional Greek foods like papoutsakia are often some of the best dishes to try because they’re packed with flavor.

11. Souvlaki

Souvlaki, meaning “meat on a skewer,” is a popular type of Greek street food similar to gyros, one of the best and most well-known Greek foods. Souvlaki is skewered meat wrapped in a pita, typically served with tomato, onion and tzatziki. The meat is most often chicken, lamb or pork, though many Greek people refer to any pita-wrapped meat as souvlaki. 

Souvlaki is one of the first Greek foods many people think of and can vary significantly from city to city and even vendor to vendor. Everyone has their own recipes and preferences for the type of meat and sauce they use. While you may find them in Greek food trucks at home, there’s nothing like the authentic souvlaki you’ll find in Greece. 

12. Stifado

Stifado is a hearty stew — made wih beef, pork or even rabbit — that’s best enjoyed during cooler seasons/Shutterstock

Stifado, a hearty beef stew, is another well-loved traditional Greek dish. The stew is cooked with onions or shallots, tomatoes, red wine and a variety of sweet herbs and spices. Cooking the meat in red wine helps tenderize the meat while adding juicy flavor. 

In some places, stifado is still made with traditional rabbit meat, though beef has become a widely accepted substitute that offers a richer flavor. It’s commonly served with or over rice, pasta or potatoes. The heartiness of this meal makes it suitable for winter, though it’s offered and can be enjoyed year-round.

13. Bougatsa

While savory dishes are common Greek food favorites, remember to try the sweets and desserts too! Bougatsa is a semi-sweet breakfast dessert, similar to a pastry. Since it’s not too sugary, you can enjoy it at any time of the day. 

This dish features cheese or semolina custard wrapped in thin layers of phyllo dough. The pie is baked or fried to make the dough crispy and the custard warm and gooey. Powdered sugar and cinnamon are sprinkled over the top of the pastry to finish it off.

14. Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a traditional recipe for Greek spinach pie. You can eat this dish at any time of day, even as an appetizer or snack. Spanakopita consists of spinach and crumbled feta cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry dough. Other common ingredients include onions, dill and eggs, which help hold the mixture of ingredients together. Once the filling has been wrapped in phyllo, olive oil is brushed over the top, so the pastry turns crispy and golden when baked.

15. Octopus and Other Seafood

Fresh seafood at Athens’ huge fish market/Carolyn Spencer Brown

Seafood is quite popular in Greece, especially fresh fish and octopus. Harbor and seaside restaurants serve an abundance of Mediterranean and Aegean seafood. Fish like red mullet are grilled in lemon-oil dressings, and calamari and octopus may be grilled or simmered in wine. 

Greek seafood dishes are always worth trying, whether they’re an appetizer or the main course. If you’ve never eaten octopus before, your trip to Greece is a perfect first time to try it. Even if you’ve eaten it elsewhere, you should try it again — Greek octopus is a unique experience. 

16. Kleftiko

Lamb is a Greek specialty, and the Greeks know how to cook it to perfection. This traditional recipe begins with marinating the lamb meat in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. 

The recipe originates from the Klephts, who secretly cooked lambs and goats in underground ovens. Today, the meat is slow-cooked to lock in flavors and juices. Kleftiko is often cooked and served with vegetables like peppers, onions, potatoes and garlic to add flavor and make this dish a filling meal. 

17. Briam

Whether you’re a vegetarian or simply a veggie-lover, briam is a must-try meal. This all-vegetable dish includes thinly sliced potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, garlic and onions baked in a casserole with tomato sauce. Olive oil and oregano top the dish, making this a simple yet fulfilling meal. Briam is often served with a side of warm bread, though it’s also common to see it served over rice.

18. Feta Cheese and Honey

While cheese and honey may sound like an unlikely combination, it’s a must-have when visiting Greece. Also known as “feta me meli,” this dish features feta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough with a honey drizzle and a sprinkle of sesame seeds over the top. When baked, the dough gets crispy, and the cheese gets warm and creamy. The sweetness of the honey balances the saltiness of the feta cheese to create the perfect flavor combination. 

19. Baklava

Baklava, made with local honey, phyllo dough and nuts, is a perfect ending to a Greek meal.

Sweets are popular in Greece, so it’s no surprise that baklava is one of the most popular Greek foods. Baklava is sure to impress, even though the dish consists of only a handful of ingredients. Chopped walnuts, sugar and butter are layered with phyllo pastry dough, baked until crispy and drizzled with honey syrup. The crisp phyllo soaks up the honey, creating a delicious treat you’ll forever associate with your trip to Greece. 

Different areas use different nuts for this dessert. Baklava is also popular in Turkey and Turkish, and northern Greek baklava is made with pistachios, while central Greece primarily uses almonds. Try them all to find your favorite!

20. Ellinikos

Craving your coffee fix? Ellinikos is one of the best styles of coffee in Greece. This style of coffee is served in a briki, the traditional long-handled copper coffee pot. You can order ellinikos in three different ways, depending on how sweet you like your coffee:

  • Vari glyko is very sweet, almost like honey.
  • Metrios has a medium sweetness.
  • Sketos has no sugar.

Editor’s Note: Check out all of Windstar’s itineraries in Greece here.

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25 days ago

This is a fun—and informative—addition to your website. Well done!

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