Top 10 dishes to try in Greece

Steeped in history and lapped by the Mediterranean sea, Greece is home to some of the finest ingredients in the world. Sample them in a traditional Greek dish along with a glass of ouzo.

View of the sea with villas

Greece has long been a family holiday favourite with its beautiful blue waters, child-friendly beaches and an abundance of delicious food made with fresh ingredients. Make sure you sample all the country has to offer with our pick of traditional dishes…

Don’t leave Greece without trying…


1. Taramasalata

Taramasalata in dish with pitta bread and olives
A mainstay of any Greek meal are classic dips such as tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic), melitzanosalata (aubergine), and fava (creamy split pea purée). But the delectable taramasalata (fish roe dip) is a must. This creamy blend of pink or white fish roe, with either a potato or bread base, is best with a drizzle of virgin olive oil or a squeeze of lemon.

Try our spin on this classic Greek dip – smoked salmon taramasalata
 

2. Olives and olive oil

Olive in bowl with bread
Greeks have been cultivating olives for millennia – some even say that Athena gave an olive tree to the city of Athens, thus winning its favour. Greek meals are accompanied by local olives, some cured in a hearty sea salt brine, others like wrinkly throubes, eaten uncured from the tree. Similarly, olive oil, the elixir of Greece, is used liberally in cooking and salads, and drizzled over most dips and dishes. Many tavernas use their own oil.  

Try making your own rosemary-flavoured olives and put that jar to good use with our top 10 ideas for using up olives


3. Dolmades 

Each region in Greece – in fact, each household – has its variation on dolmades, whether it's the classic vine leaf parcel, or hollowed out vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and courgettes, stuffed and baked in the oven. The stuffing often consists of minced meat with long-grain rice, or vegetarian versions boast rice flavoured with heady combinations of herbs like thyme, dill, fennel and oregano. Pine nuts can also be used.


4. Moussaka 

Aubergine moussaka with cheese in dish
Variations on moussaka are found throughout the Mediterranean and the Balkans, but the iconic Greek oven-bake is based on layers of sautéed aubergine, minced lamb, fried puréed tomato, onion, garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, a bit of potato, then a final fluffy topping of béchamel sauce and cheese.

Try our easy must-make moussaka for a simple version of the classic Greek dish. 


5. Grilled meat 

Lamb skewers with wrap and vegetables
Greeks are master of charcoal-grilled and spit-roasted meats. Souvlaki, chunks of skewered pork, is still Greece’s favourite fast food, served on chopped tomatoes and onions in pitta bread with lashings of tzatziki. Gyros, too, is popular served in the same way. At the taverna, local free-range lamb and pork dominate, though kid goat is also a favourite.

Sample it at home with our recipe for lamb grilled skewers


6. Fresh fish

Whole roast fish in dish
Settle down at a seaside taverna and eat as locals have since ancient times. Fish and calamari fresh from the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas are incredibly tasty and cooked with minimum fuss – grilled whole and drizzled with ladholemono (a lemon and oil dressing). Flavoursome smaller fish such as barbouni (red mullet) and marida (whitebait) are ideal lightly fried.

Try making your own seared mullet or simmered squid


7. Courgette balls (kolokythokeftedes)

Courgette fritter with sauce on plate
Sometimes a patty, sometimes a lightly fried ball, be sure to try these starters any chance you get. The fritter is usually made from grated or puréed courgette blended with dill, mint, or other top-secret spice combinations. Paired with tzatziki, for its cooling freshness, you just can’t lose.

Try our courgette fritters with tarragon aioli or spiced pea & courgette fritters with a minty yogurt dip.
 

8. Octopus

Along harbours, octopuses are hung out to dry like washing – one of the iconic images of Greece. Grilled or marinated, they make a fine meze (appetiser), or main course stewed in wine.


9. Feta & cheeses

Feta in Greek salad with souvlaki
When in Greece, fresh cheese is a joy. Ask behind market counters for creamy and delicious feta kept in big barrels of brine (nothing like the type that comes in plastic tubs in markets outside of Greece). Or, sample graviera, a hard golden-white cheese, perfect eaten cubed, or fried as saganaki. At bakeries you’ll find tyropita (cheese pie) while at tavernas, try salads like Cretan dakos, topped with a crumbling of mizithra, a soft, white cheese.

Try feta in traditional Greek spanakopita or a fresh and colourful Greek salad


10. Honey & baklava 

Baklava pieces on board
Greeks love their sweets, which are often based on olive oil and honey combinations encased in flaky filo pastry. The classic baklava involves honey, filo and ground nuts. Or try galatoboureko, a sinful custard-filled pastry. A more simple sweet is local thyme honey drizzled over fresh, thick Greek yogurt.

Make our nutty baklava for an irresistible syrupy sweet treat. 

Fancy a spot of island-hopping? Read our guides to Crete and the Ionian Islands, and visit our travel section for more on the Mediterranean. 

Are you a fan of Greek cuisine? Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite? Leave a comment below…

Comments, questions and tips

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Maro Lydataki
31st Oct, 2016
Actually it is taramosalata because it comes from the word taramas which means fish eggs and the word salata which means salad. In the Greek language happens something called sineresi in Greek. It is when two words become one and some letters in the end of the first word and some at the beginning of the second one dissapear or change
shonoli
11th May, 2016
Oh please dont call it just greek dishes, they are also turkish. Maybe its better call ''Aegean food'' or ''Ottoman food''
John Lewis
10th Aug, 2016
Shonoli, there is a culinary continuum from Greece through to Iran. I like to call it HelRoByzArPerOtic cuisine. When the Turks arrived in Anatolia they had first come into contact with the Persians who significantly affected their till then nomadic cuisine. Of course, Hellenistic Greeks had been there more than 1000 years earlier. The Byzantine Greeks inherited cuisine from the ancient Greeks ( austere ) and Romans ( decandent ) but given their Christian religion ( again austere ) did not contribute much to it. When the Arabs expanded they overran lands that had been for over 1000 years part of the Greco-Roman world and the people had shared in its culinary culture. When the Turks arrived in Anatolia they mixed with the Byzantines for about 300 years before the Fall of Constantinople. So Turks and Greeks were already sharing recipes - including Persian and Arab recipes. The Byzantine world included the Balkans which together with what we call Greece today all became part of the Ottoman Empire. What the Ottomans brought to all this pre-existing cuisine was probably two things 1) magnificence ( old dishes made fancy for the Sultan's court ) and 2) new ingredients that the Ottomans were among the first to include into their cuisine. Greeks (or Rum as Turks called them) held a unique position in the Ottoman administration and although frequently segregated actually mingled intimately as well. Recipes were shared between Greek and Turkish women. When Ataturk and Venizelos agreed to separate the populations in 1922 it was hard to tell a Greek from a Turk ( especially an Aegean Turk ). Religion was the only criteria - not cuisine for sure. But the Turkish pogroms against their one-time Greek next door neighbors led to a Greek diaspora. Greeks fled Anatolia taking these shared recipes to Western Europe and America. So baklava and caciki became known as Greek food. We can argue the origin of a dish but in the case of Greeks and Turks it is moot - one must appreciate that these recipes evolved over time and almost 1000 years of this time has been shared. It is amazing how food reflects history and how recipes like friendship are shared from the heart.
Aheadoftime27
12th Jul, 2016
Oh come now - the Greeks were eating most of these dishes before the a ottomans where even in Asia Minor.. Just because Turks eat food that is similar to the food they found when they invaded Greek lands does not make them Ottoman..
debbieor9445
17th Sep, 2015
what about Soutzoukakia this has been missed
KopiasteToGreek...
18th May, 2015
There are so many other wonderful food one MUST try when visiting Greece. I will focus on all the fresh fish and seafood, which are delicious. There is a great variety to choose from such as seabass, grouper, red mullet, seabream etc. Ask for fried gavros (anchovies) or fried marida (picarel) and of course fried Kalamarakia (squid), which are the cheapest and the best. By the way TaramOsalata is written with an O and not TaramAsalata, as all foreigners or Greeks living abroad make this mistake often. As a dessert, don't miss galaktoboureko.
karenhirst
16th Jul, 2014
You've missed off pastitsio !
lizzie_o
16th Jul, 2014
I know it's a bit dirty, but you can't beat a pita gyros with a nice cold beer as a quick snack/ lunch
Michael Hoath
4th Jul, 2014
Don't forget the gorgeous Greek salad! I've never had tomatoes as nice as the ones you get in Greece. Combined with cucumber, onion, olives and wonderful feta cheese is a simple yet stunning salad smothered in olive oil and oregano.
culinaryflavors's picture
culinaryflavors
4th Jul, 2014
Also, try the cretan dakos and the sfakiani pita. The first is a salad, the second is a sweet and savory pancake with mizithra!

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