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.

Greece

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

Don’t leave Greece without trying…


Taramasalata

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.
 

Rosemary flavoured olivesOlives & olive oil

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 flavouring your own olives


Dolmades 

Each region in Greece, in fact, each household, has its variation on the classic grape leaf-wrapped rice parcel. Eaten as a finger food, some stuffed vine leaves incorporate mincemeat with the long-grain rice, others, simply a heady combination of thyme, dill, fennel, oregano or pine nuts.   


Veggie moussakaMoussaka 

Variations on moussaka are found throughout the Mediterranean and Balkans, but the iconic Greek baked dish is based on layering: sautéed aubergine, minced meat fried pureed tomato, onion, garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, a bit of potato, and then a final fluffy topping of cheese and béchamel sauce. 

Try making your own moussaka 


Grilled meat 

Greeks are master of charcoal-grilled and spit-roasted meats. Souvlaki is still Greece’s favourite fast food, both the gyros and skewered meat versions wrapped in pitta bread, with tomato, onion and lashings of tzatziki. At the taverna, local free-range lamb and pork dominate, though kid goat is also a favourite.

Sample it yourself with these lamb grilled skewers 


Greek fishFresh fish

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 barbounia (red mullet) and maridha (whitebait) are ideal lightly fried.

Try making your own seared mullet or simmered squid


Courgette balls (kolokythokeftedes)

Sometimes in the form of a patty, sometimes in a lightly fried ball, make sure to try these starters any chance you get. The body of the fritter is usually made of grated or pureed courgette blended with dill, mint, or other top-secret spice combinations. Paired with tzatziki, for its cooling freshness, you just can’t lose.

Octopus

Along harbours, octopus hung out to dry like washing is one of the iconic images of Greece. Grilled or marinated, it makes a fine meze (appetiser), or as an entree stew it in wine sauce and serve it with pasta.


Crispy greek style pieFeta & cheeses

When in Greece, be sure to sample the vast array of fresh cheeses. Ask behind market counters for feta kept in big barrels, creamy and delicious (nothing like the one 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), at tavernas, salads like Cretan dakos, which is topped with a crumbling of mizithra, a soft, white cheese.

Try feta in traditional Greek spanakopita.


Honey & baklava 

Greeks love their sweets, often based on olive oil and honey combinations, with flaky filo pastry.  The classic baklava is a start, layering honey, filo and ground nuts. Or try galaktoboureko, a sinful custard-filled pastry. Simply, pour a lovely dollop of local thyme honey over fresh Greek yogurt.

Fancy a spot of island-hopping? Read our travel guides to Crete and the Ionian Islands. 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? Share your must-try dishes below…

Comments, questions and tips

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historyofgreekfood
28th Feb, 2014
....And don't leave Greece without trying wild greens, cooked vegetables, yogurt and spoon sweets.
sue-perdik
26th Feb, 2014
yes having lived in Greece for over 30 years and married to a greek fisherman, I wholeheartedly agree with chara that lamb isn't eaten as often as you would imagine, mainly at easter done whole on a spit over a pit filled with charcoal..delicious! {souvla}, my favourite recipes are cuttlefish with spinach, fried squid rings {calamari} marinated anchovies and 'briam' a mixture of med vegetables roasted in the oven in a tomato sauce...lovely with side dish of feta sprinkled with fresh oregano and olive oil...mmm!!!
Chara
10th Feb, 2014
Having spent many years in Greece, I find your suggestions excellent and very indicative. Only one thought. Yes Greeks eat lamb but trust me not as much as it is being suggested in cooking sites here in Britain. They equally use beef and pork. This "lamb and Greece" connection would be a surprise for many Greeks, honestly. :)
John Lewis
10th Aug, 2016
Greeks used to eat a lot more lamb and veal. When Greece entered the EU, the meat exporting countries to the North actively pushed for a change in dietary habits so as to offload their excess capacity. Lamb, kid and veal are expensive now for Greeks. So recipes are adapted using pork, beef and chicken.
mrscoltman
30th Jan, 2014
You cannot visit Greece without trying Lamb Kleftiko! It is one of the most delicious lamb dishes you will ever try! Chunks of lamb on the bone slow cooked in a paper parcel for hours with potatoes, garlic, olive oil, lemon, herbs and feta/ other Greek cheese! You just can't beat it for flavour.
judyew
18th Jul, 2014
That is my favourite too, but I can't leave Greece without eating a few beautiful fresh Greek salads and a bowl of Greek yogurt and honey with a sprinkling of nuts!
mango
2nd Jul, 2014
lamb kleftiko is traditional cypriot dish,as cypriots eat a lot of lamb.
John Lewis
10th Aug, 2016
Ofton Kleftikon is a signature Cypriot dish but the Kleftiko style of cooking ( so the story goes ) originates from the war of independence in mainland Greece where the revolting Greeks ( many of whom were Klefts or Armatoli ) took to encasing their food while cooking it so the Ottoman army could not find them hiding in the hills.

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