What is the food like in Greece?

Greece is a food lover’s paradise! The cuisine of Greece is rich and diverse. With a focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients, bold flavors, and traditional cooking techniques. From savory gyros and succulent souvlaki to creamy tzatziki and sweet baklava. Greek food is sure to satisfy your cravings and leave you wanting more.

But what is the food like in Greece, you ask? Well, let’s just say that if you’re on a diet, you might want to leave your self-control at home. Greek food is hearty, delicious, and oh-so-tempting. Here are a few of the things you can expect to find on the menu:

The five most famous foods in Greece:

Meze

Mezes are a staple of Greek cuisine. They are something like starters, small plates of delicious dishes. Mezes are perfect for sharing, and they are a great way to sample the variety of food the country has to offer. Some popular meze dishes include:

  1. Dolma. Stuffed vine leaves with rice, herbs, and sometimes meat, depending on the region or even the cook.
  2. Tzatziki. A yogurt dip with cucumber and garlic.
  3. Spanakopita. Pie stuffed with spinach and feta.
  4. Greek salad or farmer’s salad. The famous salad with feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and olive oil. 

Mezes are perfect for vegetarians and vegans traveling in Greece. Although many of the main dishes include either meat or fish, the starters are much more plant-based. Are you on a vegan diet? Check this guide on which mezes you can order in the many taverns around Greece.

Gyros

Gyros is the ultimate Greek street food. It is made with thinly sliced meat (usually lamb, beef, or chicken) that has been marinated and cooked on a spit. This meat is wrapped in a pita with lettuce, tomato, onions, tzatziki, or any other sauce of your choice. Sometimes even potatoes are added. Gyros is cheap in Greece, while one pita can feel like you ate a whole meal. Trust us, you’ll want to try at least one (or ten) during your trip to Greece.

Souvlaki

Souvlaki is made with marinated meat (usually pork or chicken) that has been grilled and served on a skewer. Similar to Gyros, it is often served in (or with) a pita, with vegetables and tzatziki. Above all, souvlaki is a popular snack or meal option in Greece, and you’ll find it at many street food vendors and taverns.

Moussaka

Moussaka is a classic Greek casserole. It is made with layers of eggplant, minced meat, and a creamy béchamel sauce. It’s hearty, comforting, and oh-so-delicious. You’ll find it on the menu at many Greek restaurants, and it’s a must-try if you’re a fan of eggplant. However, the best moussaka experience is a homemade one. So if you are ever invited to try a home-made-moussaka, say yes!

Not into eggplant? A great alternative on Moussaka, is the less famous Pastitsio. This dish has a similar idea, but instead of using layers of eggplant, pasta is used.

Baklava

No trip to Greece is complete without trying some baklava. This sweet and flaky pastry is made with layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and honey. It’s the perfect end to any meal. You can find baklava at most bakeries and sweet shops in Greece.

Maybe you wonder why baklava is on the list of Greek foods, isn’t it Turkish? Although the Turkish are more famous for their baklava, the Greeks have their own delicious recipe. With more spices, different nuts, and a thicker dough, the Greek baklava is definitely worth a try!

Kali Orexi!

So, what is the food like in Greece? It’s delicious, diverse, seasonal, and will have you coming back for seconds (or thirds). Make sure to bring your appetite and a sense of adventure, because Greek food is sure to surprise and amuse your taste buds. One last tip: don’t forget to add some local feta to everything you eat in Greece! Kali Orexi!

Note for people on a plant-based diet

Many of the most famous Greek recipes include meat. However, don’t let this scare you to visit Greece when you follow a plant-based diet. Traditionally, the Greeks are used to eating a lot of beans, lentils, and vegetables in general. Although this food is seen as food for home and often not served in most taverns and restaurants, the country does offer a great variety of vegan dishes. If you want to know more about traveling in Greece on a vegan diet, continue reading here.

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

Is it possible to stick to a vegan diet in Greece?

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Greek taverns

In most countries, you go out for dinner at a restaurant, or an estiatorio in Greek. However, many Greeks don’t go to an estiotorio when eating out. Instead, the Greeks eat at taverns. But…

Cooking with Yiayia : Greek Potato Piroshki

I was in quarantine in Greece, during the COVID pandemic, at an isolated beach house last year. Yiayia had left enough food in front of the door to survive for a month if I needed to. Amongst her many dishes was a bag full of small savory pastries I had never seen before, Greek potato Piroshki. With just one bite, I fell in love. It turned out the be the most delicious snack I had ever tasted, and within a day, I finished all of them.

In the following year, I cooked the dish together with Yiayia to learn how to recreate this incredible vegan dish. Today, I am ready to share her delicious recipe with you!

How did Piroshki end up in Greece?

Piroshki is traditionally not a Greek but a Russian dish. However, a part of the Greek population did not live in Greece for more than three thousand years, the Pontic Greeks, or Pondians. These people are Greek and have always called themselves Greek. However, they lived in the Pontus region, located in modern-day Turkey, South of the Black Sea.

Due to the remote location of the Pontus, the Pontians have a unique culture, identity, and diverse cuisine that differs from the Greeks. When the Pontic Greeks had to leave their region in the early 20th century, many returned to Greece and took their cuisine with them. Piroshki is just one of the many delicious recipes of Pontic Cuisine. 

What is Piroshki?

Piroshki is a fried dough with a savory or sweet filling inside. The dough is made with yeast to provide a fluffy texture around the filling. The outside, however, becomes crunchy when the dough is fried. Famous Pontian Piroshki fillings are minced beef, mushrooms, cheese, and apricot. But my favorite, and fully vegan, Pirsohki, is with potatoes.

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Yiayia’s secrets

  • There is a vast variety of Piroshki recipes out there. Some include milk, others eggs, and some only water. I believe you can not find two people who follow the same recipe or have the same result. Piroshki is personal, handed over in a family every generation. Each Piroshki is unique.
  • Unless you’re making potato Piroshki on a Greek summer day, you must give your dough some special love. Yeast works best at a higher temperature, so keep your dough warm! Wrap the dough in a blanket and put it next to a heater when it’s rising. This way, you will get the best texture in the end.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 glass of medium-warm water, around 350 ml
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 package of active yeast
  • 450 – 500 grams (around 1 pound) of flour 
  • sunflower oil for frying the Piroshki

For the filling:

  • 1 kilo (2,2 pounds) of potatoes
  • 2 big white onions
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Tools

  • a bowl
  • two saucepans
  • a blanket 
  • a towel
  • optional rolling pin

Yiayia’s Greek potato Piroshki:

Time needed: 2 hours and 30 minutes.

  1. Make the dough

    Mix the warm water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the yeast and mix in. Wait till the mixture starts bubbling a bit. Then, you can start adding the flour. Tablespoon by tablespoon, while mixing it in by hand.Greek potato Piroshki making the dough

  2. Knead the dough and let it rise

    When the dough feels dry but still sticks slightly, it is time to knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes.
    Cover it with a towel and leave it to rise for 1 to 3 hours. If you live in a colder climate, wrap the bowl in a blanket and put it close to a heater to activate the yeast.Greek potato Piroshki dough ready to leave to rise after kneading

  3. Make the filling

    While the dough rises, it is time to prepare the filling. Cut the onions and peel the potatoes. Add olive oil to a saucepan and fry the onions till they are soft. Then, add the potatoes, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil. Leave until the potatoes are soft, around 20 to 30 minutes.Greek potato Piroshki boiling the onions and potatoes in a pan with water

  4. Season the filling

    Strain and mash the vegetables. Add fresh parsley, salt, and a lot of black pepper. Don’t be afraid to add too much. You want the filling to taste like you have put slightly too much pepper to have the best result when putting everything together.Greek potato Piroshki filling seasoning parsely and pepper on mashed potatoes and onions

  5. Make a sheet of dough

    Once the dough has risen, it is time to prepare the Piroshki. Sprinkle flour on your counter. Take a small piece of dough and open it with your hand or a rolling pin.making Greek potato Piroshki size of dough you need for one Piroshki

  6. Assemble the Piroshki

    You make a small sheet of dough, and in the middle, you place about a tablespoon of the potato mixture. Then, wrap the filling inside the dough.
    I usually make a triangular sheet, fold the top and sides of this sheet over the filling, and use the bottom to roll everything inside. making Greek potato Piroshki opening the dough and adding the filling

  7. Repeat

    Repeat step 5 and 6 until you have used up all the dough and filling.making Greek potato Piroshki assemble the Pirsohki and let them settle

  8. Fry the Piroshki


    You fry the Piroshki for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until they are golden brown. You want them to float in the sunflower oil, so use around a liter of it in a saucepan. The oil needs to be hot enough so that when you place a piece inside, it starts sizzling immediately.
    When the Piroshki is nicely fried place it on a plate with a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Let it cool down, and enjoy!making Greek potato Piroshki fry in oil in pan

Tips:

  • You shouldn’t immediately fry a Piroshki after assembling one. Leave them on the counter to settle a bit. Once you have around 10 of them, you can start frying the first one. Or wait till you have assembled all of them.
  • The time a potato needs to boil depends on the type as well as the size. Test if the potatoes are ready by trying to lift one with a fork. If they fall off they are ready.
  • It takes some practice until you find your way with the dough while assembling the Greek potato Piroshki. Don’t expect a good-looking first batch and remember that the taste is more important than the appearance. The most important thing is to find a way that works for you.
  • If you have left-over potato filling in the end, you could use it to make a nice potato salad or just eat it as a side-dish later in the week.

The 10 vegan dishes you can order in every Greek tavern

It is nearly impossible to have a bad meal in Greece. Feta, good olive oil, and fresh vegetables are able to turn any recipe into a delicious meal. Combine this with fresh fish or a souvlaki and you have heaven on a plate. Finding Greek vegan dishes, however, can be nearly impossible. Especially in smaller towns in Greece, it is difficult to stick to a plant-based diet. Greek main dishes at a traditional tavern often contain either fish or meat. But did you ever look at the starters? Meze’s is what they are called in Greek.

Read below to find the Greek vegan dishes that are served in almost all taverns around the country. Including their Greek name and the way to pronounce them. You should order around three to four of them to make a meal. Enjoy!

Grilled mushrooms

Μανιταρια πλευρώτους στο φούρνο – Manitaria plevrotous sto forno
Oyster mushrooms, grilled and served with vinegar, olive oil, and herbs. These mushrooms have an amazing texture and great taste! It is a super simple dish, but due to the quality of the used products it is definitely worth ordering. The Greek mushrooms are so good that they make a great replacement for meat.

Fava – Greek yellow split pea puree
by realgreekrecipes.com

Split pea puree

Φάβα – Fáva
Creamy and super tasty split pea puree, cooked with olive oil, garlic, onion, and lemon. Fava is a Greek hummus, perfect to eat with some bread or pita. Originally this recipe is made with fava beans from Santorini. Here, the volcanic soil on the island gives extra sweetness to the beans that are produced. However, today fava is cooked all throughout Greece and available in almost every Greek tavern.

Tomato salad

Σαλατα ντομάτα – salata tomata
Don’t be fooled by the name of this Greek vegan dish, there is more to it than just tomatoes. Tomato salad in Greece is short for the famous Greek (farmer’s) salad without the feta. Cucumber, onions, olives, and tomatoes, topped with herbs and olive oil. So simple, but so tasty.

Giant Greek beans from the oven
by kalofagas.ca

Baked giant beans

Γίγαντας στο φούρνο – Gigantas sto fourno
Gigantes means giants, and sto fourno, from the oven. The name of this delicious traditional dish explains exactly what it is. Big white beans cooked in the oven with onion, tomatoes, olive oil, and many herbs. Sometimes, carrot and celery are added as well.

Peppers from Florina

Πιπεριές Φλωρίνης – Pipėriés Florinies
Peppers from Florina, a region close to the border of both Albania and North Macedonia. The peppers’ taste is sweet and they are grilled and served with olive oil and vinegar.

Boiled wild greens

Χόρτα βραστά – Gorta Vrastá
Gorta Vrastá is a super traditional Greek dish that is unfortunately, not for everyone’s taste. The dish is made with a wild vegetable that does not have a translation into English. The vegetable is boiled and served with lemon and salt, super simple. Personally, I am not a big fan of this recipe. However, you must try since it doesn’t get more local than this. When you are a big fan of lemon taste, you will most probably like it.

Beetroot salad

Παντζαροσαλάτα – Pantsarosalata
This beetroot salad is again a very simple Greek dish. The beets are cooked in foil inside the oven. Meanwhile, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar are whisked together in a salad bowl. Once the beets are done, everything is put together with some pepper and salt. Kali orexi!

stuffed vine leaves
by giorgostsoulis.com

Stuffed vine leaves

Σαρμαδακια – Sarmadakia
This dish is absolutely one of my favorite ones in Greece Tiny handmade stuffed vine leaves that come in many variations. Rice with olive oil, onions, and a variety of herbs give taste to this dish. The leaves are usually eaten with tzatziki, but don’t let traditions prevent you from trying this dish. Eat without sauce or try with fava or melitzanosalata (eggplant dip).

Greek bruschetta

Ντακος, χωρίς τυρί – Dakos chories tiri
Dakos is made with barley rusks, a specialty of Crete called kritharokoula. This rusk is a hard, twice-baked bread and is topped with olive oil, tomato, and greek cheese. Some taverns add capers or olives as well. Dakos is traditionally a recipe from Crete and perfect for warm summer days. Although this is officially not a vegan recipe, it is definitely worth trying. Just order them without, chories, (feta) cheese.

Fried zucchini

Κολοκυθάκια τηγανιτά – Kolothàkia tiganita
Last but not least, my favorite vegan traditional Greek dish. Kolothàkia are fried thin slices of zucchini covered in a dough that is made of flour with either water or beer. You can eat them with fava, melitzanosalata, or even just mayonnaise or ketchup. They are better than potato fries!

Does this list not include your favorite Greek vegan dishes? Please leave a comment below so I can try it on my next trip to Greece!

Do you want to prepare yourself for a visit to Greece? Or do you simply want to learn all there is to known about this beautiful country? Leave your email below and get the answer to all your questions!

Is it possible to stick to a vegan diet in Greece?

The Greek restaurants abroad are mostly famous for their moussaka and mixed grill. Gyros, souvlakia, and keftedes dominate the image of Greek cuisine. Meat. With some feta cheese and olive…

What is the food like in Greece?

Greece is a food lover’s paradise! The cuisine of Greece is rich and diverse. With a focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients, bold flavors, and traditional cooking techniques. From savory…