When we think of Greek food, we tend to picture the classics: tender lamb on the spit, gyros stuffed with lamb or chicken and salad, fried halloumi, Greek salad, and the super-sweet Baklava, a walnut and syrup dessert.
But Greek cuisine offers so much more than the popular dishes we already love. On any visit to Greece, you’ll have the opportunity to sample delicacies that most foreigners have never even heard of. Making use of fresh island ingredients and age-old practices, Greek cuisine is full of wonderful surprises that your taste buds will thank you for. Keep reading to find out what 10 delicacies you have to try during a visit to Greece.
10 CHEESE AND SPINACH PIE: SPANAKOPITA
You might have hated spinach as a child. But the vegetable doesn’t seem nearly as awful to Greek children, who are served the delicious Spanakopita. The cheese and spinach pie is a national delicacy, and will quickly turn spinach from a healthy food you have to eat into a scrumptious treat you want to devour.
Spanakopita is traditionally made using spinach, or a similar leafy green if spinach is not available, and cheese, onions, eggs, and an herb like dill. The filling is then added to filo pastry and the result is one of the yummiest pies you will ever eat.
9 POPULAR WORLDWIDE: SOUVLAKIA & GYROS
Perhaps the most famous Greek food of all is slow-cooked meat on the spit, normally lamb, pork, or chicken. This is often served either as souvlakia in Greece or as Gyros, sometimes called Yiros. Only true Greeks know the difference between them!
According to Anita Hendrieka, the meat is served on its own in skewers in a Souvlakia dish. It is normally served with accompaniments such as salad and flatbread. With Gyros, on the other hand, the meat and salad are served together in the flatbread. Sometimes, you’ll find French fries included as well!
8 GREEK MEATBALLS: KEFTETHES
The Greeks really are the masters of meat. One of the most popular dishes to try when you’re in Greece is Keftethes, otherwise known as Greek Meatballs. Mainly served as an appetizer, these little balls of heaven can also be eaten as a main meal when served with rice and salad.
Traditionally, the meatballs are fried and flavored with lots of herbs. You’ll surely get hints of mint and parsley, in addition to salt, pepper, onion, cheese, and breadcrumbs. If you’re a meat-lover, you really can’t go wrong with these!
7 GREEK SALAD: HORIATIKI
Greek salad, known as Horiatiki in the Motherland, is not only one of the most beloved dishes in Greece but is now an international favorite. You can get Greek salad pretty much anywhere, but the best and most authentic versions come from Greece.
There are variations of recipes across the Greek Islands, but the basic recipe calls for tomato, feta cheese, olives, cucumber, onion, and olive oil. You might also find additions of dried bread, capers, or even peppers. A true taste of the Mediterranean, Horiatiki is best eaten in summer when the ingredients are in season.
6 STUFFED VINE LEAVES: DOLMADES
Dolmades have to be one of the best ways to get in your greens! These vine leaves are stuffed with meat and rice and flavored with herbs such as mint and dill. You can find them readily in Greece, and they’re often served at the beginning of the meal accompanied by yogurt.
Dolmades come from a larger group of stuffed dishes in Greek cuisine known as Dolma. Aside from vine leaves, you might find stuffed tomatoes, peppers, calamari, cabbage rolls, and zucchinis. But so far, nothing has left the same impression as the delicious dolmades!
5 FRIED CHEESE BALLS: TIROKROKETES
The Greeks may be masters of meat, but they also seem to have special powers when it comes to cheese dishes. Everyone knows that you can get delicious feta in Greece, but few people know about the mixed-cheese dishes that are also available. One of the most delicious is Tirokroketes.
This basically consists of fried cheese balls. Need we go on? While this definitely isn’t for the lactose-intolerant traveler, it is something that you should try while you’re in Greece, at least once! Other cheese dishes to sample include fried halloumi and Sfougata, which are also fried cheese balls.
4 DELICIOUS BREAD RINGS: KOULOURI
Flatbread is abundant in Greece, but you’ll also get a chance to sample another kind of bread which is just as yummy. It’s called Koulouri, and you’ll see people eating it in major cities such as Athens or Thessaloniki. According to Rough Guides, Koulouri are a popular treat for locals on their way to work.
These are basically soft bread rings that are coated in sesame streets for crunch and flavor. People tend to have them as a breakfast on the go and often have them with a fresh cup of coffee.
3 DESSERT OF THE GODS: LOUKOUMADES
Greek desserts are typically rich in flavor and sweet enough to satisfy any cravings. They often feature syrup, nuts, or custard, and aren’t that great if you’re watching your calorie intake. But they are delicious! If you only try one sweet while in Greece, let it be the donut balls known as Loukoumades.
You really can’t go wrong with fried dough that’s saturated in honey syrup. Sometimes you’ll find these delectable balls garnished with cinnamon to make them even more donut-like, or even crushed walnuts in typical Mediterranean fashion.
2 NATIONAL FAVORITE: MOUSSAKA
One of the nation’s most beloved dishes is the lasagna-like Moussaka. You’ll easily find this all over the tavernas of Greece and is also commonly served at gatherings and celebrations in people’s homes. As Bucket List Journey explains, Moussaka is essentially layered beef, eggplants, and béchamel sauce.
Rich and filling, you won’t need too many accompaniments when you’re ordering Moussaka. But it is addictive, and you’ll probably find yourself ordering it again and again throughout your trip. It’s perfectly finished off with a strong cup of Greek coffee and a bite-sized dessert.
1 GREEK LASAGNE: PASTITSIO
If there’s one Greek dish that’s even more lasagna-like than Moussaka, it’s Pastitsio. This baked pasta dish includes all the standard ingredients of the Italian classic, including ground beef and béchamel sauce. In Greece, you’ll often find Pastitsio served with a mixed green salad.
The most commonly used pasta in Pastitsio is either Penne or Ziti, which are larger hollow tubes. You might also taste a broader range of flavors here than you would in lasagna, including spices like cinnamon. No trip to Greece is complete without sampling this carb-heavy gem!