The Top 22 Tastiest Dishes of Greek Cuisine
Whether it’s your first time or you are a frequent traveler, there’s always something new and delicious to discover in Greece! The taste of Greek cuisine has been influenced by different cultures including Italian, Turkish, Arab and Middle Eastern. Therefore, you can find Greek delicacies in similar variations in other countries like Baklava in Turkey or the stuffed grape leaves in the Middle East. So, on your next visit to Greece make sure to try these Top 22 Greek Specialities.
Some of these you may already know, but to get the best version of the dish and to find the tastiest spots where locals go, I recommend going on a food tour. I was lucky enough while in Athens, to be invited on The Moveable Sunday Feast with Culinary Backstreets! This tour walks you through a classic Athens Sunday where food and family are central to Greek life.
To find out more about Culinary Backstreets, jump to the bottom of my post here.
On my foodie tour I discovered these amazing Greek specialities!
Tzatziki is a meze (tapa) that is a sauce or a dip depending what you use it for. This is very easy to make and tastes delicious! All you need is some Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, fresh dill and olive oil. It’s great in a gyro, or as a dip for fried zucchini, grilled meat or pita bread.
A delicious, homey dish that’s prepared in layers. You’ll see this Greek dish offered in every tavern or on Sunday’s in every Grandma’s kitchen. Vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, or potatoes make the bottom layer. The middle layer is a meat and tomato sauce and a béchamel sauce takes the top layer.
3. Greek Lamb Chops
The only seasoning you need is just some salt, pepper, and oregano. After, the lamb chops get cooked to perfection on an open flame. Make sure to squeeze lemon juice on them before eating!
Every Greek tavern has a specialty. If you go on tour with Culinary Backstreets, you will get a chance to dine at a local tavern that’s known for their lamb chops!
4. Bourassa and Bougatsa
TOP GREEK DELICACY!
Originating from northern Greece in Thessaloniki, it’s a phyllo pastry with a cheese or cream filling inside. This is great to have for breakfast. I’ll start with the cheese and then finish with the cream. For the cream version, icing sugar and cinnamon are put on top. Both though, are amazing dishes and a favorite of mine.
5. Greek Coffee & Turkish Delight
Greek coffee takes time to prepare so Greeks will normally have it when they have time to sit and relax. The origins of Greek coffee go back to ancient times in Yemen where it would be boiled over the embers in a little pot. The coffee grounds are finer than espresso. When the foam rises to the top, you know that the coffee is ready. The coffee is best served with Turkish delight, which are small jelly cubes made of rosewater or fruit juices and topped with icing sugar.
6. Melitzanes Papoutsakia (Stuffed Eggplant)
Slice the eggplant in half and scoop the insides out. A filling of ground meat and spices is put in and you top it with a great helping of cheese.
7. Greek Salad
My favorite salad which includes tomatoes, cucumber, onions, olives and a large piece of feta cheese. Then you drizzle some olive oil on and sprinkle some oregano.
I learned from my tour guide that in order for a cheese to be called feta, it must follow very specific regulations. 70% of the cheese need to be sheep’s milk and no more than 30% can be goat’s milk.
8. Greek Yoghurt
No one knows how to make yogurt better than the Greeks! Fresh milk is boiled and then strained in a cheese cloth for around 70 hours. Afterwards, you are left with a very creamy yogurt that can be eaten on its own or with added toppings. I really enjoyed the rose petals and strawberry toppings on the tour with Culinary Backstreets.
9. Koulouri (Round Sesame Ring)
Very similar to a bagel, this is a traditional Greek breakfast. It can actually be traced back to ancient times as a traditional snack! It is a circular ring of bread that is coated with sesame seeds.
While on the food tour, I got to visit a spot that bakes the Koulouri and supplies it to over 70% of the street vendors in Athens!
10. Smyrna (Meatballs)
Rather than being round, these meatballs are oblong, made with ground meat and herbs. They are served in a tomato sauce and eaten with rice.
11. Greek Cake with Mastika Ice Cream
A delicious light cake that is soaked in a mastika syrup and honey and served with mastika ice cream. This is not your usual ice cream as the texture makes it look like it’s made of play dough but once it enters your mouth, it melts away like normal ice cream. Mastika is known as a medicinal ingredient which comes from the mastic tree in the Mediterranean. So, you have a very tasty dessert with health benefits!
There are many more tasty things to try while on the Moveable Sunday Feast, but I’ll keep it as a surprise for you to discover on your own tour with Culinary Backstreets.
Other local Greek food I found in taverns and on the streets
One of the most popular Greek Mediterranean food, the gyro, starts with meat that roasts vertically on a spit. The most common type of meat is pork but chicken is an alternative option. Also inside, you have tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, potato fries and tzatziki sauce.
13. Shrimp Saganaki
TOP GREEK DELICACY!
One of my favorites, it’s a mix of tomatoes, feta cheese, peppers, and shrimp, that you bake in a clay pot.
I absolutely love cheese but this one is special! Halloumi is a mix of goat and sheep’s milk. The best way to eat it is to grill it so that it becomes very cheesy. This tastes great on its own or served on top of a salad.
15. Phyllo Feta with Honey & Sesame
TOP GREEK DELICACY!
Another amazing cheese dish, you wrap the feta cheese in phyllo and bake in the oven. After, you coat the phyllo with honey and sesame seeds. This is also another favorite of mine and probably one of the best Greek vegetarian dishes.
16. Kalamarakia Tiganita (Fried Calamari)
Fried squid, topped with lots of lemon juice. They have this dish in many countries but somehow I think the Greeks do it the best and it’s also one of the tastiest Greek appetizers.
17. Grilled Octopus
On many of the Greek islands, you will see freshly caught octopus hanging out on a clothes line to dry out in the sun. They do this to get the moisture out so that the octopus will not taste rubbery. After grilling the octopus, add some olive oil and fresh herbs.
A Greek speciality that is made of grape vine leaves with a rice and meat stuffing.
19. Melitzanosalata (Eggplant Dip)
When it comes to eating vegetarian Greek food, you never miss the meat because everything is full of so much flavour. With this dish, you start by charring the eggplant and once cooked, you scoop out the meat. Mix the eggplant with some onion, garlic, and peppers. On top, add a healthy serving of feta, some spices and a drizzle of olive oil.
20. Gigantes Plaki (Giant Beans)
Another great Greek vegetarian dish which, in the past, was a major source of protein for the poor. Cook the giant beans in the oven with tomato sauce and herbs. You can also add in vegetables or some meat.
21. Spanikopita (Spinach Pie)
One of the most well known Greek dishes is the spinach pie that is a mixture of spinach, feta and spices wrapped in phyllo. You can find this classic dish in every bakery all over Greece.
22. Loukoumades or Large Greek Donut
The Loukoumades are a traditional Greek dessert which are round donut balls, similar sized to a timbit if you are Canadian or donut hole if you’re American. Fry the dough and then coat with honey and cinnamon. You can also find the large Greek donuts being sold on beaches during the summer which is stuffed inside with Nutella or cream and coated with icing sugar.
I hope by now I’ve made you hungry and that you will get a chance to try local Greek food when you are visiting Greece! If you are interested in going on a food tour, make sure to try with Culinary Backstreets.
At Culinary Backstreets, they focus on the traditional side of urban life. They offer tours in many cities around the world including Istanbul, Barcelona, Lisbon, Naples, Tbilisi, Queens, Mexico City, Rio Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Izmir. What they all have in common though is food and telling the stories of unsung heroes in the culinary world.
If you are in Athens, you have four tour options to choose from:
- Culinary Secrets of Downtown Athens
- Backstreets Plaka: Exploring the Culinary Heart of Athens
- Greek Wine’s Rebirth Uncorked
- The Moveable Sunday Feast
For The Moveable Sunday Feast, the cost is $135 US/adult.
Time: 5.5 hours
My Top Highlights of the Tour
- With Culinary Backstreets, they take a maximum of 7 people on tour. On the tour, I was with four other Canadians, all from Ottawa like me! How funny is that?
- My guide Carolina is a born and bred Athenian. Not only does she do tours but she also works as a chef and caterer, is the Culinary Director of My Greek Table, and has a Greek food show on PBS. I knew I was in good hands on my tour.
- Since this tour runs on a Sunday, we got to visit the local flea market which had lots of goodies to look at and buy.
- Because this is a foodie tour, instead of wine tasting, we got to do a honey tasting where we tried over seven different types of honey. This included sampling thyme honey, white fir tree honey, heather and carob honey and much, much more!
- Another favorite part of the tour was the family-run tavernas we went to. I knew that these places were legit because there weren’t any tourists around except our group.
- We explored areas in Monastiraki that I had never been to before. It’s a great way to start your first day in Athens and get familiar with the city
- Lastly, all the food tasted amazing!
A big thanks to Culinary Backstreets for hosting me. As always, all opinions are my own.