Greece is a country with a rich history, culture and gastronomy. The Greek cuisine is one of the oldest and most influential in the world, with influences from both the East and the West. Greek food is based on fresh ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, cheese, olive oil and herbs, and is characterized by its simplicity, variety and flavor.
If you are planning to visit Greece, you should not miss the opportunity to try some of the traditional dishes and drinks that reflect the essence of the Greek spirit. Here are some of the most popular and delicious ones that you should definitely taste during your trip.
Traditional Greek Dishes
Greek dishes are usually served as meze (small plates) or as main courses. They can be vegetarian or meat-based, depending on the region and the season. Some of the most common and tasty Greek dishes are:
: This is one of the most famous and beloved dishes in Greece. It consists of layers of fried eggplant, potatoes and minced meat, topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and baked in the oven. It is rich, hearty and satisfying, perfect for a family meal or a special occasion. You can find moussaka in almost any taverna or restaurant in Greece, but make sure to avoid tourist traps and look for authentic places that make it fresh and homemade.
: This is a traditional Greek dessert that is also eaten for breakfast. It is made of thin phyllo pastry filled with custard cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. It is crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside, a sweet delight that goes well with a cup of coffee. You can find bougatsa in bakeries or pastry shops all over Greece, especially in Thessaloniki, where it originated.
: These are stuffed grape leaves that are usually served as an appetizer or a side dish. They are filled with rice, herbs, pine nuts and sometimes minced meat, and cooked in lemon juice and olive oil. They are tender, juicy and aromatic, a classic example of Greek cuisine. You can find dolmadakia in most tavernas or restaurants in Greece, or you can buy them ready-made from supermarkets or delis.
: This is one of the most popular street foods in Greece. It consists of thinly sliced meat (usually pork, chicken or lamb) that is roasted on a vertical spit and wrapped in a pita bread with tomatoes, onions, fries and tzatziki sauce (a yogurt-based sauce with cucumber, garlic and herbs). It is cheap, filling and delicious, ideal for a quick bite or a late-night snack. You can find gyros in specialized shops called gyros-tadziki or souvlatzidika all over Greece.
: These are tomato fritters that are typical of Santorini island. They are made of small cherry tomatoes that grow on the volcanic soil of the island, mixed with flour, herbs and spices, and fried in hot oil. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, bursting with flavor and freshness. You can find tomatokeftedes in tavernas or restaurants on Santorini island, especially in Oia village.
: This is a dip made of yellow split peas that are boiled until soft and mashed with olive oil, lemon juice, onion and salt. It is smooth, creamy and nutritious, a staple of Greek cuisine. It is usually served as an appetizer or a spread with bread or pita chips. You can find fava in most tavernas or restaurants in Greece, especially on Santorini island, where it originates.
: This is another famous Greek dessert that is also popular in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. It is made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts (usually walnuts or pistachios) and soaked in honey syrup. It is sweet, sticky and crunchy, a decadent treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth. You can find baklava in pastry shops or cafes all over Greece.
Traditional Greek Drinks
Greek drinks are an integral part of the Greek culture and lifestyle. They can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, hot or cold, sweet or bitter, depending on the occasion and the mood. Some of the most common and refreshing Greek drinks are:
: This is the national drink of Greece, a clear alcoholic beverage that is flavored with anise. It has a strong and distinctive taste that can be enjoyed neat or with water and ice, which turns it milky white. It is usually served as an aperitif or with meze, and it is said to have digestive and medicinal properties. You can find ouzo in bars, cafes or tavernas all over Greece, or you can buy it from liquor stores or supermarkets.
: This is a traditional Greek wine that is infused with pine resin, giving it a unique aroma and flavor. It can be white or rosé, dry or sweet, depending on the grape variety and the production method. It is usually served chilled with seafood, cheese or salads, and it is considered to be an acquired taste. You can find retsina in tavernas or restaurants all over Greece, or you can buy it from wine shops or supermarkets.
: This is a sweet dessert wine that is produced on Santorini island. It is made of sun-dried white grapes that are aged in oak barrels for several years, resulting in a dark amber color and a rich and complex taste. It is usually served chilled with cheese, fruits or desserts, and it has a high alcohol content. You can find vinsanto in tavernas or restaurants on Santorini island, or you can buy it from wine shops or supermarkets.
: This is the traditional Greek coffee that is brewed in a small pot called briki over low heat. It is finely ground and unfiltered, resulting in a thick and strong brew that is served in small cups with or without sugar. It is usually accompanied by a glass of water and a sweet treat, and it is enjoyed slowly and leisurely. You can find ellinikos in cafes or kafeneia all over Greece.
: This is the modern Greek coffee that is popular among young people and tourists. It is made of instant coffee, water, sugar and milk (optional), that are shaken together in a shaker or a blender until frothy. It is served cold in a tall glass with a straw, and it is refreshing and energizing. You can find frappé in cafes or bars all over Greece.
: This is a liqueur that is made of mastic, a resin that is extracted from the mastic tree that grows on Chios island. It has a sweet and herbal taste that can be enjoyed neat or mixed with water, ice or soda. It is usually served as an after-dinner drink or with desserts, and it has digestive and antiseptic properties. You can find mastika in bars, cafes or tavernas all over Greece, especially on Chios island, or you can buy it from liquor stores or supermarkets.
Where to Try Them?
The best way to try the traditional dishes and drinks of Greece is to visit the places where they originate from or where they are best prepared. Here are some suggestions for where to go and what to order:
|Place||Dish / Drink||Why?|
|Athens||Gyros / Ouzo||The capital of Greece offers plenty of options for street food and nightlife. You can enjoy a delicious gyros at any time of the day or night, and wash it down with a glass of ouzo at one of the many bars in the city center.|
|Santorini||Tomatokeftedes / Vinsanto||The most famous island of Greece offers stunning views and unique cuisine. You can savor the tomatokeftedes at a taverna overlooking the caldera, and sip the vinsanto at a winery while watching the sunset.|
|Thessaloniki||Bougatsa / Frappé||The second largest city of Greece offers culture and gastronomy. You can start your day with a bougatsa at one of the many pastry shops in the city center, and refresh yourself with a frappé at one of the cafes by the seafront.|
|Crete||Dakos / Raki||The largest island of Greece offers history and nature. You can try the dakos, a salad made of barley rusks, tomatoes,|