Greek Food: The Best Dishes and Where to Find Them
Is there anything more warming than a hearty bowl of honest cooking? Classic Greek food is famous for its wholesome stews, flaky pastries and delicious meat dishes, all of which have to be tried and tested while visiting. We've cherry-picked some of our favourite dishes and where to find them, so you can re-create these traditional plates in your kitchen.
This baked Kolokythoanthoi dish, more simply known as stuffed zucchini flowers, is a fantastic summer recipe full of flavour. The blossoms are loaded with a selection of herbs, cheeses and rice, drizzled with olive oil and fried or baked until perfectly golden.
Where to find it: Check out the eateries on the island of Lesvos for the best Kolokythoanthoi, such as the Angelos Taverna located in the idyllic village of Molyvos.
- 20x zucchini blossoms
- 1x onion, diced
- 100g fresh ricotta (or feta)
- 1x bag of rice
- 3x tomatoes, grated
- 2x garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 fresh mint
- 1/2 fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup of water
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Rinse the flowers and set aside
- Mix the herbs, cheese and rice together in a bowl, drizzle over half of the olive oil and seasoning
- Stuff the mixture into the flowers
- Pour the water, and the rest of the oil into a baking dish and put in the oven at 180°C - baking until golden
Grab a fork and sit down to an absolute feast with friends. Wherever you visit in Greece, you’ll find that a selection of tasty meze dishes are always on the menu. Similar to the Spanish tapas, a meze platter includes a variety of tasty small plates made up of savoury snacks to share, complimented by a traditional drink. A meze can be as simple or elaborate as you like, with a collection of starter-style options like dolmadakia, olives, feta, pitta bread and taramosalata, or spectacular seafood and meat platters with a mixture of grilled vegetables and potatoes. Creating your own meze platter is super easy and a great dinner party idea if you want a casual meal to tuck into with mates.
Where to find it: You can sample meze anywhere in Greece, but you can find a few fantastic taverns in the Plaka and Psiri areas of Athens, or visit Mytilini, Chios or Thessaloniki.
Mousakka, this classic mediterranean dish is comfort food at its finest. This hearty recipe is like an oven-baked casserole, traditionally made with eggplant and lamb mince, flavoured with pureed tomato, garlic, cinnamon and topped with cheese and béchamel sauce. It takes a little bit of preperation, but it's worth every bit of the effort. The best part? This meal is suitable for freezing, so you can batch cook to your heart's content and enjoy a mid-week Mousakka whenever you fancy.
- 1 aubergine, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 600g minced lamb
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsb cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 250ml milk
- 25g flour
- 25g butter
- Crumbled feta cheese
- 250g ricotta
- 1 egg
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Salt the aubergine and leave for 15 minutes (to soften the bitter taste), rinse and dab dry with a cloth. Add in a roasting tin with 1 tsp olive oil and cook for 30 minutes
- In a pan heat the other tsp olive oil and fry the mince, adding all of the herbs, tomato and puree. Let this simmer for 30 minutes
- In another pan add the butter, remove from the heat and add the flour, return to the heat and slowly stir in the milk until thickened. Add the cheese and leave to cool.
- In an oven dish, create your moussaka by adding a quarter of the lamb mixture, then aubergine slices and repeat 2-3 times.
- Whisk the egg and add into the sauce mixture, before pouring over the oven dish - cook in the oven for 50 minutes.
Where to find it: If you’re in Athens, try the moussaka Aleka’s taverna near the Acropolis, or at Filippou in Kolonaki, which has been around since 1923.
If you've got a taste for fast food, Souvlaki is a real Greek kebab that's full of flavour - and super easy to make. This dish is as simple as picking up some kalamakia, or pieces of marinated chicken (or another meat of choice), and placing them on a skewer with a variety of vegetables before hitting the grill. The best way to serve chicken souvlaki is with traditional pitta bread and a dollop of tzatziki - you can throw in a classic Greek salad on the side too, if you're feeling healthy. A popular pick on Greece's street food stalls, this dish will set you back by as little as €1 - €3, unless you go about making it yourself.
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cucumber grated
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 500g plain yoghurt
- 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks and prepare the marinade by throwing in the lemon, olive oil, oregano, garlic and seaosning into the same bowl and refrigerating for 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, prepare the tzatziki by putting all of the ingredients into a blender, first starting with the olive oil and garlic, next adding the cucumber, yoghurt, red wine vinegar and salt, until all of the ingredients are combined
- Assemble the skewers by placing the chicken chunks and chopped vegeteables of your choice (onion, pepper, mushroom etc), alternating as you go, and grill for 20 minutes or until the meat is cooked through
- While the skewers are cooking, warm the pitta breads in the oven and serve with a drizze of lemon, colourful side salad and pot of tzatziki to dip
Where to find it: If you're in Athens, head to Thanassis Kebab in the touristy Monastiraki square or Kostas (open during the day) near Syntagma.
Yemista, a traditional meal of baked tomatoes or peppers stuffed with herbs, vegetables and rice, then topped with melted cheese is a healthy, yet delectable choice! You can also try this recipe with meat as a filling if you prefer. It's an easy, colourful dish that's fit for a starter or a main meal.
Where to find it: The best place to dig into some yummy Yemista is in taverns on the island of Santorini, such as the family-run Stani or on Kamari Beach, at Mesogaia or the seaside Navy Restaurant.
SPANAKOPITA OR SPINACH PIE
The Greeks enjoy a good pie and make several types, usually prepared using filo pastry, eggplants and meat. Try the popular spanakopita or spinach pie, a local specialty prepared with layers of filo dough and crumbly feta cheese. The Pastiso or the Greek version of lasagna, is another ultimate comfort food, consisting of macaroni layered with ground meat and creamy béchamel sauce, flavoured with herbs and topped with cheese before being baked through. Serve on its own, grab a slice as a snack or serve with a classic Greek salad.
- 500g fresh spinach (or 16oz frozen, thawed and drained)
- 4x Jus-Rol filo pastry sheets
- 2 bunches fresh parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp dill
- 4 eggs
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Black pepper for seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 160°C
- Create the filling by mixing together the spinach, parsely, garlic, onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, dill, eggs and feta in a bowl
- Brush a baking dish with olive oil and line with two sheets of filo, which is also brushed with oil. Repeat until 2/3 of the pastry is used up
- Evenly spread the filling mixture of the top of the filo, before adding the remaining pastry sheets (brushed with olive oil)
- Sprinkle with water and place in the oven to cook for 1 hour, or until the pastry is flaky and golden brown in colour
Where to find it: For an authentic experience, try the spinach pie at the pastry shop in Pagkrati, near National Gallery in Athens or at the Boras Bakery of Karteradhos in Santorini.
DOLMATHAKIA OR STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Every region has its unique version of the Dolmathakia or stuffed grape leaves, a classic Greek appetiser. The vine or grape leaves are stuffed with a combination of mincemeat or vegetables, long grains of rice, oregano, pine nuts and fresh herbs, before being steamed. These little bites are delicious as a snack, starter or as part of a traditional meze.
- 1 jar of grape leaves in brine (or 60 fresh leaves)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 6 red onions, diced
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
- 1/2 cup dill
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp mint
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- Rinse the leaves, then place in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, remove and set aside
- In a pan, heat 1/2 cup olive oil and sautee the onions for 5 minutes, next adding rice, herbs and pine nuts
- Take the pan off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and leave to cool
- Place the vine leaves underside up and cut the stem out using a sharp knife, overlapping the two remaining strips towards the centre
- Add a dollop of the filling at one end of the leaf, covering it with the bottom half of the leaf and folding in the sides. Continue to roll up to the top of the leaf
- Continue this process with the remaining leaves, place the rolls in a saucepan seam-side down and cover in the remaining olive oil
- Submerge the leaves in water and bring to the boil, before simmering for 45 minutes to an hour
Where to find it: Check out the Batalagianni restaurant at Kastraki village in Kalambaka, Thesally or at Athens’ Anafiotika Café.