A deep dive into Greece’s ancient and abundant culinary offerings.
Its roots trace back thousands of years, and its nutritional boons are celebrated around the globe. The flavors of Greek cuisine are vibrant, nourishing, and a beautiful reflection of Greece’s land and sea. From fresh seafood to savory pies, you’ll find inspired dishes throughout the region. Experience the flavors of Greece on one of our many trips to the region.
Exploring Iconic Greek Fare
We’ll dive into specific Greek dishes in a bit, but first, some history. Whether you’re dining at a historic tavern, meandering through a local market, or sailing the Mediterranean Sea, these iconic flavors are sure to be woven throughout your Greek experience:
Olives: The olive tree is not only a foundational element of Greek cuisine, its significance reaches throughout Greek culture. The Greeks have been cultivating olives for millennia, and olives are richly tied to Greek cuisine, commerce, mythology, and design. There are even entire museums in Greece dedicated to the olive and its history.
You’ll find olives on every Greek table, served as sides, piled on salads, or stuffed with herbs. And olive oil is incorporated in virtually every Greek dish, as marinades, cooking oil, and dressings.
Honey: Did you know honey has been celebrated in Greece for as long as olive oil – and perhaps even longer? Depictions of bees can be found in ancient coins and jewelry dating back thousands of years, and honey was used as a food sweetener by the ancient Greeks.
Today, there are over 20,000 beekeepers in Greece, and over one million hives. The flavors of local honey will differ based on what the bees are dining on. In Greece, you can sample flavors like thyme, citrus, and chestnut honey, and you’ll find honey in popular dishes like baklava and pasteli.
Seafood: There’s just something about a gorgeous plate of seafood paired with al fresco dining and salty sea breezes. Greece’s connection to the sea is reflected throughout their culinary offerings. Mussels, octopus, oysters, squid: if you love seafood, get ready to feast!
Seafood is often served as meze, or an appetizer. Grilled octopus is a popular dish, as are marides – tiny fish that are fried and eaten whole. You’ll also find seafood in stews, pastas, or savory pies. After a day of exploring, your group is sure to delight in a seaside spread of Greek’s maritime delicacies.
The Health Benefits of Greek Cuisine
It’s important to stay fueled up while exploring Greece’s archaeological wonders and awe-inspiring landscapes. Foodies, rejoice! In Greece, you can indulge in the flavors of your destination, and feel great about doing it. Greek food is not only delicious, it’s celebrated for being super healthy, too.
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the cuisine of Greece, and all countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes lots of veggies, fruits, legumes, and fish – and limits excessive red meat, dairy, and sugar. This is very aligned with local produce in the region and traditional dishes.
Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet can offer an array of health boosts, like lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. So, dive in! Feel free to drizzle olive oil on everything, and enjoy a generous plate of grilled fish or dolmades. You may even discover inspiration to incorporate into your rhythms back home.
Essential Greek Dishes
With such a rich history, it’s nearly impossible to hone in on must-trys when it comes to Greek food. However, these dishes are a great introduction. Preparations will vary by region, but whether you’re nestled in a quaint cafe or savoring a multi-course seaside meal, here are iconic Greek dishes to add to your culinary bucket list.
Tzatziki: Cherished by foodies across the globe, tzatziki is a dipping sauce made from Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and olive oil. Some preparations also include lemon juice and herbs. This cool, tangy dip is a refreshing accompaniment to any meal. You’ll see tzatziki everywhere, served with bread, grilled meats, and veggie dishes.
Spoon Sweets: Spoon sweets are essentially fruit preserves, served in a teaspoon as a sign of hospitality. While there are some spoon sweets that incorporate vegetables or seeds, they usually highlight fruits of the season, like figs, apricots, and cherries. These traditional sweets are a warm welcome to Greece, and a wonderful way to sample seasonal flavors.
Dolmadakia: These stuffed vine leaves hail back to ancient times, and can be served warm or cold. Though they may be filled with minced meat and vegetables, they are usually a vegetarian dish filled with rice and herbs. These little green pockets of yumminess are sure to delight your table the moment they arrive. Sprinkle them with a bit of lemon and olive oil for the perfect bite.
Kakavia: This tasty fish soup is known as the fisherman’s soup. Local fishermen used to sit ashore or on their boats and add fish to their soup straight from their nets, combined with olive oil and lemon in a nice, briny broth. Today you can find kakavia along with vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery.
Moussaka: A fan favorite! This beloved dish is probably one of the most famous dishes in Greek cuisine. Similar to a casserole, moussaka features aubergines (eggplants), potato, and minced meat, topped with a bechamel sauce. With a golden crust and layers of flavor, it’s a hearty, comforting dish. Pair with a beautiful salad for a truly special meal.
Spanakopita: The main stars of this savory pie are spinach and its beautiful encasing of flaky, crunchy phyllo pastry. Feta cheese, onions, or parsley are also often included with the filling. With only a few ingredients, spanakopita is fairly easy to prepare. Be sure to ask your guide about their favorite way to serve spanakopita – then recreate it back home in your own kitchen!
Baklava: Time for dessert! Baklava is an acclaimed dessert, and really encompasses the flavors of Greece. Layers of phyllo pastry, chopped nuts (like pistachios and walnuts), and honey combine for a dessert that’s sweet, crunchy, and oh so delicious. Pair with coffee after dinner, or for breakfast, or at any time of the day!