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15 Traditional Greek Foods and Drinks To Try on Your Next Trip

Enjoying Greek cuisine is the easiest—and the tastiest—way to discover Greece.

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Hi, I'm Catherine!

Catherine Bouris is a freelance writer and editor from Sydney, Australia. A dual Greek-Australian citizen who has lived on three continents, she's a lifelong travel aficionado and loves sharing that with others. She can be found on Twitter @catherinebouris and pretty much everywhere else on the internet.

Like neighboring Italy, Greece is an incredibly food-centric country, although many of its dishes are not as widely known as their Italian counterparts. However, both share several characteristics of that world-famous Mediterranean diet and its health benefits. (Ask any Greek person and they’ll probably chalk the country’s high life expectancy up to the copious amounts of olive oil that can be found in almost all of these delicious dishes.) But Greek food is far more than feta and phyllo—here are 15 more Greek dishes you won’t want to miss.

1. Tzatziki and taramasalata

A bowl of tzatziki surrounded by the ingredients that go into it in Greece.
Tzatziki is a ubiquitous Greek dip.Photo Credit: Liliya Kandrashevich / Shutterstock

Nationwide

It’s almost impossible to sit down for a 3-course meal in Greece and not encounter one or both of these dips to start. Tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip, is best when made with copious amounts of garlic, while taramasalata is a fish roe dip—Greece’s take on caviar, you could say. Both can be eaten with bread, ideally warm pita, fresh from the oven and enjoyed on an Athens food tour.

Insider tip: While it’s recommended to dip your bread into the tzatziki, you should spread the taramasalata.

2. Keftedes

Keftedes, aka meatballs, in Greece.
Popular across Greece, keftedes make for a delicious appetizer.Photo Credit: siamionau pavel / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Keftedes, or meatballs, are an incredibly popular appetizer throughout Greece. Typically made with a mix of minced beef and pork cooked with bread, onions, parsley, and mint, the ideal keftedes are crispy on the outside and light and juicy on the inside. (Some chefs even cook them with a splash of ouzo.) Not a meat eater? Santorini and other Cycladic Islands offer a vegetarian-friendly local alternative, known as tomatokeftedes, where the meat is replaced with locally-grown tomatoes.

3. Spanakopita

Spanakopita spinach pastries in Greece.
Phyllo-based dishes are common across Greece.Photo Credit: Karpenkov Denis / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Another popular Greek appetizer, spanakopita (spinach pie) is made using spinach and feta, as well as onions and dill. The best spanakopita is the kind made with homemade phyllo pastry that’s been baked to golden-brown perfection, although for travelers who aren’t fans of spinach, tiropita is a similar dish that forgoes the spinach in favor of a huge helping of cheese. Either way, you can’t go wrong with one of these phyllo-based delights.

4. Dolmades

A big tray filled with dolmades in Greece.
Dolmades are beloved throughout the Mediterranean.Photo Credit: Marina Onokhina / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Dolmades, also known as just “dolma” elsewhere, are a dish made by filling either vine or cabbage leaves with a mixture of rice and herbs, sometimes meat, or sometimes both. If dolmas don’t take your fancy, try gemista instead. This similar dish also involves stuffing rice and meat inside something else, in this case, tomatoes, bell peppers, or other vegetables. Either dish is a fine addition to any Greek meal, and—be warned—both are deceptively filling.

5. Horiatiki

A plate of Horiatiki, also known as Greek salad.
Good Greek salad should never include lettuce.Photo Credit: Nata Bene / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Also known as Greek salad, horiatiki (sometimes choriatiki) is ubiquitous throughout Greece, and as a result you will most likely encounter it at every meal. A real Greek salad will typically contain tomato, cucumber, red onion, bell peppers, olives, and, of course, a healthy serving of feta. Crucially, a proper Greek salad will never contain any lettuce. Wherever you choose to enjoy it, horiatiki is perfect with a crisp white wine, preferably while watching the sun set over the ocean.

6. Kalamarakia

Kalamarakia, or fried squid, with fresh lemon in Greece.
Fried calamari is a must when on the Greek islands.Photo Credit: Pit Stock / Shutterstock

Nationwide

As a country made up of thousands of islands, seafood is a staple in the Greek diet, and fried calamari—or kalamarakia—is a particular favorite, typically served as an appetizer alongside delicious dips and fresh, warm bread. For the complete experience, buy some from a beachside vendor and then wander down to sit on the sand; enjoying seafood and chips by the beach is a gustatory experience that transcends both borders and cultures.

7. Avgolemono

A big bowl of Avgolemono chicken soup in Greece.
Hearty avgolemono is a Greek soup favorite.Photo Credit: from my point of view / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Naturally, a nation big on showing love through food would have a go-to comfort dish for chilly days when you’re in need of warmth. Enter: avgolemono, a soup that consists of boiled chicken and rice in an egg-lemon sauce. Incredibly filling, avgolemono can serve as an appetizer or a main when accompanied by copious amounts of bread. Either way, if you find yourself in Greece over the colder months, it’s a must-try.

8. Gyros

A server holds up a platter of Gyros in Greece.
Gyros are one of the best-known Greek dishes, best enjoyed with fries.Photo Credit: rawf8 / Shutterstock

Nationwide

If there’s a Greek food you’re already familiar with, there’s a good chance it’s gyros. A street food staple that Greeks brought with them as they migrated all over the world, gyros has become one of—if not the most—popular Greek dishes. It’s easy to understand why: countless cultures feature similar dishes of meat and vegetables on bread, wrapped up and ready to go, so there’s a familiarity to gyros … with the addition of local Greek flavors. So, expect your gyros to include tzatziki, tomato, onion, and fries—yes, really. Grab one to-go and explore the streets of Athens at your leisure.

9. Pastitsio and moussaka

A tray of moussaka in Greece, with a slice served on a plate.
Moussaka is like a Greek take on Italian lasagne.Photo Credit: Nina Firsova / Shutterstock

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While moussaka is perhaps one of the best known Greek dishes, pastitsio is also beloved, so this is a two-for-one. Both are Greece’s take on lasagna, with moussaka featuring eggplant, potatoes, and beef or lamb, with pastitsio using a tubular pasta, beef ragu, and deliciously creamy bechamel sauce. Moussaka is slightly easier to make veganify, but a well-made pastitsio is incredibly hard to beat.

10. Kleftiko

A big platter of kleftiko with oregano and onion and a side sauce in Greece.
Kleftiko is popular in both Greece and Cyprus.Photo Credit: Konstantin Kopachinsky / Shutterstock

Nationwide

For many, lamb is synonymous with Greece, and once you visit and enjoy some kleftiko, you’ll understand why. Lamb cooked in parchment paper and typically served with onion, peppers, tomatoes, and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes, kleftiko is said to be named after the Klephts, who would steal away sheep or goats and then cook them in underground ovens to avoid being caught. Fortunately, enjoying kleftiko now is as easy as walking into a restaurant and ordering. Bon appetit!

11. Fasolakia

Fasolakia green beans with feta cheese in Greece.
Green beans (served the Greek way) are perfect as a side dish.Photo Credit: from my point of view / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Fasolakia giaxni is the full name of this dish, which basically means green beans prepared the Greek way—with onion, tomato, and, of course, olive oil. They’re the perfect accompaniment to any main course, particularly kleftiko or pastitsio. “Giaxni,” meanwhile, refers to how they’re cooked … in tomato juices which then turn into steam. These taste best when made with fresh, locally-grown tomatoes, which are easily found throughout Greece.

12. Diples

Diples with honey and walnuts in Greece.
Diples are enjoyed at Christmas across Greece, especially in the Peloponnese.Photo Credit: photo stella / Shutterstock

Peloponnese

Diples get their name from the Greek word for “fold,” and that’s exactly what they are: a thin dough that’s been folded (or rolled), drizzled with honey, and topped with walnuts. They’re particularly popular in the Peloponnese, as well as at Christmas and New Year celebrations. They’re also a tasty way to enjoy two key ingredients of Greek desserts: honey and walnuts.

Insider tip: Another festive favorite, melomakarona also combines these two popular ingredients.

13. Baklava

Baklava pastries with pistachio in Greece.
Don't skip the sticky, sweet Greek baklava.Photo Credit: Enez Selvi / Shutterstock

Nationwide

Potentially one of the best-known desserts made in former Ottoman territories, almost every country that sits on the Mediterranean makes its own version of baklava. Made with phyllo pastry, baklava is another sweet that makes use of honey and walnuts to great success. More recent variations include chocolate, Nutella, or hazelnut and pistachio iterations, but for a classic Greek dining experience, the original is always best. And if eating spanakopita gives you an appreciation for phyllo, baklava is definitely a must.

14. Loukoumades

Loukoumades donut balls with all kinds of toppings in Greece.
Loukoumades can be enjoyed with any number of toppings.Photo Credit: ddavydovph / Shutterstock

Southern Greece

Loukoumades are essentially Greek donut balls, and are particularly popular in southern Greece. They’re based on Luqmat al-Qadi, a recipe for dough boiled in oil and doused in honey or sugar syrup that dates back to 13th century Baghdad. Still served with honey to this day, some chefs have expanded to serving them with Nutella or other toppings to entice a less 13th-century audience. They’re easy to enjoy on foot, too, so pick some up and browse the local food stalls for delicious Greek ingredients while you snack.

15. Galaktoboureko and bougatsa

A phyllo pastry served up on a plate in Greece.
This decadent dessert is popular in Thessaloniki.Photo Credit: ilolab / Shutterstock

Thessaloniki

Phyllo again! This time, in the form of galaktoboureko, a dessert that’s filled with custard and bathed in syrup–essentially, a custard pie, which is as decadent and delectable as it sounds. It’s also similar to bougatsa, a staple in northern Greece around Thessaloniki, although galaktoboureko is more often served for dessert whereas bougatsa (typically dusted with icing sugar or cinnamon) is considered more of a breakfast pastry. Bougatsa can also be a savory dish, made with minced meat rather than custard.

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