Typically when you think of Greek food, you think of gyros. But as I learned, there is huge variety in Greek food. The majority of Greek dishes I tried were simple and made use of what’s in season, but they were all done perfectly.
The Greek diet is full of seafood, grilled meats, cheese, fresh vegetables, olive oil and savory pastries. In fact, Greece is considered to have one of the healthiest diets in the world.
After spending nearly a month eating my way through Greece, I present to you the best Greek dishes:
I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but the Greek are coffee fanatics! On nearly every corner, at all times of the day, you can find a coffee shop full of locals. The only other place where I can recall a comparable coffee culture is Albania.
Greek coffee very much reminded me of the Turkish coffee I tried on my walking food tour of Istanbul but don’t tell a Greek person that! They take their coffee very seriously, as they should: the Greeks actually invented the frappe!
This is a simple dish that most of you are likely familiar with. Souvlaki is Greece’s favorite fast food and is nearly ubiquitous.
You can have your souvlaki skewered or in the gyro version that we’re most familiar with back in the states, where I’m from.
The pita bread is stuffed with your choice of grilled meat (my favorite is pork), onion, tomato and usually some type of sauce, typically tzatziki- a yogurt and cucumber sauce. Souvlaki also sometimes is filled with fries.
I’m not as used to having the fries on it but I can’t say I was mad! Also, be sure to ask for extra tzatziki– it’s messy but completely worth it!
Full disclosure- I didn’t actually care much for koulouri. But, because it’s so popular, I felt I should include it.
Koulouri is typically eaten as a Greek breakfast on the go. I thought it was a bit like a pretzel covered in sesame seeds, but drier. Try one for yourself for an authentic local dish!
Fennel pie (marathopites)
Fennel pie is a local speciality of Syros, one of the Greek islands.
These simple pies are full of flavor- aromatic fennel and onion in a buttery crust cooked to perfection. Definitely look for these when you visit the island!
Tiropita (Greek cheese pie)
For a pie you can find all over the country, be sure to look for tiropita, or Greek cheese pie.
This savory pie contains several types of cheesed wrapped in phyllo dough and brushed with either olive oil or butter. It’s not exactly a light snack, but it’s a delicious one!
Anyone who followed me on social media during my time in Greece is well aware of my obsession with fava.
I insisted on fava as one of the appetizers for nearly every meal, and my friends joked I was becoming a fava connoisseur.
Fava is a simple dish- a split pea puree covered in olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon, and sprinkled with capers and onions. That’s it- so simple, but so full of flavor. Spread it over fresh bread and it’s the perfect snack or appetizer.
I would compare fava to hummus, but I might actually prefer the taste of fava. This is a must try Greek dish during your time in the country.
Tirokafteri- Greek spicy cheese dip
My second favorite Greek dip is this spicy cheese dip I saw on several menus before I decided to give it a try.
I don’t know why I waited so long- it’s amazing!
Feta cheese and yogurt are combined with spicy peppers to make a spread that’s perfect for crusty bread. This became another favorite with our group!
Lemon chicken & potatoes
This is another one of those Greek dishes that was so simple and straightforward, yet incredibly satisfying when done correctly.
Roasted chicken and potatoes covered in fresh lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. The intense lemon flavor permeates both the chicken and potatoes, making the dish surprisingly light.
Other than souvlaki, I would say moussaka is quite possibly the next most well-known Greek food.
If you’ve never had it, moussaka is a dish made with layers of eggplant or potatoes. It often has ground meat and is covered in a white cheese sauce before being baked off.
The recipe typically contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice, all combined to give the dish a complex flavor.
My favorite version contains ground lamb or beef and potatoes rather than eggplant.
While most of us consider olive oil simply a basic ingredient, in Greece, it’s a staple of the diet.
In fact, Greeks consume more olive oil than anyone else in the world. So, it’s no surprise they also produce some of the best olive oils in the world.
During an olive oil tasting I attended, we were instructed in the various oils and their specific uses- this lighter one is for salad dressings, this one for baking, this one for frying, etc., etc.
I’ve tried olive oils all over the world, and Greece truly has some of the best I’ve tasted.
I know this is a broad category not a specific dish, but Greeks do seafood so well it has to be mentioned.
With such amazing access to a plethora of seafood, the country has perfected its seafood dishes.
Seafood is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine and one of the primary reasons the diet is considered so healthy.
I’ll end on a sweet note- koliva is a unique Greek dish that I’ve not had anything like before.
Koliva is a mixture of wheat berries, toasted nuts and dried fruits. This version even contained fresh pomegranate seeds.
This Greek food is traditionally served at funerals. The ingredients are sybolic- the wheat berries represent the promise of everlasting life, the fruits the sweetness of life, and the spices are symbols of plenty.
I always reiterate how I don’t have a sweet tooth. but I actually enjoyed koliva because it was similar to a granola dish with fresh fruits in it. I would gladly have this again.
Which Greek food looked the best to you? Are you a fan of Greek food? Let me know in the comments section below!
Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.