Greeks are known for loving food, loving to eat, and loving to feed others. Greece is one place you are guaranteed to never feel hungry. Traditional Greek food is packed with flavour and made mainly with fresh local ingredients — such as Mediterranean vegetables, olive oil, and cheeses. If you're planning a trip to the Mediterranean, make sure to try at least a few of these delicious Greek dishes.
The information in this article is inspired by our Rough Guide to Greece, your essential guide for visiting Greece.
Probably the most famous of Greek dishes, moussaka consists of layers of fried aubergine, minced meat and potatoes. That's all topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and then baked until golden brown. Some Greek restaurants will also serve an equally delectable vegetarian version.
Another of Greece’s national dishes, although not so well known internationally, is this classic white bean soup. It’s a simple, yet hearty affair consisting of beans, crushed tomatoes, and vegetables such as onions, carrots and celery. It’s often flavoured with thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
Walk around any of the big Greek cities such as Athens or Thessaloniki in the mornings and you’ll often see locals on their way to work munching on koulouri – large soft bread rings covered in sesame seeds. They’re often sold from yellow street carts and eaten on the go with a cup of coffee.
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This traditional Greek food is made of juicy local vegetables, typically tomatoes or peppers, that are stuffed with rice and then roasted in the oven. Some versions of Yemista (which in Greek means 'filled with') also include minced meat.
A Greek delicacy loved by children and adults alike, loukoumades are small fried doughnut-like balls drenched in honey syrup and sprinkled with various toppings such as cinnamon or crushed walnuts. People usually order a large plate of them to share with friends or family. This is Greek dining at its very best.
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Perennially popular all over the world, these grilled meat (usually pork) skewers are often served hot off of the grill. Typically one enjoys souvlaki with tzatziki, pita bread, salad, tomato or rice. The Athen’s version of this dish, kalamaki, is usually marinated overnight.
Dolmades are a typical greek side dish. They are made of vine or grape leaves stuffed with herby, lemony rice and folded over to create a small parcel, which is then steamed. You can also find them filled with meat or vegetarian with rice only.
Keftethes are essentially Greek breaded meatballs — typically made with lamb meat and grated potatoes and served with a creamy yoghurt sauce. They are crispy, juicy, and can be enjoyed with salad or rice on the side. This is a classic Greek food to try when visiting.
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The Greeks love their pies and you can find many varieties, from those made with enriched dough to those made from flaky phyllo (also filo) pastry and filled with anything from aubergines or meat to greens or cheese. The most classic is the spanakopita – phyllo pastry layered with feta cheese and spinach and flavoured with dill. Another favourite is tyropita – crunchy phyllo pastry wrapped around a savoury cheese filling.
Stifado is an understated Greek meat stew, perfect for colder months. It is typically made with beef or rabbit, tomatoes and often small whole onions. Typically stewed for hours, this traditional greek comfort food is a great dish to try on your trip.
A bit like a kebab, a gyro is a typical Greek sandwich. It consists of pieces of meat (usually chicken, pork, lamb or beef) cooked on a rotisserie and wrapped in a flatbread or pita along with salad, onions and a variety of sauces. Vegetarian versions can include grilled halloumi (a salty Cypriot cheese made from a mix of sheep’s and goat’s milk) or feta cheese instead of the meat.
These sweet custard slices, made with layers of flaky phyllo pastry and sprinkled with cinnamon, are worth a visit to Greece alone, even if you don’t do anything else. They’re best eaten warm, straight from the oven.
The word "Papoutsakia" in Greek means "little shoes". This dish consists of eggplants scooped out and stuffed with eggs, bell peppers, minced meat, tomatoes, lemon and olive oil. This hearty dish is then topped with local salty cheeses.
Found all over Greece, Turkey and the Middle East, baklavas are small sweet pastries soaked in honey-like syrup and layered with crushed nuts such as walnuts or almonds. In central Greece, they are made with almonds, in the eastern regions with walnuts and in northern Greece with pistachios.
A trip to Greece is not complete without trying Choriatiki or greek salad. Feta cheese sits on top of fresh vegetables — cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, bell peppers, and sliced red onion — then is sprinkled in greek olives and extra virgin olive oil. This simple but truly iconic dish is a perfect way to start a meal, especially on a hot day.
This classic rustic dish is a combination of lamb, potatoes and tomatoes that are sealed in a piece of parchment paper and cooked together for hours. Traditionally, this dish was cooked in a fire pit buried underground — which is why it is called Kleftiko or "hidden meat". Made with simple local and flavourful ingredients, Kleftiko is a perfect example of traditional Greek food at its best.
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Similar to Italian lasagne, but made with small macaroni instead of pasta sheets, this is Greek comfort food at its best. Greek cuisine has long been influenced by Italy, particularly in the Kefalonia area. Pastitsio is made by layering ground beef or lamb with macaroni and béchamel sauce and is often flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg and Greek herbs. Sometimes it’s also topped with grated cheese before being baked in the oven.
These crunchy and chewy almond cookies are sometimes referred to as “Greek Macaroons”. They are typically sweetened with orange blossoms or rose water and pair perfectly with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.
If this article inspires you to take your trip and eat these amazing Greek dishes — connect with our local expert to plan and book your personalised tailor-made trip. Or if you're already in Greece, take a cooking class in Athens, Naxos or Santorini to bring the typical Greek recipes back home and recreate these mouth-watering dishes.
Giouvesti (sometimes spelled yiouvetsi, youvetsi, or yuvetsi) is a baked dish made with kritharaki pasta (similar in some ways to orzo). The pasta stews together with either lamb meat or seafood in a clay pot, and cheese is added right before serving.
Made with a greek yoghurt and cucumber base, this dish is great as an appetiser or mezédhes and is eaten usually with bread or fried eggplant. It is also enjoyed as a sauce to accompany other dishes. Tzatziki has tangy flavours of lemon and dill and its tradition in Greece dates back to before the Ottoman empire.
Greek cuisine is just one of the many things to try while in Greece. Explore our list of the best things to do in Greece and find even more inspiration for your future trip.
A classic Greek food, soutzoukakia are oblong greek meatballs served in a somewhat spicy tomato sauce with cumin. In some parts of Greece, this dish is served on top of square-shaped egg pasta. In others, served on rice.
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Some of the most admired wines in antiquity were produced in Greece. Retsina wine is a white wine that has been made in Greece for thousands of years. The name translates to ‘resinated’ and gets its distinctive flavour due to its contact with Aleppo pine resin.
With so many delicious foods to try, why not start planning your trip to Greece?
Find out about the best time to go, the best places to visit and the best things to do in Greece. For inspiration use the Greece itineraries from The Rough Guide to Greece and our local travel experts. A bit more hands-on, see our top tips for travelling in Greece, or learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And if you prefer to plan and book your trip to Greece without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
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Top image: Traditional Greek Souvlaki © hlphoto/Shutterstock