photo of a greek salad which is one of the best traditional greek food

Traditional Greek Food: 13 Popular Greek Dishes To Try In Greece

Greece is famous for its beautiful islands, beaches, and places like Santorini and Crete, but have you ever tried traditional Greek food? Greek cuisine is one of our favorite ones, and once you travel to Greece it’s obligatory to try at least one traditional dish.

If you need inspiration, have a look at our absolute favorite greek traditional dishes. And it’s not only about food, but why you need to try it, a bit of history and of course where can you find it with a recommended restaurant you can try it for yourself.

I hope you are hungry, as we guarantee by the end of reading this post, you will make a reservation in a Greek restaurant. Ready? And Bon Appetite/ Kalí órexi (καλή όρεξη).

WHY TRY TRADITIONAL GREEK FOOD?

There are endless types of traditional and popular Greek food, but there are certain meals which are very typical for Greece. Of course, you do not need to wait to try them until you come to Greece. Every town in this world must have at least one greek restaurant or a restaurant with at least one greek dish on its menu. Naturally, once you travel to Greece you will experience Greek food authentically, which means proper Greek ingredients and spices that make Greek foods so tasty and yummy.

13 MOST YUMMY AND TRADITIONAL GREEK FOODS

list of most delicious Greek meals to try right now

1. BOUGATSA

Bougatsa is a traditional Greek pie that can be stuffed with either a sweet or a savory filling. It’s affordable and served in bite-sized squares, making it a great on-the-go snack. Bougatsa is part of Greece’s rich culinary heritage and has its origins in the Byzantine period (the name comes from the Ottoman word for a cheese pie, pogatsa).

The process of making Bougatsa starts by preparing flaky phyllo pastry using flour softened butter and oil. After its thinly rolled by hand, the pasty is then layered with either minced meat and cheese or spinach for a savory version, or with semolina custard for a sweet snack. It’s baked until crisp, then sliced up and served warm.

a photo of Bougatsa, one of the most traditional greek food
Bougatsa, Photo credit by Emily from Wander-Lush

Bougatsa can be found throughout Greece, but it’s especially popular in Thessaloniki. There is a bougatsopolia (a specialty bakery devoted to Bougatsa) on every other corner in Greece’s second-largest city. My personal favorite is Bougatsa Bantis near Thessaloniki Railway Station, a modest old-school joint, where sweet Bougatsa is served with a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon on top and a cup of espresso on the side.

By Emily from Wander-lush

2. GREEK SALAD AKA HORIATIKI

What would your visit to Greece be without eating a traditional Greek salad called Horiatiki Salata? Horiatiki Salata means village or peasant salad, as Horio means village in Greek. People in Greece joke that each summer everyone is a villager, as Greek salad is on the table every single day.

Greek salad is one of my favorite Greek dishes. And no wonder why it is is one of the most famous Greek foods. It is so delicious and refreshing. Greek salad is not just served as a starter but you can eat is as the main dish. Each traditional Greek salad must have tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber, oregano and most importantly feta cheese.

photo of a greek salad which is one of the best traditional greek food
Greek Salad/ Horiatiki Salata

It is also popular to add other vegetables such as bell pepper. Some people argue to add lettuce, but you don’t have to. In fact, I have never eaten Greek salad in Greece with lettuce. Greek salad often comes with fresh bread or baguette. I had Greek salad every day while visiting Crete and its best beaches (Elafonisi and Balos Bay) that I can absolutely recommend every restaurant in Chania.

Heading to Crete? READ MORE: BEST BEACHES IN CRETE: BALOS AND ELAFONISI

3. DAKOS

One thing you have to try when you are in Greece are the Dakos, very popular traditional Greek food. The name sounds like tacos, but they are not; they are Dakos. It also spelled Ntakos. This is much more filling than you’ll imagine, and you might even mistake it for an appetizer. I’ve done that and wished I’d had stuck with ordering just the Dakos. You can compare it to an Italian bruschetta, but it’s so much more substantial. Dakos are originally from eastern Crete, but they take on a life of their own depending on the island you visit. 

Greek Dakos, baguette filled with cheese, tomatoes and olives
Greek Dakos

First, you start with a thick piece of rusk bread – about 1.5” thick at the bottom of a plate or bowl. Sometimes it’s one piece of bread, and other times the bread is cut into bite-sized pieces. Next, there’s a good helping of fresh; local olive oil poured over the bread. Then, heaps of flavorful, bright red tomatoes are piled on top. Next comes the cheese, and this is where it may differ. 

Some places will add chunks of or crumbled feta, others use Mizithra cheese, which is a drier, saltier cheese that is grated on top. 

And if you visit the island of Naxos, they are known for their Graviera cheese, which is second to feta in popularity. Graviera is a hard cheese with small holes that is sweet or nutty, depending, and it’s grated on top. Add a healthy sprinkle of oregano, a few tasty olives and capers, and you are set. Enjoy! And this plate cost $6!

Maureen from Life On The Mediterranean

4. GYROS

When in Greece, fill up on gyros as this is the best traditional Greek street food to try. Possibly the only street food in the world with a whole day dedicated to it: September 1st which the Greeks know as National Gyro Day. And there is no excuse for missing this amazing wrap filled with delicious, thinly sliced lamb, pork, or beef that is accompanied by lettuce, raw red onions, parsley, tomatoes, and drenched in tangy tzatziki with a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne pepper.

Pronounced as “GHEE-ro”, gyro comes from the Greek word, “gheereezo,” which means “to turn.” Similar to its Middle Eastern counterparts, the kebab, and the shawarma, the meat for the gyros are also sliced from a vertical rotisserie. This is where the similarities end, as the gyro has its own unique flavor that makes it a special local dish.

a photo of Gyros with fries, vegetables, tzatziki, one of the most traditional greek food
Gyros, Photo credit: Karolina from www.LazyTravelBlog.com 

ABOUT GYROS

They say that gyro first came to Greece, through the Greek and Armenian refugees from Constantinople and Smyrna that arrived in 1922. As they settled in their new homeland, this became one of their biggest trades. Now, it is served in every street corner in Greece, where each stall would have its own way of making it special through the addition of spices or new ingredients like soya, fish, or chicken.

The best place to get gyros is on the island of Corfu, where a special red sauce makes it better than the rest. The best place to try is the Pergola Restaurant Taverna, where the gyros special will blow your mind. For vegans, the Gran Aladino seems to have the best version of soya gyros in town.

By Karolina from LazyTravelBlog

5.IMAN BAYILDI

Imam Bayildi is a dish that’s popular in both Greek and Turkish cuisine. As you may know, an imam is a person who leads prayers in a mosque, and the name of this meal translates as “the imam fainted.” There are a few versions of the story about how the dish got this name, but the most common is that, when an imam’s wife prepared the dish for him for the first time, he was so blown away that he lost consciousness. And once you taste the dish yourself, that might not sound so farfetched!

photo of Imam bayildi, aubergines filled in vegetables and orange sauce in the pot
Imam bayildi

Imam bayildi is prepared by slicing a large eggplant in half and stuffing it with a mix of vegetables, usually including onions, tomatoes, and garlic. The eggplant is then drizzled with a generous helping of olive oil and roasted in the oven until it becomes so soft that it melts in your mouth.

You can find this dish served in many Greek restaurants. The one I remember the most is the imam bayildi I tasted at Kostas, a traditional Greek tavern in the Little Venice neighborhood of Mykonos. Imam bayildi is an excellent option for vegetarians visiting Greece, and it’s usually suitable for vegans as well, as long as no cheese has been added.

By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan

6. TZAZIKI SOUCE

If you are looking for that classical greek dip, then this is Tzaziki. The main component for tzatziki is strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and salt. You will see many versions of tzatziki and some restaurants are adding dill, parsley or even mint.

Either or, cacık or tarator is an authentic sauce which is served with many traditional greek foods. There are many variations of tzatziki across Balkan countries. For instance, in Bulgaria there is a tarator soup which has the same ingredients, served cold and popular in summer. Albania has also a similar cold soup, mainly served as an appetizer.

white sauce Tzatziki with green salad, onion, tomatoes, a must traditional greek meal
Tzaziki sauce

7. SHRIMP/ PRAWN SAGANAKI

Shrimp or Prawn Saganaki is a very common traditional Greek food, whether as an appetizer or a main dish. Fresh shrimp are sautéed with onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and tomato sauce, flambéed with Ouzo, and finished with feta cheese. You can’t pack any more Greek flavors in a dish than that, can you?

photo of Shrimp Saganaki, orange sauce, shrimps and baguette.
Shrimp Saganaki, photo credit: Maria from www.EuropeUpClose.com

The first time I tried, it was during a cooking class on a cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean. The head chef of the cruise ship gave us a cooking presentation and showed us how to make this Greek dish. I am a big seafood lover, so this was really up my alley. I have only been back for 6 weeks and made this dish four times already. It is super simple, and you can eat it as an appetizer with some baguette or garlic bread, or you can serve it over pasta or rice as a main dish. 

When I did a little more research about this dish, I found out that Saganaki refers to the pot that it is cooked in, not the recipe. That made sense, because Saganaki (fried cheese), is a very different recipe. 

Shrimp Saganaki is a super easy, typical Greek dish. It is also very versatile and fast, so if you want to add calamari or chicken, you can do that as well. Please take a look here for my typical Greek Shrimp Saganaki recipe

By Maria from EuropeUpClose

8. BAKLAVA

If you are visiting Greece, then there is one thing you really have to try – Baklava! When we first tried it during a holiday on Zakynthos Island, we didn’t really like it. But on the 2nd attempt in Taverna Faros, it was like a piece of heaven. If you are into sweets, you will definitely love it!

Baklava consists of layers of dough layered with chopped walnuts, almonds, or pistachios and honey or syrup (based on butter and sugar). On top, it is usually poured with icing or syrup and sprinkled with unsalted pistachios.

Baklava belongs to one of the most popular desserts in Greece. Extremely sweet and filling. Perfect for a party with a slideshow of photos from a recent trip to Greek island!

Ready to try one of the best traditional Greek food?

photo of Baklava one of the most traditional Greek meals, brown cake on the white plate
Baklava, photo credit: Darek from www.darekandgosia.com

You will be surprised to hear that it’s extremely easy to make Baklava at home. All you need are the below ingredients:

  • 600 g filo pastry
  • 300 g of your favorite, crushed nuts (walnuts/almonds/pistachios)
  • 200 g melted butter
  • 600 g sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp of ground cinnamon

If you are interested to make your own Baklava, then follow this simple recipe with seven steps:

MAKE YOUR OWN BAKLAVA

  • Grease a medium cake-mold with butter and place 5-6 sheets of filo pastry on it, covering each with a layer of melted butter.
  • Mix the ground nuts with cinnamon, put the first layer of this mixture on the dough.
  • Put two successive layers of dough, spread with each butter. Arrange the next layer of nuts.
  • Repeat the procedure until the nuts are over. Put four layers of dough on top (remember to grease each with butter).
  • Cut the Baklava into small rectangles — Bake in a medium preheated oven for an hour.
  • At this time, make a syrup by boiling sugar with a glass of water and one lemon juice. Boil 3-4 times until thick.
  • After removing the Baklava from the oven, just pour the syrup over the top.

By Darek from Darekandgosia

9. SEAFOOD & OCTOPUS

If you look at any map of Greece, you will see why seafood plays such an important role in the food of the country. The extensive coastline that surrounds the mainland and the numerous tropical islands have resulted in a strong history of seafaring.

All over in Greece, you will find a wide variety of seafood options, including a popular octopus dish. Viewed as a delicacy, you can find this on the menu of every seafood tavern throughout the region. Greeks enjoy octopus that has been freshly caught and grilled or marinated after being hung out to dry for a couple of hours. You can pair this dish with homemade bread, a salad, a glass of ouzo, and you won’t be disappointed. Other options include octopus with pasta, in a stew, or made into a salad with olive oil and wine vinegar.

seafood with green salad and potatoes
Photo credit: Rai from www.araioflight.com

It is important to note that overfishing has caused a significant decline in numbers of fish as it simply cannot keep up with the demands of the population. Always choose seafood that has been responsibly caught and those restaurants that follow such a practice. If you are visiting Korfos, make sure to stop at Stavedo restaurant.

By Rai from Araioflight

10. ZUCCHINI BALLS

One of my favorite Greek dishes is zucchini balls. Like many things in Greece, each restaurant makes slightly different and serves them differently. 

The best balls I have ever had was on the island of Ios. Ios is an island in the Cyclades and is a popular party spot for young people. However, Ios has an excellent restaurant scene. 

fried Zucchini Balls
Zucchini Balls, photo credit: Tiffany from agirlandherpassport.com

Since they are my favorite, I have tried them in many places, but the Octopus Tree is where they are the best. The Octopus Tree is located right in the port and only has about ten tables. The zucchini balls here are handmade. Many kinds of zucchini balls are deep-fried, but these are pan-fried. It makes the dill stand out even more, which is the crucial ingredient in these ones. This is the flavor you won’t be able to place right away, but it is so good, and the crunchy and soft texture inside made me fall in love with it. 

Most places serve them with a side of tzatziki sauce! Usually, you get four to five per meal. So if you are more than two people in your group, make sure to order at least two dishes. 

By Tiffany from A Girl and Her Passport.

11. SAGANAKI

There is so much to do and see all over Greece. Amazing culture, history, and locals make visiting Greece and the islands truly a one of a kind experience. One of the best things about visiting Greece is Greek food culture and the fantastic traditional dish, Saganaki.

To put it simply, Saganaki is a fried cheese appetizer, but it’s so much more than that. Saganaki is cheese melted and browned in olive oil with a copper pan. The cheese type can vary regionally, but in Greece, you will usually find that it’s a sheep’s milk feta or halloumi.

Saganaki, fried cheese, tomatoes and lemon
Saganaki, hoto credit: Derek and Mike from www.robe-trotting.com

If you’re lucky enough to embark on a Greek island-hopping itinerary, you’ll find a slightly different taste at each stop. Locals will explain to you the difference in the cheese and preparation style. Traditional Saganaki is served with a lemon wedge and pepper. Some Greek eateries will serve Saganaki with bread, but it’s just as delicious on its own. Many locations within Greece will even offer shrimp Saganaki, mussels Saganaki, and Saganaki served in a spicy tomato sauce. The great thing about so many options is that you can try Saganaki wherever you go to Greece and get something new at every restaurant. 

By Derek and Mike from Robe-trotting

12. MOUSSAKA

Greek cuisine is one of the many things that makes this stunning destination so appealing, and the local dish, Moussaka, is probably one of the most famous and most delicious! Moussaka is a hearty, layered dish of aubergine, potatoes, minced beef or lamb and bechamel sauce that is baked in the oven until the top is golden and crispy.

Moussaka was created by the Greek chef Nikolaos Tselementes in the 1920s but is thought to be linked to the older Levantine musakhkhan and Arabic musaqqa‘a (مسقعة). Each of these dishes have their own variants with some being vegetarian and others being layered inside half an aubergine.

pan full of fried cheese, vegetables and minced meat
Moussaka, Source: Pixabay

Another factor that sets apart Greek Moussaka from other varieties is that each of the elements is usually cooked separately in rich olive oil before being layered and baked all together to brown the top. Each restaurant and YiaYia (Greek grandmother) will have their own secret recipe, but whichever you try, you’re sure to find it tasty and seriously satisfying! 

By Chrysoula from Travelpassionate

13. OLIVES & OLIVE OIL

Because of the climate, Greece is a very popular producer of olive oil. Greece has been growing olives for centuries. And without any doubt, one of the best olive oils comes from Greece. There are of course many types of olive oils, so make sure to try them first, before you buy any. Greek people include olive oil in most of their dishes so you will taste it everywhere. People also love to pair olive oil with fresh baguette and olives. It is the simplest and tastiest starter out there.

When we visited Greece, I loved the vendors standing off the road. Most of them are small family businesses and we loved to support them. And if there is one souvenir you would like to bring from your visit in Greece, make sure to buy virgin olive oil. Also, traditional Greek olive oil can be a great gift idea to your friends and family.

photo of a bottle of olive oil and black olives
Olives and olive oil

And of course, let’s not forget olives. I had some of the best olives in Greece. So make sure to try them all. You won’t regret it.

There are of course many more traditional Greek dishes but we just picked the most popular ones. We hope that you guys are now hungry and ready to try one of the famous Greek foods. Please let us know your favorite Greek dish and where did you try it. Bon Apettite or let’s say: Kalí órexi (καλή όρεξη).

If you are heading to Greece, don’t forget to pin “Traditional Greek Food” for later:

list of best greek meals to try right now
Gigi and Nico signature in pink


About the author
Since I was little I always wanted to see the world. Travel to new places, get to know new cultures, see how other people live. I love beaches and I love discovering tropical destinations. That is why, together with my partner Nico, we created this blog to share with you the most beautiful beaches and stunning holiday destinations which we visited during our travels.

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