Traditional Greek Food you Must Try in Greece

15 Traditional Greek Foods You Must Try in Greece

Best known for its ancient historic attractions and blissfully idyllic islands, Greece’s food often gets unnecessarily overlooked. The country’s rich cuisine is influenced by both the East and the West, resulting in a melting pot of dishes that prioritize fresh seasonal produce, smoky grilled meats, and rich local cheeses. 

Whether you’re in Athens or Corfu (or anywhere in between!), dining out at as many local Greek tavernas as possible should definitely be on your vacation to-do list! We understand that you can only try so many restaurants in Greece, and you don’t want to waste any of them on mediocre food. So, if you’re wondering what to eat in Greece, we’ve got you covered.

To make sure your taste buds have just as good a time as you do, take our advice and try these 15 delicious traditional Greek dishes while you’re in Greece. As part of our foodie travel guide to Greece, we’ve even included our favorite places for you to enjoy them!

Don’t forget to check out our web story: 15 Traditional Greek Foods You Must Try in Greece

What to Eat in Greece: The Best Greek Foods to Try

1. Loukoumades

Traditional Foods to try in Greece: Loukoumades

The Greek equivalent of donut holes, loukoumades are something you’ll fall in love with if you’ve got a sweet tooth. Deep-fried until their golden brown and crispy on the outside while still being light and fluffy as a cloud on the inside, these bite-sized delights are impossible to stop at just one!

The traditional version is lightly dusted with aromatic cinnamon and drizzled with sweet honey, giving you the serious sugar boost you need to carry on with your sightseeing. But you can snap up loads of more modern versions, too. We’ve had loukoumades stuffed with melted white chocolate and strawberries, as well as ones covered in caramel and popping candy.

Where to try loukoumades in Greece

Because they’re so popular, you can find loukoumades in almost every bakery and grocery store throughout Greece. But for the very best ones, we recommend visiting Lukumades. These tiny bakeries are scattered throughout bustling Athens and serve nothing but freshly made loukoumades. Here you can find the traditional cinnamon and honey versions, as well as all kinds of quirky, drool-worthy variations.


2. Moussaka

Must Try Foods in Greece: Moussaka

You’ve probably had moussaka before, but nothing compares to moussaka in Greece when it’s served in a family-run restaurant from a recipe that’s been passed down through generations. This simple casserole is made from layers of eggplant and ground meat, which are topped with a thick and creamy layer of béchamel sauce. 

If you’re searching for traditional Greek foods to try, moussaka should be at the top of your list. This dish is made with eggplant, but some places serve it with thinly sliced potato or zucchini instead. Some places even add a little tomato into the ground meat to give it a rich yet fresh flavor. However it’s made, moussaka is always indulgent comfort food served in thick slices designed to fill you up!

Where to try moussaka in Greece

You’ll find moussaka on practically every local restaurant’s lunch and dinner menu throughout Greece. If you’re in Santorini, we recommend visiting Naoussa for the very best moussaka on the island. This beautiful restaurant overlooks the ocean and serves up some of the richest and most delicious moussaka we’ve ever had at a shockingly affordable price.

If you’re in Athens, we suggest stopping by Strofi Restaurant. Here you’ll find all kinds of traditional Greek dishes, including an amazing moussaka. If you’re looking for rooftop restaurants in Athens, this place also boasts mesmerizing views of the Acropolis!


3. Koulouri

What to eat in Greece: Koulouri

One of the best foods to try in Greece, koulouri were originally only served during Easter. But the sweet treat was so addictive that it’s now available all year round. You’ll see bakeries and street food stalls selling them wherever you go in Greece, so you’ll get loads of chances to try them.

Koulouri look like large, skinny wheels of dough about the size of your hand. Imagine a bagel that’s been on a diet, and you’ve got a rough idea of what they look like! 

But unlike bagels, koulouri are rich, buttery, and have a subtle vanilla flavor that works so well. Plus, they’re also usually covered in crunchy sesame seeds for extra texture.

You’ll see many locals rushing through the streets nibbling on plain koulouri on their way to work. But if you carefully slice one open and stuff it full of cheese, cold cuts, and salad, it makes a filling and novel lunch perfect for a picnic lunch or on-the-go snack.

Where to try koulouri in Greece

The best place to get authentic, local koulouri is often from the many street food vendors you’ll find throughout Greece. But if you’re in Athens, we also suggest you stop by Koulouri of Psirri. This tiny bakery has two types of koulouri: a soft and chewy version as well as a hard and crunchy version. They’re both served fresh from the oven and taste divine!


4. Gyros

Unique Foods to try in Greece: Gyros

When it comes to foods to eat in Greece, the gyro is one of the most iconic Greek dishes you’ll come across. You’ll find them all over the world, but here (where the yummy street food was invented), they make them a little differently.

In Greece, a piece of soft, warm pita bread is stuffed with thin slices of meat that have been slowly roasted until they’re super tender. Some fresh veggies are placed inside for added texture and flavor before a handful of fries are stuffed in, too. 

It sounds weird, but it just tastes right! The whole thing is drizzled in a deliciously garlicky white sauce before it’s ready to devour.

All different kinds of meat are used to make gyros, such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken. You can even get some vegetarian and vegan varieties made with chickpeas today. As well as being really versatile, gyros are also usually super-cheap and a great option if you’re short on time. 

Where to try gyros in Greece

Tylixito dishes up some of the finest gyros in Athens. Here you’ll find a massive range of traditional gyros made from all kinds of top-quality meats. They also dish up three types of plant-based gyros made from oyster mushrooms, traditional falafel, and grilled vegetables.


5. Lamb Kleftiko

Greece Foods to try list: Lamb Kleftiko

Lamb kleftiko could easily be one of the most delicious Greek dishes you’ll ever eat. The traditional recipe involves tucking either a leg of lamb or large cubes of lamb into a parcel made of parchment paper. It’s then placed inside a hot oven and left to stew for hours until the meat is so tender it literally falls off the bone when you touch it with your fork.

Some veggies, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and potatoes, are also added to the parchment paper parcel for extra flavor. As the juices run out from the lamb, they’re absorbed by the vegetables, making the whole dish taste amazing. 

Sometimes lamb kleftiko is served on a plate. But don’t be surprised if the whole parchment paper parcel arrives at your table. Although it may be a little awkward to eat, it’s a great way to know that it’s been traditionally prepared. If you’re on a quest to sample all the must-try foods in Greece, you’ll want to add lamb kleftiko to your foodie list!

Where to try lamb kleftiko in Greece

Tavern Strata is one of our favorite places for lamb kleftiko in Crete. This small restaurant specializes in traditional Greek and Cretan cuisine and dishes up a huge portion of lamb kleftiko. The meat is packed full of flavor, and the texture is so soft that you don’t need a knife to eat it.


6. Greek Salad

Greece Foods to eat: Greek Salad

You can’t visit Greece without trying Greek salad! This is one of those classic Greek dishes that you’ll order again and again. 

A wonderfully light and refreshing thing to help you cool down on a hot day, this emblematic salad is made from fresh ingredients which provide a multitude of flavors and textures to excite your palate.

A traditional Greek salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, red onion, and kalamata olives. The highlight is a giant block of feta cheese that adorns the top and is generously drizzled with olive oil. Sometimes capers are added on top, too, for extra tang. 

You’ll find Greek salad available as a starter on practically every local restaurant’s menu throughout the country. Never order one per person! They’re often huge, and a single Greek salad is enough to easily serve 2-4 people as a starter.

Where to try Greek salad in Greece

Magaro Restaurant may specialize in fresh fish, but it also makes one of the best Greek salads in Piraeus. For less than the change in your pocket, you can get a giant bowl filled with farm-fresh Cretan tomatoes, Vatika Lakonian onions, Greek peppers, Argonian feta cheese, and Kranidian virgin olive oil. It tastes even better than you can imagine!


7. Baklava

Traditional Foods to try in Greece: Baklava

Although baklava most likely originated in Turkey, it’s hugely popular throughout Greece. This delicate dessert is made of countless fine layers of filo pastry sandwiched together with chewy nuts, rich butter, and sweet sugar. 

The whole thing is placed in the oven until the top is crisp and golden brown before a delicious syrup is poured over the top to finish it off. If you’ve got a sweet tooth and you’re wondering what to eat in Greece, you’re going to love sampling as many pieces of baklava as you can find!

Traditional baklava contains just nuts and syrup made of honey, but there are loads of creative variations available throughout Greece today. Take a look in the window of any bakery or dessert shop, and you’ll see grandiose displays of baklava in all shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Sometimes they look too beautiful to eat!

If you have dinner at a typical Greek restaurant, you’ll often receive some small squares of baklava at the end of your meal to say thank you.

Where to try baklava in Greece

Karakoy Gulluoglu serves some of the most incredible baklava in Athens. Inside this beautiful store, you can try small samples of the sweet snack before you buy anything. They also package them up really well so you can take them home to share with friends and family.


8. Saganaki

Local Foods to try in Greece: Saganaki

Even if you don’t normally order an appetizer, saganaki is something you’ve absolutely got to try if you’re interested in sampling as many traditional Greek foods as possible during your trip. This decadent dish is made of a huge block of local cheese which has been pan-fried until it’s lightly brown on the outside and ooey-gooey on the inside.

Saganaki is normally served in the frying pan it was cooked in, so make sure you don’t burn your fingers! The cheese hardens as it cools down, so don’t let it hang around. Dig in as soon as you can to enjoy the intense flavor and texture combination.

Despite its simplicity, saganaki is an incredibly tasty and moreish dish. If you order it with a side of crusty bread, you can even enjoy it as a full meal. Any type of cheese that can withstand high heat can be used for saganaki, so you could be served halloumi, feta, graviera, or kasseri, to name a few.

Where to try saganaki in Greece

Filema Restaurant is where we had the best-ever saganaki in Athens. The portion is absolutely huge, and the cheese is drizzled with flavorful olive oil for even more richness and indulgence.


9. Tomatokeftedes

What to eat in Greece: Tomatokeftedes

Tomatokeftedes is one of the most popular things to eat in Santorini – and for good reason, too. These delectable tomato fritters have an amazing texture and great depth of flavor that could convert even the fussiest veggie-hating palate. You’ll find this dish on most appetizer menus throughout the island, as well as part of mezze platters. 

What makes tomatokeftedes extra special is the top-quality tomatoes which go into making them. The local tomatoes in Santorini taste incredible when they’re in season and really shine through in this recipe. They just wouldn’t taste the same if you used any other type of tomato!

Some rich feta cheese, sweet red onion, and fresh spearmint also go into making the tomato fritters. Tomatokeftedes may not be made of very many ingredients, but when each one is of superb quality, you’re guaranteed to get a delicious dish you’ll want to order again and again. If you’re searching for farm-fresh foods to eat in Greece, tomatokeftedes will not disappoint! 

Where to try tomatokeftedes in Greece

Salt and Pepper in Santorini is an excellent place to try local tomato fritters. This family-run restaurant dishes up generously sized tomatokeftedes which are incredibly crisp on the outside and unbelievably soft and moreish on the inside.


10. Bouyourdi

Cheese features in many delicious Greek foods, and bouyourdi is no exception. This incredibly addictive dish is made of a block of feta cheese that is topped with tomatoes, peppers, red chilies, and olive oil before being roasted in the oven inside a foil parcel. The cooking process really brings out all the flavors and allows them to mingle together while giving the cheese the most decadent texture.

When it comes out of the oven, bouyourdi isn’t quite spreadable, but it’s not quite solid either. It’s somewhere in the middle. It’s often served with freshly baked bread and is so delicious that you could easily eat it for a whole meal. Because it’s so simple, you can even make it when you get home to remind you of your Greek adventures!

Where to try bouyourdi in Greece

You can get amazing bouyourdi from pretty much any Greek taverna. If you’re in Athens, consider making a reservation at Marvo Provato. This restaurant dishes up all kinds of authentic Greek cuisine, including bouyourdi. Here the cheese is baked with peppers, tomatoes, chili, and fresh herbs. It’s amazing!


11. Keftedes

Best Foods to try in Greece: Keftedes

Greece probably isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you think of meatballs, but one of the must-try foods in Greece is keftedes. And after you’ve tried them, you’ll never want Italian or Swedish meatballs ever again! These pieces of bite-sized heaven stand out from the crowd due to the unique blend of Mediterranean herbs.

Keftedes are made with a combination of ground pork and beef, along with oregano, parsley, and spearmint. This gives them a really meaty yet slightly sweet and herbal flavor. Because they use fine breadcrumbs, they’re also a little denser than most other meatballs.

This popular Greek food most often comes as an appetizer, along with some grilled pita bread and creamy tzatziki sauce. However, some restaurants serve it as an entrée along with fluffy basmati rice and a small portion of Greek salad.

Where to try keftedes in Greece

5F in Athens is an amazing place for keftedes. This restaurant is off-the-beaten-track and serves up a host of authentic traditional Greek dishes. Here the keftedes are made from a family recipe that’s been passed down for years. They taste incredible – so good you’ll be asking your server for the recipe!


12. Dolmades

Greece Foods to try list: Dolmades

If you’re wondering what to eat in Greece, dolmades are a typical Ottoman food that’s been around for centuries. You may have had them out of a jar from your local grocery store. But the real thing, freshly made by talented chefs in Greece, is worlds away in terms of flavor, texture, and quality!

A dolma (the singular version of dolmades) is a vine or grape leaf stuffed with a rice, onion, lemon, and herb mixture. A few of them are often served as an appetizer, or you may get one served as part of a mezze platter.

Although they may look a little unusual, they taste incredible. The leaves are super tender, and the filling is packed with flavor, despite being so simple. Most dolmades are vegetarian, but some of them include ground pork or beef. It’s always best to ask first if you’re a vegetarian or vegan.

Where to try dolmades in Greece

For an incredible view and some of the best dolmades in Greece, take a trip to the Anafiotika Cafe in Athens. A traditional cafe-restaurant in the middle of the busy city, this place serves the most flavorful dolmades we’ve ever tried. If you head to the rooftop, you can enjoy your appetizer surrounded by a gorgeous panorama, too!


13. Pastitsio

Greece Foods to eat: Pastitsio

If you’re not a fan of the eggplant in moussaka, but you really like the idea of the dish, try pastitsio instead. This very similar dish is made of baked bucatini pasta topped with a layer of ground meat and béchamel sauce. The only real difference is that moussaka contains eggplant and pastitsio contains pasta.

This mouthwatering dish is available from almost every Greek taverna throughout the year. But for the best experience, enjoy it on a chilly winter night. The comforting, rich dish is guaranteed to warm you up inside and out. For a lighter touch, consider ordering pastitsio with a side of green or Greek salad. 

Where to try pastitsio in Greece

To Steki tis Pareas in Corfu dishes up all kinds of fantastic Mediterranean and Greek dishes, including an epic pastitsio. Here it’s served in individual portions, and the top is grilled to crispy golden brown perfection.


14. Souvlaki

Traditional Foods to try in Greece: Souvlaki

Souvlaki is one of the healthiest and tastiest things you can eat and one of the best things to eat in Greece. This dish is made of large chunks of tender meat pierced on a skewer before being grilled over an open flame. It sounds really simple, but sometimes the simplest dishes are the best!

Lamb is the most common meat used in souvlaki, but you’ll also find it made with chicken, beef, and pork. Whichever meat is used, it’s usually marinated in a wonderful combination of olive oil and lemon. This adds a citrusy zing and makes the meat extra delicate.

Souvlaki is usually served as just meat on a skewer. But some places serve it alongside freshly grilled pita bread that’s still warm and cool tzatziki sauce for a filling, hearty meal.

Where to try souvlaki in Greece

If you’re visiting Mykonos, you’ve got to check out Pepper Mykonos. Here you can choose between pork, chicken leg, veal, and vegetarian souvlaki. You can also decide whether you want the meat on its own or tucked inside a warm whole wheat or corn pita bread.


15. Spanakopita

Local Foods to try in Greece: Spanakopita

So much better than its name would suggest, spanakopita is a cheese and spinach pie that goes down well at any time of day. You’ll find this traditional Greek food served in hotel buffets for breakfast, cafes for lunch, and tavernas for dinner. You can even pick up a slice from bakeries for a snack!

It’s made from delicately wilted spinach combined with rich feta cheese. The mixture is then sandwiched between multiple layers of tissue-thin filo pastry dough. The whole thing is baked until the pastry layers are puffy and golden and the filling is wonderfully warm and creamy. 

Despite being pretty light, spanakopita is definitely comfort food. If you’re looking for the most delicious foods to try in Greece, it’s the best thing to go for when you’re in the mood for something indulgent and satisfying, but you don’t want anything too heavy.

Where to try spanakopita in Greece

Spanakopita is so popular that you’ll find it available from almost anywhere that serves food. If you’re in Athens, we definitely recommend you stop by Pnyka. This is one of the city’s oldest bakeries, where they use the highest quality ingredients and even grind their own flour. You’ll never find a better or more authentic spanakopita than the one from here.

There you have it! The best traditional foods to eat in Greece. What are your favorite Greek foods? Let us know in the comments below so we can add them to the list!


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Author

  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

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