17 Traditional Greek Food You Must Eat While Visiting Greece

Steve Cummings

Greek Food

Thanks to its geographic location, long heritage, and history, Greek food shares much in common with food found in other Mediterranean countries, such as France, Italy, and some Middle Eastern countries. 

Many dishes in these different cuisines have very similar names or share the same ingredients. Greek food is made with a deep love for the ingredients and for the people it is made for. Much of traditional Greek food is made with the view of being shared with friends and family. 

Sadly, Greek food is often seen as very simple. Outside the country, many see Greek food culture as just a lot of feta cheese, baklava, souvlaki, and gyros with salad. However, in the following article, we hope to show you otherwise by looking at 17 of the best traditional Greek dishes you should try whenever you head to Greece for a vacation. 

1. Moussaka

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It would be ridiculous to have a list of the most famous Greek food dishes and not include Moussaka somewhere near the top. This is Greece's national dish with good reason—packed full of uniquely Greek flavors. Traditional Moussaka is made by layering fried eggplant with potatoes, a spicy tomato sauce, and seasoned ground meat before topping it off with decadently creamy and morish bechamel sauce. 

Although it is one of the most traditional dishes, there are modern equivalents, including vegetarian options, particularly in the bigger cities like Thessaloniki and Athens. You can order it everywhere, from upmarket restaurants to smaller tavernas.

2. Tzatziki 

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Tzatziki is pronounced tsah-zee-kee, which is much easier to say than it looks on paper or the screen. This is one of the country's most widely used sauces and dips. It is traditionally made with Greek Yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cucumbers, and salt and pepper to finish it off. While you are likely already familiar with this, as it's a famous sauce and dip elsewhere in the world thanks to the popularity of Greek food culture, it is a refreshing and flavorsome addition to any meal. You often find it on the menu as a dip to accompany meze or pita bread. 

3. Gyro – The Greek Style Doner Kebab

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One of the most famous Greek street food offerings is the incredible gyro. The name gyro comes from the word for turn in Ancient Greek and describes the process of making cone-shaped meat on a rotating vertical spit. It is often either lamb, chicken, pork, beef, or a delicious combination, which is then cut into thin slices. While it is usually served on salad or rice, the most popular way to eat gyros is in a pitta or other type of bread as a sandwich with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. 

4. Tiropita – Cheese Pie – Greek Style

Tiropita is a cheese pie that originates from Greece. It is made with layers of delicate filo pastry wrapped into triangles and filled with eggs and feta cheese. Then, it is basted in lots of butter and baked until golden brown. 

This is more than just Greek traditional food; there are references to the ancient Greeks consuming tiropita as early as the 15th century BC. It was seen as more of a dessert served with lots of honey. Nowadays, it is considered a light snack or breakfast treat.

5. Souvlaki – Greek Skewered Meat

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We have already spoken about the mighty gyros, but another popular authentic Greek food is just as famous and popular. It involves skewered meat served in either sandwich form or over rice – Souvlaki. The name translates from Greek to skewered and little spit. The difference between souvlaki and gyros is that the meat is not pressed into shape for souvlaki as it is for gyros. Instead, it is grilled pieces of meat that have been marinated and then cooked on a skewer. Generally speaking, they are still served on the skewer once cooked.

6. Greek Spinach Pie or Spanakopita 

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The name of the next in our list of best Greek food, spanakopita, is translated from Greek to English as spinach pie. The traditional recipe for this Greek dish involves a filling of garlic, onions, sauteed spinach, and a selection of herbs and spices, along with feta cheese. The filling is then wrapped in delicate and dainty layers of filo pastry dough basted in butter. These are then baked to golden brown. 

Although they were in the past made into little triangles so that workers in the fields could keep them in their pockets and eat them as they worked through the day, many modern chefs make larger family-sized versions that are then cut into individual slices.

7. Horiatiki Salata – An Authentic Greek Salad

Greek Salad
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Greek salad or village salad, Horiatiki Salata, is usually found on the menu and is one of the quintessential Greek dishes you should try when traveling there. A flavorsome and healthy dish, it includes a thick chunk of feta cheese, kalamata olives, green peppers, red onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano. Although there are many variations on the theme, this is the traditional recipe for a Greek salad. 

You will find this marvelous vegetarian Greek food on just about any menu of any eatery in Greece, and it is eaten at both lunch and dinner almost every day. 

8. Kreatopita – Traditional Greek Meat Pie

So much classic Greek food, such as pies, is made with filo pastry dough. Another is the Kreatopita, which is filled with either ground beef or lamb with a combination of onions and various commonly found local herbs and spices. Residents usually eat this as an afternoon or evening meal, but many also have it as a snack. 

It is also often served with a Greek salad or a serving of Greek yogurt, perfect for balancing the rich and deep flavors. 

9. Dolmades – Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves

Due to the popularity of Greek food culture throughout the world, you may have heard of stuffed vine leaves already, but dolmades from a Greek restaurant in Greece are unlike any you may have tried before. The name dolmades originate from the Turkish word dolma, meaning-filled. Traditionally, stuffed grape leaves are filled with ground lamb or beef, herbs, and rice. They are a strange but morish concoction that tastes sweet, tangy, and meaty. 

You will find these on most menus and served with various accompaniments like pita bread, olives, grilled eggplant, feta cheese, Greek Salad, or simply tzatziki sauce. 

10. Soutzoukakia – Traditional Greek Meatballs

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Most Mediterranean and European countries generally have their take on the humble but flavorsome meatball. Greece is no different, and this meatball dish is one of the most famous Greek food dishes. Soutzoukakia. If you are wondering what makes these different from their Italian and Swedish counterparts, it's the shape and unique blend of Mediterranean spices. 

Traditional Soutzoukakia uses ground beef, onion, eggs, garlic, and various spices and herbs, such as parsley, oregano, cinnamon, and cumin. It is then shaped into ovals and baked in a rich tomato-based sauce. 

Like many other dishes, they are often served as a main course with a Greek salad or as an appetizer on their own. 

11. Fasolada – Greek Bean Soup

A Bean Soup may not sound very exciting and enticing. However, Fasolada is a traditional vegetarian Greek food dish that needs to be tried to see what all the fuss is about. While the ingredients will differ from one region to the next, the most authentic and traditional form of Fasolada features gigantes, also known as white beans, onions, tomatoes, and carrots simmered on a gentle heat with a large serving of extra virgin olive oil. 

You may find that some chefs and eateries flavor this simple but filling dish with bay leaves or even oregano.

12. Baklava

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Baklava is one of the most famous and well-known Greek desserts featured in our guide. It was first created in the Byzantium region, where modern Istanbul is found. Over the centuries, it has been passed on to different cultures, which is why you will find it not just in Greece but also in Turkey and many Middle Eastern nations.

Traditionally, it is made with finely chopped pistachios and walnuts filled between layers of filo pastry sheets. The sheets are cut into pretty diamond shapes and baked until golden brown. Once baked, they are topped off with a generous coating of fine honey.

13. Garides Saganaki – Greek Sauteed Prawns

Another traditional Greek food is garides saganaki, sauteed prawns. This is one of the country's most commonly found and popular seafood dishes. It is made with sauteed prawns, tomatoes, onions, fresh garlic, parsley, and oregano. Many chefs and eateries add depth to the flavor of the prawns by splashing some white wine or ouzo over them. 

Like many other everyday Greek dishes, it is often finished with feta cheese.

It is often served as a main course with potatoes and Greek Salad on the side, but it is often also served as a starter course with some crusty bread. 

14. Greek Fried Cheese – Saganaki Cheese

As you may have guessed from the dish above, saganaki refers to frying in a small pan. Outside of Greece, the dish is often called Flaming Saganaki because the recipe includes splashing cheese with liquor so that the dish can be literally flamed at the table for a bit more pizzazz. 

There are many different stories behind the origins of this. Some say it comes from Turkey because the word for pan in Turkish is similar to saganaki, while others say it is of Greek island origin. Regardless, it is a famous Greek food nowadays. Whatever the truth, what's not to like about it? 

15. Grilled Fish

fatty fish
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Grilled fish may sound less interesting and exciting than many exotic-sounding dishes in our guide. However, grilled fish is a famous Greek food for good reason. The fresh fish used to make it is usually of the highest standard, and there are many different versions of the dish that you can try. The most common, though, includes grilling the fish in garlic, lemon, and olive oil. Depending on the eatery you dine in and your dish, it is available with fresh herbs like thyme, mint, and oregano, used in cooking to add extra layers to the flavor. Regardless, the freshness of the fish makes this dish stand out. 

16. Fava Split-Pea Soup

Santorini is the place that is most commonly associated with fava. While they may share a name with fava beans, the fava used in this authentic Greek food dish and found on Santorini are a kind of Greek yellow peas, not beans. The harvested fava peas are made into a dip-like soup, which resembles chickpeas made into hummus. The peas are cooked gently until soft and then mashed and seasoned with spices, onions, garlic, herbs, and olive oil. 

They are traditionally served with Greek bread or other accompaniments, such as cucumber, tomatoes, olives, capers, and feta cheese. 

17. Bougatsa – Traditional Custard Pastry

Filo pastry is used frequently in Greek cuisine and is a feature of this next dish, Bougatsa. It includes layers of filo pastry and a very smooth, textured semolina custard filling. What more needs to be said? Filo pastry and custard sound like winners, don't they?

Well, if you need to know more to win you over, how about the fact that it is also a traditional Greek breakfast food and a typical Greek dessert. Served while warm, it is sprinkled with sesame seeds, crushed walnuts, and ground cinnamon to elevate its simple but morish flavor slightly. 

An alternative form of Bougatsa, known as galaktoboureko, is Bougatsa smothered in tasty sweet syrup. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are adventurous enough to take this guide with you on your vacation to Greece to try the traditional Greek food we have listed or try just the things you are most interested in, we are sure you will have an unforgettable culinary experience. 

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