Loukoumades, revithokeftedes, saganaki, souvlaki, tirokroketes, baklava, moussaka, tzatziki, dolmathakia and gyros. Now that you have those long names memorised, you’re ready to go!
Okay, maybe not, and you’re not alone if “and” was the only thing you could pronounce confidently in that list! But beyond all the tongue twisting names, and the obvious olives and olive oil, Greek food is some of the world’s best and these ten dishes, from cheesy starters to delicious Greek desserts, will help you navigate taverna menus across the country.
All doughnuts, from cronuts to original glazed, can trace their ancestry back to these little honey coated dough balls, or honey puffs as they are also known. In Ancient Greece, loukoumades were considered so special that they were awarded to the winning Olympians in lieu of gold medals. Luckily, you don’t need to shot-put anything to earn your delicious Greek dessert!
This dish is a mouthful to say and a mouthful to eat! These little balls are similar to the Middle Eastern Falafel but have a unique Greek flavour that sets them apart. Revithokeftedes are made with chickpeas and are not as spicy as their falafel cousins, but they pack a punch when it comes to satisfying starters. They’re a definite must try as part of a Greek meze, or as an assortment of appetisers.
Saganaki is not exactly a food itself, but refers to the small, two handled frying pan that cooks the food. You can get prawn saganaki, mussel saganaki and more but the most well know is the cheese saganaki. A cheese like graviera or haloumi is used and grilled on both sides until it bubbles. It’s then served with lemon juice, pepper and bread.
This is one dish you are probably more familiar with. Made up of usually beef or pork, these meat skewers are served with salad, pita and yoghurt. You can often find street vendors selling freshly grilled souvlaki that will most likely be served straight in the pita without salad.
You can have Greek doughnuts for dessert, Greek falafels for your main but what will you have for your starter to really round out the meal? Why not try tirokroketes. These little deep fried cheese balls are the perfect Greek comfort food and will melt in your mouth. Made with a crunchy, golden crust and gooey cheese inside, these may just derail any holiday diet plans you had.
This dessert’s origin is hotly contested. Greece and Turkey are both known for their amazing baklava and in reality there is only one clear winner - you. Sample the layers upon layers of perfectly crisp filo pastry, filled with crushed nuts and topped off with exquisite lemon scented syrup as you gaze out across the stunning Greek vistas and gain a new appreciation for this intricate dessert. Depending on the region that you try this, you will find different nuts are used, including almonds, pistachios and walnuts.
When you feel like something heartier, why not try moussaka. With origins dating back to the Ottoman Empire, this dish is found in many countries across the region including Turkey and the Middle East. Greece has put its own special twist on the dish though, which of course includes cheese. It usually includes a ground meat and is layered with potato or eggplant as well as béchamel sauce. Calling it a ‘lasagna without the pasta’ doesn’t do it justice but will give you an idea of what to expect.
There aren’t many foods in Greece that won’t be served with tzatziki. This refreshing sauce is a mix of thick Greek yoghurt, cucumber, garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper. Expect to find it lathered on your gyros, next to your souvlaki and served alongside your revithokeftedes. Westernised versions of the dip that you might be used to usually include lemon and mint but the traditional Greek recipes made with local yoghurts are not to be missed.
Looks can be deceiving and with dolmathakia you might be a little confused at first as to whether you need to peel the outside leaves off these little packages. Just bite right into that vine leaf wrapped pocket of rice goodness and enjoy the delicate mix of pine nuts and fresh herbs. If they were good enough for Alexander the Great then they are sure to be a hit with your tour as well!
Gyros is the Greek version of a kebab or wrap. You get sliced meat served in a pita sandwich with tzatziki and salad. They are widely available, cheap and you can eat them with one hand while you are on the go, keeping the other free to take photos of the incredible scenery.