You’re no doubt familiar with Greek cuisine. You’ve probably dipped pita bread in taramasalata, completed a meal with a side of Greek salad or enjoyed a kebab on a Saturday night. But, to truly experience the explosion of flavour that comes with every mouthful, you need to head to where these dishes originate from.
Cooking traditions date back thousands of years in Greece, this is a country that really loves its food and drink – making it the ideal destination for foodies.
Meals here are full of fresh, local ingredients. You’ll find cheeses and filo pastry in many traditional dishes. Seafood is popular due to the extensive coastline, as is meat – which forms the core of many dishes. A sprinkle of spices and drizzle of olive oil often provide the finishing touch.
Intrigued? To further tickle your tastebuds, here are 25 of the tastiest foods to eat in Greece:
Both grilled and spit-roasted meat is popular in Greece and this particular dish is definitely a firm favourite. This street food is relatively cheap and among the best in the country. It’s grilled to order and can be served with chips.
What is it? Grilled meat (usually pork) served with tzatziki – a sauce made from yoghurt cucumber and mint – in pita bread with salad and rice.
Best place to try it: There are Souvlaki shops across Athens – you’ll find the street souvlaki sandwiches often have chips inside the pita too. Head to Kalamaki Bar for the most tender meat sourced from local farms.
This iconic dish is one of the most famous in Greece, although you’ll find variations of it throughout the Mediterranean.
What is it? Layers of fried aubergine, minced meats (often lamb) and potatoes, creamy béchamel sauce with fried puréed tomato, onion, garlic, spices and cheese. This dish is also available without meat.
Best place to try it: For a typical dish head to Klimataria or God’s Restaurant in Athens. However, if you fancy trying it with a modern twist head to Koukoumavlos in Santorini which is known for white aubergines.
These are the perfect accompaniment to a main meal and often part of a meze plate.
What is it? Vine or grape leaves stuffed with herby, lemon rice. This is then folded over to create a small parcel, which is steamed. They’re often filled with meat or vegetables. It’s then finished off with thyme, dill, fennel, oregano and sometimes, pine nuts.
Best place to try it: Each region in Greece has its own variation of dolmades, however Anafiotika Café in Athens is among the best places to try it.
If you like kebabs then you should enjoy this Greek sandwich, they’re very similar.
What is it? Meat cooked on a rotating rotisserie – usually chicken, pork, lamb or beef. This is wrapped in a flatbread or pita with salad, onions and sauces. If you’re a vegetarian or don’t fancy meat, this can be swapped for halloumi or feta.
Best place to try it: Bairaktaris Taverna in Athens which can be found in Monastiraki Square and has been serving Greek cuisine since the 19th century.
If you have a sweet tooth then you’ll love this first-class Greek pastry and one of the most beloved desserts in the country.
What is it? Filo pastry made with butter and sugar, soaked in honey syrup and layered with crushed nuts.
Best place to try it: It depends which nuts you fancy. In central Greece these come with almonds, in the east these are with walnuts and in the north with pistachios.
This simple Greek bean soup has its roots in ancient Greece and is often referred to as the traditional dish of the country.
What is it? Beans, crushed tomatoes and vegetables such as onions, carrots and celery. This is then flavoured with thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
Best place to try it: Make your way to Florina in Macedonia for this delicious, warming soup.
Pies are popular in Greece and you’ll find many different types but Spanakopita is a classic.
What is it? Filo pastry layered with feta cheese and spinach, flavoured with dill.
Best place to try it: Creme Royale, a small cafe on Athinas Street in Athens is the ideal place to enjoy Spanakopita alongside an espresso.
You’ll find koulouri sold out of yellow street carts, they’re often eaten alongside a steaming hot cup of strong coffee.
What is it? A large soft bread ring covered in sesame seeds.
Best place to try it: The larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki. Make sure you visit Oven Sesame in Athens if you fancy trying this with a tasty filling.
If you like lasagne, you’ll love this. It is very similar but made with macaroni instead of pasta sheets.
What is it? Macaroni is layered with ground beef and béchamel sauce then flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg and herbs, before being topped with grated cheese.
Best place to try it: Stani Tavern in Fira, Santorini offers a beautiful backdrop of the ocean alongside a mouth-watering menu.
These sweet, sticky treats are perfect for sharing, although you won’t be able to eat just one.
What is it? Small deep-fried doughnut balls covered in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon or crushed walnuts. These can also be served with melted chocolate and ice cream.
Best place to try it: Krinos – a dessert shop in Athens which has been serving these small doughnuts since 1922. You’ll find it near Omonoia Square.
These sweet slices are best eaten straight out of the oven while they are still warm.
What is it? Custard slices, made with filo pastry and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Best place to try it: Kosmikon in Athens has become synonymous with this dessert making it the ideal destination to try your first bite of this sweet treat.
12. Greek Salad
This salad is known as horiatiki in Greece and is often served as a side dish.
What is it? Tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, feta cheese, black olives finished with olive oil and oregano.
Best place to try it: You’ll find variations of this traditional salad across the country but the most delicious can be found in Kardamyli or Athens.
This starter either comes as a patty or a lightly fried ball and is best eaten hot when it is crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle.
What is it? A fritter made from grated or puréed courgette mixed with dill, onion, fresh mint and crumbled feta. Egg and flour is used to create the batter before it is fried. This goes well with tzatziki.
Best place to try it: You’ll find these across Greece but they are best in Crete where they are served in the majority of the island’s taverns and restaurants.
These are very similar to Kolokithokeftedes but made with tomatoes instead of courgettes.
What is it? These tomato fritters are made with cherry tomatoes which, due to the volcanic soil, are incredibly flavoursome. They are served with mint and onion chunks.
Best place to try it: These fritters originate in Santorini where they are made with fresh local produce.
You’ll find dips are served with most meals in Greece including tzatziki, melitzanosalata and fava. But, taramasalata is the one you really can’t leave without trying.
What is it? Creamy pink or white fish roe – cod, carp or mullet – drizzled with virgin olive oil and lemon.
Best place to try it: Kiki’s Taverna on the north coast of Mykonos – make sure you get there early, this restaurant closes when it gets dark.
This dish is perfect if you are looking for a light but tasty meal.
What is it? Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers are stuffed with rice and herbs, topped with cheese and baked.
Best place to try it: Paspalis restaurant in Skala offer the best yemista often including aubergine to serve up something a little different.
This is a stuffed zucchini flower which is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
What is it? Fillings can include cheese and herbs or meat and rice. It’s dipped in a light batter and fried
Best place to try it: The island of Lesvos is the place to go if you fancy trying this unique dish.
18. Fresh Fish
Greece is renowned for its seafood. The fish couldn’t be any fresher here, it is sourced directly from the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and is delicious.
What is it? Fresh fish is grilled whole and served with a lemon and oil dressing called lasholemono. Barbouni is red mullet but marida, whitebait, is also popular – both of which are often lightly fried.
Best place to try it: Any seaside taverna but Varoulko Seaside in Piraeus, Athens is Michelin-starred, seen as the country’s top seafood restaurant and boasts great views across Mikrolimano harbour.
You’ll see octopuses hung out to dry along the harbours in Greece.
What is it? This is either grilled or marinated and served as an appetizer or is stewed in wine and served as a main course.
Best place to try it: Psaraki in Santorini boasts a menu of fresh seafood including the best grilled octopus on the island. This can be enjoyed alongside breathtaking views across the water.
This is a speciality in Corfu and one of the most famous dishes to come out of the island.
What is it? This is a slow cooked meat casserole – usually made with beef, slow cooked tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil and spices. It is served with tubular spaghetti.
Best place to try it: Corfu Town particularly Rex, a family-run restaurant that has been serving it since 1932.
21. Lamb Kleftiko
There are several variations of this dish but the key requirement is that it is cooked slowly until the meat is falling off the bone.
What is it? Slow-cooked lamb with potatoes, vegetables and herbs – baked in greaseproof paper parcels or braised in an earthenware pot.
Best place to try it: Enjoy this dish at Taverna Metsovitiko Saloni in Metsovo in the Pindos mountains.
This can either be a sweet or savoury pie, ideally served in bite-size pieces and enjoyed alongside a warming cup of coffee.
What is it? A filo pastry custard cream pie sprinkled with cinnamon. However, it can also be filled with either minced meat or cheese.
Best place to try it: Head to Romfea in Thessaloniki. The bougatsa here is well-known throughout the city due to the unique take on the recipe.
This is one of the most popular desserts in Greece.
What is it? This is made with a shredded pastry known as Kataifi. It is rolled up – the inside is nutty while the outside is baked and soaked in syrup.
Best place to try it: In Crete you’ll find Chatziparaschos, one of the only pastry makers in Greece to specialise in handmade kataifi – so make sure you head to this island to try it.
24. Feta Me Meli
This can either be an entrée or a dessert and is the perfect mixture of sweet and savoury.
What is it? Feta wrapped in filo pastry which is then baked and then covered in honey.
Best place to try it: The capital is arguably the best place in the country for feta, so make sure you visit Athens to try this.
25. Fassolakia Lathera
This is a Greek green bean casserole made with fresh seasonal vegetables.
What is it? Greens beans and other vegetables including onions, carrots and finished off with olive oil.
Best place to try it: The most delicious casseroles can be found in tavernas across Paros.
Your mouth is no doubt watering, so now you just need to book a holiday to Greece and decide which one you are going to try first.