Ask someone about Greek food, and some version of all or most of these dishes will be mentioned.
From simple grilled foods and vegetable dishes to rich layered casseroles and delicate pastries, Greek food is a wonderful mix of dishes that appeal to all tastes. The traditions of healthy country cooking have been expanded over the centuries, and today, Greece is famous for a diverse range of family meals, holiday foods, and elaborate presentation dishes.
01 of 24
In Greek: μπακλαβάς, say: bahk-lah-VAHS
Sheets of wafer-thin phyllo dough are sprinkled with a sweet nut mixture to create one of Greece's most famous dishes. A wide variety of nuts can be used - alone or mixed - and this baklava pastry recipe calls for walnuts and almonds. The pastry is baked, then covered with a sweet syrup. Syrups can be honey-based, sugar-based, or call for a combination. However it's made, the small pieces of flaky pastry are packed with sweetness.
02 of 24
In Greek: χόρτα βραστά, say; HOR-tah vrahs-TAH
A staple of the traditional Greek diet, the leafy greens chosen for boiled leafy greens (horta vrastra) are often gathered in the wild. Greens can be sweet like spinach (needing little cooking time) or bitter like dandelion greens (needing a longer time to cook). The greens are usually drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, then topped with fresh lemon juice. Tasty and healthy!
03 of 24
In Greek: κοτόσουπα αυγολέμονο (αβγολέμονο), say: koh-TOH-soo-pah ahv-gho-LEH-moh-no
This chicken and lemon rice soup is a favorite with Greek families and frequently served as a first course at the holiday table. There are several variations, and the egg-lemon sauce (avgolemono) is so popular that there are some who make a quick soup in the microwave using canned soup or broth, just to have the opportunity to add the avgolemono sauce, which is the crowning glory. This soup is perfect as a first course or as a light meal.
04 of 24
In Greek: ρεβιθόσουπα, say: reh-vee-THOH-soo-pah
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are a Greek favorite, used in salads, dips, and other dishes as well as this chickpea soup. Deceptively simple, this delicious soup is a wonderful warming dish made with chickpeas and onion (carrots optional). A dash of olive oil and lemon juice give it that authentic Greek taste.
As is usual when preparing Greek soups, the olive oil gets added at the very end. (A great choice for vegetarians and vegans as well.)Continue to 5 of 24 below.
05 of 24
These four dips and spreads are considered the four traditional Greek classics. The recipes are simple - easy to make, with few ingredients - and belong in the recipe box of every Greek food lover. Serve them as appetizers, mezethes, condiments, or in creative ways devised in your kitchen.
In Greek: μελιτζανοσαλάτα, say: meh-leed-zah-no-sah-LAH-tah
- Garlic Spread (Skorthalia or Skordalia)
In Greek: σκορδαλιά, say: skor-thahl-YAH
- Fish Roe (Caviar) Dip (Taramosalata)
In Greek: ταραμοσαλάτα, say: tah-rah-mo-sah-LAH-tah
- Yogurt, Cucumber & Garlic Dip (Tzatziki)
In Greek: τζατζίκι, say: dzah-DZEE-kee
06 of 24
In Greek: παστίτσιο, say: pah-STEET-see-yoh
This creamy cheesy baked pasta with meat dish of layered tubular pasta, cheese, and meat sauce is topped with a thick and creamy bechamel sauce to create a dish that's more extravagant than some of the simpler Greek fare. Along with moussaka (below) and Greek au gratin dishes, the pastitsio we know today is the result of embellishments added to Greek cuisine in the early 20th century, when cream sauces became popular.
07 of 24
In Greek: γαλακτομπούρεκο, say: ghah-lahk-toh-BOO-reh-koh
One of the most famous Greek desserts, custard-filled phyllo pastry (galaktoboureko) is a delightful milk and egg custard wrapped in thin sheets of phyllo dough and baked to a golden brown. It's a traditional Greek sweet, soaked in a light lemony syrup after baking. A true special occasion dish.
08 of 24
In Greek: σαγανάκι, say: sah-ghah-NAH-kee
A quick and simple appetizer dish, the original Greek version is not flamed (with the addition of ouzo or brandy), but certainly can be - in the best Chicago tradition where that version originated.
The cheese is dredged in flour and seared to a golden brown. Fried Greek cheese (saganaki) is traditionally served with a squeeze of lemon juice. Several varieties of cheese work well when making saganaki, which takes its name from the sagani, the traditional two-handled frying-and-serving pan in which it's made. If you can't find a sagani, a small paella pan or even a small cast-iron frying pan work just as well.Continue to 9 of 24 below.
09 of 24
In Greek: χωριάτικη σαλάτα, say: hoh-ree-YAH-tee-kee sah-LAH-tah
Salads carrying the simple name "Greek country salad" are sold all over the world, in Greek and non-Greek restaurants. Often, the name "Greek" just means that there's some feta cheese and possibly some Kalamata olives thrown into the mix, but in this traditional recipe, the most notable feature is that there is no lettuce of any kind.
10 of 24
In Greek: φασολάκια φρέσκα, say: fah-soh-LAHK-yah FRES-kah
As simple as this green bean casserole recipe looks, it will fast become a family favorite. Fresh green beans, tomatoes, herbs and spices are simmered together long enough for the tastes to meld. In a traditional Greek diet that is heavily weighted toward dishes without meat, this is a favorite main dish.
11 of 24
In Greek: φασσολάδα, say: fah-so-LAH-thah
According to food historians, hearty bean soup (fassolatha) has been around since ancient Greek times. It is the national dish of Greece, representing the best of the Greek way of cooking: legumes, vegetables, herbs, and olive oil.
It can be made with tomato (red version) or lemon juice (white version), and whichever way you choose, culinary tradition dictates that fassolatha be served with crusty bread, feta cheese (except during Lent and periods of fasting when eating cheese is restricted), and black olives.
12 of 24
In Greek: melomakarona, μελομακάρονα, say: meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah; phoenikia, φοινίκια, say: fee-NEEK-yah
Honey spice cookies (melomakarona), also called Phoenikia, are one of the most famous cookies in Greece. They are a favorite throughout the year, and a Christmas tradition.
This recipe calls for olive oil instead of butter or other shortening and creates a delightful treat. The spice cookies are made with cinnamon and cloves, soaked in a honey syrup, and sprinkled with sesame seeds, walnuts, and cinnamon. And they disappear as quickly as you can make them.Continue to 13 of 24 below.
13 of 24
In Greek: φακές σούπα, say: fah-KES SOO-pah
Legumes are an important part of the Greek diet, and lentil soup is a perennial favorite as well as a Lenten dish consumed during fasting periods in the Greek Orthodox faith.
Use the lentils of your choice, but in Greece, this is traditionally made with small green-brown lentils. This soup can be made with or without tomatoes.
14 of 24
In Greek: αρνί με πατάτες, say: ar-NEE meh pah-TAH-tes
Leg of lamb (bone in or out) and potatoes roasted together with the flavors of garlic, lemon, and oregano is a great "company's coming" or special occasion meal. The roasted lamb with potatoes recipe is easy to prepare, and the taste is out of this world. If you've never prepared lamb and/or potatoes with lemon juice, this is the time to try.
In Greece, where lamb is the most important meat, this dish is a favorite at Easter and on celebratory occasions.
15 of 24
In Greek: μουσακάς, say: moo-sah-KAS
Traditional Greek moussaka with eggplant dishes were layered casseroles of vegetables and meat. In the early 20th century when cream sauces were introduced into Greek cooking, a thick topping of bechamel was added to traditional recipes, creating what is arguably Greece's most famous dish as we know it today.
This recipe for moussaka is the most well known. Layers of sliced eggplant, meat sauce, and cheese are topped with bechamel sauce. It can take most of a day to prepare - as well as almost every inch of counter space - but it tastes divine and freezes well.
The recipe also includes links to more moussaka recipes using other vegetables and even a vegetarian version.
16 of 24
In Greek: χαλβάς, say: hahl-VAS
I adore semolina pudding (halvas). The basic ingredients of semolina (or farina) and olive oil make it a high-calorie choice to begin with, and then the addition of a sugar syrup, nuts, raisins, and honey just keep that calorie count going up. On the other hand, it has no eggs, milk, or butter, so perhaps there's some balance there.
This recipe for halvas, with nuts, honey, and raisins, is my favorite and includes links to other versions - even a low-fat version (although taste is sacrificed, I'm sorry to say).
Keep the serving size small and the calories should be manageable.Continue to 17 of 24 below.
17 of 24
In Greek: σουβλάκι, say: soov-LAH-kee
A classic street food, party food, and grilling favorite, skewered kebabs of meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and other foods are easy, delicious, and always seem to disappear as fast as they're made. At the table, the size of the pieces can be large or small, and depending on what's being skewered, work as the main event or side dish. As a street food and appetizer, small chunks of skewered meat are served "on the stick" (small wood skewers), or wrapped in pita bread sandwiches. At the table, the size of the pieces can be large or small, and depending on what's being skewered, work as the main event or side dish.
18 of 24
In Greek: μπακαλιάρος με σκορδαλιά, say: bah-kahl-YAH-rohs meh skor-thal-YAH
Salt cod with garlic mashed potatoes (bakaliaros) is a favorite in Greek homes as well as a tradition on Greek Independence Day.
There are a couple of different recipes for skorthalia, the garlic spread that is traditionally served with the fried cod, and the one I like best is made with potatoes, resulting in the best garlic mashed potatoes ever!
Salt cod can be purchased in dry salted slabs that need to be soaked to remove the preserving salt, and can also be found already desalinated in the frozen food section of many markets. When buying the frozen version, be sure to look for the word "desalinated" on the package. Fresh cod has a very different taste.
19 of 24
In Greek: γύρο, say: YEE-roh
Sliced rotisserie-roasted meat (gyro) isn't as much as classic as it is a well loved and quite famous street (fast) food. Sold at sidewalk stands all over Greece, the cone for meat, cooked on an upright rotisserie grill, is sliced thinly put into pita wraps and also served as a main dish with the same ingredients used in the sandwich on the side (yogurt or tzatziki, tomatoes, onion, french fries, and grilled pita bread).
The word gyro means "turn" or "revolution," and that's just what this fabulous cone of meat does as it cooks.
Gyro can be made with different meat and poultry (whole slices or ground), but this recipe for homemade pork gyro is probably the favorite in Greece. The key to recreating an authentic taste at home is in the spices.
20 of 24
In Greek: σπανακόπιτα, say: spah-nah-KO-pee-tah
Although this dish is widely known as spanakopita (spinach pie with cheese), the full name is spanakotyropita - spanaki is spinach, tyri is cheese, and pita is pie. Put it all together and you get spinach and cheese pie, but that's quite a mouthful, so both versions - with and without cheese - are often called by the shorter name: spanakopita.
This recipe makes 20 good-sized pieces. The night before, take a few minutes to cook the spinach and onion. Drain overnight and, once you start making the pita, it takes a few minutes to put together and about 25 minutes to bake. The recipe includes a link to step by step photos.
Treat yourself to this classic Greek dish as a party food, snack, side, or main dish.Continue to 21 of 24 below.
21 of 24
In Greek: ντολμάδες, say: dohl-MAH-thes
Stuffed grape leaves are a favorite appetizer and meze, and one of the most traditional of all Greek dishes. They can also be served as a side dish.
Fillings can include meat, although some of the tastiest are filled with a mixture of rice and herbs, and leaves of almost every variety of grape can be used.
Recipes include links to photo tutorials showing how to fill and roll the leaves - both for beginners and also for more advanced cooks.
22 of 24
In Greek: λαχανικά γεμιστά, say: lah-hah-nee-KAH yeh-mee-STAH
If it's a vegetable that can hold stuffing, chances are there's a Greek recipe for it. Stuffed vegetables include favorites like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and eggplant, and potatoes also work well.
Fillings can include meat or be meatless, and the variety of herbs is endless. Creativity is the rule!
23 of 24
In Greek: κουραμπιέδες, say: koo-rahm-bee-YEH-thes
The ultimate celebration cookies, and a favorite at weddings and baptisms because of their white color, sugared almond cookies (kourabiethes) are shortbread-type cookies, loaded with roasted almonds, and then dusted with more than a generous helping of confectioner's sugar.
The recipe includes links to more versions, as well as a photo tutorial showing the process.
24 of 24
In Greek: τσουρέκι, say: tsoo-REH-kee
Sweet egg breat (tsoureki) may be best known as an Easter tradition when it's decorated with red eggs, but it's a delightful sweet bread often served as a dessert bread, breakfast bread, or snack.
Tsoureki is a sweet egg bread, and this recipe is simpler than other versions because it doesn't call for some of the hard-to-find ingredients in more traditional loaves - and it produces a delicious result.