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11 Greek Food Favorites: Watch the video for more food images!
When I first arrived in Greece, I didn’t know I might have difficulty eating as a vegetarian.
The Greeks however, love their fish and cured and smoked meats, so as a vegetarian my options felt slim.
Luckily, during my TBEX conference, I took a Athens food tour with Big Olive City Walks. They introduced to me to samplings of Greek foods and their history. I’m quickly becoming a lover of food tours, due to the fact food ingredients are often a mystery to me and as a vegetarian, it’s something I have to be cautious of. It’s one category of travel, I want to be able to reduce my ‘trial by error’ and one bite mistakes; it’s not fun to order an $7 meal only to discover you can’t eat it (which I’ve had happen before).
Food is something we can take for granted, but it tells about where people are from, their land, how they use their country’s resources and what their daily gastronomic practices are. As a “traveler”, a food tour only helps to take my gastronomic experience deeper.
Table of Contents: 14 Must Try Greek Foods in Athens
14 Must Try Greek Foods:
The following list is a combination of my food tour experience and my experiences as a vegetarian traveler finding foods on-the-road. I couldn’t fit everything into my video as I didn’t have video footage for some. So, instead, they are listed as the “bonus”.
I’m starved and what better way to start my morning than head to a cafe for some Greek yogurt.
The Greeks have a sweet tooth so expect your yogurt to come drizzled in honey. What makes Greek yogurt different from others is its thickness and creaminess. Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is quite viscous, almost like a milky pie. The nuts and honey on this bed of yogurt added texture and flavor.
Spanakopita is a very common fast food bakery pie sandwich you’ll find people walking around and eating in Greece. Spanikopita has spinach and light spread of feta. Another version of this is Tiroptika, a cheese-filled sandwich, which is also popular!
Interestingly, something to note about Greek foods is that while you might find many breaded street foods with cheese fillings, the cheese is very light and subtle. Often, I could barely taste it. (If you don’t see the video above, click here)
The Greeks love their outdoor cafes. Why not enjoy the in people watching with some thick Greek coffee. The coffee is thick and you’re not supposed to drink the grounds at the bottom. Also it’s said that fortunes can be read from the grounds.
Tip: If you’d like sugar to be added, note that to your server in advance. Greek coffee is prepared with the sugar.
Courgette Balls are deep fried bread balls with eggplant, cheese, herbs and secret spices. Santorini’s specialty are Tomato balls, which means they have a hint of tomato flavoring.
14 Must Try Greek Foods :Courgette balls| Tomato balls | tomatokeftedes[/caption]
Olive Oil is the elixir of Greece. You’ll find many things cooked in it and you may find it as dressing on your salads.
Greeks have cultivated olives for ages and grow an assorted variety. Many foods come accompanied with local olives.
Koulouri is a street snack, you’ll find many street vendors selling. It’s a big donut-like pretzel that often has fillings, which may vary.
Dolmades & Tzatziki
Fortunately for me, there’s dolmades (or dolmas), a more traditional dish of Greek households. a traditional Greek food of grape leaves stuffed with white rice, the bitterness of the grape leaves serves up a kick. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s best to ask the ingredients before you order as some types of dolmas have bits of meat in them.
Meanwhile Tzatziki is a yogurt accompaniment that is popular with the Greeks. The yogurt is often blended with a combination of cucumber and dill, so make the flavor a smooth finish.
Don’t want to sit down for an expensive meal? A popular and inexpensive street food is souvlaki. Souvlaki contains vegetables, onions, herbs, fries and smoked meat.
Tip: Vegetarians can order it without meat and it’s basically a vegetable sandwich with fries, as seen below.
Pernili (or Pide in Turkish) is a type of Turkish fusion flatbread we were introduced to on our Athens Food Tour. It’s like a fun little pizza and you can certainly find vegetarian options. Greece and Turkey are neighboring countries so they share similarities. At Feyrouz Lahmajoun shop in Athens, all the pides are vegetarian.
Moussaka is a casserole dish, originating from Turkey during the time of the Ottoman Empire. It is sauteed eggplant and tomator with minced meat and a Bechamel (white) sauce.
Eggplant salad dip
Eggplant salad dip is more of an appetizer of grilled eggplant mashed to a pulp and mixed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and sometimes tomato. It’s smoky flavor is due to the grilled/charring and enhances the overall flavor.
Ouzo is a favorite anise-flavored desert wine. The taste is strong like a licorice tinted vodka. When mixed with water for dilution, it turns a milky white.
New Update for Vegetarians:
After releasing my YouTube video, I had a viewer (“deductionism”) offer a suggestion for vegetarians . I wish I knew about this recommendation earlier as I’d likely have found more eating options! I’m copying that response here (you can also read deductionism’s extended comment and recommendations on my YouTube video):
With regards to the vegetarian dishes you should have visited an estiatorion (a type of restaurant) with “mageirefta”. Fasolakia, Gemista, Melitzanes, Gigantes plaki are some very tasty vegetarian dishes.
There might be a sign (ΜΑΓΕΙΡΕΥΤΑ / μαγειρευτά (photo below) . They serve mageirefta (which means (slow) cooked dishes) but locals will easily be able to deduct that from the menu. The best indication, especially for somebody who does not know Greek dishes by their names, is the existence of oven dishes filled with food (those are usually on display there to see ) . The estiatoria (restaurants) serving mageireyta are usually pretty dull (there are exceptions to this rule) but the food can be (go where the locals go) amazing. As mentioned this not where you usually go to socialize with friends – they mainly offer a substitute to your mother’s (or grandmother’s/wife’s/girlfriends/your homemade) cooking. You go there for the food. I believe the best way to experience Greek cuisine (which is in my opinion one of the best in the world – btw traditionally Greeks did not use to eat a lot of meat hence there are plenty of vegetarian dishes in their cooking) is by spending a few days in a Greek house.