Greece is famous around the world for its amazing cuisine, and it’s no secret that one of the things I was most excited about when planning my trip was the chance to try all the best Greek foods.
So after a week of gorging myself on everything in sight, I wanted to share a list with you of the foods to eat in Greece…and let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t also call out some delicious drinks.
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On the surface, Greek cuisine shares a lot of DNA with other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures. What makes Greek cuisine more unique is that it heavily uses flavors such as oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill, cumin, and other herbs and spices such as thyme and fennel. There’s a lot of fresh seafood, hearty tavern food, olive oil, and cheeses such as feta.
But just like most countries, “Greek food” isn’t only one thing…as you travel the country (and even between islands), you’ll find different dishes and flavors prominent depending on the region.
For instance, Santorini is famous for the tomatoes they grow there, so their cuisine naturally features tomato fritters and tomato paste. Alternatively, Naxos—just a couple-hour ferry ride away—is famous for its potatoes and cheese, and so those ingredients feature heavily.
I’ve tried to include a lot of overall Greek classics in the list below, the dishes you’ll find everywhere…but I’ve slipped a few regional specialties in there as well.
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20+ of the best Greek foods you need to try
So let’s get started…the list below is not in any particular order, but I’ve grouped a lot of the most well-known dishes at the top, and the alcoholic beverages are at the end.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list of the best Greek dishes (I only spend a week there), but is a really good checklist to start with!
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#1 – Moussaka
Moussaka was really high on my list of foods to try in Greece, because it’s pure comfort food. It’s served in almost all tavernas throughout Greece, as well as at big family gatherings.
The dish is often individually-portioned (making it PIPING HOT), made with a minced beef and tomato sauce layered with eggplant, potatoes, and creamy béchamel sauce.
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#2 – Zucchini fritters (kolokithokeftedes)
Guys, I LOVE me a fritter. Seriously, throw anything in a batter and fry it, and I’m in. So I was excited to discover Greeks living that fritter life, including these delicious zucchini fritters.
Kolokythokeftedes should be crispy on the outside and creamy (almost under-done) on the inside, and bursting with the flavors of salty feta cheese and a bit of fresh mint. They’re usually served with a tzatziki or lemony dipping sauce.
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#3 – Tomato fritters (tomatokeftedes)
These tomato fritters are a traditional meze or vegetarian main course, a specialty of Santorini (which is famous for its tomatoes). They’re made using fresh tomatoes, sweet onion, and fresh mint or oregano in a batter, then deep-fried.
I had them a few times while in Santorini, but the best were definitely at Aspithia, where they were served with a creamy lemony sauce and tzatziki.
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#4 – Tzatziki
Speaking of that, let’s go ahead and talk about maybe the most omnipresent Greek sauce. I found it everywhere I went, but the exact taste and texture varied quite a bit from place to place. The basic ingredients are thick strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and fresh dill.
Even for someone like me who HATES cucumber (seriously, my least favorite food in the world), I can usually still rock with a little tzatziki as a tangy accompaniment to my deep-fried appetizers.
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#5 – Dolmas, dolmadakia, or sarma
I was familiar with these as “dolmas”, but I think dolmadakia may be more common in Greece. I didn’t end up seeing them on a ton of menus, but that may have been a because of where I was visiting.
These are stuffed grape leaves, made with a rice stuffing and often ground lamb or beef, then steamed. They’re traditionally served as an appetizer with lemon wedges and sometimes a dipping sauce. I find these so comforting for some reason, and can devour a plateful in minutes!
(I’ll be honest, and I realize this is heresy, but if you’re craving dolmas while back in the States, the canned ones at Trader Joe’s aren’t half bad…)
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#6 – Greek iced coffee (frappés & freddo espresso)
We’re going to take a big detour for a minute and dive into refreshing drinks. Because I would be remiss if I went any further without talking about Greek coffee and frappés, both of which are a major part of the culture.
I didn’t end up drinking much regular Greek coffee because it was so dang hot when I was there, but the main thing to know is that it’s different from both drip coffee and espresso. Instead, it’s boiled rather than brewed, and typically served in a tea kettle (a bit more like Turkish coffee as well). This makes it richer and creamier, and stronger (IMO).
Then there are the iced coffee drinks. The two main ones to know are Greek frappés and freddo espresso, which has become quite popular recently. Frappés are made with instant coffee, water, sugar and milk, blended til frothy and served over ice.
The freddo espresso has some similarities, but in this case you take one shot of hot espresso poured into a metal cocktail shaker, then shake it with a few ice cubes and a little sugar if desired. I actually do this to make iced lattes at home (it’s called “shakerato”), and I love it.
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#6 – Bougatsa
NOW. WE. ARE. TALKING. I’m here for the pastries. Bougatsa is a kind of lightly-sweet pastry (or pie) made from layers of phyllo pastry and semolina custard, and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon on top. However, you’ll apparently find lots of variations by region, including some with meat and cheese.
It’s delicious any time of day, but I was excited to find it super early in the morning in Athens, and enjoying it with a coffee and view of the Acropolis before heading to the airport to come home.
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#8 – Galactoboureko
Galactoboureko is very similar in many ways to bougatsa…it’s a delicious flaky filo pastry with semolina custard filling. However, the biggest difference is that galactoboureko is then soaked in a (lightly) citrus-flavored syrup.
And I was OBSESSED. I had a piece of it—with a frappé—on my first afternoon in Santorini, and it was exactly what my travel-weary self needed.
You’ll find this all over Greece, and apparently Crete’s galactoboureko is amazing! This is one of the best foods to eat in Greece, in my opinion.
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#9 – Spinach pie (spanakopita)
Often when Americans think of Greek food, they either think of a Greek salad, or spanakopita. Also known as Greek spinach pie, this is a delicious traditional dish that I could eat all day, every day. In fact, I think I ended up having it for breakfast twice because it’s just what sounded good at the moment.
Spanakopita features flaky layers of buttery phyllo pastry, salty feta, spinach, sometimes other flavorings (onions, lemon zest), and usually an egg to hold all the filling together.
You’ll also find other variations on pies regionally, such as in Crete (chaniotiko boureki, usually zucchini), marathopita (a round pie with fennel), kaltsounia (a sweet cheese pie), and sfakiani pita.
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#10 – Feta me meli (feta in phyllo)
I did not know this had a special name when I ordered it, but as my weary self sat down at a restaurant on my first afternoon in Greece, and I saw “feta wrapped in phyllo with honey”…yeah, I was sold.
This can be an appetizer, main course, or dessert. It’s super simple—salty, soft feta is wrapped in phyllo (filo) pastry, baked in the oven, and then honey and sesame seeds are drizzled over it. It’s the perfect sweet-and-salty treat.
I had a non-sweet version in a tiny town in Naxos called Apollonas (second pic below) that were wrapped more like samosa-shaped, and still very delicious.
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#11 – Baklava & other pastries
I loooooooovvvveeee baklava! Always have. Baklava is comprised of many flaky layers of buttered phyllo dough, with endless variations of nuts, butter, and sugar. Then, after baking, a sticky sweet syrup is poured over it to bind the crispy layers together.
The origin of baklava (like many foods in this part of the world) is hotly contested. Greece, Turkey, and various Middle Eastern cultures claim it, and you’ll find some version of baklava all over those parts of the world.
I got a traditional version at a seaside taverna in Naxos, and sampled different types from a bakery in Santorini (a chocolate baklava, a grape phyllo, a mastiha).
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#12 – Greek salad
This is the only one that I don’t have a photo of, mostly because…I absolutely detest cucumbers (and olives), so never ordered one 🙂
But unless you’re like me, it’s definitely one of the foods to eat in Greece. Greek salads are very different from the ones served in America—they have no lettuce and a ton of feta (which, I can get on board with *that* part).
Usually it’s tomatoes, olives, cucumber, and a large piece of feta cheese. They’re served undressed, so you can choose what to do with it (usually there’s vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil).
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#13 – Fava dip
This is another classic Santorini dish that makes a great appetizer, or a main when you’re feeling just a bit peckish. In Greece, fava refers to yellow split peas (not broad beans), and this dip is kind of like the Greek version of hummus.
It’s creamy and delicious, often served hot with a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil, and bread for dipping. I highly recommend Roka’s in Santorini (the pic below).
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#14 – Saganaki
I’d heard of saganaki, but hadn’t had it before. It’s basically a piece of cheese (coated in flour, I believe) that’s fried in a pan until it develops a dark, crispy crust on the outside, with a gooey center.
There are some variations, such as manouri, which is a piece of cheese with a sesame crust that’s fried and served with a delicious sour cherry sauce. I had one in Naxos (second pic below) called “kefalotiri saganaki” that was coated in nuts .
I’m still a little unclear on how best to *eat* saganaki (just with a fork? with bread??), but it’s definitely one of the best Greek foods to try in order to get the authentic experience!
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#15 – Tirokroketes (fried cheese balls)
Like saganaki, a cheese afficionado will love tirokroketes. These are fried cheese balls that can be made with a combination of cheeses, wuch as feta, graviera, or gouda. Then they’re coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried before being served with tzatziki or tomato sauce.
I found these at Rotonda, a remote restaurant in Naxos that has amazing sweeping views. It was almost like a deconstructed pizza.
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#16 – Greek yogurt with honey
This is one of the best Greek foods of all time! Yiaourti me meli means yogurt with honey (and often walnuts), and this is a basically-perfect dish—rich in protein, creamy, sweet. I had it almost every day for breakfast, in some way.
The debate over whether it’s Greek yogurt or Turkish yogurt is fascinating, and you will find extremely opinionated people on both sides 🙂 I will sit here and eat my delicious yogurt with honey in the meantime.
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#17 – Chicken souvlaki
Weirdly, I don’t know whether I’d had chicken souvlaki before? It’s basically a seasoned chicken that’s grilled on skewers (souvlaki basically means “meat on a skewer”). It’s traditionally served with tzatziki sauce and often pita.
Wondering what’s the difference between souvlaki and gyro? Often Greeks will call both souvlaki, but the main real difference is that souvlaki is small pieces of skewered, grilled meat, while gyro have meat shaved off a giant vertical spit of meat.
I ran into souvlaki in the tavernas of tiny remote towns, and both times I had it, it was DELICIOUS.
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#18 – All kinds of local cheeses
This one is a bit of a catch-all, because listing every single delicious local cheese I had would take forever. Suffice to say, Greece is a cheese lover’s heaven. I’ll shout out a few that I know I had, but honestly I probably had even more and didn’t realize it.
In Santorini, there’s a cheese called chlorotyri (often just called “chloro”). It’s a goat’s milk cheese that’s creamy, slightly sour, and really delicious. It’s hard to find because they only make a small amount, and it basically never leaves the island. So look for it there if you visit (it’s the first pic below)!
Naxos was super proud of their cheese (and potatoes), and there were tons to choose from. Graviera was super common (often on top of the Naxian potatoes), along with Arseniko, Xynomyzithra and Xynotiro. I’ll shout out fried Naxian potatoes here as well, rather than having their own entry. They’re basically fries or chips, with graviera cheese on top.
I ran across some other delicious soft cheese in Naxos, and had a lovely plate of local cheese in Athens on my birthday as well. GIVE ME ALL THE CHEESE!
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#19 – Olives and olive oil
This feels like a bit of a “duh”, because Greece is so famous for using olive oil in the cuisine. But it’s worth seeking out somewhere you can taste various olive oils (and olives, if that’s your thing). I made a stop at the Eggares Olive Oil Museum in Naxos for a short tour and taste.
One of the most interesting things I tried was a candied olive, which…why?? (It wasn’t bad, just curious what possesses someone to do that)
I picked up some great olive oil pressed by monks in Naxos, and if you’re lucky you’ll make a friend in Greece who will share their homemade stuff with you. Wine and olive oil are often made locals for their own families, and it’s always super special when they share with you.
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#20 – Tiny Greek donuts (loukoumades)
These are not the droids you looking for…the pic below are *not* loukoumades. I never found them, sadly (though I don’t think I was specifically looking). I did find these delightful little donuts in Naxos Town, however, and enjoyed them.
Loukoumades are kind of like donut holes…sweet, fluffy dough balls that are fried and then drizzled with honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a dash of sesame seeds. That sounds 100% up my alley, and it’s one of the best Greek foods that I didn’t get to try.
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#21 – Greek wine
To be honest, Greek wine wasn’t really on my radar. Certainly I knew Greece MADE wine, but I didn’t really think about it. So I was pleasantly surprised by the winery tours I did in Santorini, which is famous for its white wine varieties (Assyrtiko) and their Vinsanto, a barrel-aged dessert wine.
But from northern Greece, to Macedonia, to the Peloponnese, any wine lover will find tons of interesting and lesser-known options to try—and a lot of them are really great.
I will shout out the Vinsanto and Kamartis dessert wines that I had in Santorini…they were absolutely amazing (yes, I brought some home), and quite unique.
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#22 – Tsikoudia (or raki or rakomelo?)
While we’re on the subject of alcohol, I only got to try this once but found it delightful. Tsikoudia (or sometimes called raki, the Turkish name, or rakomelo) is a spirit made from the leftovers of wine production (so it’s grape-based).
It’s traditionally kept in the freezer and served icy cold after a meal, as it’s believed to aid digestion. It’s sometimes flavored with things like lemon rind, rosemary, or honey
Apparently it’s not uncommon at family-run tavernas to bring out a small glass of it with the check, but I only had it happen once. However, it was a nice gesture and I think mine had honey and cinnamon flavors in it.
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#23 – Kitron liqueur (& other regional spirits)
When I was on Naxos, I saw kitron liqueur everywhere. It was offered in shots, it was in cocktails, and even in ice cream! It’s made from the fruit and leaves of the citron tree, and is a famous Naxan drink with a bright green absinthe-like color.
And you’ll find local liqueurs all over Greece, so sample as many as you can find. In Corfu they have Koum Quat (as you’d assume, kumquat liqueur), in Chios they have Souma (from figs, similar to ouzo), and on and on.
#24 – Really great & interesting cocktails
So this last one is less about the best Greek dishes, and more about making sure that you sample the drinks beyond just traditional tavernas. Because let me tell you, cocktail culture is BUZZING in Greece!
I really loved what I was seeing on cocktail menus, and not just in Athens (I stopped by a couple well-known cocktail bars), but even on the sleepier and more remote island of Naxos. In particular, I saw a lot of fun herbal flavors being paired with fruit, and also great uses of local spirits.
So there you have it…24 of the best Greek foods and drinks to sample when you visit the amazing country of Greece. It’s a wonderful country to explore as a foodie, and I know I just scratched the surface.
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