Greek foods are world-renowned for their unique flavours and the rich nutrient content of the dishes.
Emphasis is placed on grilled and baked food rather than fried recipes, while most traditional dishes do not contain complex, fatty sauces.
What particularly distinguishes Greek food from other cuisines, is not just the quality and big nutritional value of its ingredients, but also the traditional herbs and spices that are used, which add deliciousness and make flavours even more present.
The Greek diet has a solid foundation in the Mediterranean diet, which many nutritionists have promoted continually for years, as they consider it the healthiest and most complete diet in the world, while also adding that it is the key to longevity.
CNN has singled out the Top 24 Greek dishes that everyone should try, because of their taste and their big nutritional value:
#24 – Glyka tou Koutaliou (Spoon Sweets)
Spoon sweets are a big part of the traditional cuisine of Greece and can be made by all kinds of fruits (strawberries, oranges) and vegetables (carrot, beetroot).
They are so named because they are served in small quantities, enough to fill a teaspoon. They are considered much healthier than other desserts because they do not contain any fat.
CNN wrote that “the large amount of fruit produced in Greece proved to be overwhelming in the old days, when trade was slow or non-existent.
As a result, spoon sweets, like jams from Western Europe, became the Greek way of preserving fruit.”
#23 – Loukoumades
CNN reports that Loukoumades “will cause tears of joy.” Fluffy dough balls, covered with honey and walnuts crumbs, but also with new, more modern variations, such as chocolate syrup and Nutella, Loukoumades are a traditional Greek dessert, usually accompanied with ice cream.
#22 – Dolmadakia
“Anyone who thought that wrapping rice in a vine leaf is a good idea… was probably an intellect!” CNN writes about Dolmadakia, a traditional Greek dish, which can be eaten with plain or minced meat.
Dolmadakia is one of the most ancient Greek dishes and dates back to B.C. times.
The first recorded reference to Dolmadakia is found on the west gable of the Parthenon, where the goddess Hera is depicted secretly eating dolmadakia from the pot, with a guilty expression, looking behind her to make sure than nobody sees her.
#21 – Gemista
Gemista (trans: stuffed) tomatoes and peppers are one of Greece’s most popular dishes among tourists, because they can cater to any taste.
They are healthy, tasty and can be eaten hot or cold. Many choose to make theirs with minced meat or just with plain rice (also known as “orphaned Gemista”), which makes Gemista a perfect vegan choice as well.
#20 – Melomakarona
“For the Greeks, the view of the Melomakarona screams Christmas as loudly as a decorated tree with lights!” CNN reports.
Eaten mostly during Christmas time, Melomakarona are a traditional type of cookie, soft or crunchy, made with honey and walnuts.
#19 – Kleftiko
Kleftiko, which literally means “the food of the thief” is a traditional Greek dish, which you will not easily encounter in Athens, and other big cities in Greece. However, you will have the chance to taste it in more rural areas and villages in the North of the country.
It is a slowly cooked roast lamb dish with herbs, wrapped in baking paper, which allows the meat to be steamed in its own juices and stay soft and tender.
#18 – Tzatziki
Tzatziki has nowadays become synonymous with Greek food. It can be eaten as an appetizer or a sauce, and in addition to its enormous nutritional value, it is a tasty elaborate result of yogurt, cucumber, salt and olive oil.
#17 – Souvlaki
Souvlaki is the closest you will get to Greek fast food, and it is basically pieces of meat (usually in cubes), which are grilled on a skewer.
Souvlaki can be eaten on its own from the skewer or wrapped around pita bread with potato fries, tomatoes, tzatziki and everything else you want to add.
It has been voted for many consecutive years as the favourite food of tourists, but also Greeks themselves.
#16 – Galeos Skordalia (Tope and Garlic Paste)
Galeos Skordalia is a traditional fried fish dish that people can enjoy in mainland Greece, and especially all around the Greek islands.
CNN states that “the combination of tope and garlic evokes memories for years.”
#15 – Spetsofai
Spetsofai is a traditional, usually spicy, dish with sausages, peppers, onions and tomato sauce, all cooked in a pot.
“Greek sausages are not mass produced. In fact, each butcher's shop manufactures its own, following the regional style” which makes the taste of Spetsofai unique in different parts of Greece.
#14 – Bougatsa
A favourite sweet pastry, which can be eaten any time of the day, Bougatsa was brought to Greece by Greek refugees after the Asia Minor catastrophe. It is thin filo pastry, filled with custard cream.
#13 – Koulouri Thessalonikis
“Koulouri is Thessaloniki in one shape!” It is baked bread dough, covered in sesame seeds, and it is loved like no other snack in Greece.
It can be eaten happily plain or in combination with literally everything.
#12 – Ladera Dishes
Ladera dishes – which in fact means oily foods – are some of the healthiest dishes of the Greek cuisine, and are totally vegan.
They are cooked in olive oil and tomato sauce and can include green beans, ladies fingers, eggplants, zucchini, peas, and more vegetables.
#11 – Pastitsio
Similar to the Italian lasagne dish, Pastitsio is one of the most popular Greek dishes, and as CNN explains “Pastitsio is a Greek invention, with a base of boiled long macaroni, cooked minced meat and topped by a cheese cream sauce.”
#10 – Moschari Kokkinisto
Moschari Kokkinisto is a casserole type of dish, with beef in tomato sauce, cooked in a pot.
It is one of the most common stew foods that one will encounter in Greek households and taverns.
#9 – Moussaka
Moussaka is by far the best-known Greek dish internationally, typifying the country's cuisine.
Today, moussaka is served in many non-Greek restaurants around the world, and although it is not as hard to make it as it seems, it is extremely hard to make it taste originally Greek.
#8 – Soutzoukakia
The popular soutzoukaki, is one of the most famous dishes that tourists love. It is a traditional Smyrnaean food, with baked meatballs, in a cumin-flavoured sauce, but never floured or fried.
#7 – Meatballs
“Greek children's favourite food!” Mixed minced meat, with onion, garlic, spices and various herbs (oregano, mint, mint) all together in tasty fried little balls.
#6 – Fava
Fava is a puree of yellow dried split beans, and it has been hailed as a superfood by most dieticians, because of its high protein value and negligible fat content.
#5 – Pies or Pastries
Pies (called Pites in Greece) can be found at every bakery in Greece, in many varieties, both sweet and savory. There is cheese pie, spinach pie, ham cheese pie, chicken pie, and many more.
#4 – Kotosoupa (Chicken Soup)
CNN describes Kotosoupa as “the Greek medicine for the common cold.” It includes chicken, rice or pasta and the classic egg-lemon combination, that makes the difference from other chicken soups around the world.
#3 – Choriatiki Salad
From the humblest tavern to the most refined restaurant in Greece, every menu will offer a choice of Choriatiki salad (which translates to the “villager’s salad”).
There may be variations in this classic dish, but the basic ingredients always remain the same: chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, olives, feta cheese and a coating of olive oil and oregano.
#2 – Gigantes Beans (Giants)
Roasted, boiled, or in the form of soup (called “fasolada”) the Gigantes beans are distinguished for their special taste, super high nutritional value and the infinite culinary combinations they offer.
#1 – Taramosalata
CNN listed Taramosalata as the top Greek recipe for its rarity, taste and healthy oils it offers.
Taramosalata is a meze/appetizer with a creamy texture that is usually consumed during periods of fasting, because it does not contain dairy, eggs, etc. Its main ingredient is taramas, which is basically fish eggs.