Food in Athens: 40 Greek Cuisine Dishes You Shouldn’t Miss

Aktualisiert am 3. August 2023 von Athens-Tourist-Information
Essen in Athen 40 Gerichte aus der griechischen Küche

Greek cuisine is one of the Mediterranean cuisines with influences from the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

There is a lot of cooking with herbs such as mint, thyme, sage, cumin, cinnamon and paprika, feta cheese, eggplant, zucchini, lemons, bread, yogurt and of course olive oil are indispensable in Greek cuisine.

The tradition of mezedes, small hors d'oeuvres, was served in a slightly modified form as early as 2000 years ago and still enjoys great popularity today.

For a long time, Greek cuisine was only known for its famous gyros, but it is by no means limited to gyros, instead it is characterized by its almost infinite variety. Although regionally very different, there are nevertheless some dishes, which one eats everywhere in Greece gladly and knows.

We have compiled a small selection for you.

"Καλή όρεξη - Kalí órexi" as they say in Greece....

1. Pita

Pita is Greek flat bread.

2. Feta

Feta is a sheep cheese that has been ripened in brine. This type of cheese has been produced in Greece since ancient times. Feta has a rather intense flavor. Translated, feta means "slice", usually the cheese is sliced and pickled in salt water or oil.

It is often used in salads or fried out in a pan.

3. Khritaraki

Khritaraki are small noodles in the shape of rice, often called Greek noodles or pasta rice in German. However, they are made from durum wheat semolina and water, not rice.

They are used as a soup garnish, but more often served as a side dish mixed with a little tomato sauce.

4. Dakos

Grated or skinned, finely chopped tomatoes are mixed with crushed feta, oregano, olive oil, garlic and chopped onions and served on paximadi, a type of rusk.

In the past, the dish was considered a "poor man's food", but today it is very popular everywhere in Greece. It can be eaten as an appetizer or snack.

5. Mezedes

Mezedes actually refers to the way appetizers are served. Small plates of appetizers are placed in the center of the table and everyone serves themselves.

In Greece, the term mezedes includes the appetizers themselves, of which there are hot and cold ones, over 300 different types in total.

Typical ingredients used to make mezedes are chickpeas, tahini, yogurt, eggplant, tomatoes, olives and olive oil, seasoned with cumin and coriander, among others.

Often the waiters come with a huge tray on which there are many small plates of mezedes, from which the guest can choose the ones he wants. Meatballs, broad beans, mussels and eggplant rolls filled with cottage cheese are just a few of the traditional mezedes types.

Mezedes play an important role in Greek cuisine, traditionally ouzo is drunk with mezedes.

6. Saganaki

Saganaki means "copper pan" in English and is one of the appetizers. A finger-thick slice of hard cheese, usually feta, is breaded and fried in a copper pan. It is served with a slice of lemon.

The flambéed saganaki is also popular, where the flame is extinguished with lemon juice.

7. Tarama

Tarama, sometimes called taramosalata, is offered as mezedes, appetizers. It is salted fish eggs made into a paste with white bread, olive oil and lemon. Mostly the fish roe comes from carp, but cod or herring are also used.

This very popular appetizer should not be missing from any mezedes tray in Greece.

8. Fava

Fava is also an appetizer.  It is a pea puree that is well seasoned and served with onions, capers and olive oil.

9. Tsatsiki

A finely grated cucumber, previously salted, left to stand for a while to remove water and then squeezed, is mixed with Greek yogurt, olive oil and garlic. It is seasoned with finely chopped mint or dill. 

Tsatsiki is eaten with gyros or souvlaki and cannot be missing from the appetizer platter.

10. Melitzanosalata

For the eggplant salad - Melitzanosalata - eggplants are roasted in the oven and then processed into puree without the skin. Seasoning is garlic, vinegar, olive oil, grated onions and walnuts.

Cooking the eggplant over an open flame gives the salad a smoky flavor.

Melitzanosalata is also one of the mezedes.

11. Skordalia

Boiled potatoes are mashed and mixed with soaked white bread and garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Chopped almonds or walnuts can also be added to taste.

Serve the potato-garlic cream with roasted vegetables.

12. Choriatiki salata

Everyone knows the Greek farmer's salad. Cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, olives, feta cheese and onions are seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper.

13. Gyros

Slices of pork are placed in layers on a rotating skewer and grilled on the side, rotating slowly but constantly. Gradually, the outer, browned layers are thinly sliced off. Gyros can be eaten both in a dough patty called a pita, with the addition of tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki, and as a plate dish.

14. Souvlaki / Kalamaki

In Greece, meat skewers were prepared as early as 3000 years ago. For this, pork is marinated in oregano, salt, pepper and lemon juice and grilled on wooden skewers after marinating. Souvlaki can be eaten in pita or as a plate dish. It is often accompanied by tzatziki.

The Athenians refer to souvlaki as kalamaki.

15. Stifado

This stew consists of veal or lamb that is seared, deglazed with red wine and then cooked for a long time with onions and tomatoes. It is seasoned with bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin and cloves.

16. Moussaka

This vegetable and minced meat casserole is considered the national dish in Greece. Eggplants and potatoes are sliced and layered together with minced meat in a casserole dish. Bechamel sauce is added on top, then the dish is baked in the oven.

17. Pastitsio

After moussaka, pastitsio is the most popular casserole dish in Greece. Tubular pasta is layered with minced meat and grated cheese, covered with béchamel sauce and then baked in the oven.

18. Fasolada

Soup made from thick white beans is another national dish in Greece. Together with tomatoes, onions, carrots, parsley and celery, a thick soup is cooked.

In order for the beans to be nice and big, they are soaked in water for at least 12 hours beforehand, where they soften.

19. Kakavia

Greek Fish monger soup

The traditional Greek fish soup is usually prepared from small fish, which are cooked whole, i.e. with the head, together with olive oil, onions and tomatoes in a large pot. This is often accompanied by mussels, shrimp or other seafood.

Usually the soup is flavored with lemon.

In the past, fishermen used to prepare fish soup from the fish they could not sell, but today the dish is one of the specialties.

20. Imam Bayıldı Melitzanes

Eggplants are peeled in strips, fried in oil, hollowed out and stuffed with a mixture of tomatoes, parsley, onions and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper, covered with tomato sauce and then finished cooking in the oven. Seasoning is salt, thyme, pepper, nutmeg and a little cinnamon. Imam Bayıldı can be eaten warm with rice or cold as an appetizer.

Imam Bayıldı means "The Imam fainted." The dish originated in Turkey, legend has it that a prayer leader, the Imam, fainted with delight when he first tasted the dish.

21. Dolmades

Dolma means "stuffed" and refers to grape leaves stuffed with rice. These are prepared with olive oil, seasoned with onions, pine nuts, cinnamon, coriander and small dried raisins, seasoned with lemon and traditionally eaten cold. The style of fresh grape leaves is cut off, the grape leaves are blanched briefly in salted water, then some filling is placed on each grape leaf, the leaves are rolled up and then cooked.

If dolmades is served warm, it is accompanied by yogurt.

22. Yemista

Yemisita are stuffed peppers. Minced meat mixed with finely chopped onions and rice is seasoned with salt, pepper and tomato paste, stuffed into the previously hollowed peppers and then cooked.

23. Keftedes

Keftedes are meatballs, also known in German as Fleischpflanzerln, Frikadellen, Bulette or Klopse. However, in terms of shape and size, keftedes are smaller than meatballs and round in shape. Minced meat is mixed with finely chopped onions, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and caraway seeds, formed and then fried in oil.

It is served with grilled tomatoes, peppers and, if desired, French fries and salad.

  • Keftedes scharas - Greek grilled meatballs are shaped round and then grilled over charcoal.
  • Keftedakia are keftedes offered as mezedes, appetizers. They are eaten lukewarm or cold.
  • Keftedes in tomato sauce are cooked with potatoes and tomatoes together in the oven.

24. Patsas

Patsas or tripe soup is one of the national dishes in Greece. It is often consumed as a finale after copious consumption of ouzo and is considered a "hangover cure".

After the tripe, rubbed with salt, has been marinated for a few hours, it is washed and boiled in lemon water for several hours. Then they are cut into fine strips and finished cooking in the broth. Seasoning is done with a mixture of abundant crushed garlic, vinegar, a spoonful of melted butter around rose paprika.

25. Giouvetsi

Mostly lamb, sometimes beef or veal, is cut into small cubes and cooked slowly in its own juices in an earthenware pot along with tomatoes, onions and carrots. It is seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and allspice. The side dish is usually kritharaki, the rice-shaped small noodles.

26. Bamies

Bamies are okra pods cooked in tomato sauce. Okra contains soluble fiber that becomes gelatinous on contact with water. Therefore, care must be taken to cut off only the stems, leaving the pod itself intact, or the dish will quickly become "slimy."

27. Falolakia

Green beans are cooked with olive oil, onions and tomatoes. The dish can be served cold or hot. If it is eaten cold, it counts as mezedes.

28. Tiropita

Dumplings made of filo dough are filled with a cheese and egg mixture.

If they are filled with spinach, the dumplings are called spanakopitakia.

29. Koulouria

Koulouria is a ring-shaped yeast pastry that has sesame seeds on the crust. The sesame ring is mainly offered by street vendors. The small mobile handcarts are typical of the Athens street scene. However, also in every bakery has koulouria.

Koulouria can be eaten at any time of the day for a small snack in between, at breakfast they are served with olives and feta cheese.

30. Baklava

Baklava originally comes from Turkey. Baklava is a pastry made of puff pastry soaked in honey or sugar syrup and filled with walnuts and pistachios. Many layers of a paper-thin yeast dough are placed on top of each other on a baking sheet, with a thin layer of the filling spread between each layer. After baking in the oven, baklava is topped with a syrup of boiled down sugar water.

Very sweet...

31. Loukoumades

Loukoumades are dough balls made from yeast dough with cinnamon. Before serving, they are doused with honey or sugar syrup.

32. Ravani

Ravani is a semolina cake made with olive oil and oranges and drenched with sugar syrup or honey before serving. The syrup makes the cake very moist.

33. Portokalopita

Portolalopita comes from Crete and is a juicy orange cake with a slight aroma of cinnamon.

34. Yogurt with Honey

Greek yogurt with honey and nuts on top is a popular dessert.

35. Ouzo

Besides wine, ouzo is the Greek national drink par excellence among alcoholic beverages. It is made from ripe grapes, which are fermented and distilled. Anise and fennel are then added and distilled again. The drink has a licorice-like taste.

The clear liquor has an alcohol content of 40-50%. The best known varieties are Ouzo 12, Plomari, Mini, Pilavas and Tsantali.

Ouzo is drunk in slim, tall, thin glasses reminiscent of long drink glasses or in small water glass-like glasses. Typically, two to three finger-widths of ouzo is poured into the glasses, followed by the same amount of water. The combination with water causes the anise to precipitate and the drink to turn a milky white color. After each sip of ouzo, a sip of water is drunk.

At an ouzo table, countless hot and cold mezedes are placed on the table, and people eat and drink for hours, often to the accompaniment of Greek folk music.

36. Retsina

Retsina is a white, dry table wine to which resin from Aleppo pines is added in very small pieces during the fermentation process.

In ancient times, the Greeks kept wine in tubes made of goatskin or amphorae sealed with resin. The flavor of the resin passed to the wine and changed its taste. At the same time, it also made the wine more durable.

37. Metaxa

Metaxa is the most popular Greek brandy.

38. Griechischer Mokka

Characteristic of Greek coffee is that coffee grounds are poured into the cup with it.

Finely ground coffee grounds are mixed with water in a small copper or brass pot and boiled over a low flame until it almost overflows. The resulting foam is evenly distributed among the coffee cups. The coffee is then boiled again and poured into the cups.

Drinking is done from small cups, similar in size to espresso cups. 

Due to its special preparation method, Greek coffee contains the small suspended particles of coffee grounds, which give it a thick consistency.

When ordering, the guest must specify whether he wants the coffee without sugar - sketoz - with little sugar - metrio - or sweet - gliko.

In some cafes you can turn your coffee cup upside down with the coffee grounds on the saucer and then have your fortune told....

39. Cafe Frappé

Café Frappé is the most popular cold drink among Greeks.  It resembles German iced coffee, but is chilled with ice cubes rather than vanilla ice cream.

40. Portokalada and Lemonada

Portakolada is the name given to orange soda, while those who order lemonada get lemonade.

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