Must-try Greek food and drink

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Traditional Greek Moussaka

A Mediterranean cruise holiday not only offers amazing weather, rich history and beautiful landscapes and cultures but some of the freshest ingredients and most delicious food on the planet. One of the most popular foodie destinations in the Mediterranean is Greece, which uses fresh ingredients and simple recipes to create some unforgettable food and drink. In this article, we highlight our favourite Greek food and drink that you have to try when visiting.

READ MORE: Which country's cuisine is the most popular?

Souvlaki

One of the most popular foods in Greece is souvlaki, or grilled chicken cooked on a rotisserie. Most like the chicken you’d get in a kebab shop in the UK, souvlaki is often served by itself with chips and salad or in the form of gyros. Gyros is done differently in every location, but will usually include souvlaki (or another grilled meat), salad, a yoghurt-based sauce wrapped in a fresh flatbread – many are even topped with fries! One of the best Greek street foods, gyros is an easy lunch option for those on the go.

Moussaka      

For a hearty and warming meal that’s still light, moussaka is a must. Creamy béchamel sauce tops layers of sliced potato, aubergine and minced lamb make for this decadent bake. As well as being one of the most traditional Greek dishes, it’s also eaten in Egypt and the Middle East, so expect rich spices. This dish is usually served hot in Greece and makes for the perfect choice for an evening meal. Alternatively, why not cook a moussaka at home to get yourself in the spirit for an up-coming holiday to Greece?

Fresh seafood

With borders all along the Mediterranean Sea and many islands to explore, it’s no wonder that seafood is an essential part of Greek cuisine. Fresh seafood is easy to come across and a must-try, and from grilled octopus to mussels cooked in a rich tomato sauce, there is something for everyone to fall in love with.

Ashley a Greek food lover who blogs at The Olive and the Sea told us this is an essential: “If there is a place to binge on fresh fish it’s Greece. There are so many options, and many restaurants will let their customers pick a whole fish table side before grilling it. A fish worth trying in Greece is fresh fried or pickled anchovies. These are typically fished locally and have little in common with the salt-cured or canned ones you will find on store shelves.”

READ MORE: Must-try Canary Island’s Food Specialities

Greens

As well as having fresh seafood, the Mediterranean sun makes fruit, vegetables and salad greens more delicious than you can imagine. The rich soils give them a vibrant and exciting flavour and even the simplest ingredients like a tomato taste completely different to in the UK. When in any Greek restaurant, getting some fresh greens as a side dish is a must.

Ashley told us about her suggestions for greens you can only find in Greece: “A green that you won’t find on menus outside of Greece is vlita or horta. These wild greens are boiled in salted water and served with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Horta is the Greek word for “weed” and depending on the restaurant, they may serve one of several different types. Vlita is one of these wild greens and is particularly delicious and nutritious. A member of the amaranth family, vlita is rich in omega 3s. The flavour bears a slight resemblance to spinach and is absolutely delicious.”

Tzatziki

Sometimes, it’s not the main dish that’s the real star of the show but the accompaniments and in Greece, that unforgettable accompaniment is tzatziki. A fresh and light condiment served with a range of dishes or just eaten with some fresh-made pita, it’s a simple side that brings big flavour and is perfect in the sunshine.

Katerina a Greek chef from the island of Poros who shares her recipes at KaterinasKouzina tells us: “The one dish that everyone has to try when in Greece is tzatziki. With its fresh texture and the beautiful Greek yoghurt makes almost every Greek dish taste better.” If you want to try it before you travel to Greece, Katerina offers her own recipe here.

Baklava

A traditional Ottoman dessert that’s a firm favourite in Greece and elsewhere, baklava is a must-try sweet treat. Layers of filo pastry with chopped nuts, and syrup or honey; baklava is delicately spiced and usually served as a dessert.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth and want to try some more treats Ashley from The Olive and Sea has these recommendations: “Many people have tasted and love Baklava but there are lots of other speciality bakery items worth trying when visiting Greece. These are typically found at local bakeries and include bougatsa - a warm flaky pastry dough with a vanilla cream semolina filling, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

“Another local speciality is orange cake or portokalopita. The fluffy orange flavoured cake is soaked in honey syrup. For those that prefer something less sweet, there are baked bread rings covered in sesame known as koulouri. This last item is a speciality of the northern city of Thessaloniki and a must-try if visiting that area.”

Ouzo

For those who like a tipple with dinner, ouzo is the drink of choice in Greece. An aperitif with an anise flavour, ouzo is served chilled and made to be sipped slowly during dinner over the course of the evening. You won’t want a lot as most ouzos have a 37 – 50% proof. If you are looking for a great gift to bring back from Greece for a loved one, we’re sure a bottle of this would go down well.

Katerina tells us “Our famous Ouzo or our Greek wines are very characteristic to our land.” She also offers another alcoholic suggestion “Mastiha is a lovely liquor made out of the mastiha tree in Chios”

Coffee

Coffee lovers rejoice as Greece makes a wonderful brew to keep you going on a day of exploring. Ashley spoke to us about coffee: “Greeks are big into their coffee. There is the traditional “Greek Coffee”, which is ordered ‘sweet, medium, or plain’, referring to the amount of sugar to be used when preparing the coffee. This traditional coffee is prepared with a very fine grain coffee and is unfiltered. So, it is important to let it sit and settle for a few minutes before drinking and should be sipped slowly so as to keep the coffee grinds on the bottom of the cup. Two very popular summer iced coffee drinks are ‘Frappé’ and ‘Cappuccino Freddo’. The first is prepared with Nescafé instant coffee and a frother. Similar to Greek coffee, it is ordered ‘sweet, medium, or plain’.”

Must-try Greek food and drink:

  • Souvlaki
  • Moussaka
  • Fresh seafood
  • Greens
  • Tzatziki
  • Baklava
  • Ouzo
  • Coffee

So, next time you visit Greece, we hope this Greek food lists gives you some inspiration for some famous Greek food to try. And, our range of cruise holidays in 2022 can get you there sooner than you think. Got some time to plan? Why not opt for a 2023 cruise or even 2024 cruise instead?

For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our blog page.