Best Greek food to try in Athens

Food is always an important part of any holiday and you will certainly be tempted by plenty of delicious Greek foods to try in Athens! The traditional Mediterranean diet has long been regarded as one of the healthiest in the world as is vegetable-based with plenty of fruit, fish and dairy foods, little meat, and plenty of olive oil with everything

Greek housewives cook regularly and love to buy really fresh, locally grown produce and use plenty of herbs to enhance the flavour of their dishes. Many of their recipes have been handed down from their mothers and grandmothers and are just as popular today – you are in for a real treat as there are so many ‘must try’ food in Athens! 

You will have the choice of fine dining or enjoying traditionally prepared meals in a small cosy taverna. One of the best things to eat in Athens when you are hungry is a freshly baked pastry from one of the bakeries – you will know when you are near one because of the gorgeous smell!

Best Food to Try in Athens

1. Horiatiki Salada (Village style salad)

This delicious and refreshing salad is enjoyed at nearly every mealtime when a large bowl is passed around the table. The salad is easily made from large juicy tomatoes haphazardly cut, peeled and sliced cucumber, sliced shallots, and a large handful of olives.

The dressing is made using plenty of olive oil, a good pinch of salt, the juice of fresh lemon, and plenty of oregano. All the ingredients are mixed together before being decorated with slices of Feta cheese on the top. If you find yourself missing Greece once you get home, you can recapture the magic of your time in Athens with this recipe!

2. Dolmadakia

This is definitely an iconic Greek dish! Dolmadakia (sometimes called Dolmades or Dolmas) are stuffed vine leaves and really are delicious. The tender vine leaves are gathered from the young growing vines and are filled with savory rice and herbs before being deftly rolled into small packets and boiled.

Dolmadakia are sometimes made with a little minced meat mixed in with the rice and they are served as a starter or part of a Mezé. If you would like to try and recreate this tasty dish at home, it is possible to buy bottles of vine leaves preserved in brine.

3. Saganaki

A wonderful comfort food that can be enjoyed at any time and a real ‘must-try’ food in Athens!  Saganaki is simply fried cheese – but it has to be fried to perfection so that it is crisp and brown on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. A variety of different cheese are used to make this popular dish including graviera, kefalograviera, and kasseri.

The cheese is served straight from the frying pan onto a sharing plate which is placed in the center of the table. Someone quickly cuts the Saganaki into small squares, sprinkles the squares with fresh lemon juice, and then passes the plate around. The usual accompaniment is a bowl of horiatiki salad.

4. Tzatziki

If you haven’t tasted this delicious dip before, it is definitely a good Greek food to try as it is now available in supermarkets in many other European countries now. Tzatziki is one of the many dishes in Greek cuisine that was brought to the country by the Ottomans.

Tzatziki is a creamy, cool dip that is made from yogurt, chopped cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, and salt. The flavor is usually enhanced with either fresh dill or mint. Tzatziki tastes absolutely perfect when it is scooped from the bowl with a piece of warm pitta bread – and is one of the best things to eat in Athens- at any time.

5. Fava

If you are presented with a yellow-colored dip, quickly take a piece of crusty bread or pitta to scoop some up or spread it thickly with a knife! Fava has a creamy distinctive taste and was first made in Santorini.

Fava is made from yellow split peas and is not to be confused with ‘fava beans’ which are broad beans!  A well as yellow split peas, onion, and garlic are mixed into this creamy paste – which is always served in a bowl with a spoonful of dark green extra virgin olive oil on top.

6. Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

It would be a real shame to visit Athens and not sample a delicious slice of spanakopita – not long out of the oven! Spanakopita literally means ‘spinach pie’  and is made from flaky layers of phyllo (filo) pastry with spinach and Feta cheese in between. Spanakopita is traditionally eaten in the city for breakfast with a cup of Greek coffee. 

7. Tyropita (Cheese Pie)

This delicious cheese pie is another ‘must-try’ food in Athens! Locally, Tyropita is eaten for breakfast,  but you will find it the perfect snack all day through! Tyropita is made from layers of phyllo pastry with a filling of Feta cheese mixed with eggs and usually in a triangular or rectangular shape.

The pies are cooked in a traditional wood-fired fourno (oven) until they are golden brown and flaky. They are absolutely delicious, so when you buy them, always buy twice the number you think you will need!

8. Moussaka

The one dish that everyone thinks of when Greek food is mentioned is Moussaka and what better place to enjoy this classic dish than in Athens?  Moussaka is a delicious oven-baked dish that is layers of minced meat flavored with cinnamon, sliced potatoes, and aubergines that are topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, flavored with plenty of nutmeg. This dish must be one of the best things to eat in Athens – but be warned, portions are generous and Moussaka is very filling!

9. Gemista

Gemista is another traditional recipe that has been enjoyed in Greece for centuries. An array of colorful vegetables are stuffed, brushed with olive oil, and roasted in the oven. Gemista is the perfect dish to enjoy on summer days and can be tomatoes, zucchini (courgette), red, green, and yellow peppers (capsium), and large tomatoes. The filling is made from rice, garlic, and chopped onion, flavored with mint and parsley.

10. Souvlaki

Souvlaki is to Greeks what fish n’ chips is to the British and bratwurst to the Germans – the most popular quick take away! If you are busy exploring the city, you will find it really satisfying to enjoy quick souvlaki to quell your hunger pangs! Souvlaki is a skewer of pork cubes, cooked to perfection over charcoal.

The meat is popped in a warmed pitta that has been sliced open and lemon juice is then drizzled over the pork. Tomato, lettuce, tatziki, and onion are spooned on top of the meat, the pitta is closed and the most delicious take away in the world is ready for you to enjoy!

11. Grilled Octopus

Like most Greek dishes, the octopus is braised briefly and then simply cooked over charcoal, basted with olive oil until it is slightly charred and then served with fresh lemon, more olive oil, and a handful of olives – very straight forward, but anything more would detract from the flavor of the best food in Athens!

12. Fried Kalamari

Don’t be put off by the fact that kalamari is squid as this is one delicious Greek food to try during your stay in Athens. The most popular way to enjoy kalamari is battered and fried and all you need to do is to squeeze the lemon half served with your dish all over the golden batter. Really good kalamari is soft and easy to eat – never chewy – with a mild taste. In recent years it has become one of the most popular seafood dishes in many Mediterranean countries.

13. Yiaourti met Meli (Yoghurt with honey)

This simple dish is the perfect way to start your day in Athens! Creamy Greek yogurt is poured onto a saucer and the yogurt is topped with a spoonful of local honey. Honey is enjoyed throughout the capital and is locally made. The light golden honey is from bees who have fed on nectar from citrus trees and flowers, whilst the darker golden honey is produced by bees who have lived in mountainous areas and fed on pine and other vegetation.  

14. Spoon Desserts (Glyka tou koutaliou)

Glyka has been made by Greek housewives for generations. Glyka (glyko in the singular) is locally picked seasonal fruit that has been preserved in syrup. For centuries it has been the treat offered to visitors by housewives. The variety of fruit used for making glyka includes apricots, figs, and cherries, as well as orange and lemon peel and chunks of watermelon skin which all taste surprisingly good! 

More unusual types of glyka include tiny white aubergines and the most prized is ‘karidhi’- ‘green walnuts’ – which is the first type of glyko to be made each year when the young walnuts are picked from the trees in May. Many restaurants in the city serve a small plate with a piece of glyko, pierced with a small fork, as the perfect finale to a meal.

15. Loukoumades

If you see a roadside stall selling loukoumades, do stop and buy a tray as they are one of the best foods to try in Athens and are totally irresistible! Small little balls of dough are deep-fried until they are crisp and golden brown on the outside and light and airy inside.

Fresh from the pan, they are smothered in honey and served on a small cardboard tray with a wooden fork. Eat the loukoumades whilst they are still lovely and warm and I promise you, it will be hard to walk past a loukoumades stall ever again!

Kali orexi – bon appetit!

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