Greece’s Culinary Traditions – a Travel Guide

Wherever you travel in Greece, you will taste foods that you have never eaten anywhere else. After all, what better way than to learn the habits and traditions of a place than by eating.

Greek cuisine is mainly Mediterranean and Greece’s culinary traditions are grand. Throughout Greece, from the mainland to the island’s eating habits, classic food and traditional recipes are honored to this day. Wherever you travel in Greece, you will taste foods that you have never eaten anywhere else. After all, what better way than to learn Greece’s culinary traditions than by eating?

Therefore, let’s travel together through Greece’s culinary traditions.

Feta Cheese by DanaTentis

Feta Cheese Photo Credit: DanaTentis

The cuisine of the mountainous region of Epirus has a tradition of meat dishes

On the coals, on the fire, on the spit, the Greeks of Epirus know how to distinguish good meat. They celebrate big holidays such as Easter by eating lamb and goats. Furthermore, they are always of exceptional quality. The mainland cuisine is full of traditional tastes and so livestock farming is one of the main occupations of the inhabitants. Sheep and goat meat, milk, yogurt, and butter are important bases of their cuisine. While, we have all tried one of the famous cheeses of Epirus: local feta Dodoni, smoked cheese Metsovone, anthotyro, kefalotyri, manouri are some of them.

In Epirus, all the goods of the place become pies or ‘pites’.

Pies with vegetables, cheese, greens, pasta, fish or meat, are a separate chapter of the mainland tradition. As for sweets, in Epirus, we can enjoy the best syrupy sweets. Some of them are sker-bourek (sugar pie), klostati (traditional baklava with walnut), saragli, walnut pie, Metsovite flutes, and of course Gianniotiko kadaifi. The sweets of the spoon from the fruits and nuts of the mainland are also famous. Like unripe figs, raspberry, plum, and zucchini stand out.

Bougatsa from Thessaloniki

Bougatsa from Thessaloniki Photo Credit: Alpha

Going up north, we arrive in Macedonia

There we will enjoy food such as pilaf with saffron, Macedonian garlic with walnuts, cod plate, traditional cabbage pie, roasted pumpkin with walnuts. Also, trachanas sour, bean soup with pork, meat soup, soutzoukaki with pilaf, sarmadakia, pork with leek and celery, beef with plums, kavourma with eggs, rooster with pasta, and sun-dried tomatoes. Moreover, duck with orange, scales in the hull, roast lamb with yogurt, hare with red sauce and mushroom, cuttlefish with spinach, trout. While, from sweets, you will lick your fingers with the milk pie, the babades, the toubakia, the rice pudding, and the roasted quinces. The famous apple pie, the pasta flora, the sarai ekmek kadaifi, the kazan deep malebi, the trigona, and the famous bougatsa.

Let us not forget that Macedonia is a special case in the food traditions, as there is Thessaloniki on one hand and its traditional dishes. On the other hand, the refugees from Pontus, Asia Minor, and Eastern Thrace brought with them their habits. They thus influenced the cuisine of the place by creating variations on classic recipes, such as those mentioned above.

Halva and Saragli from Thrace-traditional greek sweets

Halva and Saragli from Thrace Photo Credit: Alpha

The same happened to a large extent in Thrace

In a place with endless plains and forests, the inhabitants were of different origins. Therefore, they formed a multicultural region and cuisine. Salted fish, soutzoukia with oriental mixes, and syrupy sweets are some of the traditional flavors of Thrace. The saragli of Thrace, the gardoumbes, the kavourmas (meat boiled in their fat with spices), the sesame pie, the meatballs sourvan, and the mikikia (traditional donuts from Evros). These are just some of the dishes you will enjoy in Thrace.

health benefits of olive oil - crete cuisine

Olive oil from the Peloponnese

Peloponnese is a holy land for food

Walking the land of the Peloponnese, it is impossible not to meet the symbol of Greece, the olive tree. There, this tree seems to grow everywhere. From the most mountainous slopes to the large valleys. Oil is the main ingredient, while agricultural products are also popular.

Tsakonian eggplant from Leonidio, Arcadia, and artichokes are some of the most popular meat side dishes. Black beans are the favorite legumes simmered with celery, while they perfectly combine cabbage with traditional Peloponnesian dishes that include pork. The region of the Peloponnese has many different types of sauces. Tomato sauces with or without cinnamon, the classic eggnog, garlic-seasoned with vinegar, seem to accompany delicious dishes such as greens, savoro (small fried fish), and the traditional Mani meal, orange brazier with spinach and garlic.

Yemista, Cretan Cheese with Shrimps and Boureki from Chania-cretan traditional food

Yemista, Cretan Cheese with Shrimps and Boureki from Chania Photo Credit: Christine McIntosh

Going to the coasts of our country, we must start with the famous Cretan cuisine

This big island is famous, like the Peloponnese, for the use of olive oil in recipes. Cheeses, nuts, raisins, nuts, and greens. These are some of the pure products of the earth in Crete. The “celebrity” of Cretan dishes, dakos is highly honored by all those who visit the island. Some recipes that you will eat from the hands of the Cretans are the eggplant salad, the taramosalata, the salad with legumes, the raisin bread, and rusks. Delicious fish such as marinated anchovies, anglerfish with peppers, cuttlefish yiouvetsi, thick moray eel, delicious pies such as the boureki from Chania, and kalitsounia will drive your taste buds crazy. Finally, recipes with meats, such as magiritsa, Sfakiano yachni, omathies are mouthwatering. Ending with traditional sweets, like patouda and mamoulia will make you lick your plate.

Dolmadakia: Greek wraps made with stuffed vine leaves - traditional greek food

Dolmadakia: Greek wraps made with stuffed vine leaves Photo Credit: Marco Verch

But what do the rest of our islanders eat?

Aegean Sea – Cyclades and North Aegean

The sun and the good climate of the islands thrive on the cultivation of local products. In the wonderful Cyclades but also in the other islands of the Aegean Sea, you will enjoy delicious fricase with sour herbs. Also, mastelo (lamb in the oven with herbs), chickpea meatballs, macaroni, the gingerbread of Sifnos, the fennel pancakes of Serifos, the honeys of Anafi. The oil of Kimolos, the sardoumia of Santorini, the fennel meatballs from Chios, the sougani of Mytilene, and many others.

Beef stifado - Corfiot speciality - traditional greek food

Beef stifado – Corfiot speciality Photo Credit: Rachel Bickley

Ionian Sea – Eptanisa

In the beautiful Ionian Islands, the food has names of Latin origin, due to their location and history. Therefore, you will try delicious dishes. Such as burdeto (thick fish soup), sofrito (beef with vinegar, garlic, and parsley), pastitsada (meat with thick spaghetti), stew, strapatsada, tsigareli (vegetables with onion), and pastinito. Another characteristic dish of the Ionian Islands is the myrmigato sweet. Nevertheless, who can resist the fogatsa, the kolopimpiri, or the cod bianco? These dishes are made mainly in Corfu but are also preferred by the other islands of the Ionian Sea.

Dodecanese

In the Dodecanese, you will order the best dishes from Rhodes, Patmos, Karpathos, and the other islands. The kapamas (stuffed goat), the dolmadakia, the Kasiotiko pilaf, the Byzantine of Karpathos (stuffed lamb), the xerotigana. Additionally, pastellaries, boukounies (pork with herbs) are unforgettable dishes, as well as the wonderful place that produces them.

So there you have it! On your next trip to Greece, make sure to contact us, not only to visit these extraordinary islands but also to taste these delicious dishes!

Feature Image Credits to: Robert Kindermann