Our Best Traditional Greek Recipes
Greek cuisine, it's the original Mediterranean Diet. These days, when health experts talk about the benefits of eating lots of fresh vegetables and using olive oil as your primary fat, they're talking about the Greek diet, of course. A handful of simple ingredients typify the fresh, vibrant flavors of Greek cooking: olive oil, lemon, feta cheese, oregano and thyme. They give a burst of bright flavor to seafood, salads, and vegetable dishes -- like a taste of the sun. Bordered by beautiful blue seas, Greece is a country of steep, rocky terrain and relatively unfertile soils, which explains a cuisine of fresh, delicious simplicity. But enough, let's get to some of our favorite Greek recipes.
My Big Fat Greek Salad
This classic Greek salad boasts big flavor and serious crunch. Chef John combines cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, oregano, and feta cheese with a simple vinaigrette. "You can't go wrong with this Greek salad," says Chef John, "especially if you remember the only and most important tip: toss it with the vinegar first before adding olive oil."
"Souvlaki is a Greek specialty made with tender cuts of meat," says Abby Benner. "In this pork kebab recipe, the meat is marinated in a lemony olive oil mixture. Serve with rice pilaf and a Greek salad."
Grilled Greek Chicken
"The secret to this simple grilled chicken is a very powerful marinade and 'roasting' it slowly over semi-indirect heat on the grill," says Chef John. "This is so flavorful that you really don't need a sauce, but some fresh lemon is nice, as is a spicy yogurt. Just squeeze a little lemon into some nice thick, Greek yogurt, spike it with hot sauce, and you have a perfect condiment."
Lamb and Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves
"These lamb and rice stuffed grape leaves (dolmas) take some time and effort to put together," says Chef John, "so maybe make a double batch. In restaurants these are usually meatless, but I love the lamb in these. No matter what you use, how much rice you use will affect how much liquid you need."
Arakas Latheros (Greek Peas with Tomato and Dill)
"Peas are normally considered a side dish, but in Greece it is common to eat a plate full of vegetables as a main course," says Diana Moutsopoulos. "This traditional way of cooking peas is so satisfying and healthy, it will most certainly become a favorite. Serve with crusty bread and feta for the ultimate meal!"
Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers (Yemista)
Load up fresh ripe tomatoes and bell peppers with ground beef and seasoned rice. "This is my favorite," says Denise Phillips Sarigianopoulo. "The best time to make it is in August when the garden tomatoes are ready for harvest. Hothouse tomatoes are just not the same. My mom made this every year, and when she did, I thought I died and went to heaven."
"This simple, healthy, and delicious Mediterranean fish, also known as 'Greek Sea Bass', should be cooked whole," says recipe submitter Christala. "The cavity of the fish can be stuffed with lemon and other ingredients for added flavor. It is a very mild-tasting and versatile fish. The oregano and lemon make it truly Greek cuisine that many will enjoy. Can be found wild-caught in many stores. Enjoy!"
Greek Lamb Stew
"This is a wonderful and easy stovetop preparation that is a hearty meal for the whole family," says nickysmama. "I often serve it over rice or orzo, with a nice tomato and cucumber salad and good bread. A simple, fresh, and delicious taste of the Greek Isles!"
"Here is a great recipe for moussaka, a Greek dish," says PEGGY AYSCUE. "It includes sliced eggplant baked in a ground beef sauce and then smothered in a white sauce."
Flaming Greek Cheese (Saganaki)
Crispy, melty cheese! "This flaming cheese ritual was started by restaurateurs in Chicago," says Chef John, "who encouraged customers to yell, 'Opa!' as the plate was being ignited. You can recreate the tradition at home in minutes, whether you'd like to spark up a little romance with an old flame on date night or just try a fast and fun cheese dish on a chilly weeknight. Serve with sliced fresh or grilled bread."
Steamed Mussels with Fennel, Tomatoes, Ouzo, and Cream
Fresh mussels are steamed in a cream broth flavored with fennel, tomato, and Greek ouzo. "Pick good fresh and alive mussels for this dish," says DJFoodie. "The fresher the better. This recipe is simply amazing in flavor. You will love it. Serve with a slice of bread."
Greek Lemon Chicken Soup
"This soup is perfect as an introduction to a full Greek meal or a hearty bowlful for a meal in itself," says Shelley Ross. "Serve with fresh pita triangles, and you'll be sure to please!"
"The recipe for these spinach and feta appetizer triangles came from a Greek family friend," says MARY KESSLER. "They may be frozen prior to baking."
Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes)
"Fakes (pronounced 'Fah-kehs') is a staple in the Greek kitchen, and an especially filling meal," says Diana Moutsopoulos. "It is traditionally served with a drizzle of olive oil and lots of vinegar. Though the vinegar is of course optional, try it. It lifts the lentils and adds another dimension of flavor!"
Beef Stifado in the Slow Cooker
"Stifado is a Greek beef stew and my all-time favorite Greek dish," says waz71. "Chunks of tender beef are cooked with shallots in a rich aromatic tomato sauce. Serve with boiled rice and a good supply of crusty bread to mop up the rich sauce!"
Roasted Eggplant Pastitsio
"This is one of my favorite fall and winter casseroles," says FrancesC. "It'll use up all your bowls, pots, and pans, so be ready for it -- but you can also break this into steps and make the meat sauce a day ahead. I often double this and freeze one pan. It's my standard family-had-a-new-baby dish to bring to a friend, too."
Fasolakia (Greek Green Beans)
These Greek green beans are stewed with olive oil, pureed tomatoes, and pieces of potato. It's typically a main dish in Greece and a prime example of plant-based eating at its best! "Good crusty bread is essential for mopping up the sauce," says Diana Moutsopoulos, "and I always need to have a healthy chunk of feta on the side. Serve fasolakia warm or at room temperature for best flavor."
Youvetsi (Traditional Greek Orzo Bake)
"If you are looking for an authentic dish from Greece, this recipe is for you!" says STEFADOURAKI. "It's usually made with veal or lamb stew meat but my family has always used chicken, which is delicious! This baked orzo dish will melt in your mouth!"
Portokalopita (Greek Orange Phyllo Cake)
"Portokalopita is a deliciously different cake, and a must-try for anyone who is afraid of phyllo," says Diana Moutsopoulos. "Why? Because here the phyllo is shredded to bits -- the messier the better! The gorgeous orange and cinnamon syrup ensures this cake stays beautifully moist."
Phyllo dough is stacked with honey and nuts. "A Greek favorite that makes everyone think you are a master chef and is sooo easy to make!" says NEONWILLIE. "I taught a Greek friend how to make apple pie and she taught me this fabulous recipe. The phyllo dough for this recipe is found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Add a little lemon zest to the sugar sauce, if desired."
Rizogalo (Greek Rice Pudding)
"Greek rice pudding is simple, comforting, and delicious," says Diana Moutsopoulos. "Some people in Greece make it with eggs, but my aunt prefers without. Best enjoyed cold -- if you can wait that long!"