If you’re looking for ways to bring more sunshine into your life, there’s nothing like cooking a delicious Mediterranean meal.

Whether it’s recreating a dish you enjoyed on holiday and bringing back lovely memories or simply cooking a meal that tastes of summer, food is really evocative. Plus, the wonderful thing about Mediterranean food is that it’s generally very healthy, and can boost your mood and immune system.

So, if you’re in need of a dose of sunshine, look no further. Here are 12 Mediterranean recipes to brighten up your day.

1. Caponata


Most of us are familiar with French ratatouille, yet Sicily’s caponata – a similar dish – isn’t as widely known.

This is a shame, especially if you like salty, tangy flavours, as one of the things that makes caponata stand out from ratatouille is the addition of olives, capers, and vinegar. It’s also cooked in a sweet and sour sauce, which is a trademark of Sicilian cooking. But, the star of this dish is the aubergine, which is fried in olive oil, and the other ‘must-have’ ingredients include tomatoes, celery, and onions.

Caponata is a dish that’s very versatile, and traditionally people have added in whatever veg they have that needs using, so peppers and courgettes are often thrown in too. To balance out the saltiness, honey or raisins are also usually added.

Caponata isn’t only quintessentially Sicilian, but it’s also a bold and unusual dish, and though the sweet yet sour flavours may sound unusual, they all work together to create a deliciously piquant dish. This dish tastes even better the next day – if you’re able to save some! Serve with crusty bread to mop all the juices.

To make caponata, try this recipe from The Guardian.

2. Baked tomato orzo with artichoke and halloumi

Baked tomato orzo with artichoke and halloumi

Orzo is one of the most versatile types of pasta around. Resembling large grains of rice, the word ‘orzo’ means barley, and its tiny size means it can be used in soups, salads, and casseroles. But it’s also great as a main dish, and one of the best ways to serve it is with roasted tomatoes, artichokes, and halloumi cheese.

Not only is this dish light yet comforting, but it’s also seriously quick to prepare. You can buy marinated artichokes if you don’t fancy cooking them from scratch, and while you can simply top your orzo with the ingredients once cooked, you’ll get an even better result if you bake it all together. That way, the roast tomatoes release their juices through the dish, and the halloumi melts into it all.

A twist of lemon zest, plenty of garlic, and a dusting of Aleppo peppers add even more flavour. If you’re vegan, just swap the halloumi for a plant-based alternative; vegan feta works really well!

To make this baked tomato orzo dish, try this recipe from The Little Epicurean.

3. Chicken gyros

Chicken gyros

If you’ve ever been to Greece, there’s a good chance you’ve tried gyros, which is a flatbread wrap that’s loaded with marinated meat, fresh veggies, and lots of tangy tzatziki sauce.

While these types of wraps are also popular in the Middle East, what makes gyros special is that you can really taste the fresh, sunny flavours of Greece: garlic, oregano, lemon, and mint.

The vegetables used in a gyros wrap are all staples of the Greek salad – red onion, tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumber – and they add a lovely fresh crunch to this succulent wrap. You can use lamb or beef meat in gyros, but chicken is lighter and healthier. Marinating the meat in yoghurt makes it more tender, and the lemon, oregano, cumin, and garlic add extra flavour.

Once your meat is marinated and cooked, simply pop it into your flatbread, add a few dollops of minty tzatziki, add your fresh veg, then wrap and enjoy. If you don’t eat meat, just swap the chicken for a mock-meat alternative!

To make chicken gyros, try this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish.

4. Aubergine parmigiana

Aubergine parmigiana

If you love Italian food, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with aubergine parmigiana – or to use its Italian name, melanzane alla parmigiana.

The Southern regions of Italy – Calabria, Apulia, Campania, and Sicily – all lay claim to this dish, but today it’s eaten all throughout the country, and it’s incredibly popular in the UK and the US too.

Though parmigiana is made with fresh, summer ingredients like tomatoes and aubergines, it’s also a really warming and comforting dish that’s perfect on a cold winter’s day.

It’s made by layering slices of fried aubergine with a rich tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan, and then baking it. It’s rather like a lighter version of lasagne, with aubergine replacing the pasta sheets. Some versions add in courgette slices along with aubergine, for an extra dose of vitamins.

To make authentic aubergine parmigiana, try this recipe from The Guardian – and if you’d like to make a vegan version, try this recipe by Lazy Cat Kitchen.

5. Moules marinière

Moules marinière

Moules marinière is a traditional French and Belgian dish that most people tend to eat in restaurants rather than at home – but if you like mussels, you should definitely have a go at whipping up a batch in your own kitchen.

Moules marinière (sailor-style mussels!) is really easy to prepare, particularly because pre-cleaned, de-bearded mussels are so readily available these days. If you can, try to buy farm-raised/rope-grown mussels, as these are responsibly sourced and much better for the environment.

Mussels cook really quickly, and as they cook, they release their own briny liquid which creates a wonderfully savoury sauce. However, adding garlic, shallots or onion, cream, butter, and white wine really helps to bring out their flavours.

Just before you remove the mussels from the pot, add a scattering of fresh parsley, a dash of lemon juice and zest, and serve with crusty bread – which you can use to mop up all the mouthwatering sauce!

To make moules marinière, try this recipe by Serious Eats.

6. Tomato galette

Tomato galette

If any ingredient is synonymous with Mediterranean cooking – and warm, sunny days – it’s the tomato.

Sweet and juicy, tomatoes are just as good eaten raw as they are cooked, and while there are all kinds of Mediterranean tomato salads, there are also many simple recipes that showcase how truly tasty tomatoes are: like the tomato galette.

Galettes are free-form pies that are made from a single sheet of dough (like a tart, but with the edges curved over). They’re easier to prepare than tarts, as you don’t have to worry about fitting them to a pan – and if they’re not symmetrical, it just adds to the rustic appeal!

Roasting tomatoes is the best way to bring out their flavours. Just make sure you use top-quality tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes work well for this).

If you like, you can spread a layer of goat’s cheese onto the pastry, and add some garlic, chives, thyme, and lemon zest to the mix to add even more flavour. The creamy, zingy flavours perfectly balance out the sweetness of the tomato to create an incredibly moreish dish!

To make a tomato galette, try this recipe by Love and Lemons.

7. Moussaka


Greek cuisine might not be as celebrated as Italian or even French, but it’s just as delicious, which is why we’ve got another Greek recipe on this list: moussaka.

Creamy, warming, and comforting, moussaka might be synonymous with sun-soaked Greek holidays, but it’s actually the ideal dish for winter. Though the leftovers are also delicious eaten cold!

Moussaka may not be the quickest dish to make, but it’s worth it – there’s a reason it’s Greece’s most popular dish! Minced beef or lamb is cooked in a ragu-like sauce, layered with aubergine, potato, and a thick, wobbly bechamel sauce, and then baked. Though it’s similar technically to parmigiana, the flavours are totally different, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and oregano add a fragrant richness.

To make traditional meat moussaka, try this recipe by My Greek Dish. To make a veggie version, just swap the mince meat for veggie mince or lentils. Moussaka can easily be made vegan too – so this is a dish everyone can enjoy!

8. Mediterranean vegetable and sardine salad

Mediterranean vegetable and sardine salad

If you’re looking for something a bit lighter, why not make a Mediterranean vegetable sardine salad?

Sardines are popular all across the Mediterranean, though especially in Spain, and this next recipe can conjure up images of sunny lunches in Spanish seaside towns. Healthy, fresh, and delicious, this salad makes a tasty lunch or light dinner.

First, chunks of aubergine, courgette, red onion, and garlic are roasted in a pan with olive oil, and then after about half an hour, juicy tomatoes are added too. You can use tinned sardines, or buy them fresh and grill them – whatever you prefer! Then, add more olive oil, fresh basil, a sprinkling of chopped chillies (if you like spice), and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

If you fancy some extra fibre and protein, why not add a can of white beans too? To make a Mediterranean vegetable sardine salad, try this recipe by Delicious Magazine.

9. Peperonata


If you love peppers, you should definitely have a go at making this next dish.

Another rustic Italian dish, peperonata is incredibly simple, yet the flavours are unexpectedly complex. Essentially just sliced peppers that are slowly stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and basil until tender and bursting with flavour. There’s something about peppers that just conjures up images of warm, sunny days.

Plus, peperonata is wonderfully versatile. You can serve it with meat, with a frittata, topped with a fried egg, padded out with potatoes and chickpeas, or stirred into spaghetti to make a gorgeously juicy sauce. You can even add it to sandwiches as a kind of relish! The trick is to cook it slowly, so the peppers release all their juices, and the tomatoes simmer until thick.

Once it’s cooked, you can add a sharp twist with a dash of red wine vinegar, and like many Mediterranean recipes, it tastes even better the next day. Why not double the amount, and keep a jar ready to add to sandwiches, or to enjoy as a healthy side dish?

To make peperonata, try this dish by Serious Eats.

10. Bruschetta


And finally, if you don’t fancy cooking a whole meal but still want to bring the sunshine into your kitchen, then why not make some bruschetta?

Bruschetta is one of the simplest and quickest snacks to knock up – yet few dishes evoke the flavours of the Mediterranean quite as well. Sweet, juicy tomatoes; pungent garlic; fresh, zingy basil; and fruity olive oil are a winning combination.

Because bruschetta is so simple, it relies on high-quality, flavoursome ingredients. Take your time to find some delicious, ripe tomatoes (vine tomatoes are usually a good bet) and top-quality olive oil.

Rustic bread makes for a brilliant base too. Once you’ve sliced and grilled it, just rub it with raw garlic, drizzle it with olive oil, then add chopped tomatoes, basil leaves, salt, and pepper – and you’re in for a treat.

But the beauty of bruschetta is that you don’t have to stick with the classic toppings to enjoy this Mediterranean-inspired snack. From gorgonzola, grape, and honey to balsamic, thyme, and mushroom, there’s a bruschetta for every mood and taste preference.

Check out these 30 delicious bruschetta recipes from Insanely Good Recipes for more inspiration.

11. Orange olive oil cake

Olive oil cakes are a family favourite in the Mediterranean (particularly in countries that grow olives like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and Italy) because they’re comforting, easy to make, stay moist for days, and often act as a celebration of the olive harvesting season.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, then a slice of this orange olive oil cake could be just what’s needed to inject some sunny vibes into your day. Moist, citrusy, fragrant, and delicious…there are plenty of reasons to love this cake!

The recipe uses olive oil rather than butter, which, along with the rosemary drizzle, gives it a dense, tender crumb. It’s worth choosing a rich, high-quality extra virgin oil, as this will add a gorgeous, slightly fruity flavour and enhance the notes of orange. The addition of rosemary and cardamom also gives the cake a lovely balance between sweet and savoury.

This cake takes just 10-15 minutes to prepare and a further 40 minutes in the oven. To serve, you can add a dollop of natural yoghurt or creme fraiche, if liked!

If you want to give it a go, we recommend trying this orange olive oil cake recipe from BBC Good Food.

12. Red wine poached pears

The origins of red wine poached pears are not well documented, but they’re likely to have been around for many centuries. Today, the Poire à la Beaujolaise or ‘pear in wine’ is a traditional dessert of the wine-growing region of Beaujolais, France, and is also popular in Burgundy and Lyon.

Red wine poached pears are often served as a dessert, but they can also be used in savoury dishes or as a topping for ice cream or other desserts.

Poaching the pears until tender helps cook them gently to preserve their flavour and texture – and the addition of red wine, sugar, and spices like cardamon and cinnamon makes them even more rich, aromatic, and inviting. If you don’t want to cook with alcohol, you could also use non-alcoholic red wine or a tart juice, like cranberry or cherry!

To serve, add a scoop of ice-cream or mascarpone cheese, a squirt of whipped cream, and/or a sprinkle of orange zest.

If you want to try this warming, fruity dessert, check out this red wine poached pears recipe from The Mediterranean Dish.

Final thoughts…

From warming veggie casserole-style dishes to meaty wraps and fish salads, Mediterranean food is delicious, diverse, and healthy. It’s also really evocative and can conjure up old memories of sitting in French towns tucking into moules marinière or enjoying caponata in a Sicilian village as if they happened yesterday.

Even if you’ve never been to these places, there’s something about sun-ripened vegetables, fresh herbs, and glugs of olive oil that floods you with warmth, and can make you feel as though you’re bursting with health and vitality. And during these dark, chilly days, we could all do with an extra dose of sunshine!

To find out more about how a sunshine-inspired diet could work for you, why not check out our article; The Mediterranean diet – what is it, and what are the benefits?