With its sunny climate, fertile land, and countless islands, Greek food is one of the best examples of what a Mediterranean diet should look like.

The food here is fresh, healthy, delicious, diverse, and packed with unexpected flavours. Sun-ripened vegetables and herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano form the backbone of many dishes, and are often supplemented by fresh fish, meat, and dairy – and of course, an abundance of Greek olive oil.

Whether you’re reminiscing about a Greek holiday or just hoping to discover some delicious new dishes, cooking Greek food is also a great way to inject some colour and flavour into your diet. And it’ll brighten up your kitchen too!

So, to get you inspired, here are nine sun-soaked Greek dishes.

1. Stifado


If you’re a fan of hearty, meaty stews, this next dish should tick the box…

Stifado is a Greek meat stew that’s made with tender beef (or rabbit), onions, and an intensely tangy and aromatic tomato-based sauce. To make an authentic, melt-in-the-mouth stifado, it’s important to select the right meat. Be sure to choose large cuts of good quality meat that will become very tender when cooked for a long time.

Traditional stifado uses ‘kokario’ onions, which are small white sweet onions, but these can be difficult to find. Good substitutes are white pearl onions or shallots, both of which are sweet and mild and won’t overpower the other flavours.

To get started, brown and seal the meat to keep it juicy, and caramelise the onions until soft before simmering the meat and onions together.

The sauce is made from tomatoes, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, olive oil, and red wine – and red wine vinegar is often added if you need extra acidity. Cook the meat and onions in the sauce for at least one and a half hours until all the flavours have infused. Then, top with crumbled feta, if liked, and serve with some crusty bread to mop up all the juices!

To make Greek stifado, try this recipe by The Greek Foodie.

2. Kolokithokeftedes


Courgettes are one of the most popular vegetables used in Greek cooking. And if you’re looking to recreate warm, lazy days in Greece or the sun-soaked flavours of summer, this next dish will definitely do it.

Kolokithokeftedes or courgette fritters are one of Greece’s most popular meze dishes – particularly in Crete where they originate from.

Kolokithokeftedes are incredibly moreish: the delicate flavour of courgettes goes perfectly with salty, creamy feta cheese, and fresh mint, oregano, parsley, and dill add a lovely aromatic twist.

Making kolokithokeftedes is easy. Just grate courgettes, salt them, squeeze out as much water as you can, and mix in chopped spring onions and fresh herbs.

Then, add eggs, feta cheese, and flour, and stir well until combined. Shaped into patties – these can be flatter patties or round ones, like large meatballs – and fry in olive oil until they’re crisp and golden. Serve with a big Greek salad, or dip them in creamy, garlicky, minty tzatziki to really savour the flavours of Greece.

To make kolokithokeftedes, try this recipe from My Greek Dish.

3. Pastitsio


If you’re a fan of hearty, pasta dishes, you’ll definitely want to make this next dish!

Pastitsio is Greece’s version of lasagne. It’s made up of layers of fat, tubular pasta; a rich red wine, tomato, and minced meat sauce; and a thick and velvety béchamel topping. When you slice into the pastitsio to serve it, each layer should be perfectly visible, and it’ll look like a beautiful, much neater lasagne!

To make pastitsio, you ideally need Pastitsio Pasta No. 2, which are thick, spaghetti-like tubes, similar to bucatini pasta. You can get Pastitsio Pasta No.2 from Italian specialist shops, or, if you can’t find any, you can substitute it for bucatini, penne, rigatoni, or another tube pasta.

The secret to perfect pastitsio isn’t the pasta, but the rich sauce, which is like bolognese but thicker, and spiked with cinnamon and cloves – just like moussaka.

First, cook your sauce, and take your time with this: you want the flavours to infuse and the liquid to evaporate, so the sauce is dense. Then, cook the pasta, mix it with cheese, and transfer two-thirds into a casserole dish. Top with a thick layer of sauce and another of pasta, cover with béchamel sauce, and bake. To make it veggie, just use veggie mince! The ultimate Greek comfort food!

To make Greek pastitsio, try this recipe from Hungry Bites.

4. Tzatziki


One of the simplest yet most delicious Greek dishes around is tzatziki – and while most of us are probably familiar with this yoghurt-based meze, there’s a reason we’re including it in this list.

First, it’s the ideal accompaniment to many recipes in this article, from souvlaki to dolmades – and secondly, if you’ve only eaten shop-bought tzatziki, you’re in for a treat when you make your own.

There are a few variations of tzatziki, but the key ingredients of this sauce are Greek yoghurt, garlic, olive oil, and cucumber. The garlic adds a punchy kick, the cucumber gives a refreshing coolness, and the creamy yoghurt is the perfect base. To make authentic Greek tzatziki, try to use full-fat, thick Greek yoghurt, although if you can’t find this, you can substitute it for another thick, creamy yoghurt.

The cucumber can make your tzatziki quite watery, so to avoid this, you can either scoop out the watery core before grating it or just squeeze out the excess water after grating. Mix the yoghurt with the olive oil, cucumber, and chopped garlic, then add a scattering of herbs – usually fresh dill or mint. Add a dash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to taste, and serve topped with extra herbs!

To make perfect tzatziki, try this recipe by The Guardian.

5. Moussaka


Let’s start with what’s arguably Greece’s most famous dish: moussaka.

This is a dish that’s just as satisfying during the cold UK winter as on a sunny Greek holiday, and while it isn’t the quickest dish to whip up, it’s certainly worth it. Plus, you’ll end up with plenty of leftovers – and because moussaka is delicious eaten hot or cold, it’s the perfect thing to pick at during the week.

Moussaka consists of minced meat that’s cooked in a rich tomato sauce; topped with layers of aubergine, potatoes, and sometimes courgettes; and then smothered in a thick, creamy béchamel sauce. Herbs and spices like nutmeg, bay leaves, parsley, and thyme add traditional Greek flavours, and when you take the dish out of the oven, it’ll flood your home with mouthwatering aromas.

Moussaka is a surprisingly versatile dish, and some versions leave out the potatoes or courgettes – though aubergine is always a must.

Traditionally, minced beef or lamb is used, but you can easily make a vegetarian version too by using veggie mince or lentils. It’s also much easier than you might think to make an entirely plant-based version of this dish!

To make traditional meat moussaka, try this recipe by Alex Petrides.

6. Souvlaki


Souvlaki and gyros are two of the most popular meat dishes in Greece, and if you’ve ever been to Greece – and you eat meat – there’s a good chance you’ve tried one or the other.

But, while souvlaki and gyros are both staples of Greek cuisine, they’re not the same. Gyros is made with stacked meat that’s been cooked on a rotisserie, while souvlaki is meat that’s grilled on a skewer.

Because most people don’t have a vertical rotisserie at home, souvlaki is much easier to cook from scratch – plus, if you’re looking for authentic Greek dishes, you can’t get much more authentic than souvlaki. Its roots can be traced all the way back to Ancient Greece, where the first written mention of the dish was in Homer’s The Iliad!

You can use pork, lamb, or chicken to make souvlaki – which is marinated in olive oil and spices beforehand. Then add it to a skewer, grill until tender, and cook through.

If you don’t fancy eating the meat right off the skewer, you can stuff it into a warm pita and serve it with red onion, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, and a generous dollop of tangy tzatziki – just like a gyros!

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

7. Spanakopita


One of the most popular and prevalent Greek dishes is spanakopita, which is a cheese and spinach pie that’s sold in pretty much every bakery in the country.

Crispy filo pastry is packed with spring onions; earthy spinach leaves; salty, creamy feta cheese; and herbs like dill, mint and parsley – making every bite of this pie a joy.

There are several different variations of this dish, and you can pad out the spinach with other dark green leaves, like chard, cavolo nero, rocket, watercress, or even nettles, if you like. There are also different variations of pie shapes – usually individual triangle or square shapes – that can be held in the hand like a pasty, or big, spiral-shaped pies that are cut into smaller segments.

While it looks impressive, spanakopita isn’t difficult to make unless you plan on making your pastry from scratch. Otherwise, you can use shop-bought pastry – just be sure to squeeze out excess water from the spinach to stop your pie from going soggy.

During Lent in Greece, spanakopita is made without cheese and eggs, so it’s easy to make this dish vegan. You can also use vegan feta or swap cheese altogether for seasoned tofu.

To make your own spanakopita, try this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish.

8. Dolmades


Dolmades – perhaps better known as stuffed vine leaves – are one of the most famous Greek meze dishes around. Not only are they healthy and absolutely delicious, but they also look seriously impressive. Plus, they’re one of the few Greek meze dishes that are naturally entirely vegan, and once you get the hang of rolling the leaves, they’re easy to make too!

What’s great about dolmades is that they’re very versatile: you can serve them as a snack, as a starter, as part of a meze spread, or on the side of a main (they’re particularly great with moussaka!). They’re delicious hot or cold, and while the traditional stuffing contains just rice, onions, herbs, and seasoning, you can add ground meat if you want.

You can buy vine leaves from Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shops, and once you’ve blanched them, they’re ready to stuff. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, then add rice and water, and cook until the rice is soft.

Add lemon juice and fresh herbs to the rice, spoon the filling into the leaves in a pot, and roll up tightly. Then, submerge the leaves in water, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with a generous dollop of tzatziki!

To make dolmades, try this recipe from Philosokitchen.

9. Portokalopita


If you have a sweet tooth, this next dish should definitely be on your ‘must-cook’ list.

Portokalopita is a Greek orange cake that’s deliciously sweet, juicy, fragrant, and sticky. It belongs to a family of sweet treats called siropiasta – which means they all have syrup in them. Baklava is one of the most famous examples of these, but portokalopita is no less delicious.

What’s interesting about this cake is that instead of using flour, it uses filo pastry – but you don’t need to worry about layering up the filo sheets neatly like spanakopita, as in this recipe, they’re smashed and crumbled! When mixed with the orange zest, orange juice, baking powder, and yoghurt, the pastry forms a batter – then after it’s baked, more syrup is poured over and left to soak in.

The result is an incredibly juicy and decadent cake – but thanks to the orange flavour, it’s light and refreshing, rather than sickly.

The orange syrup contains orange juice, orange zest, water, and sugar, and while it may look far too syrupy when you first pour it over the baked cake, it will absorb – but that’s why this cake is always best after a couple of days when the syrup has fully soaked through!

To make portokalopita, try this recipe by My Greek Dish.

Final thoughts…

Fresh, vibrant, and delicious, Greek food is one of the most delicious cuisines you can find in the Mediterranean, and thanks to the prevalence of olive oil, fresh herbs, and colourful vegetables, it’s generally pretty healthy too.

Whether you’re looking for light, mezze-style dishes like dolmades, tzatziki, or kolokithokeftedes; hearty, comforting dishes like moussaka, pastitsio, or stifado; or something indulgent and sweet, like portokalopita, there’s something for every dietary requirement and taste preferences.

And if any of these dishes transport you to sun-soaked Greek beaches or white-washed villages – all the better!

For more culinary inspiration, why not check out the food and drink section of our website? Here, you’ll find everything from Scandinavian cuisine to authentic Indian dishes.