This guide to Greek food takes you through traditional Greek dishes to eat and order when visiting Greece, and it ends with a dining experience on the beautiful island of Zante.
I wrote about the many reasons to visit Zante earlier on The Planet D and believe me, they are many. Food is definitely one of the main reasons.
I am going to list the best Greek meals by the category, and the take you to a traditional Zakynthian (Zante) lunch. Where I'm going to give you tips on how to enjoy Greek cuisine like a local!
This Greek food guide will give you the confidence you need to order when eating at Greek restaurants in Zakynthos and around the world.
Authentic Greek Cuisine
Greek food has barely changed in centuries. Original recipes have been passed down from generation to generation of families in Greece.
The Greek cuisine of Zante is based on oil and strong spices and herbs making for healthy and delicious meals.
Greek Food Appetizers
There is a solid risk of finishing your meal at starters alone, especially if you don’t have a large appetite.
Usual starters include Greek salad with many vegetables and minced meat, meatballs, fries, and unavoidable famous Tzatziki.
Many of the dips are served as a Meze, a selection of small dishes for dipping and snacking.
1. Melitzanosalata – Greek Eggplant Dip
An eggplant dip perfect for meaty dishes. It is also a great addition to a meze platter served with pita bread.
Taramosalata is another delicious dip made with taramas, (salted and cured fish roe) olive oil, lemon juice and a base of bread and potatoes. Onions and garlic can be added to taste.
3. Baked Zucchini with Potatoes
Oven-baked zucchini is a great addition to small plates. Tossed with butter and oregano this is a delicious starter
4. Dolmadakia – Stuffed Grape Leaves
Dolmadakia is one of the most popular Greek dishes you'll see on many menus.
These tasty rice and herb stuffed grape leaves can be filled with whatever you desire.
They can be vegetarian with onions and parsley added or stuffed with lamb or beef.
A personal favorite is these small crunchy pastries filled with feta cheese.
Tyropitakia is a filo pastry pie stuffed with cheese. Lots of cheese. Feta, ricotta, cream cheese, and melted butter make for a scrumptious appetizer.
The Greek Meatball can make for a great appetizer for a crowd to share, but it can also be the main course too. Seasoned with herbs and garlic try it with tzatziki. You'll love it.
Main Courses – Greek Specialties
The main courses in Greece are rich in flavor. Specialty dishes come with additional bread or pita bread and a salad of your choosing.
There is always some kind of performance when your dining at the traditional Greek tavern. Especially in Zante.
Serving of the “specialty” meal usually comes with fire, plate smashing, music, and attention-grabbing theatrics.
To truly eat like a Greek, you should not miss these food specialties:
This world-famous meal is made from eggplants, minced meat, and béchamel sauce. (white flour and milk sauce)
Traditional Moussaka uses lamb, but it can also be cooked with beef.
When ordering Greek food at a restaurant this is a good start for getting your feet wet.
Kabobs are found everywhere in Greece and ar a popular street food and go-to dish.
They are a mixture of meat and veggies on a skewer. From steak, chicken, and lamp to mushrooms peppers and onions. This is a light and lean choice for Greek Cuisine.
A pastitsio is a baked pasta dish. It is Greece's answer to lasagna.
This dish involves layers of pasta with minced beef and tomato sauce making it the ultimate comfort food.
What sets it apart from regular pasta is the herbs and spices and hollow bucatini pasta
A yummy casserole-baked Greek stew made with meat (beef or lamb), tomatoes, pearl onions, white wine, garlic, cinnamon, and oregano.
In Greece, this dish is often served with pasta as a side dish.
Lamb is a staple dish when dining out in Greece, and a Greek food centerpiece for grilling is lamb chops.
Paidakia are well-seasoned lamb chops marinated in olive oil.
12. Skordostoumbi Melitzana
This Zakynthos (also called Zante) recipe is made with eggplants and one hundred cloves of garlic.
Skordostoumbi is usually made with meat around the rest of Greece, it is the eggplant that makes it unique in Zante.
Mix together all of the cooked eggplant, the garlic, vinegar, and tomatoes, then bake them together to create a savory sauce that is eaten with pita bread and feta cheese.
13. Stuffed Meats
Other Greek favorites are stuffed duck, chicken, turkey, rabbit, and fish. On Zante, the rabbit is especially popular.
Pair meats with a side of Fasolakia (Greek green beans braised with tomato onion, extra virgin olive oil, and garlic) and moussaka and you have a rich and delicious meal.
The most consumed desserts in Greece are fruit, yogurt, and some honey.
Restaurants in Zakynthos have adapted to the tourists and added popular and familiar desserts from many cuisines.
These are the five most popular Greek desserts – (With lots of variations)
Baklava is a very rich and sweet filo pastry filled with syrup and honey, nuts and cinnamon.
Kataifi is one of the most popular Greek desserts next to Baklava. It's made with layers of thin angel hair pastry dough filled with walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, and sugar drizzled with honey.
16. Fruit salads with yogurt
Nothing compares to Greek yogurt. Mix it with fresh fruit and berries and layer it like a sundae topped with fresh honey and you have a perfect Greek dessert.
The fruit salads are the most common in Zakynthos, and all of Greece.
Bougatsa is a lovely puff pastry stuffed with cream and covered with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Galaktoboureko is a popular Greek dessert made of custard and phyllo pastry. It's best served warm straight out of the oven and topped with sugary syrup and cinnamon.
Many Grek recipes are made to satisfy the hunger on the go. They are not only delicious, but they are also healthy too
I dare you not to get hooked on Gyros. You can choose from chicken, lamb, or pork gyros.
Many restaurants have the stall shop in front for passersby to order on the go. This is common in Zante to tempt people with the alluring aromas.
The world-famous Gryos originated in Greece. It is the most popular fast food in Greece and you'll find that when visiting the country, you'll be craving them yourself!
This common sliced meat snake is prepared with lots of spices, wrapped up with pita (Greek tortilla) with fries, salads and topped with tzatziki sauce.
Souvlaki is the second most popular fast food in Greece. It is basically pieces of meat on a skillet, roasted alongside with some veggies (especially onions), and served in pitta, or sandwich. Additions like salads and sauces share the same practice as gyros.
20. Spanikopita – Puffed Pastry
Spanikopita is a spinach pie with feta cheese and olive oil that is cooked to fluffy and buttery perfection.
A lovely, and tasty dish is a cheese pie cut into small slices. Imagine buttery phyllo pastry layered with Greek and feta cheese. This is individually
Welcome to Zakynthian lunch.
Now that you have a better understanding of Greek food let me take you to experience a Greek lunch in Zante.
This Greek island in the Ionian Sea was a hidden place for many until recent years when it grew to a big tourist attraction.
Being popular among the younger population for its excessive and lively nightlife, the resort of Laganas in Zante attracts hordes of youngsters to have an ultimate party holiday.
Warm welcomes from the waiters, fine music in the background, and a relaxed atmosphere. That is the Zakynthos (Zante) experience.
Why not start with Ouzo, a licorice flavor liqueur that goes perfectly with your appetizers.
Strong coffee is often offered and served during the starters.
There's a lot of Greek food to choose from, usually sorted by categories, and written in multiple languages.
Eat Like a Greek!
You'll start with an array of dips, and salads which can easily be served as a separate meal.
Popular Greek Dips to order are:
- Tahini – A dense paste made from sesame seeds used for many Greek dips. Often mixed with Yogurt and dill.
- Tzatziki – Yogurt and garlic dip
- Taramasalata – Fish Roe Dip
- Melitzanosalata – Greek Eggplant Dip
- Tirokafteri – Spicy Greek feta dip
- Tapenade – Greek olive dip
And a fine glass of wine (or Greek beer, Mythos) is favored to accompany your meal.
Starters are usually designed to complement your meal. If you order a fish meal, e seafood will be a part of your starters.
If you want to eat like a Greek, you should order Stifado, Moussaka, or a stuffed rabbit. These are the three meals, locals in Zakynthos prefer and love.
These meals come with vegetables, fried potatoes, and salads. On top of all that, you'll have a basket of pitas on the table.
The servings are huge. Usual Greek dining will be heavy; expect at least 2000 Kcal in your belly. But it's worth it.
On Zante, your Stifado is brought in a flaming bowl covered with aluminum foil. Musicians play guitars, and the mood is festive.
Dining in Greece isn't just about the food, it's an experience!
About Greek Food
The cuisine of Greek people is simple, yet broad and diverse.
From ancient times, Greeks were big fans of fish, various meats, and vegetables with fine bread.
Olive oil, tzatziki sauce, onion and garlic, cheese and eggplants are the main ingredients of Greek food.
The Greek food menu in Zakynthos and other parts of Greece depends on the seasons.
We cook with the ingredients that are available at the time of year. The same goes for specific types of seafood and fish as well.
Organic food is eaten a lot in Greece since farming and food-producing by families is wide-spread.
Forget about the diet. It’s all about the taste.
Let us know in the comments below how do you like this scenario, or what would you pick to eat like a Greek.
Dejan is the founder of Zante Holiday Insider, a blog about Greek island Zakynthos – Zante where you will find great inside info about Zante, deals, travel advice and knowledge, and great help exploring Zante.