You may think that Greek cuisine is all meat and the truth is that Greeks do know their way around a grill; we can all recall the scene from the famous movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. But in reality traditional Greek cooking gives vegetarians a large variety of dishes to choose from. It has four secrets; quality of fresh ingredients, excellent use of herbs and spices, the famous Greek olive oil and simplicity. It is based on fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, herbs, spices, and olive oil - perfect for vegetarians (and often for vegans as well).
When traveling in Greece you will find yourselves surrounded by hundreds of wholesome, hearty meals without a trace of meat in them that will offer new thrills to your palate. Here are our favourite Greek vegan and vegetarian dishes… that will even “seduce” the hardcore meatlovers!
Enjoy Greek vegetarian recipes
Appetizers, salads and dips
Take into account that one of the most famous salads worldwide is the Greek one; tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, feta cheese, olive oil and oregano will open your appetite for even more delicious treats. Dako salad is a Cretan salad, which will blow your mind away, containing a slice of soaked dried bread or barley rusk topped with chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta or myzithra cheese, olives, capers and sprinkled with oregano. Next, savour Greece’s mouthwatering greens served boiled with olive oil and lemon or vinegar depending on what you fancy. Don’t forget to taste fried or grilled vegetables or cheese such as fried tomatoes or tomato balls, fried zucchini or aubergine, cheese-stuffed zucchini blossoms, french fries, grilled feta cheese and cheese saganaki (a cooked in a pan delicious meze with cheese), which are just a few of the most common and flavourful ones. These are all extraordinary meatless options. If you like boiled vegetables then ask for horta generally meaning wild greens, beets and fresh zucchini.
Accompany your horta with a dip:
Taramosalata : a mousse salad made from fish roe blended with lemon, bread, olive oil.
Melitzanosalata : A puree of grilled or smoked eggplants with olive oil, garlic and vinegar.
Tzatziki: It’s the most famous Greek Appetizer, made from delicious creamy Greek yogurt with cucumber, garlic, and dill, blended with oil, vinegar and salt.
Skordalia: it’s is a vegan garlicky dip made with pureed potatoes or bread. It usually accompanies fried salt cod, but it’s an excellent side dish for patzaria (boiled beets).
Pulses and legumes
Pulses and especially beans and legumes have always been essential to the Greek table. Today, beans and pulses are status symbols for healthy eating. They contain high percentages of protein, iron, and fiber; little to no fat; no cholesterol; and significant amounts of other minerals, such as potassium, zinc, and magnesium. They're also a rich source of calcium, especially black-eyed peas and chickpeas, which contain over 200 mg. of calcium in one cup, even more than some cheeses! Don’t miss the famous Fasolada, the Greek giant beans, Gigantes and the yellow split peas (Fava beans).
Ladera (meaning made with olive oil)
The most popular category of vegetarian foods is called ladera, cooked with olive oil. A ladero dish often consists of a vegetable cooked in tomato sauce. You could taste Greek beans (fasolakia in Greek ), stewed okra (bamies in Greek), briam (zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers baked together with tomato sauce), or melitzanes imam (baked eggplant in a tomato sauce). If you eat dairy, we suggest you enjoy these dishes with some feta cheese. In any case, be sure to sop up the remaining sauce with bread. A mouthwatering traditional dish is stuffed vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis or aubergines. Just ask for a non meat version!
Pies, the veggie way
Greeks are famous for their pies. Besides having a wide variety in pastry-sheets, the pie veggie friendly filling variations will surprise you! Everything can turn into filing for a pie; cheese, greens, vegetables, rice or trahana (a granular grain product made with either semolina/wheat flour/bulgur/cracked wheat mixed with either milk/ yogurt/ buttermilk) are just some of the delicious products that will give the pie a taste lift. Greek imagination has created a large number of combinations in pie filling: cheese pie,spinach pie, leek pie, mushroom pie, onion pie, cabbage pie, potato pie, pasta pie, nettle pie, pumpkin pie the different variations are unlimited!
You can find Greek Pasta in countless shapes and sizes, made with either milk, eggs, or a simple mixture of durum wheat or semolina, water and salt. The tradition is kept alive generally by women (who usually let the pasta dry out in the end of summer), but they mainly gather together in regional cooperatives to make and then sell an array of artisan pasta. Such regional co-ops exist all over Greece, on mainland and islands alike.
These co-ops tend to produce a conservative array of the most traditional shapes; hilopites (noodles that come in two basic shapes: small squares or thin, fettuccine-like strands), kritharaki (a rice-shaped pasta or orzo), trahana (a granular grain product made with either semolina/wheat flour/bulgur/cracked wheat mixed with either milk/yogurt/buttermilk) and a few other traditional, popular types.