Is Greece vegetarian friendly? You would be surprised to learn more concerning the variety of Greek vegetarian dishes that can be discovered here. Only a glimpse at the history of vegetarianism proves that its origins lay in the ancient Greek civilisation. This is why the same habits continue to thrive while both vegetarian and vegan options remain available in a lot of Greek restaurants. For you, we made a list of all the Greek vegetarian food you can find in taverns around Greece, depending on the season.
Want to enjoy the ultimate experience of vegetarian-friendly Athens? Join any of our food tours in Athens as all of them offer vegetarian options!
Greek vegetarian dishes: Greek Salads
“Horiatiki”: Τhe real deal traditional Greek salad is made with few plain ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, and a block of feta cheese on top. The vegetables are originally cut into large chunks, and as a dressing we use salt, Greek oregano and olive oil.
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“Horta”: Αll treasures of the Greek countryside like chards, sorrels, fennels, chervils, amaranths, saltworts and spinach are served as a delicious salad but also used as a filling of pies (spanakopita, hortopita, marathopita etc).
“Politiki salad”: Greece’s most popular winter salad, is a carrot – cabbage salad originated from Istanbul. For extra taste, finely chopped bell peppers, garlic, vinegar and olive oil are added to the mix.
“Beetroot salad”: In Greek we call it “Pantzarosalata”, a delicious and filling salad made with beetroots, Greek yogurt, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and vinegar.
“Dakos salad”: Α specialty vegetarian salad from Crete that consists of a crunchy rusk, tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and of course some Cretan xinomyzithra or feta cheese.
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Feta is a Greek curd white cheese, aged in brine, made exclusively from sheep’s milk or sheep’s and goat’s milk (up to 30%). First mentioned in the Odyssey, the way of making our national cheese hasn’t changed a lot. The famous cheesemaker of the story was the giant Cyclops Polyphemus. Feta became a Greek PDO – Protected Designation of Origin- product not before 2002, ending a long conflict with other EU countries who wanted to keep feta as a name for their white cheese. Tip: Try out the local “Feta saganaki”, pan fried feta sprinkled with honey and sesame seeds!
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Graviera is a hard yellow cheese with small uneven holes, and a sweet to a little bit spicy flavor. Graviera from Crete – Crete’s version is well-known for its burnt caramel taste. It is produced mainly from sheep’s milk or a mixture with goat’s milk. Because of the goat’s milk, Cretan Graviera happens to get more and more intense while it ages. Graviera from Naxos: The only one made with cow milk. It has a slight yellow colour, an exquisite aroma and rare taste. It is one of the best among Greek cheeses.
Myzithra is a white cheese with mild taste and the most favoured whey cheese in all of Greece since it goes excellent with most Greek vegetarian dishes. Whey is mainly formed following the production of various hard cheeses or feta. You can also find a sour version which is known as xynomizithra.
Manouri is a fresh, semi-soft cheese mostly used in salads and pastries. Made by adding milk and/or cream to the whey of sheep’s or goat’s milk, manouri is less salty but by far creamier than Feta and is usually produced in central and northern Greece.
Kefalotyri is regarded as the oldest hard cheese of Greece. Made up from goat’s or sheep’s milk (or both), it is matured for at least 3 months which helps enhance the flavours, make it spicier and more aromatic. Depending on the mixture of milk used in the production, the cheese varies between yellow and white.
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The filling can be absolutely anything! From different kinds of cheese, to wild greens and herbs, meat and cold cuts, different kinds of mushrooms, even fish and seafood, depending on the region. A very special pie to find here is bougatsa. It is made with phyllo pastry tossed in the air like pizza, but made even thinner, like a newspaper, – a fascinating process for our culinary travellers to watch during our Taste of Athens Walking Food Tour. The phyllo is then cut into pieces, one layer is put on top of the other, delicious cheese or cream filling is added and then folded like an envelope.
A few decades ago, Greek housewives used to make their own homemade pasta usually after every harvest period, because then, cereals -such as grain or wheat- were plentiful. They would knead the dough, slice it into smaller pieces and shape it using only their fingers. Afterwards they would lay it out in the sun to dry. After preparing it, pasta was stored in fabric pouches in order to keep its properties and come in handy for the yearlong family use.
Still keeping tradition alive, you can find family-run businesses and cooperatives producing handmade pasta all over Greece. In the mainland, trachanas is a very common dish prepared especially for the cold winter dinners. There are two types: sweet trahana and sour trahana. Both are made using either semolina, cracked wheat, or flour. Trachanas is usually cooked as a soup and topped with chunks of feta cheese which makes all Greek vegetarian dishes delicious!
photo credit: giorgos tsoulis
In the Peloponnese, you can find handmade gogkes, a traditional type of pasta. They are shell-shaped and after being boiled in water, they are mixed with myzithra cheese and then finished with some hot olive oil in a pan. Other traditional local types of pasta include striftades which are similar to rice and square-shaped chylopitakia. Adding to that, on the islands, there are other types of pasta such as makarounes made differently in Karpathos, Tilos or Kassos island.
Greek vegetarian recipes: Ladera
A whole category of no-meat casseroles with lentils, chickpeas, beans, vegetables and pulses cooked in tons of extra virgin olive oil (thus the name). Like most Greek vegetarian dishes the best combination is to eat them with a thick slice of bread and a piece of (our Queen) feta cheese on the side!
Fasolada: Our national dish stands out among all Greek vegetarian dishes and it is nothing more than a wintery white bean soup including carrots and celery. There is nothing more rustic and comforting on a cold winter’s day. Usually served hot in deep bowls, fasolada is combined with Kalamata olives and a generous slice of fresh bread.
Gigantes: Meaning “giant beans” with tomato sauce and herbs make up this staple dish. The best variety to use here is Kozani’s giant beans and Prespes’ black elephant beans, from the northern part of Greece.
Fasolakia – bamies: Two melt-in-your-mouth vegetable stew recipes, using green beans (fasolakia) and okra (bamies) cooked with olive oil, tomato, onions and herbs.
photo credit: christina xenos
Imam bayildi: The story behind this dish is that the Imam (an Ottoman priest) fainted when he was told by his wife that she used all the olive oil (her entire dowry!) in making this dish. Consisting of eggplants stuffed with tomatoes, onions and herbs, this one is an old time classic and very delicious dish.
Gemista: For Greek people gemista means summer! Various vegetables (on season) like zucchini and eggplants can also be made “gemista” = stuffed, but the most common are made with ripe, beef tomatoes and green bell peppers filled with a mix of rice, onions, olive oil and spearmint for an extra kick. Tip: Make sure you ask for “orfana”= orphans, which means without meat.
Interested in learning how to make the most delicious Greek vegetarian stuffed peppers? Follow us in our small group cooking class!
Fava: Made with yellow split peas, Fava (Santorini’s specialty) is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. Slow cooked till mashed, fava looks like a bright yellow hummus and is served with lemon, olive oil, onions, parsley and caper. With any fava left, Greeks make delicious vegan keftedes, fried fava patties, called favokeftedes.
Fakes: One of Greece’s superfoods! An easy to make lentil soup rich in carbohydrates and natural protein, traditionally made with brown lentils, olive oil, red onion, tomato paste, carrots and bay leaves. The authentic Greek way to have this dish is to splash some red wine vinegar on top! Our top quality lentil here is Englouvi’s lentil from Lefkada island, even protected by UNESCO.
photo credit: Ilias cooking rhythms
Spanakorizo: The name of this hearty dish is a composite of the two main ingredients: spanaki meaning spinach and rizi meaning rice. The traditional version is the one where tomato sauce is added, but nowadays just the acidity of the lemon is being embraced. A winter version of this dish is “lahanorizo”, especially in the northern part of Greece.
Chickpea soup: A very traditional dish of the Greek islands, -as it can easily grow on their arid soil-, chickpeas are nowhere praised as much as in Sifnos island. “Revithada”, is Sifnos’ beloved chickpeas stew, eaten as the family’s Sunday’s lunch. All ingredients: chickpeas, white onions, olive oil and lemon juice are prepared in a clay pot -“skepastaria”, with its lid covered with dough and are being cooked slowly overnight.
Vegetarian dips and sauces
Tzatziki: Creamy, tangy and garlicky, tzatziki is the king of Greek summer. Known mainly as the main souvlaki sauce, tzatziki is not only that. This versatile cucumber – garlic dip accompanies every meze on our table, whether it’s meat, like keftedes, vegetarian, like dolmades or simply bread or paximadia (Greek rusks).
Melitzanosalata: Traditionally made with roasted aubergines –which transfuse its irresistible smoky aroma-, olive oil, vinegar (or lemon), garlic and parsley. One of its most delectable recipes is “agioritiki” from Mount Athos, made with smoked red Florina peppers and optionally walnuts. A perfect meze for your ouzo or tsipouro!
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Tirokafteri: Spice it up with one of the tastiest Greek cheese dips! A very delicious, rustic dish, great for every occasion which combines feta cheese, chili peppers and roasted red peppers. Usually eaten dipped in some warm crusted bread or greek pita bread!
Avgolemono sauce: The most versatile recipe that goes well with almost all Greek vegetarian dishes! It is actually an egg lemon sauce used as a thickening agent that gives every dish a very homely feeling. To prepare the traditional avgolemono you will need 2-3 eggs, the juice of 2-3 lemons and some broth. Tip: As Greek grandmas always say, to make a good avgolemono without curdles and a lumpy texture, you give kisses to it from afar!
Our favourite appetizers
Bouyiourdi: Simply prepared with feta, tomatoes, chillies and chilli flakes (“boukovo” in Greek), oregano and olive oil. Served piping hot, either straight out of the oven in a small clay pot or grilled in a pan (saganaki). At home it’s easy to make wrapped in baking paper and aluminium foil, and in just 20’ you have a delicious appetiser to scoop up with your bread.
photo credit: sofia papastrati
Dolmadakia: Nothing more than some beautifully wrapped leaves, usually from vine or cabbage, that are stuffed with rice and aromatic herbs and then served with a sprinkle of lemon, or dipped in a yogurt sauce like tzatziki. Even Ancient Greeks would cook something similar called “thria”, made with tender fig tree leaves! Nowadays you will also find Kolokithoanthoi which translates to zuccini flowers filled again with rice and herbs or Florina red peppers stuffed with (once more) feta cheese!
Do you want to cook like a local? Follow this Greek vegetarian recipe
Our favourite desserts
Rizogalo: For every Greek person, rizogalo brings us back to our childhood memories being the most comforting Greek rice pudding. It is originally made with arborio rice, milk, vanilla extract, sugar and some cornstarch. This traditional dessert is served after laying in the fridge for a few hours to get a creamy texture and then topped with plenty of ground cinnamon!
photo credit: mia kouppa
Tsoureki: Our Greek – style Easter’s sweet bread enriched with flour, milk, butter, eggs and sugar, commonly seasoned with orange zest, mastic resin, or mahlab. Tradition has it that tsoureki symbolizes rebirth in general, as the flour is molded into shape, rises and takes on life while transforming into its final shape. Traditionally, an egg dyed red is placed on top of it.
12 best vegetarian restaurants in Athens
1. Feyrouz – Are you a vegetarian in Athens and don’t know where to go? Try this family run business with gastronomic influences from Levant. Feyrouz offers artisanal street food combining traditional recipes with modern techniques. Both “Surki” and “Nazik Baildi” are excellent vegetarian options.
2. Falafellas – The best place for falafel lovers, very close to Monastiraki! Pocket or giant sized wraps at a very reasonable price are offered fresh daily with local ingredients and spices.
3. Mystic pizza – Here they take their pizza very seriously! Made with cannabis dough and a melt in your mouth cheese, the “Mystic Veggie” is one of the most popular lately. What is more, they make some delicious salads and a delicious “kormos” (a no-bake dessert made with chocolate and crushed biscuits) for dessert.
4. Lukumades – One of the oldest pastries ever made is a vegetarian dessert! Traditionally, these dough balls which are made with flour, dry yeast, water and baking powder, are served warm sprinkled with honey and cinnamon. Other great and more modern options are topped with pistachio praline or gelato. Yum!
5. Happy blender – Full of healthy choices beginning with freshly squeezed juices and smoothies, to superfoods and smoothie bowls. Our recommendation is their vegetarian best seller, the Acai love bowl!
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6. Avocado – Making food with love and seasonal products since 2011, Avocado introduces us to cruelty free and high quality cooking. When you visit, you need to taste their amazing vegetarian “Penne Avocado” and the mouth-watering “Raw Chocolate tart”.
7. Joshua tree – With a funky aesthetic and a menu with half its options being plant-based and vegan, Joshua tree cafe stands out in Mets area. They will serve you with some fantastic hot cakes, a vegan hot dog or an impressive beetroot tower sandwich among others.
8. Smak – A light airy “Greek pizza” (named peynirli), handmade on spot everyday in front of your eyes, is what makes Smak what it is. No vegetarian in Athens should miss their “Smak Mediterranean” with a creamy Greek spread cheese called katiki or the “Smak Truffle” with portobello mushrooms, light bechamel sauce and truffle oil!
9. Ohh Boy – This is not just an ordinary city cafe. It gives off such a cozy and fresh aura that you will feel as if you were on a Greek island! They offer vegetarian brunch options, special desserts and signature coffee options, for instance the popular “Bio poached eggs” or their amazing “Banoffee”.
10. Baba Ganoush – One of the best falafels of the city! An authentic Morrocan chef prepares some tasty menu options using traditional Mediterranean recipes. You can try also one of their imaginative salads, such as the Pandaisia or their yummy vegetarian burger.
11. It – A must stop in Kolonaki! Offering a very cool atmosphere and at the same time being vegetarian friendy, “It” is not something you should miss. Ask them for the soup of the day or make a fresh start with the “Bruschetta with seasonal tomatoes” and then try the “Anthotiro ravioli”.
12. Local Green – No more boring salads, as this is not just a regular salad bar. Combining different cuisines from all around the world, they offer colourful salads, awesome grain bowls, wraps, sandwiches and interesting drinks. We certainly recommend you get the “Local Greek” salad and the “Dragon bowl”.
Greek vegetarian recipes: Traditional with a veggie twist
Moussaka – Who said it can not be vegetarian? You can always make it using three components: vegetables (zucchini, potato and eggplant); a vegetarian sauce (tomato with nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon); and a top layer of creamy bechamel as every perfect casserole must have.
Soutzoukakia – Go peas! Try making soutzoukakia using yellow split peas mashed, known as fava. You will also need some onion, tomato, garlic, flour, oregano and cumin and you can enjoy an excellent vegetarian option in less than half an hour.
Mushroom fricassée – Time for some comfort Greek food! The concept of fricassée is a Greek-style dish braised with lots of greens and finished with the traditional egg-lemon (avgolemono) sauce. Change it up with a mixture of different mushroom varieties such as portobello and pleurotus, combined with wild greens and a rich creamy sauce on top.
Vegetarian in Athens? No worries, we’ve got you covered! Join any of our food tours in Athens that offer a wide range of Greek vegetarian dishes. Love to have more plant-based options? Check out our Athens vegan food tour exclusively designed for vegan food lovers.
photo credit: eleftheros typos