Have you ever dreamed of casting aside the bustle of everyday life and running off to a picturesque beach in Crete? What about soaking up perfect sun-dappled sea views, while traditional drinks flow and delicious traditional goodies never seem to stop coming? Then a Cretan culinary adventure is all that you need!
Cretan cuisine holds a distinguished place in the Mediterranean gastronomy. The mosaic of subtleties that comprise the delicious patchwork of the traditional Cretan diet is greatly based on locally produced ingredients of exceptional quality. This is why Crete is a culinary paradise for food lovers all over the world!
First comes the freshness
Greek olive oil; the key ingredient of the Greek cuisine - Lydia Vero/Shutterstock.com
From the initial nibble to the very last savored bite, every Cretan traditional dish is built upon the most basic earthy yet freshest local ingredients!
From the mountain regions of Psiloritis Mt to the remote shores of the island, Cretan nature blasts from greens, aromatic plants, native wild herbs, fruit, olive trees, and rough cereals, whose cultivation is favored by the Mediterranean climate. Flower or thyme honey is probably one of the best examples of Cretan authentic aromas. Livestock is also abundant in the island; sheep, goats, pork and poultry, as well as, other animal-derived produce, such as dairy products, play a major role in the Cretan gastronomy. In general, Cretan cuisine uses a whole palette of flavors and aromas, where the Crete’s liquid gold, extra virgin olive oil, plays the most eminent role. Most of the Cretan traditional recipes are cooked with lots of olive oil, only to their benefit. Olive oil is the core ingredient of any dish or savory pastry in the Cretan diet. Try fried potatoes in olive oil and you'll be spoiled!
Getting into the Cretan culinary experience
Traditional Cretan dish of snail stew - credits: Philippos Philippou/Shutterstock.com
Whether you are a passionate foodie or a traveler exploring your way through the beauties of the island, Cretan traditional cuisine will jeez your senses from the very first bite!
Get started by tasting some of the most tasteful Cretan appetizers and side dishes. A typical Cretan appetizer includes marinated olives, sliced tomatoes and cucumber, the famous graviera cheese and barley rusks. Don’t miss the chance to taste the ever-popular dakos or koukouvagia. Dakos is made by traditional dried bread topped with grated tomato, xinomuzuthra cheese, olive oil, and oregano: a simple snack, but utterly exquisite!
Going for the main dish, Indulge yourself with a selection of delicious traditional delicacies; fried snails, - lamb with wild herbs, smoked pork (apaki), dolmades - vine leaves usually stuffed with rice - and pork meat with celery are just some of the local dishes you can relish, while you are eating your way through Crete.
What about seafood? Even though Crete is an island, local people don’t eat seafood as often as they savor meat. Local seafood delicacies worth a splurge though! Get the chance to taste a large selection of first-class seafood dishes paired with refreshing wine and make sure that your seafood binge takes place by the sea where your eyes meet the infinite blues!
Traditional Cretan cooking class in Heraklion LEARN MORE
When the wine flows…
Greek vineyard - credits: Lana_R/Shutterstock.com
Did you know that Crete is one of the nation’s biggest wine producers? Visiting Crete, many travelers get surprised by the unique local wine varieties. Cretans traditionally accompany their meals with locally produced wine and very often with home-made wine. As this tradition, has been systematically grown in Crete for more than 4000 years, wine production and wine consumption is part of people’s culture!
Something sweet to treat yourself!
Honey dipped spiral pastries (kserotigana), traditional sweet in Crete - credits: T photography/Shutterstock.com
And what if you are in the mood for something sweet? Crete offers a remarkable variety of mouthwatering desserts and pastries, made according to old grandma recipes. When visiting Crete, you definitely need to try our locally made fruit preserves, the famous spoon treats as we call them, usually served with fresh yogurt. Don’t miss “kalitsounia”- cheese-filled pastry pies - the traditional “loukoumades”, bugatsa pie, traditional oil, and cinnamon biscuits and the famous sfakiani pita! Traditional Cretan sweets and desserts will leave your taste buds tingling!
Something strong to end your meal!
Raki accompanied by snacks - credits: Veniamakis Stefanos/Shutterstock.com
When in Crete, it is rare to finish any meal without drinking raki or tsikoudia the famous Cretan brandy, made by grape pomace. Raki can be paired with any side dish or dessert and is a typical on-the-house treat at any Cretan restaurant, taverna or kafeneio (traditional cafe).
Crete offers an extraordinary panorama of its rich culinary tradition to its visitors. Your days in our beautiful island will be spent most enjoyably, savoring Crete’s produce in a seemingly endless string of traditional food shops, and wineries.
Top tip! Join our Heraklion Food Tour and let your love affair with Cretan cuisine begin! Enjoy delicious Cretan food specialties with the personal attention of your expert local food guide and lose yourself in the Cretan world of food!