When one thinks of a Greek meal, a variety of pictures may come to mind. A juicy souvlaki, a warm plate of moussakas, or a lamb being roasted on a spit. Although these are very much part of the modern Greek diet, it by no means makes up the majority. In fact, the average daily diet of a Greek will almost always consist of some sort of vegetarian food throughout the day. It can be argued that some of Greece’s most traditional -and very tasty- dishes are meat-free, making Greece a great place for vegetarians!
Aside from Greek food being delicious, this cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Its nutritious quality goes back to ancient times, where the ancient Greeks believed that a healthy diet goes hand in hand with healthy spirituality and philosophical serenity. As a matter of fact, vegetarianism as a practice, the idea of nonviolence to animals, has its roots in ancient Greece as well as ancient Indian civilizations. In later years, when meat became more widely consumed, it was still only reserved for the very wealthy and was considered a luxury; the average Greek would eat meat once or twice a year, but an abundance of fruits and vegetables daily- just like they do now!
Oven-baked stuffed tomatoes (gemista) - credits: zi3000/Shutterstock.com
Another reason why it is so easy to find vegetarian and vegan-friendly meals in Greece is that the Greek population is 98% Greek Orthodox. The religious guidelines that the Greeks follow, call for extended periods of religious fasting, where animal products are prohibited. This means that they are used to eating animal-free meals and have developed lots of nutritious and delicious alternatives to get them through Lent.
As a result, wherever you decide to eat in Greece, you will find a long list of great vegetarian options that will ensure you get to experience the traditional Greek cuisine. The team at Greeking.me have understood the need for exploring Greece’s vegetarian scene and has thus developed the Vegetarian Food Tour!
Here are the best vegetarian dishes you must order when visiting Greece:
Tzatziki dip - credits: New Africa/Shutterstock.com
This silky garlic infused Greek yogurt dip is one that you must try on your trip. This is a staple to a local’s diet and can be eaten with anything: French fries, bread or even on its own - it is a healthy way to add a little texture to your meal.
An alternative method of cooking one of Greece’s loveliest vegetables, making them extra crispy while preserving they juicy creamy texture inside. These are perfect for dipping in your tzatziki sauce!
Cheese/spinach/green herb pies
Individual spinach pies - credits: zi3000/Shutterstock.com
Perhaps one of the most common Greek breakfasts is a pie of some sort. There are hundreds of variations of vegetarian pies coming in many shapes and sizes and with different phyllo types.
Saganaki cheese - credits: Davis Lazdovskis/Shutterstock.com
There is nothing like a bit of fried cheese for a starter: a very popular appetizer among Greeks. It is quite salty but there is a special variation which consists of a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of sesame seeds over the cheese combining the sweet and salty flavors perfectly.
Stuffed wine leaves (dolmades) - credits: A_Lein/Shutterstock.com
A dish heavily influenced by the occupation of the East, dolmades are stuffed vine leaves, filled with rice and herbs, usually marinated in lemon juice and served cold. They are tasty as they are addictive - you will find yourself wanting to order seconds!
Traditional Greek eggplant spread (Melitzanosalata) - credits: Cesarz/Shutterstock.com
Another quintessentially Greek dip to add to your order is the aubergine salad dip, potent with the aromatic flavors of the Greek soil. Like many Greek foods, this is a super healthy and vegan-friendly addition to your table, while it is usually seasoned with lots of Greek herbs.
Horta (Leafy Greens)
Horta - credits: Orlio/Shutterstock.com
It may seem boring to just order a plate of greens, but don’t judge a book by its cover! The seasonal greens -or in Greek, Horta-, are so dense in texture and flavor that it feels like a meal in itself. The slight bitterness is perfectly contrasted with lots of lemon juice. If you're up for detoxing your body these seasonal greens are for you!
This list is just scraping the surface of all of the amazing vegetarian dishes you can find in our beautiful country. You can be sure that you will never be short of mouth-watering food options during your trip to Greece; come hungry and join our culinary Greece tours!