Healthy Mediterranean Side Dish Recipes

Mediterranean dishes are a favorite for many, and the lean and green dishes aren’t only delicious, they’re healthy for you, too. Side dishes such as tabbouleh, melitzanosalata, and baba ganoush are especially nutritious as they’re loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and the good news is, you can easily make them at home. As long as you have the right ingredients on hand, you can perfect your Greek takeout favorites and feel good about what you’re serving homemade. Check out these seven Greek side dish recipes, and bring the Mediterranean flavor to your kitchen.

1. Greek Tabbouleh Salad

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Greek salad | iStock.com

Perhaps the most popular Greek side dish is tabbouleh, the classic grain salad made up of tomatoes, mint, parsley, bulgur, and onions. It complements the main meal perfectly and is substantial enough to fill you up thanks to the healthy whole-wheat grain that is bulgur. Follow Food & Wine’s recipe for Greek tabbouleh salad, and see how delicious and nutritious a homemade grain salad can be. You’ll definitely be coming back for seconds of this one.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup medium bulgur, rinsed
  • Hot water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta (3 ounces)
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions: In a large bowl, cover the bulgur with 2 inches of hot water and let soak for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain the bulgur in a fine sieve, pressing firmly to release the excess water. Wipe out the bowl.

In the same bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil. Add the bulgur, tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, feta, olives, parsley, and mint. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes and toss once more before serving.

2. Greek Orzo Salad

Orzo salad with feta cheese, olives, and peppers

Orzo salad | iStock.com

For some carbs to complement your Greek meat proteins, make this Greek orzo salad from Taste of Home. The salad is loaded with buttery pasta goodness, but it’s still relatively healthy thanks to the herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives on its ingredients list. This orzo salad feeds a crowd, so make it when you have company coming over, and prepare to impress your guests with how great orzo can taste when paired with the right feta, veggies, and herbs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 6 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 12 pitted ripe or Greek olives, halved
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions: Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. In a large serving bowl, toss orzo with 2 teaspoons oil.

In another bowl, combine the onion, parsley, vinegar, oregano, salt, sugar, pepper, and remaining oil; pour over orzo and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Just before serving, gently stir in tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and cheese.

3. Melitzanosalata

Halved, Cut Eggplants

Eggplants | iStock.com

Have you ever heard of melitzanosalata? It’s the popular Mediterranean dip made primarily from roasted eggplants. But even if you’re not a big eggplant fan, don’t knock the naturally vegan dip until you try it. Melitzanosalata is full of fresh flavor, and it is traditionally eaten with toasted bread. Follow this recipe featured on Serious Eats for melitzanosalata, and see for yourself whether you can get down with the dip. We think you may be surprised to find how much you enjoy the luxurious spread, especially when you pair it with bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants, each poked uniformly over surface with fork
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place eggplants on grill and cook until soft throughout, about 30 minutes, turning eggplants every 5 minutes. Transfer eggplants to a cutting board and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Split eggplants in half and spoon out pulp into a colander placed in a bowl or in sink; discard skin. Let pulp drain for 5 to 10 minutes.

Transfer eggplant to work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Add garlic and lemon juice and pulse to combine. With the food processor running, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, then serve.

4. Baba ganoush

Baba ghanoush, a Lebanese dish

Baba ganoush | iStock.com

And then there’s baba ganoush, another Mediterranean side dish with which many people are familiar. Baba ganoush is very similar to the aforementioned dip on our list, but it has tahini on its ingredients list, which gives it a kick and makes it a little more indulgent. This recipe for baba ganoush on Inspired Taste will help you see for yourself. You’ll only need a handful of ingredients to perfect the dip, and as with melitzanosalata, you should serve it with bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional

Directions: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and turn broiler on (high heat). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place eggplants onto the baking sheet and prick in several places using a fork. This helps steam escape while the eggplants roast. Broil eggplants 2 minutes on all sides. The skin will darken a little and begin to smell smoky, adding lots of flavor to the dip.

Turn broiler off, but do not remove eggplants from the oven. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast eggplants 25 to 30 minutes, or until very soft. Cool 10 to 15 minutes until easily handled.

Meanwhile, combine tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and the salt in a medium bowl. Set aside so the flavors meld. Split the eggplants, drain excess liquid, scrape out the flesh, and add to the tahini mixture. Mash eggplant into tahini mixture with a fork until somewhat smooth with some texture remaining. Cool to room temperature then stir in parsley and drizzle the top with olive oil.

5. Classic Greek Salad

greek salad, lettuce, tomatoes, onions

Classic Greek salad | iStock.com

If you want a traditional side dish to go alongside your Mediterranean-inspired lunch or dinner, this classic Greek salad from My Greek Dish is for you. The salad is classic, clean, and simple, but as long as you have fresh ingredients on hand, it is destined to impress. Greek salads are all about their fresh fruits and vegetables, so pull out your tomatoes and cucumbers and get ready to go. Those will combine with feta cheese and olives to yield a plate of goodies no one feels guilty enjoying.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 cucumber, pilled and sliced into thick half-moons
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 16 black olives
  • 1 (200-gram) block feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ of a cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Sea salt

Directions: Wash and strain your vegetables. Slice the tomatoes into wedges, the onion into rings, and the green pepper and cucumber into slices. Place ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add in the olives.

Pour in the olive oil and vinegar, season with salt, and toss the vegetables and the dressing together. Serve the salad with feta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and dried oregano over the top.

 

6. Simple Cucumber Salad

cucumber salad

Cucumber salad | iStock.com

Here’s another lettuce-less salad featured on Fine Cooking that also stars cucumbers, tomatoes not included. Cucumbers may not be the most exciting food, but when they’re dressed with a sauce made of red wine vinegar, quality olive oil, and herbs, the crunchy plant becomes a lot more appetizing. Onion, dill, and feta are also on this salad’s ingredients list, which only helps matters. Serve this simple cucumber salad as a side to your protein or pasta, and dive into the dish that is low in calories and fat.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¾ pounds cucumbers, peel, halved, seeded (if necessary), and thickly sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 scant tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta

Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, dried oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Add the cucumbers, onion, dill, and feta, and toss to coat. Just before serving, adjust the seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper.

7. Greek Beet Salad

beet salad with basil and feta cheese

Beet salad | iStock.com

Last but not least: the Greek beet salad from The Greek Vegan. This salad is not green, but rather, pink, and it’s simple and incredibly easy to prepare. There’s no need to overcomplicate things when sweet beets are involved, as they pair perfectly with fresh herbs, garlic, and good olive oil. After boiling your beets, the salad will take you just minutes to make, and you can serve it as a side dish or as a main with thick, crusty bread. The bright salad will be the prettiest dish on your table, and also one of the most delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large beets (about 4 cups chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons very, very finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons excellent quality Greek olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar

Directions: In a large pot of water, boil beets for about an hour until you can easily pierce them with a fork. To cook evenly, make sure the beets are covered completely with the boiling water. If time allows, let them cool in their own cooking liquid.

Once cool, chop or dice the beets into desired size and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and gently stir to mix together. Serve immediately (the salad will last in the refrigerator for up to five days).

 

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