Greek cuisine is a subset of Mediterranean cuisine, making particular use of ingredients native to the region such as olive oil, grains, wine, fish, vegetables, spices, cheese, yogurt, and herbs. Greek cuisine also tends to consist of meats such as lamb and poultry. Typical Greek dishes are refreshing and zesty (frequently using lemon to achieve this effect), employing the use of various native spices.
Even with its ancient roots, Greek food remains a favorite in the modern culinary scene — among cooks and eaters alike. Below are 7 delicious Greek recipes that you can try making at home for dinner.
1. Lamb Souvlaki with Tzatziki
Souvlaki is a popular Greek dish consisting of skewered vegetables and meats, generally served alongside a dill and yogurt-based tzatziki sauce. Lamb is most commonly featured in souvlaki, but can be replaced with a meat, meat substitute, or vegetable of the server’s choosing. This recipe from Emeril Lagasse of the Food Network has a light and refreshing lemony zip — a typical characteristic of Greek cuisine. A dash of Emeril’s zesty essence adds delicious character to this Greek favorite. Recipe takes 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete and yields 4-6 servings.
- 2 pounds lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch strips
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ¼ cup grated onion
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
- Pita bread rounds
- Tzatziki, recipe follows
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, sliced in half and seeded, and finely chopped
- ⅛ teaspoon plus ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh dill or oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
- 2 ½ tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Directions: Place the meat in a non-reactive bowl. Mix together the lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon oregano, garlic, and grated onion, and pour over the meat. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Thread the meat onto metal or bamboo skewers.
Heat the oil on a griddle or in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onions, remaining teaspoon oregano and Essence to the griddle and cook light brown, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan.
Preheat a grill. Grill the skewers, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Remove from the grill. Quickly heat the pita bread on the grill until just warmed through and pliant. Holding a pita in the left hand, and the skewer in the right hand, pull the contents from the skewer into the pita bread. Repeat with the remaining skewers. Divide the cooked onions among the pita, and top with tzatziki (cucumber sauce). Serve immediately.
Tzatziki: Put the cucumber in a strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt and drain for 1 hour. Put the yogurt in another strainer set over a bowl and drain for 1 hour. Combine the cucumber and yogurt in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning): Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Recommended wine pairings: Salty, creamy, and zesty, this dish is best offset by a food-friendly red wine with berry flavors—Pinot Noir, anyone? Try a 2012 Ombré Pinot Noir, which has glossy fruit flavors that end with a pop.
Traditional chickpea-based falafel is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. This vegan-friendly dish is a great source of protein and is also relatively low in fat and cholesterol when fried in a healthy grapeseed oil. This dish from Tori Avey is particularly delicious when served on a pita with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and tahini (sesame) sauce. Recipe yields 30-34 falafels and takes about 30 minutes to complete (plus 8-10 hours of waiting time).
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3-5 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ tablespoons flour
- 1 ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)
Directions: Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process until the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour into a bowl and use a fork to stir to even out the texture. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Note: Some people like to add baking soda to the mix to lighten up the texture inside of the falafel balls. If so desired, dissolve 2 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 tablespoon of water and mix it into the falafel mixture after it has been refrigerated.
Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop, using about 2 tablespoons of mixture per falafel (make smaller or larger depending on personal preference).
Note: If falafels won’t hold together, place mixture back in the processor again and continue processing to make it more paste-like. Falafels will be delicate at first; if you can get them into the hot oil, they will bind together and stick. If they still won’t hold together, try adding 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the mixture. If they still won’t hold, add 1-2 eggs to the mix.
Fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides. Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot.
Recommended wine pairings: Some of the best wine matches for a falafel-centric dish are Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, and Pinot Noir. Specifically? Try and get your hands on a silky smooth bottle of 2013 Letterpress Pinot Noir or a 2010 Casey Flat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, whose kiss of lemon calls to mind this—and so many other—Greek dishes.
3. Greek Stifado
Greek Stifado is a traditional beef stew consisting of juicy, tender cuts of beef in a sweet-yet-intense tomato-based sauce. A long, slow stewing process with onions and spices will result in a hearty, melt-in-your-mouth finished product. Stifado is traditionally served along with orzo pasta or rice — plus bread for dipping, of course. This recipe from My Greek Dish yields 4-6 servings of stew and takes about 2 hours to complete.
- 35 ounces high-quality stewing beef, cut into portions
- 60 ounces baby shallot onions, peeled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¾ cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup cognac
- 1 large, juicy ripe tomato, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato purée
- 1 bay leaf
- 3-4 allspice berries
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions: To prepare this delicious Greek beef stifado recipe, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the meat (in batches) and sauté, until browned on all sides. Do not add all the meat in the sauce pan, rather sauté in batches, so that the temperature of the oil remains high and the meat is sealed. When done, remove with a slotted spoon, place on a platter, cover and set aside.
Carve the baby shallot onions crosswise, add in the same oil used to browned the meat, turn down to medium heat and sauté until the onions have softened, but not browned (about 10 minutes).
Pour in the cognac, the wine and red wine vinegar, cover and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
Pour the meat along with its juices into the saucepan. Add chopped tomato, tomato purée, bay leaf, allspice berries, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer the beef stifado for 1 ½ hours or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened. While the beef stifado is simmering, check if it needs some water to keep from drying out (if it does, pour in half a cup of boiled water and stir). Towards the end of cooking time, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Recommended wine pairings: With this dish’s depth and heartiness, try a Bordeaux Blend, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon: a 2010 Redux has the fruit and structure to stand up to—but not overpower—this Hellenic classic.
4. Greek Spinach & Feta Pie (Spanakopita)
Spanakopita is another Greek favorite consisting of sautéed spinach and soft feta nestled in layers of crispy, flaky phyllo dough. This dish makes a delicious appetizer to a traditionally prepared Greek Lemon-Oregano Chicken dish – but is also a delicious finger food on its own! This recipe from Fine Cooking yields 24 servings and takes about an hour and a half to complete. Spanakopita can be made up to 4 hours in advance and can be served warm or at room temperature.
- 2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, dried, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch scallions (about 3 ounces or 10 small), white and light-green parts only, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 cups crumbled feta cheese (10 ounces)
- ½ cup finely grated Greek kefalotyri cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh dill
- ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- For the assembly:
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil for brushing; more as needed
- Eighteen 9 x 14-inch sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed and at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons whole milk
Directions: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make the filling: Heat a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a few large handfuls of the spinach and cook, tossing gently with tongs. As the spinach starts to wilt, add the rest a few handfuls at a time. Cook until all the spinach is wilted and bright green, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a colander set in a sink. Let cool slightly and squeeze with your hands to extract as much of the remaining liquid as possible.
Wipe pan dry with a paper towel. Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in the spinach, turn off the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes. Then stir in the cheeses, eggs, dill, parsley, nutmeg, and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly.
Assemble the pie: With a pastry brush, lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan with some of the oil. Working quickly, lightly oil one side of a phyllo sheet and lay it in the pan oiled side up and off center so that it partially covers the bottom and reaches halfway up one long side of the pan. Lightly oil the top of another phyllo sheet and lay it oiled side up and off center so it reaches halfway up the other long side of the pan. Repeat this pattern with 4 more phyllo sheets.
Next, lightly oil the tops of 3 phyllo sheets and layer them oiled side up and centered in the pan. Spread the filling evenly over the last layer.
Repeat the oiling and layering of the remaining 9 phyllo sheets over the filling in the same way you layered the previous 9. With the oiled bristles of the pastry brush, push the edges of the phyllo down around the sides of the pan to enclose the filling completely.
With a sharp knife, score the top phyllo layer into 24 rectangles, being careful not to cut all the way through to the filling. Using the same pastry brush, brush the milk along all the score marks. This will keep the phyllo from flaking up along the edges of the squares. Bake the spanakopita until the top crust is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool until just warm. Cut out rectangles carefully along the score marks and serve.
Recommended wine pairings: Feta is renowned for its tanginess, so look for a wine that is fruity and crisp. We’re partial to a light Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, with a 2012 Antawara Sauvignon Blanc as a winner in our books.
5. Greek Salad with Zesty Lemon Dressing
Greek salad is a popular choice for enjoying a crisp, healthful, and flavorful medley of vegetables and feta. The dish pairs beautifully with a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing — another Greek tradition. Whip up some homemade dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) to serve alongside your salad for the authentic Greek experience. This recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen yields 6 servings and takes 15 minutes to complete.
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, chopped and completely dried
- ½ medium red onion, sliced
- ½ red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium cucumber, diced
- 1 avocado, cubed
- ½ cup kalamata olives (about 20 olives), sliced into thirds, optional
- 1 ounce feta cheese, or to taste
Zesty Greek Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- Juice from 1 lemon, freshly squeezed (about 2 ½ tablespoons)
- ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
- Pinch of black pepper
Directions: To keep lettuce crisp: rinse your romaine lettuce in cold water, then use a salad spinner to dry completely. Refrigerate until ready to use. Note: if you refrigerate salad that is wet, it will get mushy.
Place your chopped and dried romaine in a large salad bowl along with sliced red onion, sliced bell peppers, halved tomatoes, diced cucumber, diced avocado and kalamata olives if using.
Just before serving, add the dressing and sprinkle with feta. Toss the salad to combine and serve right away.
Recommended wine pairings: A Greek salad is packed with flavor, so look for a wine that will lighten some of the tanginess. We recommend a Riesling or Pinot Noir, with a clean and dry 2007 Koonowla Riesling as one of your best bets.
6. Grilled Greek Tilapia
Because Greece is located on the Mediterranean, fish play a large part in the culture’s traditional cuisine. Try a light grilled tilapia with lemon accents for your next Greek-inspired dinner. This recipe from Taste of Home yields 4 servings and takes about 40 minutes to complete, including marination time. Try serving it with a hot bowl of Greece’s customary egg and lemon-based Avgolemono Soup.
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
- ½ teaspoon Greek seasoning
- 4 tilapia fillets (6 ounces each)
Directions: In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first seven ingredients. Add the tilapia; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drain and discard marinade.
Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, lightly coat the grill rack. Grill tilapia, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 in. from the heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Recommended wine pairings: Tilapia is a delicate, flaky fish, so we recommend pairing it with a zesty white to help balance the flavor. One of our favorites is a smooth 2013 Akoya Chardonnay, which has a mouthful of crisp apples and a round body.
7. Classic Moussaka
Moussaka is a classic eggplant-based dish consisting of layers of spiced beef and Béchamel sauces. In Greece, layered moussaka is served hot, though many local and regional variations of the dish do exist. This recipe from Saveur serves 12-16 people and takes about 4 hours total to complete.
- 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 pounds ground beef
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 3 large eggplant, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
- 5 medium russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 cup coarsely grated graviera or Gruyère
Directions: Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 6 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and onion; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add beef; cook until all liquid evaporates and meat is browned, about 30 minutes. Add tomato paste, 1¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and cloves; cook until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, and 2 cups water; boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially, until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 1½ hours. Remove from heat; discard cinnamon and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper; set meat sauce aside. Heat butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1½ teaspoons salt, remaining cinnamon and nutmeg, and milk; cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; pour into a blender with eggs. Blend until smooth; set béchamel aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat remaining oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Dust eggplant with cinnamon; working in batches, fry in oil until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes; cook until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain; set aside.
Spread 1 cup béchamel on bottom of a 10 x 14-inch baking dish; sprinkle with ⅓ cup graviera. Spread potatoes over cheese; top with eggplant. Pour meat sauce over eggplant; spread remaining béchamel over meat sauce. Sprinkle with remaining graviera; bake until golden brown, about 1 hour.
Recommended wine pairings: Moussaka is decadent, meaty, and rich, so we recommend a lush California Cabernet Sauvignon. Try a 2010 Salient, which is bursting with green bell pepper, fresh herbs, and a hefty spice infusion of cinnamon and cloves.