The Nomadic Vegan’s Guide to Greece

I’ve got great news: Greece is full of delicious vegan food! You will find a huge selection of naturally vegan dishes in traditional Greek cuisine.

This can be partly attributed to the nature of Mediterranean cuisine in general, which generally emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables and uses meat only sparingly.

In the case of Greece, though, there is an additional reason for all the veggie-friendly dishes: religion. The calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church contains more than 180 fasting days, including every Wednesday and Friday as well as longer periods lasting several weeks, like the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter. And the diet followed on fasting days is, as it turns out, not far from a vegan diet.

A few non-vegan foods are still allowed, such as certain kinds of aquatic animals, but as long as you determine that a dish is nistisimo (fasting food) and doesn’t contain any seafood or honey, then you should be all set.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of dishes to look out for:

Soups and Salads:

Fasolada bean soup - vegan food in GreeceFasolada: a bean soup made with white beans and tomatoes, carrots, celery, etc.

 

 

 

Tomato saladTomato Salad, Potato Salad, Lettuce Salad, Arugula Salad, etc.: these come in many different forms. While there is often just one vegetable listed in the name, they usually include one or two other ingredients as well.

 

 

Beetroot saladBeetroot salad: Beetroot seasoned with lots of garlic.

 

 

 

Main Dishes:

aginares a la politaAginares a la Polita: a stew made with artichokes, carrots, and potatoes and flavoured with lemon and dill.

 

 

Briam

Briám: an oven-baked dish similar to ratatouille in Southern France. The vegetables used can vary but always include potatoes and zucchini.

 

 

GemistaGemista: tomatoes or red bell peppers stuffed with a rice and herb mixture. Occasionally contains minced meat but is usually vegan.

 

 

Imam BaildiImam baildi: A whole braised eggplant stuffed with onion, garlic and tomatoes and simmered in olive oil until soft enough to melt in your mouth. Delicious!

 

 

FasolakiaFasolakia: stewed green beans in tomato sauce with other seasonings.

 

 

 

ChickpeasRevithada: slow-baked chickpeas in a tomato sauce similar to the one used for fasolakia.

 

 

 

Mezedhes: (Don’t overlook these! Plenty of these small dishes or appetizers are vegan, and it’s quite common in Greece to combine a few of them to make a meal)

TomatokeftedesTomatokeftedes: tomato fritters with mint, fried in olive oil.

 

 

 

MelitzanokeftedesMelitzanokeftedes – like tomatokeftedes, but made with eggplant instead of tomato

 

 

GigantesGigantes: giant white beans cooked in tomato sauce and herbs.

 

 

 

MelitzanosalataMelitzanosalata: a cold eggplant dip similar to baba ghanoush (make sure it doesn’t contain mayonnaise).

 

 

DolmadhesDolmadhes or Dolmadakia: grapevine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs

 

 

 

Stuffed zucchini flowersKolokythoanthoi: stuffed zucchini flowers, a Cretan specialty. Pictured here with dolmadhes (and yoghurt, so be sure to ask for it without to keep it vegan).

 

 

SkordaliaSkordalia: a dip made with mashed potatoes and lots of garlic.

 

 

 

Grilled mushroomsGrilled mushrooms: this is one pretty self-explanatory.

 

 

 

FavaFava: a dip made from puréed split yellow peas, a Santorini specialty

 

 

 

Fried zucchiniFried zucchini: slices of zucchini fried in batter

 

 

 

Fried vegetablesFried eggplant (or other vegetables): Eggplant is another vegetable that commonly found sliced and fried, but you may see others too (mushrooms, peppers, etc.).

 

 

French friesFrench fries: Don’t knock ’em! French fries in Greece can be truly delicious.

 

 

 

HortaHorta: boiled wild greens, may include a number of different kinds.

 

 

 

DakosDakos: a Cretan specialty of soaked rusks topped with tomatoes, olives and herbs. Normally also comes with cheese, so ask for it without.

 

 

KalitsouniKalitsouni – a small empanada-type pastry found on Crete. Vegan fillings include onions and greens.

 

 

 

Street Food, Sweets and Snacks:

SpanakopitaSpanakopita: spinach pie. Most pies in Greece contain cheese, but you’ll often find a nistisimo spinach pie.

 

 

HortapitaHortapita: similar to spanakopita, but contains different greens.

 

 

 

Potato rollPotato roll: like a sausage roll, except that it’s filled with potato.

 

 

 

Loukoumi - Turkish delightLoukoumi: Turkish delight (but they don’t call it that in Greece). The traditional recipe does not call for gelatin, but check the ingredients to be sure.

 

 

SoutzoukiSoutzouki: sausage-shaped sweets made from nuts and grape must.

 

 

 

HalvaHalva: you can find the type made from tahini or, less commonly, the softer version made from semolina. The one pictured here, however, was a different form altogether. The term “halva” seems to be quite versatile.

 

 

BaklavaBaklava: sticky-sweet filo-dough pastry (often contains honey).

 

 

 

KataifiKataifi: made with an angel-hair-like pastry that resembles shredded wheat but is much sweeter (may contain honey).

 

 

KserotiganaKserotigana: ribbons of fried pastry, a specialty in Chania, Crete that is served at weddings.

 

 

Fresh fruitFresh fruit: sometimes offered for free at the end of a meal, usually with a glass of local firewater to wash it down.

 

 

Olive breadOlive bread: you can find some great breads in local bakeries, like the one pictured here.

 

 

GyroFalafel or Gyro: if you’re on the run and a kebab shop is the only quick option, you can have a falafel sandwich (make sure the falafel doesn’t contain eggs) or even a gyro without the meat, pictured here.

 

 

KoulouriaKoulouria: a sesame ring, popular breakfast food sold at stands called koulourades (may contain honey).

 

 

Tapenade and spreadsTapenade and other spreads: olive tapenade and other spreads (like the carrot/tahini and tomato/olive ones pictured here are easily found in supermarkets and convenience stores.

 

 

Nuts and dried fruitNuts and dried fruit: these are widely available in Greece and make a great snack.

 

 

So as you can see, vegans are in no danger of going hungry in Greece. And if you’re not vegan, I still encourage you to branch out from the ubiquitous moussaka and souvlaki and try some of these delicious local specialties that most visitors never discover. You won’t regret it! Have you tried any vegan Greek foods not listed here? Share them in the comments below!

About Wendy Werneth

Intrepid traveller, vegan foodie and polyglot. Having become vegan after many years of travel across 7 continents and nearly 100 countries, I'm on a mission to show you how fun and fulfilling vegan travel can be.

14 Comments

  1. Fantastic guide, Wendy! Don’t you love it when so much of the native cuisine of a place is accidentally vegan?! I’ve been to Greece three times, but never as a vegan, though obviously I must have eaten vegan there before without really realising it. Hungry to go back now!

    • Thanks Sam!! The day we arrived in Greece was actually the day I finished my transition and went fully vegan (10 September 2014), and I couldn’t have picked a better country to start my vegan travels. The food was truly amazing!

  2. I believe these meals are one of the reasons The Mediterranean is supposed to be healthy. And then of course they eat together and down a nice glass of red 😀 I spent 2 winters in Crete a great place for a vegan. Although they also like to serve big trunk of meat, sometimes it was a bit too much for me.

    • Yes, I have no doubt that the small amounts of meat traditionally consumed in Mediterranean countries is a huge reason why people there are among the healthiest in the world. Unfortunately dietary habits are starting to change, though, and as a result lifestyle diseases are on the rise in these countries.

  3. I am so happy you made such a great list! I am currently in Greece and discovered a few things on here like fava, that delicious eggplant dip, and spinach pie, but mostly I have been cooking at home. I will have to keep my eyes open for some of these other dishes they look so tasty!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Katie

  4. Hi there, the info on your blog is really useful! I am going to Crete next month for the first time, and have been vegan for over 6 years. How do you know that the pastry dishes are without eggs? Also, are there any pastry/dessert dished that definitely wont contain honey? And I don’t suppose you know whether the sorbet/gelato is made with eggs/dairy or not as a standard practice? Thanks!
    Anne-Marie recently posted…Lot of Old RotMy Profile

    • Hi Anne-Marie, I’m glad you find the blog useful! As long as the waiter/vendor confirms that the pastry dish is nistisimo (fasting food), this should mean that there are no eggs. See this post for a more detailed explanation of fasting food in Greece. As for honey, that’s a bit trickier, as it’s allowed in fasting food. I think you would be safe with loukoumi and soutzouki. Spoon sweets are also honey-free; they are basically fruit preserves. There’s also a different type of spoon sweet called ypovríchio (literally “submarine”), which is a hard ball made of sugar, glucose and resin from the mastic shrub. You dunk it in a glass of ice cold water and lick it like a lollipop, then drink the sugary water!

    • I didn’t eat sorbet/gelato that often in Greece, so I’m not sure what the standard practice is regarding eggs and dairy. Better to ask each time to be sure!

    • Anne-Marie,
      Just ask. All the gelato places we went to had a few vegan sorbet flavors: a couple of fruit ones & always chocolate!

  5. I wanted to thank you for all the information you took the time to put up on Greece. My partner, Gary, and I found the posts very helpful on our recent trip to Greece. We spent 3 nights in Athens, in Nafplio, Santorini, and Mykonos. We tried, in Oia, to book a tour with the Poseidon, as you recommended, but the travel agent on the square told us there was not a way to choose the ship and guide. We ended up on the Hermes with no guide for the first part of the trip and then a guide whose main interest seemed to be steering us to a particular restaurant on Thirasia. We learned next to nothing about the volcanic eruptions and geology! At the first stop at the volcanic island, guess what ship pulled alongside– the Poseidon! So if anyone reading this wants to book on that superior tour, here’s the number for Sophocles: 2286022958.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your bad experience on the boat tour! Thank you so much for taking the trouble to get Sophocles’ phone number; I will be sure to add it to the post on Santorini. Were you able to tag along and listen to any of Sophocles’ tour?

  6. Hello, there!!! I’m so glad to see a post for Greek vegan food, cause we have soooo manyyyy!!! I just wanted to make a small correction and addition to what you said about gyros. The word “gyros”is used to describe the way they’re grilling the meat! The name of this is food is “Souvlaki”! Souvlaki comes in many vegan versions now, because instead of meat, you can put mushrooms ,grilled vegetables, or even vegetable burger! So go for iiit!!

    • Hi Emily, thanks for the clarification! And yes it’s true, there are soooo many vegan dishes in Greek cuisine. It’s a shame not many people realize it, but I’m trying to change that!

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