Guest article by Carly Knapp
Greece has inundated the travelsphere with its picturesque white walls and blue waters. It is the traveler’s destination of choice these days. And the good news is, the Greece vegan dining scene is booming too! Being vegan in Greece has never been easier.
Vegan Food Athens
The capital is teeming with restaurants offering both traditional Greek cuisine and other worldly flavors like Japanese, Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Athens Greece, and health food stores are everywhere.
There’s even a 100% vegan store called Bamboo Vegan, which also offers a vegan online shop in Greece. Athens is the perfect place to get acquainted with Greek vegan food and indulge in some plant-based perfection.
Vegan Food in the Greek Islands
Aside from the main staples of the Mediterranean diet, I knew very little about traditional Greek cuisine before spending a month in the country. I took several cooking classes while I was there to learn first-hand about the food I was indulging in.
Outside of Athens, there are not many restaurants specializing in vegan or vegetarian food in Greece, BUT they aren’t needed. You can easily avoid animal products while ordering off the main menu of any Greek restaurant.
Vegan Greek Appetizers
(a.k.a gigantes, broad beans)
These are giant beans in a tomato sauce or olive oil with herbs. They are usually served whole but may be mashed to create a spread or dip.
Local greens boiled and served wilted with olive oil and a lemon wedge. The greens may be dandelion greens, mustards greens, chicory or a mix.
Rusks (a hard, dried bread that has been soaked in water to soften it) with olive oil, tomatoes, oregano and cheese on top. Make sure to ask for no cheese to get the vegan version. This is a traditional Crete Greece food.
(a.k.a. stuffed vine leaves, stuffed grape leaves, dolmadakia)
Dolmades are a rice and herb mixture rolled into a grape leaf. The rice mixture can vary but typically has grated tomatoes, fennel, parsley, mint, oregano and onion.
They are served with two different sauces, both of which are vegetarian but not vegan:
But don't worry! You can ask for no sauce and they are just as delicious, or drizzle with olive oil.
(a.k.a melitzanosalata, eggplant dip, aubergine salad, aubergine dip)
Eggplant purée mixed with garlic, parsley, olive oil and, occasionally, peppers.
Some eggplant salads contain feta cheese, so ask before ordering. It is pre-made, so if it does have cheese, a vegan version ain’t happening.
Santorini island is known for its white eggplant. They are a rare form and taste sweeter. Not all restaurants serve them so you will have to do some research by calling or message me for the places to go. The eggplant dip made with white eggplant was by far my favorite!
(a.k.a. bean spread, mashed split peas)
Fava is a traditional appetizer of Santorini but is eaten throughout the country. It is similar to hummus in texture but not in taste. Fava in Greece are not fava beans; they are tiny split peas that are cooked, mixed with puréed carrots and onions and then drizzled with olive oil.
Tomato, cucumber, onion, oregano, olives, feta cheese (not vegan) and, occasionally, capers, dressed with olive oil.
Some places serve the cheese in large wedges on top of the salad, so try asking for no cheese. Otherwise, the cheese will be mixed in and may be hard to separate.
(a.k.a. skordalia, garlic spread, garlic salad)
Mashed potatoes, garlic and salt. Strong and delicious. Insider tip- make sure your company is getting down on it too 😉
Often dressed with lemon, garlic and/or balsamic glaze.
Peppers, eggplant, zucchini and onion dressed in olive oil and/or balsamic glaze.
Marinated sweet red peppers or spicy green peppers. If spicy, it usually says “spicy peppers.”
(a.k.a. tomatokeftedes, tomato balls, tomato croquettes)
Delightful nuggets of heaven. Herbs, onions, tomatoes and flour, fried in oil.
Stuffed with a rice and herb mixture, usually baked but may be fried.
(a.k.a zucchini balls, zucchini croquettes)
Cousins to the tomato fritters. Same concept. Different veggie.
Vegan Greek Main Dishes
Similar to a ratatouille, briám is mixed veggies including zucchini, potatoes, eggplant and optional others in a tomato base topped with herbs.
Tomatoes or bell peppers stuffed with a rice and herb mixture traditionally served with baked potato wedges. Notice the pattern? They stuff A LOT of things with the same rice and herb mix which is rad for plant-based eaters!
Stifado is a stew, so expect soft textures and deep flavors. There are many meat stifados, but I came across several vegan versions including a chestnut stifado that was so different and delightful.
Moussaka, unfortunately, is not traditionally vegan. Moussaka is a noodle-less lasagna of potatoes, eggplant and zucchini. There are many restaurants that offer a vegetarian version but the top of the dish is a béchamel dairy sauce.
However, if you're headed to Crete, be sure to stop in at To Stachi in Chania. They do a vegan version!
Vegan Greek Desserts
A fully vegan dessert can be tricky in Greece as honey is the go-to sweetener.
Baklava, the OG of Greek sweet, is made with nuts and filo dough BUT is almost always made with honey (unless it claims to be vegan).
Halva is a semolina pudding, mixed with orange, cinnamon, and/or raisins. When ordering halva, you will have to ask because sometimes it is sweetened with honey and other recipes rely on sugar.
Loukoumades are basically fried donuts. Oh yeah! Again, always check to make sure they don’t drizzle with honey.
On a happier note, I managed to find dairy-free gelato all over the place so my sweet tooth was well taken care of!
Gluten Free Greece
The following dishes are NOT gluten-free:
Everything else above is traditionally made gluten-free. If you have an allergy or intolerance, always check with the staff first as not all chefs follow the traditional recipes.
Final Tips for Greece Vegan Travel
Vegan Greece life is truly easy and enjoyable. After spending a month traveling across the country, I had the opportunity to experience different islands, different restaurants and different dishes.
One tip when ordering is to consider an array of appetizers. This was so much fun for me and my friends because we got to try tons of different dishes and, as you can see by the list above, the appetizer section is full of vegan options, so you won’t be limited. Safe travels and delicious dining to you my friend.
About the Author
Carly is a certified holistic health coach with a Master’s degree in health communications and a B.A. in Journalism. She attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she was trained on over 100 dietary theories by the world’s top nutrition experts.
Originally from South Mississippi, Carly now lives out of a suitcase, traveling full-time and experiencing all the vegan treasures of the world. She loves to practice yoga, cook and help others navigate the journey to better health. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.