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: a bean soup made with white beans and tomatoes, carrots, celery, etc.
Tomato 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 salad: Beetroot seasoned with lots of garlic.
Aginares a la Polita: a stew made with artichokes, carrots, and potatoes and flavoured with lemon and dill.
Briám: an oven-baked dish similar to ratatouille in Southern France. The vegetables used can vary but always include potatoes and zucchini.
Gemista: tomatoes or red bell peppers stuffed with a rice and herb mixture. Occasionally contains minced meat but is usually vegan.
Imam 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!
Fasolakia: stewed green beans in tomato sauce with other seasonings.
Revithada: 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)
Tomatokeftedes: tomato fritters with mint, fried in olive oil.
Melitzanokeftedes – like tomatokeftedes, but made with eggplant instead of tomato
Gigantes: giant white beans cooked in tomato sauce and herbs.
Melitzanosalata: a cold eggplant dip similar to baba ghanoush (make sure it doesn’t contain mayonnaise).
Dolmadhes or Dolmadakia: grapevine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs
Kolokythoanthoi: stuffed zucchini flowers, a Cretan specialty. Pictured here with dolmadhes (and yoghurt, so be sure to ask for it without to keep it vegan).
Skordalia: a dip made with mashed potatoes and lots of garlic.
Grilled mushrooms: this is one pretty self-explanatory.
Fava: a dip made from puréed split yellow peas, a Santorini specialty
Fried zucchini: slices of zucchini fried in batter
Fried eggplant (or other vegetables): Eggplant is another vegetable that commonly found sliced and fried, but you may see others too (mushrooms, peppers, etc.).
French fries: Don’t knock ’em! French fries in Greece can be truly delicious.
Horta: boiled wild greens, may include a number of different kinds.
Dakos: a Cretan specialty of soaked rusks topped with tomatoes, olives and herbs. Normally also comes with cheese, so ask for it without.
Kalitsouni – a small empanada-type pastry found on Crete. Vegan fillings include onions and greens.
Street Food, Sweets and Snacks:
Spanakopita: spinach pie. Most pies in Greece contain cheese, but you’ll often find a nistisimo spinach pie.
Hortapita: similar to spanakopita, but contains different greens.
Potato roll: like a sausage roll, except that it’s filled with potato.
Loukoumi: 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.
Soutzouki: sausage-shaped sweets made from nuts and grape must.
Halva: 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.
Baklava: sticky-sweet filo-dough pastry (often contains honey).
Kataifi: made with an angel-hair-like pastry that resembles shredded wheat but is much sweeter (may contain honey).
Kserotigana: ribbons of fried pastry, a specialty in Chania, Crete that is served at weddings.
Fresh fruit: sometimes offered for free at the end of a meal, usually with a glass of local firewater to wash it down.
Olive bread: you can find some great breads in local bakeries, like the one pictured here.
Falafel 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.
Koulouria: a sesame ring, popular breakfast food sold at stands called koulourades (may contain honey).
Tapenade 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 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!