Vegan Food in 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.
The same fasting traditions are also followed in Cyprus, where the local cuisine includes many of the same dishes found in Greece. Check out this article on being vegan in Cyprus for more info.
Below, you’ll find a non-exhaustive list of dishes to look out for. And be sure to check out my many articles about destinations in Greece, where you will find more specific restaurant recommendations and travel tips:
- The Power of a Magic Word
- The Joys of Vegan Travel in Greece
- 10 Vegan Dishes Not to Miss in Greece
- Why Everyone Should Go to Mykonos
- Sweet Treats in Lamia and Cryptic Prophecies in Delphi
- Hiking Through Nature’s Wonders in the Vikos Gorge
- Sky-High Monks in Meteora
- Living Like the Pasha in Ioannina
- Thessaloniki: Authentic Greece and a Mix of Old and New
- Vegan Eats and Volcanic Views on Santorini
- Hiking Through Samariá Gorge on Plant Power
- Vegan Dining in an Old Venetian Ruin in Chania
- The Lazy Rhythm of Rethymno
- Rescued Donkeys Find Sanctuary on Crete
- Crete — Heraklion and Around
- Medieval Rhodes — Part I
- Medieval Rhodes — Part II
- Athens and the Allure of Avocado
Vegan Greece 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.
Vegan Main Dishes in Greek Cuisine
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. The name means “the imam fainted”, and when I tasted this dish at a restaurant in Mykonos, I understood why!
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.
Vegan Mezedhes in Greece
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.
Vegan Greek 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!
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!
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.
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,
You’re more than welcome Katie! Do be sure to take advantage while you’re there and discover some of these wonderful foods. Have a great time in Greece!
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!
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!
Just ask. All the gelato places we went to had a few vegan sorbet flavors: a couple of fruit ones & always chocolate!
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?
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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Oh wow, it’s amazing there’s so many vegan options there. The last time I went to Greece I was vegetarian and basically lived off Greek salads and cheese and tomato pizza!