Why Greece Is Great For Vegan and veggieTravellers

The Best vegetarian and vegan dishes that you need to try in Greece

Iman, Spanakopita, Gigantes and Gemista: Greek cuisine is one that’s packed full of Mediterranean vegetables, oil, beans, pulses and bread, making it one of the easiest countries to eat vegetarian or vegan in Europe.

You might think of the country’s meaty dishes when you think of Greek cuisine however Greece actually has tons of plant-based dishes too. Last summer I went Greek Island hopping ( I apologise that I’ve only written this post now) and when it came to eating we found it was the vegetarian dishes that were the tastiest, healthiest and also the cheapest.

Here are some of my favourite veggie and vegan dishes in Greece

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Humble beginnings:  The Greek salad (veggie)

Don’t ever think that a greek salad is boring. In Greece, a country where the tomatoes are so sweet they make a fantastic meal on their own when drizzled with olive oil and salt, a real greek salad is something else. There’s nothing I love more than ordering a big bowl of it with freshly chopped veg, salty capers, a glug of extra virgin oil and a big slab of feta on the top.

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Iman Baylidi

Imam Baylidi (Vegan/Veggie) 

The story behind the Imam dish is that an Islamic leader, an imam, tried the dish when visiting  Greece and it was so good that he fainted after he ate it. (I’m not sure if that’s true but either way I am a massive fan of this aubergine based dish). To make it large juicy aubergines are stuffed with tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices and then baked in a hot oven with loads of olive oil (Extra helpings of bread to mop up the juices is essential). It’s either served plain (vegan) or topped with feta.

Spanakopita and Tiropita (Veggie/ Vegan option)

Spanakopita is one of my favourite meals ever and it’s really cheap one too. This spinach and feta pie is a bakery staple and a big slab of this makes an ideal breakfast or lunch and will never set you back more than a couple of euros. The traditional version comprises of spinach and feta mixed together and binded in crispy filo pastry. Other variations include the nistismo version without cheese (which is totally vegan!) or Tiropita (just plain cheese and saves the awkwardness of having spinach stuck in your teeth maybe?)

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Gemista and Gigantes (vegan)

Gigantes (vegan)

Gigantes are traditional Greek baked beans (although they’re much better than tinned Heinz ones- sorry guys). Giant white beans are cooked in a rich tomato sauce with loads of diced vegetables and served with bread. In their traditional form these are completely vegan although some places add meat so just be sure to double-check.

Gemista (stuffed peppers) (vegan or veggie)

Gemista are essentially greek stuffed peppers and it is one of my favourite dishes to order in Greece as it’s really healthy, filling and generally very cheap. My favourite version is the traditional vegetarian/vegan one in which the peppers are stuffed full of a tomato flavoured rice, chopped vegetables and herbs. Some versions of gemista do contain meat so just make sure before you order.

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Pastitsio slice

Pastitsio (veggie)

I have memories of visiting my family in Cyprus when I was younger and tucking into a great big stodgy slab of cold pastitsio and I guarantee you that once you get the taste for this dish you’ll get what I’m talking about.  Pastitsio is a little like a hybrid between a Greek moussaka and a mac and cheese. It’s made out of tubed pasta (that looks like long macaroni tubes) and is baked with a white sauce flavoured with nutmeg before being cooled and cut into big slices. One of my absolute favourite dishes.

Vegetarian Moussaka (veggie)

Moussaka isn’t all about the meat you know. Most restaurants that I’ve eaten at do a vegetarian version of this greek staple dish and to be honest I think the substitution of vegetables for meat brings a welcome change to what can otherwise be quite a heavy dish. For the vegetarian dish, mediterranean vegetables are baked in the oven with a layer of tomato sauce and bechamel sauce on top. (A little like a lasagna but without the pasta).

 Aubergine Saganaki  (veggie) 

I got so obsessed with this meal in Greece that I kept making  it constantly when I got home. This dish comprises of melt in your mouth aubergines that are pre-cooked in olive oil and then layered with feta cheese and rich tomato sauce and baked in the oven. I don’t know if life gets much better than this with a glass of wine.

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Revithia sto fourno

Revithia sto forno (Vegan)

This greek dish of baked chickpeas isn’t widely known outside of the country however it’s a really good vegan dish to order when you’re out and even recreate at home as it only has a few ingredients: Chickpeas, olive oil, onions and rosemary which are all baked together in the oven and served with bread.

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A plate of Mezze

Mezze 

I love Greek Mezze. It’s the perfect solution to my food indecisiveness. You can order it in pretty much most restaurants and it comprises of lots of small dishes that you pile on your plate and eat with lots of bread and oil and the best thing is, there are loads of vegetarian options.

Veggie/ Vegan Mezze dishes you have to order: 

Dolmades (vegan): Dolmades are made by picking vine leaves and then stuffing them with tomato flavoured rice. They may sound a little odd but believe me, good dolmades are out of this world.

Kolokythokeftedes (Zucchini balls) (veggie) : I fell in love with these when I last had mezze in Greece and I couldn’t believe that I’d never had them before. For these soft courgette is mixed with salty feta and rolled into small balls and fried.

TomatoKeftedes (vegan or veggie):  Similar to above but with tomato instead. Also fantastic.

Saganaki (veggie) : Saganaki is the most self indulgent mezze dish and I can hardly resist ordering it every time it’s on the menu. For this,  salty Kefalograveria cheese is fried and served with lemon juice.

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Dips

‘Hold the Taramasalata’

Dips are big business in Greece and almost all of them apart from the pink coloured taramasalata (made with fish roe) are veggie. Here are some of my favourites.

Tzatziki (veggie) : What is a meal out in Greece without starting with a plate of tzatziki? I totally overdose of this garlic yoghurt and cucumber dip when I’m in Greece so much so that I’m usually already full by the time my meals comes. Real greek tzatziki made with thick greek yoghurt is so much better than the watery shop bought stuff you get at home.

Hummus (vegan): What vegan doesn’t love a plate of hummus? Luckily Greeks do too and you can usually find this on the menu in restaurants or at deli counters for a cheap lunch.

Olive tapanade (vegan) : Another vegan dip I love this fantastic puree of black kalamata olives spread on hard rusks or rustic village bread.

Fava (vegan): I laugh about the time when at 18, me and my friend found ourselves in a far too fancy restaurant and I pretended to totally know what the waitress meant when she asked if we liked Sanatorian fava.  However it turns out I really do like it and the great thing is it’s totally vegan. This popular dip is made by blending soft fava beans to a smooth paste (until it looks a little like hummus).

Melitzanoslata: (Vegan) This traditional Greek aubergine dip is completely vegan and a really great way to incorporate another vegetable into your diet. Aubergines are grilled until soft and then mixed with roasted garlic, lemon and seasonings.

 

 

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Sweets

Who needs to eat meat when all the fantastic sweets in Greece’s bakeries and restaurants are there to indulge in? I’ve listed a few of my favourites but feel free to check out my guide: Foodies guide: What to eat in a Greek bakery if you want to know more.

A couple of my favourite sweet treats are:

Baklava (veggie): Sickly sweet, fragrant, flaky and so indulgent, baklava is the ultimate sweet treat and there are so many variations on it. My favourite are the large triangular slabs made with layers of filo party binded with pistachios and drenched in honey and orange syrup.

Halva (Vegan or veggie): This sweet can be bought widely throughout Greece and the best thing about is that most versions of it are vegan (just be sure to double-check the ingredients). Traditionally halva is made from tahini, pistachios and honey so it’s free from refined sugar and actually a good source of protein too.

Loukamades (veggie): These are one of my guilty pleasures particularly if I’m visiting  Athens (where there are lots of vendors selling them with coffee). Loukamades are a type of mini round donuts served drenched in honey syrup with cinnamon and nuts or chocolate. Once you get the taste for them it’s impossible not to go back for more!BAF1DED7-C6E4-4497-9BC2-1A04AE7EF526.jpeg

There are many more vegan and vegetarian Greek dishes but these are my favourites and probably the most easy to find.  I really wanted to write this post because after searching on the internet I found it interesting that a lot of people still seem to think that veggie and vegan food is hard to come across in Greece.

I hope that I’ve shown you that finding plant based food is actually effortless and you can find plenty of options in any taverna or bakery so you don’t have to go and search out specific vegan friendly places either.

 

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