Some cuisines lend themselves to vegetarianism: Indian. Others do the opposite: German. But some cuisines are famed for their meat dishes and don’t get enough praise for their awesome veg dishes: Greek.
Souvlaki and lamb gyros is what comes to mind, right? And that’s true, you can barely walk a block in Athens without finding a little souvlaki joint, but Greek cuisine has so many wonderful vegetable dishes to offer too.
For starters, before we write off the souvlaki places, stop in and actually take a look at the menu. Many of them have vegetarian gyros.
The quality varies, sure. Some have falafel or halloumi cheese. My favorite had zucchini fritters. Others simply have lettuce, tomato and cucumbers. Still at 2€50 a pop, it’s hard to complain.
Beyond gyros though, Greek cuisine focuses on local vegetables a lot. Greek salads for instance come with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, feta, olives and capers. And they are fabulous. My absolute favorite was in Athens at a souvlaki place (go figure!) called Thanasis.
The thing I love most about Greek food is that a lot of traditional dishes happen to be meatless. So you can eat authentic and vegetarian at the same time. Dolmades for instance, are grape leaves stuffed with rice. And they are deeelish!
At the top of a mountainside in Exogonia, a small village in Santorini, I had a vegetarian meal at a place called Metaxi Mas, no special requests needed. They just have completely veggie dishes available. I was ecstatic!
In Santorini, you can get fava bean dip everywhere and it’s so tasty. Very simple, but a perfect way to start a meal. I prefer it warmed, but you’ll find it both ways. Topped with a few capers. Yum!
Vegetable fritters are everywhere: small places serving home style food and modern restaurants putting new twists on classics. Tomato fritters are especially popular on the island of Santorini.
For main dishes, there are stuffed tomatoes, which are whole tomatoes stuffed with rice and baked with olive oil and herbs.
Briam is a new dish for me, I’d never heard of it but it’s all veggies. I saw it on a menu under the title “Oil Based Cuisines” and figured that was a good enough reason to try it. It was lovely, one of those dishes with just a few ingredients, cooked so that you can actually taste each of them. Anyone who enjoys veggies has to try it.
And let’s not forget the wonder that is Greek yogurt. It’s eaten as breakfast or dessert with honey or jams. And when mixed with cucumbers, garlic and dill, it’s transformed into tzatziki. Tzatziki is eaten with anything; bread, vegetables, on gyros, anything. And I love it.
Desserts are generally a given for vegetarians but when in Greece, please make sure you’re eating your weight in baklava. That’s all I ask. You won’t regret it. I tried a few different kinds (conservatively…) and my favorite was a traditional type made with olive oil.
So fellow veg heads, don’t let the rumors of lamb on everything deter you from eating your butt off in Greece. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite and I can’t wait to get home and try making some of these!