What to Eat in the Greek Islands

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Famous for their pristine beaches, azure seas and rich historic and cultural heritage, the Greek Islands are also a paradise destination for foodies!

Greek cuisine is renowned for its perfect blend of centuries-old culinary tradition and modern, cosmopolitan flavors.

Besides traditional, must-try dishes such as gyros, souvlaki, Greek salad, and Tzatziki dip, Greek cuisine offers a wide selection of international dishes, from mouth-watering pasta and pizza to burgers, pancakes and a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.

Fresh seafood and fish prepared with seasonal herbs and ingredients such as eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes are a staple of the local cuisine.

Local restaurants typically offer a “catch of the day”, accompanied by a local wine that Greeks are so proud of!

In this post, we’ll cover some of the main Greek Islands’ foodie choices, specifically focusing on Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, and Santorini.

Crete

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is known for its rugged mountains, stunning beaches, and ancient ruins like Knossos, the birthplace of Minoan civilization.

Ancient cities like Chania and Heraklion are frequent stops on the Mediterranean cruises, while resort towns like Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos are popular summer destinations.

When it comes to food, one of the first things you’ll learn from the locals is that Crete is one of the largest producers of olive oil not only in Greece but also globally.

The island’s mild climate, fertile soil, and long-standing tradition of olive cultivation contribute to its significant olive oil production.

Therefore, do not hesitate to start your meal with the Greek salad as an appetizer, as you will find it particularly delicious on this island.

Greek salad is usually made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and olives dipped in extra virgin olive oil, topped with slices of feta cheese and fresh oregano leaves.

Another appetizer you must try is named after a small frying pan (sagani) in which the cheese is cooked – the Saganaki cheese. Saganaki cheese is often served hot and garnished with lemon juice and fresh herbs like parsley or oregano.

This cheese is known for its crispy exterior and melted interior which perfectly blends with the meze dish, a variety of small dishes often served as appetizers.

One of the iconic Cretan specialties includes Dakos, a traditional Cretan salad made with barley rusks, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and olive oil.

Meat lovers should try the Kleftiko lamb, a marinated lamb that is slow-cooked with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs until tender and flavorful, often wrapped in parchment paper to seal in the juices and aromas.

Many restaurants serve Kleftiko lamb, but it tastes best in the local villages in the heart of Crete, where you get to feel the authentic spirit of the island and interact with friendly locals.

Kleftiko lamb served in a bowl.
Kleftiko lamb

Corfu

Nestled in the Ionian Sea, Corfu is a jewel among the Greek islands, renowned for its lush landscapes, Venetian architecture, and pristine beaches.

Corfu Town is the island’s capital, known for its ancient Old Town and the 16th-century Old Fortress, which dominates the port of Corfu and the Mediterranean Sea.

Whether you’re staying here on vacation or just coming for a day on a cruise ship, you must try Sofrito, a savory veal or beef dish cooked in a garlic and white wine sauce, usually served with rice and potatoes.

If you prefer fish, you can try Bourdeto, a spicy fish stew made with local fish and a tomato and red pepper sauce, or you can go for lighter options like fresh salmon, sea bream, sea bass, or red snapper.

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Salmon and other fishes served on plate.
Salmon

To top off your stay, do not miss to taste delightful sweets like Baklava and Loukoumades, or international sweets like this fantastic souffle!

Souffle and ice cream served on a plate.
Souffle

Rhodes

Nestled in the southeastern Aegean Sea, Rhodes is also known as the “Island of the Knights,” due to its rich heritage that spans from ancient Greek mythology to medieval times.

Rhodes Town, the island’s capital, boasts impressive archaeological sites and is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.

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Whether you choose to dine in one of the seaside restaurants overlooking the harbour or in a cozy tavern on one of Old Town’s narrow, cobblestone streets – an amazing culinary experience is guaranteed!

A popular choice is moussaka, a classic Greek dish consisting of layers of eggplant, minced meat (often lamb or beef), tomato sauce, and creamy béchamel sauce.

Grilled meat, fries and salad served on a plate.
Souvlaki

Other meat options are souvlaki, featuring skewers of marinated meat (such as pork, chicken, or lamb) grilled to perfection, and gyros, a similar dish made of sliced meat. Both dishes are served with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and fresh vegetables.

If you’re into seafood, do not miss to try stuffed squids, calamari, octopus, or shrimp, typically seasoned with fresh vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.

Stuffed squid lemon wedge, fries and salad served on a plate.
Stuffed squid

Santorini

Santorini, a mesmerizing island in the Aegean Sea, is world-famous for its dramatic cliffside villages, stunning sunsets, and unique volcanic landscapes.

With its iconic whitewashed buildings, azure domed churches, and panoramic views of the caldera, Santorini is one of the most photographed Greek Islands which captivates visitors with its timeless beauty.

Fira, the island’s capital, and the iconic Oia, known for its blue-domed churches, are the two main and most picturesque towns on the island.

Beyond its breathtaking scenery, the island offers a rich culinary scene that primarily focuses on fresh seafood, traditional Greek dishes, and local wines.

The picturesque village of Pyrgos is particularly known for its wine production and is home to several vineyards and wineries that produce renowned Santorinian wines, including the famous Assyrtiko grape variety.

Although Oia and Fira are slightly more expensive than other Greek destinations, enjoying the fresh seafood salad with a view of the caldera is a moment to remember!

Seafood salad served on a plate.
Seafood salad

Wrapping Up

In summary, what makes Greek Islands special is that visitors, aside from enjoying the fantastic food, can immerse themselves in breathtaking landscapes and engage with the local community.

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Whether you savor fresh seafood by the sea, indulge in delicious meat dishes, or enjoy sweet treats and meze platters in the Old Town, the Greek islands promise a memorable culinary adventure for every food enthusiast.

Author Bio: Katarina from Adventour Begins

Katarina from Adventour Begins
Katarina from Adventour Begins

Katarina Komazec is the Founder of the website Adventour Begins, where she shares her expertise on cruise port destinations and provides cruisers with helpful information and practical tips. She is the author of the “Mediterranean Cruise Port Guide” and creator of a YouTube channel @Adventour Begins. She has partnered with numerous reputable partners and platforms and is a contributor and co-creator of the CruiSea app. Follow Katarina from Adventour Begins on Instagram and Facebook.

Pinterest images of Salmon and Souvlaki served.
Pinterest images of Stuffed squid and Kleftiko lamb.

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