When you think of Greek food, what comes to mind? If your answer is “pita gyros” or “saganaki”, you’re only scratching the surface. The Greek cuisine is as diverse and flavorful as the country itself, with a lot of variety in the local dishes depending on the region. Crete is one of the most beautiful places in Greece, where you can enjoy tasty recipes like kalitsounia (Cretan cheese pastries) or boureki.
No matter where you travel, there’s always one thing that will give you a clear idea of where you are: the cuisine and its typical dishes. Cretan cuisine comes to light in the main local ingredients, like potatoes, onions, olive oil, tomato and, local-based seafood and meat, and a wide range of herbs and spices as well.
It has a unique and rich tradition, representing the best of the Mediterranean diet. It is one of the main reasons why this island attracts thousands of visitors every year.
As a local, I want to share with you some of the most delicious traditional delicacies you must try when visiting Crete. Crete’s food is not only delicious but also healthy, and it’s a big part of the island’s culture and heritage. If you’re a food lover, you must visit Crete, and taste all these delicacies that are made with love and passion.
The delicious and colorful Cretan salad is an exceptional delicacy. The secret lies in the selection of ingredients. It includes fresh vegetables, such as cucumber, tomato, onion, and green pepper, with a variety of herbs and spices like oregano. It is usually, mixed with a local dry bread called “paximadi”, while “myzithra” which is a soft creamy goat cheese stands on top of the ingredients. Olive oil and vinegar are added to complete the composition. It is served cold and tastes wonderful with Cretan wine!
You might think, this doesn’t sound so special. Just a bunch of vegetables cut into pieces and mixed into a bowl. Well, wait until you try it! The secret is the fresh local ingredients that smell and taste like no other. It’s a common belief that seasonal fruits, vegetables, and of course fresh olive oil smell and taste different in the whole Mediterranea region, and Crete is no exception to this.
Boureki is a very traditional dish in Crete, especially in the region of Chania. It’s an oven-baked vegetable dish with layers of zucchini, potatoes, and goat cheese, seasoned with olive oil and herbs, layered between sheets of traditional phyllo pastry. The word Boureki comes from the Turkish word börek, which means pie. It’s an excellent vegetarian option for those who are looking for a delicious meat-alternative dish.
When it is freshly baked, the dough on the top is crunchy with a delicious cheese mixture on the inside. You can find it in almost any traditional taverna in the region of Chania.
When it comes to traditional Cretan dishes, Dakos is definitely one of the most favorite ones. It’s a perfect summer dish and a unique combination of salty “mizithra” (local goat cheese), extra virgin olive oil, and juicy tomatoes (and/or olives) stacked on top of a delicious base of Cretan dry barley rusk (called paximadia in Greek).
Dakos could be served as an appetizer or as a light lunch/dinner for one person. Keep in mind that most of dakos’ ingredients are included in the traditional Cretan salad, but because you can never get enough of it a lot of people choose it as a side dish as well.
Kalitsounia are small, thick filo dough parcels filled with soft goat’s or sheep’s cheese and fried in oil or baked in the oven. Usually, you will find them on the menu on the appetizers column, but to make them even tastier, they can be served as a dessert accompanied by honey.
They’re made with simple ingredients – flour, yeast, mizithra cheese and/or anthotiro cheese (another variation of Cretan soft goat cheese) or malaka cheese(oh yes there are more types of cheese in Crete!). When prepared well, they have a crispy crust and soft, creamy inside.
There are quite a few variations of kalitsounia depending on the region of Crete you are, but the most common are the ones filled with cheese, or a mix of cheese and local herbs and leafy greens. Both of them are delicious and you should definitely taste them the moment you step a foot on the island.
Staka is a traditional Cretan dish, made with the cream of the milk. It is cooked for hours over low heat, until it becomes thick and creamy. It’s usually served with bread, and it’s perfect for breakfast or as a side dish. Staka is a traditional dish that is hard to find outside of Crete, so make sure to try it when you visit the island.
Dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with rice, herbs, and sometimes meat. They are a popular dish in Crete and all over Greece, and they are perfect as a starter or as a side dish. Dolmades are a delicious and healthy dish, and they are a great option for vegetarians.
Makarounes is a traditional pasta dish from Crete, made with local ingredients such as wild greens, herbs, and cheese. It’s a hearty and delicious dish, perfect for a winter meal. Makarounes is a comforting and satisfying dish, that you can find in most traditional taverns on the island.
Sfakianes pites are a type of savory pie from Sfakia, a region in the south of Crete. They are made with phyllo pastry, and they can be filled with cheese, meat or vegetables. Sfakianes pites are a popular dish in Sfakia, and they are a great option for a light lunch or a snack.
Apaki is a traditional dish from Crete, made with smoked pork, marinated in red wine, vinegar, and spices. It’s a hearty and flavorful dish, perfect for a side dish for your beer or wine. Apaki is a dish that you can find in most traditional taverns on the island, and it’s a great option if you want to try something different.
Mizithra is a traditional cheese from Crete, made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. It’s a soft cheese, with a mild and slightly sweet taste, and it’s perfect for sandwiches or as a topping for pasta dishes. Mizithra is a unique cheese that you can only find in Crete, and it’s a must-try for cheese lovers.
Raki is a traditional spirit from Crete, made from distilled grapes. It’s a strong and flavorful spirit, that is perfect as a digestif after a meal. Raki is a unique spirit that you can find all over Crete, and it’s a must-try for anyone visiting the island.
So, these are the 10+1 traditional delicacies you must try when visiting Crete. Each one of them is a unique and delicious experience that you can only find in Crete, and they are a great way to immerse yourself in the island’s culture and heritage.