Most foreigners have connected Greek food to seafood, fish, cheese and meat. It’s true that the most typical dishes, such as souvlaki (σουβλάκι), moussaka (μουσακάς) and Greek salad (χωριάτικη σαλάτα) are animal-based products and cannot be consumed by vegans.
Traditional Greek cuisine is based on the fasting periods during which people were not allowed to consume animal products, so the list of “animal free” dishes is really long. The ingredients and cooking method may vary, however there’s always one rule to follow: to use seasonal fruits and vegetables. I’m not a nutritionist, so there will be no lecture about the value of fresh products. I can only assure you that if you are vegan you won’t be disappointed by the Greek cuisine. If superfoods are part of your daily diet mind that you can find them only in urban areas or in touristy islands. If you want to taste something different though you can do so anywhere.
This is a list of the most popular vegan dishes. They are related to summertime and one cannot leave Greece without tasting at least one of them!
1. Χωριάτικη σαλάτα χωρίς φέτα (horeeateekee salata horees feta) Greek salad without feta cheese.
It’s probably one of the most famous Greek dishes. Some people have it as a main dish. It contains tomatoes (ντομάτες, domates), cucumber (αγγούρι, agouree), onion (κρεμμύδι, kremeedee), pepper (πιπεριά, peepereea), olives (ελιές, elies), olive oil (ελαιόλαδο, eleolado)and oregano (ρίγανη, reeganee).
Don’t use a lemon-based seasoning.
2. Κολοκυθοκορφάδες (kolokeethokorfades) Zucchini blossoms.
A true summer food! A vegan can eat them γιαχνί (yahnee, cooked in tomato sauce) or stuffed but they have to make sure that there’s no cheese or meat in the filling.
3. Φασόλια γίγαντες (fasoleea geegantes) Giant beans
A typical Greek dish. Usually, the beans are baked in tomato sauce but they can be cooked in other ways as well. It’s better not to consume them late because they are hard to digest.
4. Φασολάκια (fasolakia) Green beans
There are many ways to cook them. Their less complicated version is a salad made of green beans, fresh olive oil, vinegar (ξύδι, xeedee), and one melted garlic clove (μία σκελίδα σκόρδου λιωμένη, meea skeleeda skordou leeomenee). More ingredients can be added. The most popular version of φασολάκια is φασολάκια λαδερά (fasolakeea ladera) which is made of green beans, potatoes (πατάτες, patates), onions, parsley (μαϊντανός, maeedanos) and spices (μπαχαρικά, bahareeka) cooked in tomato sauce.
5. Μπριάμ (briam)
It’s a mixture of zucchini, potatoes and sometimes egg plants (μελιτζάνες, meleetzanes), parsley and aromatic herbs (μυρωδικά, meerodika) , cooked in tomato sauce. It should be served in room temperature.
6. Γεμιστά (gemeesta) Stuffed tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and zucchini.
They are stuffed with rice, spices, herbs and sometimes raisins. Make sure that they don’t contain ground meat. A similar dish can be ντολμαδάκια γιαλαντζί (dolmathakia yalantzee): grape leaves (αμπελόφυλλα, abelofila) stuffed with rice and aromatic herbs. Again, make sure that they don’t contain ground meat and that they are not served with egg and lemon sauce (αβγολέμονο, abgolemono).
7. Μπάμιες (bamies) Okra
My personal favorite. Non-vegeterians eat it with chicken; however chicken can be omitted and okra can be baked with onions and aromatic herbs in tomato sauce.
8. Ιμάμ μπαϊλντί (eemam baeeldee)
A food of Turkish origin. Ιμάμ μπαϊλντί means “the imam fainted”. It’s made of eggplants stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Although it’s very tasty, it can give a heavy feeling in the stomach because the eggplants are fried.
9. Μαρμελάδα με ταχίνι (marlmelada me taheenee) Jam and sesame paste
This is a breakfast dish. Ταχίνι contains sesame seeds and olive oil so it is suitable for vegans. If mixed with jam and spread onto a slice of homemade bread can make a breakfast dish rich in calories yet nutritious.
10. Γλυκό του κουταλιού (gleeko tou koutaleeou) Spoon sweet
If you’re up to a sweet desert a good option would be a spoon sweet. It looks like jam but it’s thicker. A homemade spoon sweet contains only natural ingredients such as fruits, sugar, water and maybe lemon or orange juice and nuts. No sweeteners, glucose syrup or artificial colors are added. In the summer spoon sweets are made of strawberries, cherries, sour cherries, grapes, apricots, water melon ,and figs.