1) Learn to say a few vegetarian phrases in Greek
To say “I am a vegetarian” in Greek, you have to say “ee-may-horto-faagosh” or write down in Greek characters – είμαι χορτοφάγος
You can then say “I do not eat any meat, poultry, fish or seafood“. In Greek characters, that sentence will read as follows:
Δεν τρώω καθόλου κρέας, πουλερικά, ψάρι ή θαλασσινά
Pronounced as “Den tró kathó-lou kréas, pouleriká, saaree í thalassiná”
You can ask “Do you offer vegetarian food?” which in Greek characters is:
Προσφέρετε φαγητό για χορτοφάγους
Pronounced as “Prosférete fa-hee-tó hia horto-faagosh”
If you find something interesting on the menu, but want one or two things removed, then you can use the following phrase:
Could you offer this dish without __________
Μπορείτε να ετοιμάσετε το πιάτο χωρίς _________
Pronounced as “Boríte na etimásete to pyáto horís __________”
2) Print the following images and show them to your server while ordering
* if you have trouble printing the images below directly, then you can copy paste these images below onto a word document and then print*
Following are phrases that can be used to explain dietary restrictions, and what you can and cannot eat. They are written in English and Greek characters:
Below is a checklist that you can customize to communicate what you can and cannot eat:
3) Plan for a few options beforehand
While you cannot always expect to know exactly where and when you will eat, try to keep a list of a few vegetarian restaurants in the area that you are going to visit. To create a list, use the following websites:
- A list of veg-friendly restaurants in Athens
- Another list of Athens based veg-friendly restaurants
- List of vegan restaurants in Santorini
- Another list of Santorini based veg-friendly restaurants
4) Try these Greek vegetarian dishes
There are plenty of taverns all across Greece. Most of them have a meat-heavy menu, but there is a good amount of vegetarian food that you can order. Going to a tavern for food is sure to give you the authentic local experience, so you shouldn’t miss it just because you are vegetarian. The following dishes can be ordered at taverns or in other home-style Greek restaurants:
Greek Salad – Greek salad has plenty of vegetables, olives, plenty of oil, and feta cheese. If you are vegan, ask for the salad without feta cheese. Classic Greek salad is sometimes also known as Horiatiki salata. You can pretty much find this salad in any tavern.
(colourful Greek salad)
Yemista – Yemista or Gemista is a dish of stuffed tomatoes (Ntomates) and peppers (Piperies). The word “gemistes” means stuffed. The pronunciation is “hemista” or “yemista”. The non-vegetarian version of this dish, which is the more traditional version, has beef in the stuffing. But, if you ask for the vegetarian version, then you can get them stuffed with rice, cheese, or vegetables. You can simply say “piperies yemistes me ryzee” (rice stuffing) or “piperies yemistes me feta” (for the ones stuffed with feta cheese). This is a very flavourful dish with the taste of roasted veggies and the richness of olive oil drizzled over the pepper and the tomato.
(nicely cooked Gemista)
Yigantes– These are large beans that are baked with onions and garlic. Normally, this is a side dish but vegetarians can eat this as the main dish because they are pretty tasty.
Fassolakia – This is another side dish. It is basically long green beans, sometimes cooked with tomato and garlic or sometimes simply tossed in olive oil and flavoured with condiments.
Briam– This is a baked dish made with potatoes and other vegetables. It might look like a Greek version of ratatouille. A great option as a main dish.
Fava – This dish is a paste made with split peas. It is flavoured with onion and served with olive oil. This creamy paste can be used as a dip and is great to eat with pita or regular bread.
Patates – The literal translation is potatoes. Greece is very fond of potatoes. You can get baked or fried potatoes in most local places. Even taverns will have some kind of potato side dish.
Mbamies – If you like okra, then you might be able to get a dish called Mbamies me patates which basically translates to okra with potatoes.
Besides Taverns, there are plenty of other types of food places in Greece such as cafes, delis, bakeries, and restaurants. You can try the following dishes out which are also vegetarian.
Dolmades – These are grape leaves stuffed with rice and drizzled with a generous helping of olive oil. You can also find this dish in the Middle East where they are simply known as Dolma or Dolmeh. In Greece, Dolmades is served as a starter or sometimes a side dish.
Moussaka – This dish looks like a lasagne. It is a baked dish made of eggplant, zucchini, carrots, and potatoes which are all fried in olive oil. Then they are placed one on top of the other as 4 layers in a baking dish. With tomato sauce and cheese sprinklings between each layer, the veggies are topped with a bechamel sauce. If you do not eat eggs, then ask the server if the sauce has eggs or if it is vegetarian. A well-known restaurant in Athens called Ydria makes the sauce with butter, milk, flour, vegetable broth, and Parmesan cheese. Moussaka can be a very filling vegetarian dish.
Spanakopitta– This dish is basically a spinach pie. In Greek, spinaki means spinach and “pita” means pie. The crust of this pie is buttery and flaky. Spanakopita is served as a snack or as a street food that you can simply pick up and eat on the go. Bakeries and cafes serve this pie as well. If you do not eat eggs, then be careful with this dish. The phyllo dough used to make the crust might have eggs in it. Sometimes, the spinach filing can also have eggs. So, ask the server about the eggs if you do not eat them.
Another version of this traditional pie is stuffed with Greek feta cheese instead of spinach. It is called Tiropitakia. However, note that the cheese filling inside the flaky crust might have eggs in it. So as mentioned above, it is better to ask the server if you do not eat eggs.
Papoutsakia – This dish is a baked eggplant delicacy stuffed with zucchini, potatoes, and other veggies. The original and traditional Papoutsakia has beef and bechamel sauce (eggs) in it. But you might be able to find a vegetarian version or perhaps ask your restaurant server to make a vegetarian version minus the meat (and eggs if you do not consume them).
Milopitakia – Apple cookies. These are cookies filled with a soft apple filling. A great dessert or snack item that you can enjoy while sightseeing or after a meal.
Kolokithakia Tiganita – This dish is basically a crispy fried zucchini. The zucchini slices are dipped in batter and deep fried.
Tzatziki– This is a well-known spread or dip depending on how you eat it. It is made of strained yogurt, garlic, and cucumber. It is flavoured with vinegar, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. It is an absolute must-try when you are in Greece.
Kolouri – This bread is a breakfast item and it looks like brown colored rings. It is topped with sesame seeds.
(ring-shaped Kolouri bread)
5) Eat at these types of restaurants
1) Dio Dekares i Oka – If you want to try some home-cooked style of Greek food, then this place is a great option. You can get cheeses, salads, casseroles and baked dishes, tzatziki dips, etc. here. This restaurant is close to the Syngrou Fix Station.
2) Kostarelos Deli – This one is a gem if you like Greek cheese. Kostarelos is actually a dairy product company. They make their own cheese and yogurt. It is one of those local artisanal places. They now have opened stores around Greece in a deli format. You should go to their deli in Kolonaki. It has tables where you can sit down and order food, unlike some of their other locations which are more like retail outlets. Try the soft feta and graviera cheeses when you go. You can also try the baked cheese that is topped with a red sauce. Kostarelos is known for having one of the best feta cheeses in Greece. Their yogurt is great too.
3) Mam – One of the staple snacks or “on-the-go” foods of Greece is the pie or “pita”. Some of the best Greek pies in Athens can be found at a small corner shop called Mam, located at Pesmazoglou 3 near Varvakios Central market. Try the cheese pie or “kaseropita” which is made with local kasseri cheese (slightly sweet). You can also go for the Korou cheese pie, or the classic spinach pie called spanakopita. If you do not eat eggs, then you might want to be careful with this joint. The dough used to make the pies might have eggs in them. So, it is better to ask the server before you order.
4) Amanita Grill – Souvlakis are famous in Greece for serving meat and vegetables grilled on a skewer. Most souvlakis in Greece (and around the world) have a primarily non-vegetarian menu. So, if you truly want to experience Greek fast food while being vegan at the same time, then head over to Amanita Grill. Also known as Cookoomela Grill, this place is a vegan souvlaki and it is especially known for its vegan mushroom souvlakis. They also have souvlakis made with lentil kebabs, salads, and much more.
5) Bougatsopoleio Thessaloniki – Bougatsa is a pastry from northern Greece that is made with a thin and traditional phyllo dough. It is stuffed with different kinds of fillings made of cheese or meat. You can try out this traditional Greek pastry dish by visiting Bougatsopoleio Thessaloniki located at Pl. Iroon 1. You can order some of the vegetarian bougatsas that are sprinkled with powdered sugar or simply served fresh. The cooking area is designed in such a way that you can watch the chef make the bougatsas and it is quite fun to see how large the phyllo dough is after being beaten and stretched. Please note that the phyllo dough might have eggs in it, so it is a good idea to ask the server in case you do not consume eggs. After you finish the meal, you might get a free serving of Greek cakes. If not, then order the traditional Revani Greek semolina cake with lemon flavour. It is an excellent dessert to try.
6) Mama Tierra – This place is another well-known vegan joint in Athens. While you can always enjoy burgers, salads, and falafel, you can eat local Greek food here which is vegan. You can opt for the eggplant-based dish called soutzoukakia or you can go for the vegan moussaka which is a baked dish made with eggplant, vegetables, and an egg-free bechamel sauce! They make their bechamel sauce using coconut milk. Mama Tierra is located at Akadimias 84.
7) Le Greche – If you like gelatos then prepare to be amazed. Le Greche is the best gelato shop in Athens. It is located near Syntagma Square. You will be amazed at the number of flavours that are on offer. People like to often try the fig ice cream with mascrapone cheese, lemon, ricotta, pavlova, and a milk ice cream called fior di latte. They even have gelato sandwiches. If you like ice creams, then do not miss this one.
1) Aulogyros – This place is great for local Greek dishes like a rice-filled Gemista, Dolmades, Greek Salad, and Grilled Veggie platter. Aulogyros is a Greek tavern so the food experience will be pretty authentic.
2) Ergon Deli – Fantastic location overlooking the coast. Try the falafel with fava beans here. The cheese pie is pretty good too. The menu has a brunch section as well if you fancy pancakes. This place is also known as Volkan on the Rocks Cafe.
3) Falafeland – Located in Fira, the capital of Santorini, Falafeland is a great place for exactly what you guessed. Falafel! They have burgers and other things too, but the falafel wrap or a baba ganoush wrap is a great thing to eat out here. Price wise, this place is one of the cheapest in an otherwise expensive Santorini food scene.
4) Jaipur Palace – Get your Indian food here. Taste might not be authentic, but it is Indian food none the less. This is a great option if you are craving some paneer and naan or if you are simply tired of eating pizza and Greek salad on the beautiful island of Santorini.
Some other vegetarian options throughout Greece
1) Indian Restaurants – Indian cuisine has lots of vegetarian options. You can never go wrong with this option, and the food can be delicious too.
2) Coffee Shops/Cafes – A sandwich, a cake, or muffins can often be found in such places. You might even be tempted to try out local tea and coffee flavours.
3) Italian Restaurants/Pizza Places – A simple pasta, a spaghetti, or a cheese/veggie pizza is a safe bet anywhere in the world, and Greece is no different. Just make sure the pasta sauce has no meat.
4) Supermarkets – Do a shopping run at any of the local supermarkets, as they would stock a variety of options. Look for items that can be identified easily as vegetarian (e.g. fruits, veggies, bread, pasta, snacks, etc). If you want vegan cheese, then look for the brands Viotros (now called Arivia) and Evlogimeno. The local farmers market is called “Laiki” (λαϊκή). You can ask someone where the local Laiki is and buy plenty of fresh produce from there.