Greece: Plant-based Perfection

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Greece saturates the travelshere with its picturesque white walls and blue waters. With majestic islands, ancient ruins and Mediterranean cuisine, it is no wonder that Greece has been the travellers choice for the past 3 years.

The economic situation in Greece unfortunate. The bright side for travelers? More affordable rates turning a dream European vacation into a reality. Where else in the world can you combine beach life, ancient history and delicious vegan dining? Plant-based or not, greek food is fabulous!

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Where to Go…

Athens

Athens is home to the praise-worthy Acropolis  and several other ruins dating back to 400 BC. The city is saturated in restaurants offering traditional Greek food as well as other worldly flavors like Japanese, Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are plentiful in Athens making it a great place to soak up history and indulge in plant-based perfection.

Greek Islands

The islands of Greece are all unique. Each has its own vibe. I dropped by Crete, Santorini and Mykonos. These three islands are wildly different but have one common denominator: Great vegan greek food.

There are not vegan restaurants on the islands BUT they aren’t needed. Tons of traditional greek food is naturally vegan. Here are a few staples you can find on most menus that are plant-based perfection.

What to Eat…

Appetizers

Big Beans: (Broad beans) Big beans or broad beans are just what they sound like; large beans in a tomato sauce or olive oil mixed with herbs. Big beans are usually whole but can be mashed into a spread or dip.

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Boiled Greens: Local lettuce is wilted down and drizzled with olive oil. The greens are typically dandelion greens, mustards greens, chicory or a mix.

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Dako: Dako is a slice of bread with olive oil, tomato paste, oregano and cheese on top. Make sure to ask for no cheese to get the vegan version. This is a traditional breakfast dish.

Dolmades: (stuffed vine leaves, stuffed grape leaves, dolmadakia) Dolmades are grapeleaves stuffed with a rice and herb mix. The mixture is tomatoes, herbs (possibly fennel, parsley, mint, oregano) and onion.  On top of the dolmades is a sauce that is vegetarian but not vegan so ask for no sauce to keep it plant-based.
Tzatziki: Greek yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, vinegar, seasoning
Lemon Sauce: Lemon, egg yolks, corn starch

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Eggplant Salad: (Eggplant dip, aubergine salad, aubergine dip) This is by far my favorite greek food! Eggplant salad is Eggplant purée combined with garlic, parsley and olive oil.
*Some eggplant salads contain feta cheese so if you are vegan, ask before ordering. It is pre-made so if it does have cheese, a vegan version ain’t happening.                                                                                                                                   **Insider tip— Santorini island is known for its white eggplant. They are a rare form and taste sweeter.

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Fava: (bean spread, mashed split peas) Fava is a traditional appetizer of Santorini. It is similar to hummus in texture but not in taste. Fava are tiny lentils mixed with puréed carrots, onions drizzled with olive oil.

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Greek salad: A traditional greek salad is made with tomato, cucumber, onion, oregano, olives, feta cheese and capers dressed with olive oil.
*Some Greek salads serve the cheese in large wedges on top of the salad so try asking for no cheese. Otherwise, the cheese is mixed in and may be hard to separate.

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Garlic dip: (garlic spread, garlic salad) Mashed potatoes, garlic and salt. Strong and delicious. Insider tip- make sure your company is getting down on it too 😉

Grilled mushrooms: Sliced mushrooms dressed with lemon, garlic and/or balsamic glaze.

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Grilled Vegetables: Peppers, eggplant, zucchini and onion dressed in olive oil and/or balsamic glaze.

Olives: Obvious…

Peppers: Marinated sweet red peppers or spicy green peppers. If spicy, it usually says “spicy peppers.”

Tomato fritters: (tomato balls, tomato croquettes) Delightful nuggets of heaven. Herbs, onions, tomatoes and flour, fried in oil.

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Zucchini flowers: A rice and herb mixture that is stuffed into zuchini flowers and then usually baked or fried.

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Zucchini fritters: (zucchini balls, zucchini croquettes) Cousin to the tomato fritters. Same concept. Different veggie.

Entrees

Briam: Similar to a ratatouille, briam is mixed veggies including zucchini, potatoes, eggplant and optional others in a tomato base topped with herbs.

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Gemista: (stuffed tomatoes) Tomatoes and bell peppers stuffed with a rice and herb mixture traditionally served with baked potato wedges. Notice the pattern? They stuff A LOT of things with the same rice and herb mix which is rad for vegan life!

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Stifado: Stifado is a stew so expect soft textures and deep flavors. There are many meat stifados but I came across several vegan versions including a chestnut stifado that was so different and delightful.

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Moussaka, unfortunately, is not traditionally vegan. Moussaka is a noodle-less lasagna of potatoes, eggplant and zucchini. There are many restaurants that offer a vegetarian version but the top of the dish is a béchamel dairy sauce. If you do your research, you may find a vegan version like I did in Crete.

 

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A fully vegan dessert can be tricky in Greece as honey is the go-to sweetener.

Baklava, the OG of Greek sweet, is made with nuts and filo dough BUT almost always (unless it claims vegan) made with honey.

Halva is a semolina pudding, mixed with orange, cinnamon, and/or raisins. When ordering halva, you will have to ask because sometimes it is sweetened with honey and other recipes rely on sugar.

Lokma are basically fried donuts. Oh yeah! Again, always check to make sure they don’t drizzle with honey.

On a happier note, I managed to find dairy-free gelato all over the place so my sweet tooth was well taken care of!

Extra info for gluten-free guys and gals

The following dishes are NOT gluten-free. Everything else above is traditionally made gluten-free. If you have an allergy or intolerance, always check with the staff first as some dishes may be made outside of the traditional recipes.

Dako
Tomato fritters
Zucchini fritters
Baklava
Halva

Vegan life in Greece is truly easy and enjoyable. One tip when ordering is to consider an array of appetizers. As you can see by the list above, the appetizer section is full of vegan options AND you will get to try tons of different dishes instead of being limited to one entree. Greek food is fan-freaking-tactic so please partake. Safe travels and delicious dinning to you my friend.

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