Here we hope to share our experiences of vegetarian food in Crete, Greece. There are many and varied Cretan and Greek dishes for vegetarians on the Greek island of Crete, so vegetarians visiting Crete should not be apprehensive about eating out at restaurants.
Many restaurants and traditional Greek tavernas, particularly in the popular beach resorts of Crete have very similar menus with vegetarian sections listed upon them. Most menus have pictures to depict the available dish, making it very easy to choose food for vegetarians in Crete.
Away from the beach resorts of Crete and particularly in the more remote villages you’ll find great examples of healthy, tasty and cheap Cretan and Greek food for vegetarians offered in the tavernas. However, they are unlikely to have the vegetarian dishes listed separately on a menu – if they have a printed menu at all. Some places invite you into their kitchens to see what they have cooking that day rather than provide a menu.
The vegetarian food in Crete is particularly tasty as locally grown, organic and very fresh fruits and vegetables are used. More often than not the fresh vegetables and salads used in lots of family run traditional tavernas on Crete are picked fresh the same day from their own plots of land and used at lunch or dinner times to feed guests. Nothing on earth quite tastes as good as the potatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, onions and tomatoes grown on Crete!
And of course the best olive oil in the world is produced on Crete and is liberally used in cooking and for dressing salads.
Here’s what to expect from the available Cretan and Greek food for vegetarians in Crete restaurants.
Boureki is a great example of vegetarian food in Crete. This is a main course vegetarian dish made from layers of courgette, potatoes, onions and cheese. Boureki is sometimes served with a thin pastry crust.
Briam is one of the best Greek dishes for vegetarians as it is incredibly tasty. Briam is the Greek version of ratatouille and uses all the fabulous vegetables that are grown in Crete including aubergines, courgettes, onions and tomatoes.
Cheese Pies are the ubiquitous vegetarian food in Crete. The Cretans have them for breakfast! There are various versions of cheese pie. Some are absolutely huge – the ones for breakfast – and some are tiny mini pasty shaped. The pastry is Filo pastry and the cheese filling is a mild white creamy cheese. Sometimes cheese pies are served with local honey.
Courgette Balls are often offered on menus as examples of food for vegetarians in Crete. Known as Kolokythokeftedes they are made from grated courgette or zucchini, lightly battered and deep fried. The yellow courgette flowers plus thin slices of aubergine or eggplant are also prepared in this way.
Dakos is a classic vegetarian food in Crete. It is often listed as Cretan Salad on restaurant menus. Doubled baked barley rusks form the basis of this Cretan dish which is topped with grated tomato and crumble feta cheese.
Fava is a tasty example of vegetarian food in Crete and is made from yellow split peas. The dried peas are soaked and cooked with onions and served with olive oil.
Fennel Pies are delicious and are one of the tastiest Greek dishes for vegetarians. The Filo pasty is normally wafer thin and made with olive oil and the green fennel filling is often combined with mint to create a wonderfully tasty and healthy vegetarian dish. Fennel pies are normally the size of a small plate and cut into quarters. Fennel pies are not on every menu in the Crete restaurants but when and where they are, we always order one as they are simply delicious.
Giant Beans known as Gigantes are served in restaurants and traditional Greek tavernas and is a great food for vegetarians in Crete. The Giant Beans are bigger and tastier than butter beans and are local to Crete. They are often slow oven baked in a delicious tomato sauce. Sometimes carrots and onions are baked with the dish.
Greek Salad is one of those must try eating experiences that every visitor to Greece and Crete try. The simple but tasty salad contains green pepper, onion, tomato, cucumber and olives topped with feta cheese sprinkled with oregano and dressed with plenty of olive oil and lemon juice. Many other salads make up the available vegetarian food in Crete.
Green Beans in Tomato Sauce
This is one of our favourite Greek dishes for vegetarians and it is often on menus at Crete restaurants. It is known as Fasolakia and is simply green beans slow cooked with fresh local tomatoes.
Horta are boiled greens served with olive oil and lemon. Horta is not just one type of edible plant. Horta is freshly picked and prepared here on Crete and has many varieties, depending on the season and availability of green edible plants.
There are many vegetarian pasta dishes available in Greece and Crete. Some of the pasta menus are so extensive that they cover several pages of the restaurant menus. Those pasta dishes that use olives are particularly tasty.
Saganaki is one of those Greek dishes for vegetarians that are different in each restaurant you visit in Greece and Crete. Basically its fried cheese but variations of cheese are often offered with haloumi being the most common. It is tastier than it sounds. Prawn or shrimp Saganaki is another variation.
Stuffed Courgette Flowers
Stuffed courgette flowers (zucchini) are not on every menu in the Crete restaurants and traditional Greek tavernas. But when they are they are delicious. Unlike the stuffed vine leaves that are sometimes tinned and not homemade, stuffed courgette flowers are always prepared fresh. The stuffing is a seasoned rice mix.
Stuffed Peppers and Stuffed Tomatoes
Stuffed peppers and/or stuffed tomatoes tend to be the go to choice for many vegetarians visitors to Crete. The vegetables known as Gemista are oven baked with a stuffing of seasoned rice. However vegetarians need to be certain that they do not also contain mince meat which is sometimes the case. Check with the waiter if you are uncertain.
Stuffed Vine Leaves
Stuffed vine leaves or Dolmades is a very popular vegetarian dish served in Crete and Greece in general. Dolmades are stuffed with a rice mixture that sometimes has mint or fennel added. Stuffed vine leaves are usually presented with some delicious Greek yogurt.
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