Caring for other beings and the environment while travelling is good for everyone, and even if you are not a vegetarian, Greece is a good place to give it a try. Travelers often get discouraged by the fact that even in Athens there are not many vegetarian and vegan restaurants. But don’t be disheartened, for the Greek cuisine has many vegetarian traditional dishes that you can find in most tavernas.
- In Greek traditional cuisine, these are cooked in a tomato soup, tasting much better than they sound.
- “Gemista” meaning stuffed, these are tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and zucchinis stuffed with rice (when I make them at home, I also throw some black raisins in there). They are usually accompanied by oven-roasted potatoes. Just make sure to order the vegetarian version, as there are those that prefer to stuff them with minced meat.
- Greek salad, aka Xoriatiki. The delicious Greek salad consists of freshly cut tomatoes, cucumbers and olives, dressed with olive oil. If you are vegan though, you might want to ask to skip the feta cheese that is invariably in the mix, otherwise I strongly suggest to try it. Keep in mind that there is a whole “protected designation of origin” thing going on with feta, so if you have tried anything with that name outside Greece, it’s probably not the real thing and you are in for a pleasant surprise.
- An alternative salad, greens abound in the Greek countryside and so dandelion, bur chervil, purslane, sow thistle and many more are served boiled or steamed, each of them at its own time of the year.
- This is more of a side dish to dip your fries in, but you should definitely try it. It is a sauce made from yogurt, garlic and cucumbers, but beware of your breath afterwards! A funny scene almost always takes place around Greek tables that have tzatziki, where everyone asks everyone else if they are going to have it too, so that they are not the only ones with “tzatziki breath” afterwards.
- These are a great appetizer, but make sure to order the “yalatzi” dolmades, vine leaves stuffed with rice, and not the classic dolmades, which are cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat.
- “Ladera”. This is a big family of vegetable casserole or oven-baked dishes cooked with olive oil. My favorite is “sybetherio” (translation: in-laws), a feast of vegetables (eggplants, zucchinis, okra, green beans and potatoes). You may also find it under the name “tourlou” or “briam”.
- Greek giant beans (“gigantes”). Baked in the oven with tomato sauce, they go very well with feta cheese.
- Orphan gyros. If you are determined to try the famous Greek souvlaki but will not eat meat, you can ask any gyro shop for an “orphan gyros”, which is pita bread with everything except for the meat (usually fries, fresh tomato and tzatziki).