Greek Food Guide: 10 Must-Try Cretan Foods

Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods When Visiting Crete

Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods

Crete is a must-visit island to taste Greek food at its best

Cretan gastronomy is an important chapter of the Greek cuisine. Not only is the island of Crete a key player in agricultural and livestock  farming activities but it also has a rich culinary culture to show through the centuries. Crete provides all regions of Greece with all kinds of premium Cretan products.

Cretan cuisine relies on seasonality and fresh ingredients. It is all about a few local ingredients, simple cooking preparations and distinct flavors. Vegetables and wild greens form the basis of Cretan cooking. There are lots of Cretan foods for you to taste if you follow a vegetarian-based diet.

Explore the culinary philosophy of Crete with these 10 must-try Cretan foods beyond popular Greek specialties.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Taste Cretan Foods-Snails of Crete

A culinary journey for Greek food lovers: 10 must-try Cretan foods


1. Snails of Crete (chochlioi)

A high source of iron and protein, low in fat, the snails of Crete are a real delicacy. It’s a meal of high nutritional value. Locals regularly cook the snails in a pan either adding onions and tomatoes (chochlioi kokinistoi) or with red wine vinegar and rosemary (chochlioi boubouristoi).

But there are a  lot of other recipes with snails to taste on the island: snails cooked as a stew with wild greens (horta) or snails cooked with xinochondros trahanas (a traditional type of pasta which is basically cracked wheat made out of sour milk that is left out in the sun to dry). 


Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods-Cretan Omelette with Artichokes

“Cretan foods are based on simple ingredients, minimum  cooking preparations and distinct flavors.”



2. Cretan omelette with artichokes

A classic recipe to taste in Crete based on simple ingredients, minimum cooking preparations and distinct flavors. Raw, cooked or pickled artichokes are regularly used in Cretan cooking. Spring is the best season to taste fresh artichokes which give a nice crunchy texture when added in salads and omelettes. Cretan omelettes are more fluffy and make a perfect light meal combined with a fresh salad. 


Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods - Staka with Eggs

“Cretan cuisine relies on seasonality and fresh local ingredients.”

3. Staka with eggs

A core dish of Cretan cuisine made with eggs and a local creamy cheese called “staka”. That’s a special cheese variety used as a type of Cretan butter in cooking. It’s more likely to taste it in making omelettes combined with fried potatoes. Along with freshly made bread it’s a delicious meal to taste.

This cheese is formed by collecting the cream that is shaped on the surface after boiling goat’s or sheep’s milk. It’s good to know that it’s a cheese of high content with a strong milky flavor.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Taste Cretan Foods - Fennel Pie

4. Pitarakia

In Crete, pies are typically cooked in a pan. Small-sized pies filled with fresh local cheese or wild greens are called “pitarakia”. A perfect choice for a proper Cretan breakfast or as an appetizer. What’s interesing is that if you add a bit of Cretan honey on top of a Cretan cheese pie (mizithropita) it’s instantly transformed into a tasty sweet treat. Cheese pairs perfectly with honey.

A favorite type of pie is the one filled with fennel (marathopita). It’s something that you should definitely taste when visiting the island. A simple, humble pie full of freshness and taste.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods - Xinochondros Trahanas

“Trahanas is a traditional type of pasta used in making various Greek food recipes.”


5. Xinochondros trahanas

Trahanas is a traditional type of pasta used in making various Greek food recipes. Xinochondros trahanas, which is basically cracked wheat made from sour milk, is considered to be a Cretan type of pasta. It’s a humble ingredient of daily Cretan cuisine but it’s also a fine product used widely in Cretan gastronomy.

A classic recipe to taste when visiting the island is that of xinochondros trahanas cooked with aubergines in rich tomato sauce. It’s a core dish of the local cuisine and it tastes even better when combined with yoghurt giving a refreshing flavor.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods - Skioufichta pasta

6. Skioufichta Cretan pasta

The traditional Cretan pasta used as a canvas for multiple recipes. A classic dish at the core of the local cuisine is that of skioufichta cooked in meat broth (from goat or lamb) and served with grated anthotyros cheese (syzouma).

It’s more likely that you’ll get to taste “skioufichta” combined with a local smoked meat (made from pork or chicken which is marinated in extra virgin olive oil and Cretan wild herbs) called “apaki”. That’s a recipe that you can also enjoy as a pasta salad in many restaurants.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Taste Cretan Foods - Goat meat with baked potatoes

7. Roast goat meat with baked potatoes

That’s a great example of the culinary philosophy behind Cretan cooking. A tasty roast meat cooked with potatoes in extra virgin olive oil, oregano or thyme and tomato paste. The Cretan way of baking potatoes is to cut them into four pieces (kydonates). A simple, flavorful marinade which allows you to appreciate the real taste of meat. In eastern Crete, it’s a typical festive dish served on special social occasions (e.g. wedding events). 


Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods - Anthoi

8. Courgette blossoms stuffed with rice and wild herbs

A favorite recipe in Crete which is perfect for a vegetarian-based diet as well. Soft courgette leaves stuffed with rice and aromatic wild herbs (anthoi) is a tasteful food to try as a starter dish combined with yoghurt or feta cheese. It’s similar to the popular Greek food widely known as “dolmadakia” which is stuffed vine leaves.

The most impressive version of this dish is made with creamy local cheese (xygalo, pichtogalo or galomizithra) that is used as a filling for the courgette blossoms. Fried courgette blossoms are a real delicacy with a crispy texture and a velvety filling on the inside that melts in the mouth.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Taste Cretan Foods - Wild Greens

9. Wild greens (horta)

Locals love to include all kinds of wild greens (horta) to their daily diet, either raw in a fresh salad or cooked as part of various recipes.  You’ll get to taste a selection of fresh stir-fried greens (tsigariasta), depending on the season, served with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. What’s even more tasteful is to add fresh grated tomatoes on top of the greens so that you can mix them all together. A delicious summer salad, refreshing and flavorful.


Greek Food Guide: Must-Try Cretan Foods - Kakavia soup

“A hearty, nutritious soup that can be found in traditional fishing villages.”

10. Traditional kakavia soup

It’s the traditional fish soup of Crete which includes different kinds of local fish such as grouper, rockfish, red snapper or redfish. Kakavia is typically cooked adding onions, fresh tomatoes and potatoes. It’s a simple and humble meal that fishermen typically prepare it while being on the boat. A hearthy, nutritious soup that can be found mostly in coastal, fishing villages on the island. Don’t forget to accompany this delicious soup with crispy Cretan rusks (paximadia)! 



Greek Food Guide: Must-Taste Cretan Foods-Cheese Pies

Hungry for more Cretan delights?

Check our digital Cretan cookbook to learn how to cook the Cretan way from scratch.

Explore the real Cretan cuisine of everyday life with 50+ easy, homemade recipes including tasteful appetizers, lunch & dinner ideas and simple sweet desserts.

Cook many different meals from the comfort of your home and bring the real flavors of Crete at your table!