10 dishes to try when you are in Crete

The natural beauty and delicious cuisine of Crete make it an ideal destination, even for solo travelers.
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Cretans are proud of two things: the beauty of their island and the deliciousness of their local cuisine. It is an island that offers unforgettable moments, whenever you choose to visit it. Whether you choose the big cities or the villages of Crete, its flavors will follow you everywhere and they will captivate your senses. The island’s cuisine is the basis for the Mediterranean diet and carries many elements of the land’s customs and traditions. Of course, it is all due to the fertile land that generously gives us the products that make every dish incredible.

It is not by chance that in every corner of Greece you will find grocery stores and markets dedicated to Cretan products. Raki, mizithra, staka, apaki, rusks, are all elements that come easily to your table. To witness the authentic way the recipes are being made and to learn the secrets from the locals, book tickets for Crete right here.

View of Loutro, a village in Crete

View of Loutro, a village in Crete

1. Escargot (snails as food)

Some cannot stand the sight of them, while others consider Cretan escargot to be high in their gastronomic preferences. They have a special way of cooking them, which is called “boubouristi”, i.e. turned on their back as the word says in the local dialect. You will find escargot in stew, with greens, with tomato sauce, or with barley. They can also be served with just a bit of olive oil, vinegar, salt and rosemary, a dish which is ideally accompanied by cold tsikoudia.

Cretan escargot

Cretan escargot

2. Boureki

It is the Cretan version of the zucchini-potato pie, originating from the plain of Chania. This combination of potato and white cheese (preferably feta, thick cream cheese or mizithra), as well as fresh zucchini, is a quick and light summer meal that will keep you company even on the beach, as a snack.

Boureki, a combination of potato, white cheese and zucchini

Boureki, a combination of potato, white cheese and zucchini

Tasty tip: You can make it either as a regular pie, with a sheet of pastry on top, or not. Have a look and you will find plenty of diverse recipes.

3. Sfakian pie

One of the divine sweets of Crete... As its name suggests, this pie comes from Sfakia, but its fame has spread to various other parts of Crete. The dough is very thin and has a filling of white soft cheese (mizithra, thick or cream cheese). It is fried almost without any oil. It is served as a dessert, or as a side dish to drink raki.

A delicious Sfakian pie

A delicious Sfakian pie

Tasty tip: Do not hesitate to put honey, cinnamon and nuts on top...

4. “Antikristo” meats

It does not have to be Easter for Cretans to organize a feast with “opposite” lambs. At every gathering, they prepare this ritual for the "ofto", as the locals call it, which has its roots in the villages of Psiloritis where the shepherds set up a cooking method somewhat reminiscent of lamb skewering. The difference is in the special and old way of cooking: The experienced Cretan roasters, who pass on the tradition from generation to generation, set up large long and narrow pieces of lamb or goat meat around the fire where it slowly begins to slowly cook until it looks like it will melt from the fire. The skewers are placed around the fire and not on top of it. This type of BBQ requires patience as it can take up to 5 or 6 hours. But the result will bring an unprecedented taste to your palate.

Tasty tip: Many Cretans claim that the secret of success is to use only female animals.

5. Stamnagathi greens

It is a type of greens that resembles radish, which is also found in other parts of the Mediterranean like Cyprus and Malta. It has significant nutritional value, an intense and distinctive, relatively bitter taste. It needs plenty of boiling and can be served on its own as a salad or as a side dish with meat, in omelettes as well as together with fried leeks, garlic and onions.

Stamnagathi greens have significant nutritional value

Stamnagathi greens have significant nutritional value

Tasty tip: In their homes, the locals wash the stamnagathi well and eat it raw, accompanied by some raki.

6. Fennel pie

It is a dish that you will find in every corner of the island. Its name may make you think of a pie full of fresh fennel, but it does not let you know how much tastier it is than any vegetable pie you have tried before. Its shape is flat, and just a little oil in the pan brings out the unique aroma of this special dish.

Tasty tip: For even more flavor points, you can add lapatha greens, spinach leaves and some spring onion.

7. “Anevata Kalitsounia” pies

They are considered one of the finest delicacies in Crete and they are puffy pies made with yeast, filled with mizithra or cream cheese, honey and cinnamon. Their final shape resembles a bun, and they are usually prepared at Easter.
You can taste them both as a dessert or as a side dish for your raki.

"Anevata Κalitsounia", one of the finest delicacies in Crete

"Anevata kalitsounia", one of the finest delicacies in Crete

Tasty tip: There are several variations of these pies, some of which are like tartlets, or with an asteroid shape. However, their filling and the final taste doesn’t significantly change.

8. Meat cake

It is essentially a meat pie that is originated from Chania. The term "cake" in Crete does not only mean “dessert” but also “pie”. This is another special delicacy that you will easily find around Easter. It is made with boiled lamb or goat, with a yeast or soy pastry. Enhanced with a variety of wonderful cheeses, such as condensed milk, cream cheese, cheese cream, Cretan gruyere and of course staka, the dish is elevated to extreme taste dimensions!

You will easily find a meat pie during Easter

You will easily find a meat pie during Easter

Tasty tip: What would you say if we suggest a little cinnamon on top?

9. Skewered macaroni

Italy may be proud of its pasta, but the Cretan version is timeless and incomparable. The skewered macaroni is made with flour and water, kneaded and made into an elongated shape that is cut, twisted and boiled in salted water. “Skioufikta” as they are called are served with staka and kefalotyri or cream cheese.

Tasty tip: If you want to enhance the taste even more, add sausage or apaki.

10. Dakos

It is the most famous Cretan salad that the locals also call "owl". The base of dakos is the Cretan rusk. Pour plenty of grated fresh tomatoes on top, and their juice will soften the base. Add grated feta or mizithra and Cretan oregano.

Tasty tip: Don’t forget to add plenty of virgin olive oil, olives and capers.

View of Rethymnon

View of Rethymnon

Crete is an ideal destination, even for lonely travelers, especially Chania where there is a port, an airport and a vibrant pulse all year round. Book your tickets here on time and get to know one of the most famous cuisines in the world!