Vegetarian Travel to Greece
Going to Greece for my honeymoon in June (Athens, Santorini, Mykonos...). I'm veg (no meat, poultry, seafood, but eggs and dairy are fine).
I'm not looking for restaurant recs, just wondering what I should look out for or be aware of - like meat bases hidden in sauces, fish that automatically get put into a salad.... where are the hidden animal products in authentic greek food?
I travelled to Greece last summer with 3 friends who are not vegetarian, but are kosher. So this meant that they ate vegetables, fish, dairy - but no meat. It was absolutely no problem - and even without fish it wouldn't have been a problem. In fact, the veg-based dishes were usually so good that we generally all just ended up sharing a table-ful of mezes and I rarely ate any meat at all.
Problems? Just a few. They never were able to have moussaka because it was almost invariably made with meat. We did run across a couple of vegetarian restaurants (one in Athens, one on Naxos) but didn't bother going in because the menu choices didn't look as appealing as the regular restaurants.
You'll find many many vegetable-based mezes everywhere. You can easily make a meal out of a selection of them plus a big Greek salad (which will come with a big slab of feta on top, rather than the crumbled feta we usually see on this side of the pond). The bread is delicious. There are spanakopita pies and various other things made with phyllo; you'll find endless versions of fasoulia (sorry for the butchered spelling) which is a wonderful, filling meze made with fava beans; there are excellent eggplant dishes of every possible type; vegetable stews (one called briam is very common) and chick pea soup called revithia (spelling again, I'm afraid) is also non-meat. I think you can be pretty sure that if you ask if there's any meat in a dish or a soup they'll be straightforward and respectful of your diet. Oh - and Santorini is famous for their tomatoes and one of the specialties you'll find there are little fried patties made with sun dried tomatoes. Delicious.
Have a wonderful honeymoon - it's just the most fabulous place imaginable.
wow.... my mouth is watering just thinking about it! thank you for the reassurance and the tips. my fiance loves meat, so i was concerned about holding him back, but it looks like there will be something for each of us. i kept telling him i was happy to eat feta and olives the whole time, which is partially true, but happy to know that there will be more varietly than i expected.
i travel a lot, and any time i post here before a trip, people like to tell me that i'll be screwed where ever i am as a vegetarian. i'm SO looking forward to this one! Thanks again...
You don't have to worry at all,cooking in Greece is seasonal and June is a wonderfull month to visit Greece,spanakorizo or spinach with rice ,green beans in tomato sauce ,spanakopita,and so many other vegetables cooked in the liquid gold of the Mediterranean,olive oil.Just think you are in the Mediterranean and people there eat more veggies than enything else.wwwhummingbirdpublications.com
I went to Greece about three years ago, and I am a vegetarian. It was not hard to find a veggie meal, however, be warned I ordered Gyros- with just tzatziki , cucumbers , onions, tomatos, and no meat. One day as I was finishing my tasty gyro I came across a piece of pork at the bottom.
Please be aware that the majority of Greek cheeses are made with "animal' rennet so they don't exactly fall under vegetarian & definitely not kosher. These restaurants do not check their vegetables(spinach) all that well for infestation so you will be getting some unexpected protein in your diet too. In most of the vegetarian stews have beef extract in them, again you are never told. Innocent phyllo dough is made in a plant that also produces meat pies. Eggplant dishes also have some meat renderings in them. Greeks are known for their Trojan Horse - in other words you cannot fully trust what they are serving you.
"Greeks are known for their Trojan Horse- you cannot fully trust what they are serving you?" "Eggplant dishes also have some meat renderings in them." "In most of the vegetarian stews have beef extract in them" Do you like to generalize, lionelmoser?
One just needs to know how to eat when one is in Greece and how to read a Greek menu in context. Most restaurants in most European countries, including Greece, tend to add meat or broth to vegetable stews or soups, if the restaurant is not a strictly vegetarian restaurant or a kosher dairy restaurant.
There is a considerable tradition of fasting in Greece, so if you happen to be visiting during a fast, it might be easier to find traditional foods that are vegetarian. Some fast days avoid meat, others dairy, and sometimes all animal products, depending on the occasion.
Tell the server that you are a strict vegetarian, rather than ordering a dish blindly off the menu and expecting it to be vegetarian because it was filed under Vegetables.
I've never found any critters in any vegetable dishes in Greece, and I can tell you that the Greeks I know personally wash their vegetables much more carefully than most North Americans I know. I would guess that tourist trap restaurants might not be as careful checking their produce, so I would suggest trying to eat where the locals eat.
Dishes like melitzanasalata, an eggplant salad, do not have meat rendering, and neither has any version of imam bayaldi I have tried (yes Turkish word, but a common dish in Greece).
I haven't noticed any "beef extract" in any vegetable dishes I have ordered. I'm not saying it might not happen in some places, but I don't believe it is a common practice in better restaurants. I eat primarily seafood, vegetables and dairy (including animal rennet cheeses) when I visit Greece.
Here is a list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Greece:
There's even a tour set up for vegetarians and vegans: