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Cretan Food: Food in Crete to Try
The ancient island of Crete is the biggest in Greece. A huge tourist-destination, as well as favorite with locals, it’s also home to some of the best farms and food suppliers in the country.
Food in Crete is wholesome and tasty, using locally-sourced natural ingredients that are often in season. To whet your appetite, we’ve picked out ten of our favorite foods from the iconic island of Crete.
Read more: A local’s insight to Greek tavernas
Overview of Cretan Cuisine
Cretan cuisine is a true reflection of the island’s rich culinary heritage and the vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean. Traditional Cretan food emphasizes the use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients and simple yet flavorful cooking techniques. With its focus on wholesome and nourishing dishes, Cretan cuisine is not only delicious but also known for its health benefits.
One of the highlights of Cretan cuisine is its variety of cheeses. Cretan cheeses, such as graviera and myzithra, are widely celebrated for their unique flavors and textures. Graviera, a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, offers a nutty and slightly sweet taste, while myzithra, a soft cheese made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, provides a creamy and tangy flavor. These cheeses are used in many traditional Cretan dishes, adding richness and depth to the culinary creations.
Are you planning to visit Crete? Read our Ultimate Crete Travel Guide for 2023
Cretan food specialties showcase the island’s bounty of fresh produce, including olives, vegetables, and aromatic herbs. The cuisine features a wide range of dishes such as dakos, a rustic salad made with barley rusk, tomatoes, feta cheese, and olive oil. Another beloved Cretan dish is sfakianopita, a traditional pie filled with sweet cheese and drizzled with honey. These dishes, along with many others, highlight the simplicity and purity of Cretan flavors.
Overall, Cretan cuisine offers a delightful blend of traditional dishes that celebrate the island’s natural resources and culinary traditions. The focus on locally sourced ingredients, flavorful cheeses, and the use of traditional cooking methods all contribute to the unique and enticing flavors that make Cretan cuisine a true culinary treasure. Whether you’re exploring the local tavernas or cooking Cretan recipes at home, the richness and authenticity of Cretan cuisine are sure to leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.
Explore Cretan Food Culture
Exploring Cretan food culture is a delightful adventure that takes you beyond the plate and into the heart of the island’s culinary traditions. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in this rich gastronomic heritage is by embarking on a food tour in Crete. These guided tours offer an incredible opportunity to delve deeper into Cretan cuisine, discover hidden gems, and engage with local food artisans and chefs.
During a food tour in Crete, you’ll have the chance to sample an array of traditional dishes and experience the true flavors of the island. From mouthwatering meze platters filled with local cheeses, cretan virgin olive oil , cheese pies and dips to savoring slow-cooked lamb dishes and freshly caught seafood, every bite unveils the unique blend of ingredients and techniques that define Cretan food. As you venture through bustling markets, family-owned tavernas, and quaint villages, expert guides will share fascinating stories about the history, culture, and significance of each culinary delight.
Food Tours in Crete
Chania Walking Food Tour: Indulge your taste buds on a delightful Chania walking food tour in Crete. Stroll through charming streets, sample local delicacies, and uncover the hidden gastronomic treasures of Chania starting from 92€/ person!!
Heraklion Private Food Tour: Enjoy a delicious experience discovering the culture and history of Crete through its food. Join Heraklion private food tour and you’re guaranteed to have a delicious experience.
Chania Olive Oil Tour: Join us for a unique Chania olive oil tour with wine tastings. You’ll be able to sample a variety of flavors and learn about the production process. Book now!
Heraklion Market Food Tour: the perfect way to learn about the city’s rich history and cultural influences while sampling some of the best local foods. Join now!
These food tours in Crete also provide a behind-the-scenes look into the production of iconic Cretan ingredients, such as olive oil, honey, and cheese. You’ll visit olive groves, bee farms, and cheese dairies, gaining firsthand knowledge of the traditional methods and sustainable practices used to create these exceptional products. The immersive nature of the tours allows you to not only taste but also understand the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into preserving Cretan food culture.
Embarking on a food tour in Crete is an unforgettable experience that allows you to explore the island’s vibrant food culture in a meaningful way. It’s a chance to create lasting memories, forge connections with locals, and expand your culinary horizons. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a history buff, or simply someone who appreciates good food, a food tour in Crete will open your senses to a world of flavors and traditions that make Cretan cuisine truly remarkable.
Traditional Cretan Food
In Crete they call it ‘liquid gold’, as you might have discovered at any restaurant you enter. Indeed, the Cretans are some of the biggest suppliers (and consumers) of olive oil, enjoying on average a whopping 31 litres per personally annually!
For food lovers, a wine and olive oil tour is the perfect way to learn more about this national staple, and understand why it plays such an important role in the Crete way of life.
Native to southern Crete – Sfakia – to be precise, is this drool-worthy pie. The dough has a distinctive taste to it… undoubtedly due to the liquor-infused in it, quite typically Raki! Pies can contain various cheese fillings, from goats to sheep’s cheese, and will often have a smattering of honey and rosemary for that unmistakably Cretan sweet aftertaste.
You might be surprised to know that Crete leads the way in the volume of cheese consumption! For this reason, perhaps, cheese is a must-try food when visiting the island.
There is plenty of great cheese to sample, including Kefalotyri Kritis – a goat and sheep mix with distinctive holes. Or perhaps you’re more fond of the local favorite – Graviera – this rich lingering flavor and the sweet aftertaste is owing to the sheep’s milk used.
Once you’ve sampled cheese from Crete, the next step is one of their golden pies. The Kaltsounia is a yummy delight using handmade pastry dough and filled with local oozing cheese. But just when you thought you were getting something simple, the Crete twist comes in – the pie is topped with honey for a sweet finish.
You can’t avoid Dakos on a trip to Crete. This popular food is their local take on a Greek salad. It includes bruschetta, grated cheese, sheep’s cheese and barley rusks, as well as oregano as you’d expect. The result is a delicious salad you won’t mind tucking in to.
Lamb (Crete -Style)
Stamnagathi is the key ingredient in this lamb dish, served the Crete way. This wild green, reminiscent of seaweed, is the preserve of five-star establishments making it very trendy in food circles.
This forms the main filled that the lamb is stuffed with, before being fried in olive oil and a smattering of Greek spices. Served with a Greek-size wedge of lemon, it brings all your food dreams to life!
Meat fans take note, Apaki is salted pork meat with a strong smoky taste. Left to marinade in strong vinegar, this is one to avoid for anyone who suffers from heartburn!
Adventurous food types need only apply. This snail dish, yes snails, is a tradition for the strong-stomached! Snails are floured and deep fried with a sprinkling or rosemary, before being served up to willing takers. Crete has many…
In Crete, it’s not just about great food – there’s plenty of great drinks too, including Brandy. A popular tipple, this is best sampled after the grape harvest and definitely not to be confused with the other local drink – Raki!
Often drunk out of shot glasses, the local brew is easy to stumble across in any local restaurant or café, as a warming nightcap.
This elaborate name is simply a rich creamy rice dish that is typically eaten at a local Crete wedding. Such is the fondness for the dish, you’re likely to stumble across it in many of the tavernas on the island. Think of it as Crete’s version of Risotto!
Where to Find the Best Cretan Food
When it comes to indulging in the best of Cretan cuisine, there are several exceptional places to satisfy your cravings. Throughout the island, you’ll discover a multitude of local tavernas, charming restaurants, and bustling food markets that showcase the authentic flavors of Crete.
For an immersive food experience, head to the lively cities of Chania and Heraklion, where you’ll find a plethora of eateries serving up traditional Cretan dishes. Wander through the narrow streets of Chania’s old town and stumble upon hidden gems offering meze platters, grilled meats, and seafood caught that very day. In Heraklion, explore the central market and sample local delicacies, including freshly baked bread, aromatic cheeses, and vibrant fruits.
Read more: 5 Best Restaurants in Crete
If you’re seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience, venture into Crete’s smaller villages and rural areas. Here, family-run tavernas and local food producers showcase the true essence of Cretan food. From mountainous regions like Sfakia to coastal villages like Agia Pelagia, each place has its own culinary treasures waiting to be discovered.
Wherever you choose to explore in Crete, you can be assured that the island is a haven for food enthusiasts. From seaside tavernas with breathtaking views to rustic countryside establishments, the best Cretan food can be found in the most unexpected and charming corners of the island.
A team of foodies, cooks, and travelers. Alios Tours was founded out of our passion for Greek food. We share the delicious side of Greece.