Greece is a million things, and delicious iconic Greek snacks are some of the best things you can bring home as a perfect holiday souvenir.
Greek cuisine is one of the most recognizable and enjoyable in the world. The perfect climate and soil make for mouthwatering foods that are also great for your health.
The country is also famous for some unique snacks that spell G-r-e-e-c-e and they are easily portable, so you can easily take them home to boot. After all, you’d have some problems at the airport carrying a baking pan of moussaka or half a roasted lamb as carry-ons.
True, some of these products are exported to other countries, but they are still not easy to find. And if you do, it is possible that they are poor imitations.
Deep golden like a Greek sunset, Greek honey is the best in the world. It is unique because of the country’s famed biodiversity and temperate climate.
The wide variety of trees and flowers found in Greece makes the country a playground for bees, who produce honey with different tastes depending on their surroundings.
Beekeeping in Greece is as old as the country’s ancient history and today honey is one of the most sought-after foods. A jar of the golden nectar will keep you in touch with Greece like nothing else will.
There is so much one can say about this magical aromatic resin from the mastic trees that grow on Chios island and the many mastic products made from them.
Mastic resin is processed in various ways, making for delectable sweets, chewing gum that works wonders on your teeth and the fantastic mastiha liqueur, one of the best natural digestives in the world.
Masticha is used as a spice as well, not only in sweets but in other foods as well.
Greek mountain capers
The caper bush grows on mountainous areas and bears edible flower buds (capers), and the fruit (caper berries), both of which are used pickled in salads.
Most famous are the capers from Sifnos, Santorini and Messinia; they taste great in a Greek salad and some cooked dishes as well. Also, a little jar of these nifty buds fits easily even in a briefcase.
Sour cherry, quince, fig, grape, and orange peel are some of the flavors of the many spoon sweets that are traditionally served with the afternoon Greek coffee. They are easy to find in all grocery stores.
Spoon sweets (glyka tou koutaliou) are boiled fruit preserved in a thick sugary syrup and are served as a welcome treat in a tiny saucer-type dish or in a plate with several spoons so each person can have their own.
Paximadi (singular) is basically a very hard rusk, or twice-baked bread or cookie, that lasts a long time and can be eaten only if you dunk it in water or olive oil to soften it.
The most famous paximadia come from Crete and can be made from a variety of grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, corn, carob and chickpea flour. They can even be fashioned from a combination of these.
A centuries-old staple, today Cretan paximadia have become a trendy snack as cheese, olive, tomato, herb and other varieties flood supermarkets and health food stores.
A wet paximadi is also the base of dakos salad, a rusk topped with small pieces of tomato, crumbled feta cheese, capers and olives with a generous sprinkle of olive oil on top.
The smell of freshly roasted Greek coffee is unbeatable. You can go to the Loumidis main shop next to Omonoia Square in Athens and inhale deeply for an experience you will never forget.
You will see the gigantic grinder in the center of the store turning the dark beans into the magic brown powder that makes this mouthwatering beverage with the creamy, bubbly top.
Or you can go to any supermarket and buy the green packaged Loumidis coffee with the parrot emblem, or the Bravo brand with the Brazilian man with the sombrero. Once home, have a Greek coffee away from Greece.
These chewy Greek honey and sesame stick snacks were once a staple in every Greek home. One of the easiest ancient Greek recipes to cook, it is mass produced and readily accessible at any Greek kiosk or supermarket.
From the basic sesame and honey, nowadays you can find pasteli variations with pistachios and honey, almonds, and other nuts. Yesterday’s staple, and today’s super food, pasteli is delicious and good for you, too.
Semolina halvas is a plain, sweet, and dense confection of semolina, sugar, water and oil, spiced with cinnamon.
For Greeks, halvas is one of the Lenten desserts. The Macedonian halvas recipe – the most popular – uses tahini and is baked in a square or cylindrical shape, while it is crunchy in texture.
A traditional confection, today Macedonian halvas can be found in many varieties that include chocolate, almonds, berries, and so on.
Feta is the Greek cheese known the world over. Yet there is an amazing variety of Greek cheeses, with almost every region boasting its own Gruyere-type cheese. Yet there is a specific cheese made in Metsovo, Epirus that is a must-taste even amongst all the Greek cheeses.
Metsovone is a semi-soft cheese that is naturally smoked to perfection. It is a robust cheese that can accompany the finest wines and for many it is a trademark Greek snack. It comes in a long loaf, tied with twine.
ION chocolates have been in the dreams — and cavities — of Greek children for decades. ION milk chocolate has been an iconic Greek snack for generations, with the red wrapper almost unchanged for the same amount of time.
Trends come and go and candy bars have mutated to all kinds of sweet hybrids, but the rich taste of ION chocolates, whether milk or with almonds, is still a traditional Greek snack today.
If you happen to be on Piraeus Street in Faliro, near the Olympiacos soccer stadium, the sweet smell coming from the nearby ION factory will give you a sweet Willy Wonka moment.
Tyropita (cheese pie)
If you walk a busy street in Greece in early morning, you will notice many people holding a coffee in one hand and a tyropita in the other.
The most typical Greek snack is a pastry made with layers of buttered phyllo and filled with a cheese-egg mixture. It is served either in an individual-size or as a larger pie cut into pieces.
Variations include the kasseropita, made with kasseri cheese, zamponopita (with ham), spanakopita (spinach) and others. Yes, this last delicacy might be harder to take home than the other yummy treats here. But see if you can get some in a small box to keep you going before you wend your way back home. You won’t be sorry!