Greece is one of those destinations I'd long wanted to visit. Since a child, I was mesmerized by images of Santorini at sunset, Mykonos' iconic blue and white buildings, and, of course, Athens' famous Acropolis ruins.
As a vegan, however, I had questions about eating vegan in Greece. Growing up in Australia, Greek food options usually meant meat kababs and souvlaki. But I love a challenge. And so I eagerly traveled to the unofficial meat-eating capital of Europe to uncover the best vegan food and experiences the country had to offer.
In this guide, we explore the vegan options available in Greece, from traditional Greek dishes to vegan-friendly restaurants and supermarkets. We also delve into the best ethical travel experiences to be had in this wonderful country.
Veganism in Greece
Veganism isn't as popular in Greece as it is in other parts of Europe. In fact, Greece has been labeled the meat-eating capital of Europe, despite veganism's slow growth in popularity in the last decade.
However, when traveling to Greece, it's important to understand that veganism is still not widely understood or accepted in Greece. Traditional Greek cuisine is heavily based on animal products, and many Greeks view a vegan diet as restrictive and unhealthy. As a result, it can be challenging for vegans to find suitable food options in non-vegan restaurants.
Despite these challenges, the vegan movement in Greece is undoubtedly gaining momentum. There are now close to 50 vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Athens and close to 200 eateries that offer veggie options in the city. Veganism has also become more present in media recently as more Greek celebrities promote the benefits of going vegan.
So traveling to Greece as a vegan won't be as easy as some countries in Europe, but it is entirely possible.
Veganism in Greece Overview:
- Greek word for vegan: χορτοφάγος (chortofágos) See pronunciation here.
- Best vegan locations in Greece: Athens, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos.
- Popular local fruit: Apricots, peaches, nectarines, and cherries.
- Naturally vegan Greek meals: Greek lentil soup, tabbouleh salad.
- Common non-vegan ingredients: Lamb, seafood, feta cheese.
Local Vegan Meals To Eat in Greece
Unfortunately, Greek food is mostly meat-based, so it can be hard to truly indulge in the local cuisine. The vegan Greek food options are:
- Salads, Dips and Pastries: There are a number of Greek salads, dips and pastries which are naturally, or easily made vegan.
- Middle East Foods: A lot of vegan Middle Eastern foods are very popular in Greece. You can find hummus, falafel and pita on every corner.
- Veganized Greek Foods: As the consciousness around veganism grows in Greece, there are more places offering veganized Greek food options. For example, you can find gyros made with faux meat or fries.
Vegan Greek Food Starters
- Greek Salad: A classic Greek salad made with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives, and feta cheese. For a vegan version, simply ask for the feta cheese to be removed. Note, sometimes this also comes with a hard-boiled egg, so check this and remove it before ordering.
- Dolmades: Stuffed grape leaves are rice-based and may also contain herbs, spices. While often vegan, dolmades can sometimes contain ground meat.
- Skordalia: Basically mashed potato with a strong garlic flavor.
Vegan Greek Food Meals
- Gigantes Plaki: A baked dish of giant beans in a tomato sauce, often served with bread.
- Gemista: Stuffed vegetables with rice and herbs, usually peppers, tomatoes, or zucchini.
- Fasolada: Traditional Greek soup that has been a staple in Greek cuisine for centuries. It is a vegan soup made from simple ingredients, typically white beans, onions, carrots, celery, olive oil, and tomato paste.
- Hummus Plate: A mixture of hummus, falafel, pita, tahini and fries.
- Melitzanokeftedes: Think meatballs, but made with eggplants. Sometimes these may contain feta cheese, so be sure to ask.
Vegan Greek Street Food
- Meatless Gyros: Simply ask for no meat - these are surprisingly tasty.
- Falafel Pita: Similar to a gyros, you'll find street vendors selling falafel instead of meat.
- Fava: A dip made from yellow split peas, olive oil, and lemon juice. It is served as a meze (appetizer) and is often topped with capers and onions.
- Kalitsouni: Greek empanadas can be found with vegan fillings.
- Potato Roll: A common pastry that resembles a British sausage roll, except the filling is potato.
- [Cheeseless] Spanakopita: The most common pastry in Greece is the spinach and feta pie called Spanakopita. However, on rare occasions you can find these pies that do not contain feta, meaning they're 100% vegan.
- Eliopsomo: This is Greek Olive Bread that can be found in bakeries throughout Greece. It is made with flour, sugar, salt, yeast and, of course, olives.
- Koulouri: A type of bread that is typically topped with sesame seeds. While some koulouri may contain dairy or eggs, many street vendors offer vegan options.
Best Places in Greece for Vegans
As the largest city in Greece, it's not surprising this is where most of the vegan food lives. While Greece tends to be a little more challenging for vegans, Athens is easy due to the sheer amount of vegan restaurants available. One of the most popular is Avocado, which offers a variety of vegan dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. Another great option is Cookoomela, which specializes in vegan Greek cuisine. For a quick and easy meal, head to Falafellas for delicious vegan falafel and salads.
Crete is known as one of the most vegan-friendly of the Greek Islands. One of the best places to try local vegan cuisine is Pulse, a vegan restaurant that offers a variety of vegan dishes made with fresh, organic ingredients. For a variety of Thai, Indian, Mexican, Japanese and more, head to the family-operated restaurant, Third Eye.
Santorini has some amazing vegan options to match its iconic views. One of the best is Falafeland, a vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant that offers a variety of falafel and hummus dishes. For a classy option, head to 5Senses, a concept restaurant that revists Mediterranean cuisine from a plant-based perspective.
Mykonos may be a party destination, but it also has some great vegan options. If you're craving some vegan street foods, head over to Rhino Vegan Street Food for a great spot in the heart of Old Town. Fancy a healthy bowl? Bowl Mykonos is a vegan-friendly restaurant that offers a variety of bowls filled with fresh, healthy ingredients.
Mykonos is also the location of Greece's first-ever 100% vegan hotel. Koukoumi Vegan Hotel is the only fully vegan hotel in Greece and features luxury suites, a gym, spa and of course, its very own vegan restaurant.