If you have been to Santorini already, you probably had one delicious meal after the other. Except for the picture-perfect views, romantic sunsets, and luxury hotels that make Santorini a famous honeymoon spot, much of the island’s magic happens in the kitchen of casual tavernas and upscale restaurants. Santorini is a top culinary destination with delicious yet healthy Mediterranean cuisine. The island impresses with fertile volcanic soil that adds special flavors to its agricultural products. The dry land increases plenty of minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium so the crops have a surprisingly high-quality taste. Are you wondering what to taste while in Santorini? Read on to take a glimpse of the local food before visiting the island-they worth every bite!
We begin our list from this signature Santorini dish. The fava of Santorini is a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) product that comes from the plant Lathyrus Clymenum L. which has been grown only on the island for more than 3,500 years. Though small, fava beans are rich in proteins and carbohydrates. The traditional method of production is to mature the beans in underground storehouses for a year. Then they are dried in the sun, cleaned, peeled, and sliced. Fava is easily cooked as a puree, it has a velvety texture and a slightly sweet taste. During summer fava stands out with red sauce & capers and called pantremeni (married) whereas during winter fava accompany perfectly by fried kavourma (smoked pork).
The perfect lunch on a hot sunny day. Locals made use of the ingredients coming from the island’s land and created an alternative version of the Greek salad. Extremely flavored cherry tomatoes, refreshing katsuni (cucumber that only grows in Santorini), salty and spicy Satorinian capers, onion, olives, and Feta -or chloro-cheese drizzled with extra virgin olive oil are combined to create the ultimate summer treat.
Ntomatokeftedes (tomato fritters)
Even though tomato fritters are a well-known meze (appetizer) all over Greece, Santorini’s ntomatokeftedes are truly in a league of their own and that is due to their main ingredient: Santorini’s cherry tomatoes. This tiny vegetable that grows only on the island has a juicy flesh, sweet taste, and intense aroma. The tomato fritters are fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. A mixture of cherry tomatoes, flour, mint, basil, and diced onions is kneaded into the dough which is fried in cooking oil. They are perfect for vegans and vegetarians as they contain no animal products. In Greece, ntomatokeftedes are an nistisimo dish (greek word for fasting food).
Chloro cheese is the main representative of the small Santorini cheese production with a handmade process that passes from grandmothers to granddaughters. It is produced with milk from some of the happiest goats in the world (how can they not be happy surrounded by Santorini’s beauty) during the winter and spring when there is plenty of grass for grazing. It is usually eaten fresh (chloro), but can also be kept in brine until it hardens. Chloro cheese is creamy, slightly sour with a soft texture and characteristic taste. Although its production is small, you can taste it in many restaurants that collaborate with local suppliers. Alternatively, you will find chloro cheese in supermarkets and points of sale for traditional products. It complements, instead of the classic feta, the Santorini salad.
Another rare product that grows only in Santorini is the white eggplant. The volcanic soil of the island did its wonder once again. The white eggplant has a sweeter taste compared to the normal ones and it does not absorb much oil when fried. It is quite big, round with firm flesh, and very juicy. Try it as a melitzanosalata (white eggplant dip), grilled, fried, or in typical Greek dishes like ‘moussaka’.
Apochti is a cured pork loin. In the traditional recipe, a piece of pork loin after being left in the salt is wrapped with herbs and vinegar and then dried hanging in a cool place. It takes at least four days to prepare as its spices need to be dried in the sun. When ready, it can be eaten several days later either sliced accompanying fine wine or used in other foods. Apochti has Byzantine roots, as evidenced by the name ‘apochti’ (the Byzantine term is apoktin). Drying or smoking was a way of preserving meat at a time when refrigerators had not yet appeared.
Seafood could not be absent from the island’s cuisine. Atherinopita is a common dish on the Cyclades islands and it is nothing more than fried smelt fish with flour and onions. All the ingredients are fried together and form a very tasty pie.
Sfougato is something in between an omelet and a pie made in the oven with courgettes, cheese, tomatoes, potatoes, and fresh herbs; all things that can be found in abundance in Greece during summertime. A tasty and healthy dish that you can enjoy all day long.
Kardamydes are exquisite green herbs collected during May at the fields and vineyards of Santorini. They are boiled and usually make the perfect side dish for small and big fish. If you happen to spot them at the end of spring at the local restaurants and tavernas make sure to try them as they are not that easy to find. A health benefit worth mentioning is that they are known to fight cholesterol.
A classic traditional dessert of Santorini during Eastertime is Melitini. Melitini is a sweet cheese pie with mizithra cheese (soft cheese) sugar and mastic. Local women of the island have mastered the recipe over the years and gather every Easter to create this delicious dessert. A fun fact is that their shape requires at least 40 stings. The very fine sting of the dough around the perimeter has a special purpose, as it helps in three things: in the taste, since it offers crispness, in the stability of the dough, which is very thin and otherwise could not hold the filling, and finally in appearance. The good news is that local bakeries make melitini all year round so you can bring them back to your hotel and cherish their unique flavor!
Koufeto is a famous traditional spoon dessert in Santorini mostly served during weddings and engagements. Glyko koufeto is made from peeled almonds and honey which are baked in the oven. Both of them symbolize the couple’s future. Honey symbolizes the sweet life of the couple, while almonds symbolize fertility. The traditional serving is done with a plate, which is held by the bride’s mother, passing by each guest and everyone takes it with a teaspoon. Nowadays, due to the tourist development, glyko koufeto can be found in small jars at local shops and it is often gifted as a favor in weddings.
Kopania is one of the oldest desserts of Santorini and its name comes from the way it is made. It is a mix of barley buns with raisins, honey, and sesame. They are usually prepared in small rolls and you can find them in different variations such as the one that contains wine. A simple, nutritious, and tasty sweet bite!
So when in Santorini, eat like a local! Enjoy every second, enjoy every meal, dive into the culinary paradise and remember…holiday calories don’t count 😉