Tour Guide and Writer @ Crete Urban Adventures. Avid traveller. Passionate photographer. Cultural adventurer. Experience seeker.
The Greek diet is one of the healthiest in the world and while the Greeks still love their animal products, it’s not difficult to maintain your vegan diet whilst holidaying in Greece, you just need to know where to look. Here, our amazing guide Stefanos gives us the lowdown on all things vegan in Crete.
Local vegan food
Horta or Cretan wild greens: There are more than 100 edible horta (wild greens) in Greece and it is a very popular dish among locals. Greens are seasonal, so most Greeks cook and consume whatever crops are being cultivated at the time. Greens can be eaten raw as a salad but most of the time they are boiled or cooked as part of various recipes. The most common types of greens you’ll see (and hopefully taste!) are black nightshade, nettle, mallow, sorrel, amaranth, chicory, purslane, vetch, golden thistle and avronies, which is a kind of wild asparagus.
Kolokithokeftedes: Greeks love ‘keftedes’, which are light and crispy fritters made from squash, shaped into balls and flavoured with other ingedients plus mouthwatering herbs and spices. One of the best vegan ‘keftedes’ is known as ‘kolokithokeftedes,’ which combines zucchini squash with onions, potatoes, carrot and other ingredients and spices, mixed-well and cooked in olive oil, following a cooking tradition of hundreds of years. Other tasty vegan keftedes include tomato instead of zucchini, known as ‘tomatokeftedes’ or eggplant (melitzanokeftedes).
Dolmadakia gialatzi: Boiled vine leaves (cabbage leaves can be used as an alternative) that are stuffed with rice, parsley and different spices. A yummy summer recipe! When you order them in a tavern, do not forget to add the word ‘gialatzi’, otherwise dolmadakia are additionally filled with minced meat!
Fava: It might look like a dip but it’s actually puréed yellow split peas. It is delicious, incredibly nutritious and almost always served with chopped onions and olive oil on top.
Gemista: In Greek, Gemista means ‘filled with’ is a traditional recipe all around Greece — vegetables (often peppers or tomatoes) are stuffed with a rice mixture and baked. One of our favourites is one you’ve probably never had: stuffed zucchini flowers! Yes, you read that right. The blossoms are stuffed with plump rice and aromatic herbs to make up a simply mouthwatering dish.
Broad beans with artichokes: Broad beans have been part of Greek culture since Pythagorus (who banned their consumption due to the belief at that time that these beans contained pieces of the soul). They can be enjoyed both fresh (raw or cooked) and dried, alone or in mixtures with other legumes and fruits. There are tonnes of great broad bean recipes out there but our pick goes to broad beans with artichokes and lemon sauce – perfection!
Eating out – vegan-friendly restaurants
To Stachi Bio Slow Food is located in a quaint side street in old town Chania, near a pretty park with water views. Enjoy stuffed zucchini flowers with herbs, chestnut ‘stifado,’ moussaka with soy minced meat and plenty of fresh salads.
St. Defkalionos 5, Chania Town, Crete
Pulse restaurant offers up a sumptuous selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes made from local fresh ingredients. We highly recommend the vegan meze plate sand vegan burgers, yum!
St. Theotokopoulou 70, Chania Town, Crete
Stellas Kitchen tavern serves homemade traditional Greek dishes according to old-time recipes, of which most of them are vegan-friendly.
St. Souliou 55, Rethymnon Town, Crete
Peskesi is one of the most famous restaurants in Heraklion. Its focus is on Cretan cuisine created with local fresh products with a wide range of vegan options available
St. Kapetan Haralampi 6-8, Heraklion, Crete
Eating in – vegan takeaways
NektaR is a vegan bar located in Chania city which offers fresh juices and light bites such as vegan energy bars, raw lunches, desserts and salads. It’s also a 100% plastic-free zone.
Eleutheriou Venizelou 9, Chania Town, Crete
Rovythi (The Chickpea) is a cooperative-run café in the centre of Heraklion offering organic food and plenty of vegan take out options such as falafel, fresh fruits and vegetable dishes.
Meramvellou 9, Heraklion, Crete
Kardamon in Agios Nikolaos is a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that prides itself in cooking healthy Greek food such as, mushrooms burger, falafels and wraps.
Plateia Eleftheriou Venizelou 7-8, Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Vegan shopping and markets
Every city in Greece has its own laiki street market, where farmers and vendors from villages across the countryside come into town to sell their products. Big cities usually have more than one laiki located in different neighborhoods and they’re usually held once a week. Here you will find a wide variety of raw seasonal vegetables, fresh fruits, organic honey and local spirits.
Crete Weekly Markets/Laiki:
Saturday: Old City laiki (morning). St. Minoos, Chania Town, Crete
Tuesday: Nea Chora Laiki (morning). St. Akti Kanari, Chania Town
Wednesday: Organic market (afternoon). St. Koumoundourou, Rethymnon Town
Thursday: Laiki (morning): in the car park next to the Municipal Garden
Saturday: Laiki (morning). St. Leonidiou, Heraklion
Gaia Store Health food store is a cooperation of producers in Chania town that promotes a sustainable network of bio products. Here, you’ll find fresh products such as, olives and olive oil, bakery food and othe vegan organic products.
St. Dimitrakaki 2, Chania town, Crete
Irida Store is located in Heraklion and offers a wide variety of organic local products and vegan food.
St. Almirou 16, Heraklion
Terra Verde Store in Chania town is a fair trade store that promotes local and sustainable production. Here, you can find local goods as well, household and other products
St. Chatzimichali Ntaliani 5, Chania