Famous food in Crete

Crete is the largest and most populous island in Greece. It is famous for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and busy cities. Crete is a perfect destination to experience different kinds of adventure and enjoy the attractions and Crete foods to let the taste buds experience Cretan cuisine. One of the world’s oldest and tastiest culinary traditions is found in Crete. There is something distinctive and unusual about the Cretan manner of cooking, even though it is comparable to the rest of Greece. It’s nutritious, fresh, straightforward but bursting with flavour, and of course, downright delectable. Complex and proud, with a rugged, mountainous landscape and a strong traditional culture, Crete stands apart from mainland Greece. For its distinctive ingredients and flavours, Cretan cuisine is well-known both in Greece and abroad. The variety of local produce, which is based on straightforward cooking methods, defines the dishes: fresh fish, the renowned Cretan olive oil, mountain herbs and greens, bulbs, distinctive cheeses, raki, and so much more.

Car Rental in Crete is a great choice if planning to do a lot of stuff in Crete. It gives tourists freedom on how and when they want to visit a particular attraction or restaurant in Crete to enjoy the palatable dishes Crete has to offer. It also allows visitors to reach places that are difficult to get to. Crete budget-friendly restaurants are affordable and accessible, which makes the stay and visit enjoyable and worth it. Greece is known for its delicious food, location, and services. Cretan foods, and European, Mediterranean, and Greek cuisines are made from fresh ingredients. It seems sensible that tourists who travel to Crete for the vibrant history and breathtaking scenery end up falling in love with Cretan food.

Listed below are the 11 Famous Foods to Try in Crete.

  • Olive Oil: Olive Oil is known as “Liquid Gold”. Without it, nothing is cooked. Meats, cheese, salad, veggies, and bread. It is fantastic and covers everything.
  • Raki: It is the Cretan people’s national drink. Every meal is nearly automatically followed by its serving.
  • Loukoumades: The Greek equivalent of doughnuts, are small, fluffy, honey-sweetened balls that are deep-fried until they are ideally golden and crispy.
  • Dakos: It is a wonderful Greek meze or salad that is similar to bruschetta but is made with barley rusks or paximadi rather than bread.
  • Fried Snails: Snails, which are pan-fried in their shells and frequently in copious amounts of olive oil or in a bed of salt, are the main component of this traditional Greek dish.
  • Kalitsounia: classic, a small-sized snack that is both savoury and sweet and originates from the Greek island of Crete. It comes in all different shapes.
  • Paximadi: Paximadi also referred to as rusks, are the conventional Cretan method of long-term bread preservation. These tiny, hard bread pieces are repeatedly baked and softened by the addition of water or olive oil.
  • Gamopilafo: Gamopilafo is a rice dish served during conventional Cretan weddings. It is made in a rich meat broth, similar to a deluxe risotto, using long-simmered goat, lamb, or chicken.
  • Sarikopitakia: Sarikopitakia are pastries with sheep’s cheese filling that are fried in olive oil and served hot with honey on top. The dough contains tsikoudia, Cretan grape-based alcohol.
  • Lamb Stamnagkathi: Stamnagkathi with lamb is a traditional meal because it can only be found in Crete. Although it has a small bitterness, the taste is still pleasant. It typically goes well with lamb recipes and is served boiled with olive oil and lemon.
  • Cretan Cheeses: Cretan Cheeses are often made from sheep, goats, or a combination of the two, and each type of cheese has a regional variation. Best served as a dessert or as a side dish with bread, fruit, and honey.

1. Olive Oil

In Crete, Olive Oil is known as “Liquid Gold”. Without it, nothing is cooked. Meats, cheese, salad, veggies, and bread. It is fantastic and covers everything. When visiting Elafonissi, you can smell the olives for miles. Olive Oil is readily available and comes in a variety of quantities and different shapes and sizes. In contrast to most souvenir shops throughout the world, which sell shot glasses, hoodies, and magnets, Olive Oils may be found in plenty in Crete. It becomes the ideal gift to bring back to loved ones. Cretan Olive Oil is renowned for its superior taste, potent scent, and great nutritional content. Today, extra virgin olive oil makes up the majority of Cretan olive oil production. The production of extra virgin olive oil that is certified organic has increased in Crete during the past ten years.

Bowl and bottle with extra virgin olive oil

2. Raki

In Crete, Raki is an alcoholic drink that is frequently provided complimentary after a meal. Raki is made in Autumn following the grape harvest season. It is made using leftovers from the wine-making process. There are a lot of leftovers when the grapes are pressed and the juice is kept to start fermenting. The remaining skins, twigs, and other materials are kept in storage for about six weeks before being distilled into Raki. It is really potent and a fantastic palette cleanser. On Crete, Raki is the beverage that is virtually always provided. This Cretan beverage is seen as a sign of social interaction, dignity, and friendliness. Simply said, it is the Cretan people’s national drink. Every meal is nearly automatically followed by its serving.

Cretan Raki bottle and glasses

3. Loukoumades

Loukoumades, a baked pastry, are consumed with ice cream, almonds, and honey. Loukoumades, the Greek equivalent of doughnuts, are small, fluffy, honey-sweetened balls that are deep-fried until they are ideally golden and crispy. It is frequently garnished with grind walnuts or toasted sesame seeds, honey syrup, and cinnamon, and served warm. Greek salad, chicken souvlaki served in the summer, traditional moussaka, and melt-in-your-mouth lamb souvlaki all go well with loukoumades as a dessert.

Homemade Greek Loukoumades

4. Dakos

Every region of Crete has its own name for the perennially popular Dakos; some call it Koukouvagia (literally, “owl”); others call it kouloukopsomo (literally, “puppy bread”). It is a wonderful Greek meze or salad that is similar to bruschetta but is made with barley rusks or paximadi rather than bread. The softened rusks are slightly dipped in water or in olive oil. And then mizithra, a creamy milk cheese made from sheep or goat’s milk, is dripped on top. Salt, oregano, and pepper are then sprinkled on top, followed by a drizzle of olive oil.

Dakos - Rusks

5. Fried Snails

Not just the French consider snails to be a delicacy. In reality, people have been eating snails for ages. Snails, which are pan-fried in their shells and frequently in copious amounts of olive oil or in a bed of salt, are the main component of this traditional Greek dish. With the addition of vinegar or herbs like parsley or rosemary, the dish is elevated to bring more aroma and flavour. The strange name, which translates roughly to “popping fried snails,” alludes to the jarring noise the snails produce when they are cooked. Others assert that it derives from the Cretan term abouboura, which means to turn over. With crusty bread and a glass of raki or ouzo served on the side, the snails are customarily eaten with toothpicks while being presented with the shell. Snails are called chochlios in the Cretan language. In this recipe, snails are fried in flour and heated olive oil before being covered with wine or could also be vinegar and prepared for serving. Some prefer to include a tiny bit of wild rosemary. Women in the locality manually gather the snails, which are then prepared live.

Fried Snails with Rosemary

6. Kalitsounia

Kalitsounia, also known as skaltsounia, is a classic, small-sized snack that is both savoury and sweet and originates from the Greek island of Crete. It comes in all different shapes. In its purest form, it consists of an unleavened pastry with a fresh cow’s milk cheese filling called mizithra. The cheese is enhanced in the sweet types by cinnamon and lemon zest, and occasionally spinach is added to the savoury varieties. Despite being historically connected to Easter, it is now a year-round favourite.

Kalitsounia served in Cretan Weddings

7. Paximadi

Paximadi, also referred to as rusks, are the conventional Cretan method of long-term bread preservation. These tiny, hard bread pieces are repeatedly baked and softened by the addition of water or olive oil. Paximadi comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. It can be produced with or without yeast, from wheat or barley, and from whole grains or sourdough. These are typically provided before your meal and serve as the foundation for the dakos. Put some olive oil on top and try it.

Paximadia

8. Gamopilafo

Gamopilafo is a rice dish served during conventional Cretan weddings, as suggested by the name (gamos is Greek for “wedding”). These days, you may find it in many Cretans taverns, in addition to when the entire village is celebrating a wedding in the town square. It is made in a rich meat broth, similar to a deluxe risotto, using long-simmered goat, lamb, or chicken. Then you stir in a generous amount of stakovoutiro, butter made from creamy skin that forms on top of boiling fresh goat milk and is then transformed into a roux. It is the best of the best, and it is unquestionably one of the most well-liked and pricey options available on most menus, especially for rice.

Zigouri with Gamopilafo

9. Sarikopitakia

Sarikopitakia are pastries with sheep’s cheese filling that are fried in olive oil and served hot with honey on top. The name was given because of the shape of the scarf that the men on the west of the island wear. The spiral shapes of these savoury cheese pies give their name. Sariki, a Turkish term that translates to “turban,” is also the name of a traditional headpiece that Cretan men continue to use during festivities. The dough contains tsikoudia, Cretan grape-based alcohol, probably to make it simpler to roll out in thin sheets.

Spanakopitakia

10. Lamb Stamnagathi

Lamb is among the most consumed meats on the island. Stamnagathi with lamb is a traditional meal because it can only be found in Crete. Although it has a small bitterness, the taste is still pleasant. It typically goes well with lamb recipes and is served boiled with olive oil and lemon. Stamnagathi is a Crete-native cultivar of prickly chicory that was once only found in the wild. In more recent times, high-end restaurants have started to adopt it as a trend. It has a lot of calcium, iron, vitamins E and C, and Omega-3 fats, as you might expect from a leafy green. Enjoy its wonderful flavour and bitter bite raw, drizzled with olive oil and a slice of lemon, or cooked as a side dish with lamb.

11. Cretan Cheeses

Almost every Cretan village seems to have its own distinctive cheese. Cretan Cheeses are often made from sheep, goats, or a combination of the two, and each type of cheese has a regional variation. Look for graviera, a firmer cheese that is sweeter when new but nutty and flavourful after maturing, among the countless delectable kinds of cheese. There are several soft, creamy kinds of cheese available, such as the AOC-protected pichtogalo Chanion and the wonderful, mild-tasting young whey cheese mizithra. Cretan Cheeses are not only unique and flavourful; they are also created from sheep or goat milk, which is rich in nutrients. Both are superior to cow’s milk in terms of ease of digestion, calcium content, protein content, and folate. Best served as a dessert or as a side dish with bread, fruit, and honey.

Cheese board with cold cuts

What food is Crete famous for?

Crete is famous for its traditional Cretan cuisine. Traditional Cretan cuisine has always been made from products found nearby, either raw or cooked as simply as possible, such as on a grill or in the oven. The Cretan diet has been centred on a few fundamental ingredients since ancient times: olive oil, herbs, fish and seafood, goat or lamb meat, locally grown vegetables and fruits. Later, Cretan cuisines were enhanced by Venetian and Ottoman influences, resulting in a distinctive cuisine. There are several dishes that are common to the entire Greek mainland, as well as some that are exclusive to Crete. You can’t leave without dining in a Cretan tavern because the traditional Cretan diet is now regarded as one of the healthiest in the world. Volvi skordalata (wild narcissus bulbs with garlic), apaki (pork cooked over low heat), marathopitta (fennel pie), and synglinos (tender but slightly fatty pork) are a few examples of traditional Cretan specialities. Cretan cuisine frequently uses wild greens such as stifnos, askolymbri (yellow squash), and Stamnagathi (chicory, often served with meat). Greek salad also known as horiatiki salata (which translates to “village salad”), also includes olives, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese.

What is the national dish of Crete?

Dakos or ntakos is not only the national dish of Crete but is also among the must-try famous food of the island. A classic Cretan dish called dakos or ntakos is made of paximadi, a dry barley rusk. It is topped with mizithra cheese crumbles, chopped ripe tomatoes, whole olives, capers, fresh oregano, and a few generous drizzles of fine olive oil. For an enriched flavour and enhanced palatability, it is advised to use Koroneiki, Lianes, or Tsounates varieties of olives. Instead of feta, which is typically served in tourist restaurants, mizithra cheese is used in traditional recipes. A bit of sea salt and a little piece of garlic are frequently massaged into the rusk. Crete is regarded as an exquisite island due to its Mediterranean cuisine as well as its stunning scenery and beaches. Dakos is one of the gorgeous dishes from Cretan cuisine that you simply must try. Most tourists who travel to Crete have had Dakos, and some even opt to learn how to prepare it at home. Depending on what cheese is used, it may have a slightly sour taste that makes it more delicious, complementing the rest of the ingredient’s flavour.

What is the national drink of Crete?

Raki: The national drink of Crete, originally called tsikoudia is the same in production and taste as tsipouro, the pomace brandy renowned in Greece. In Crete, Raki is an alcoholic drink that is frequently provided complimentary after a meal. Raki is made in Autumn following the grape harvest season. It is made using leftovers from the wine-making process. There are a lot of leftovers when the grapes are pressed and the juice is kept to start fermenting. The remaining skins, twigs, and other materials are kept in storage for about six weeks before being distilled into Raki. It is really potent and a fantastic palette cleanser. On Crete, Raki is the beverage that is virtually always provided. This Cretan beverage is seen as a sign of social interaction, dignity, and friendliness. Simply said, it is the Cretan people’s national drink. Every meal is nearly automatically followed by its serving. When the Cretans greet their visitors with one another, congregate in the old-fashioned cafés, get rid of anxieties, and overcome challenges, there is always a glass of Raki around. The goal is to just create a pleasurable social encounter, not to get wasted or stuffed to the gills with food.

What food in Crete is best for diet?

In Crete, mezedes, or carefully selected appetisers, can even stand alone as a meal. Mezedes are served to be shared by everyone, which fosters a sense of community. Mezedes are the food in Crete that is best for diet and a wonderful way to experience the delicious variety of Cretan cuisine. It is hard to predict exactly what you will get when you order mezedes in a Cretan tavern, but you can count on getting a lot of marinated and pickled vegetables, which makes it the best diet. Some contain artichoke hearts and onion bulbs, as well as juicy fruits, pulses packed with protein, healthy nuts, filled filo pastries (brushed with olive oil rather than butter), and the iconic Cretan olive. With all of that in one dish, surely it is the best diet, packed with the right amount of nutrients and vitamins. The most famous appetisers are tzatziki (yoghurt with garlic, cucumber and mint); dolmades (sarmale in vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), and taramosalata (cold caviar in breadcrumbs, olive oil and lemon juice), and so much more.

What are some popular street foods in Crete?

Souvlaki or Gyros, koulouri, and bougatsa are some popular street foods in Crete. In Crete, people typically refer to frilled fresh pita bread with tender chunks of meat as souvlaki, which is an Athenian term. But Cretan souvlaki is unique, for example, the customary topping of Cretan souvlaki is a thick spread of chilled Greek-style strained yoghurt, not ketchup and mustard. It is the ideal complement to the meat. Typically, Cretan souvlaki is served with tomato slices, french fries, salt, and fragrant oregano. Simply put, koulouri is a ring of bread that is frequently dusted with sesame seeds. It is one of the most famous street foods in Crete because it comes in countless varieties and can contain anything from honey to cheese to raisins to olives, and even chocolate. Lastly, another famous street food in Crete which is not so well-known outside Crete is bougatsa. When visiting Heraklion or Chania, the only two cities where Cretan bougatsa is sold, make sure to try some. The filo pastry used to make bougatsa is both smooth and crunchy, and it comes with a variety of fillings. Cretan bougatsa is covered with white granulated sugar and cinnamon rather than icing sugar. The sweetness of the white sugar and the pungency of the cinnamon perfectly offset the sourness of the cheese.

What is the recommended Crete dish for a foreign visitor?

Dakos is the recommended Crete dish for a foreign visitor. Dakos or ntakos is not only the national dish of Crete but is also among the must-try famous food of the island. Dakos usually come as a pleasant surprise to guests. The dish is made of chopped tomato, fresh local cheese, wild herbs, and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over the top of what is known as paximadi (rusk), which is reminiscent of a standard bruschetta. The crucial ingredient is olive oil since it gives the rusk flavour and suppleness without sacrificing crispiness. Dakos, also known as the Cretan bruschetta, is a typical meze meal on the island that offers a distinct taste that will shock a foreign visitor’s taste buds.

What are the best places to eat in Crete?

Restaurants and Cretan taverns are available on the island, offering palatable and delicious meals. Avli, Red Havana, Giannikos Traditional Taverna are among the three best places to eat in Crete. Avli offers a palette of healthy Mediterranean and Greek cuisines, located in Heraklion. With its special diets that are vegetarian-friendly, vegan and gluten-free options are also available. Restaurant fans reviewed Avli as an amazing all-around and must-visit restaurant when coming to Crete. Red Havana on the other hand offers a bar, with Mediterranean, European, and Greek cuisines, located in Chanion, Agia Marina. With its special diets that are vegetarian-friendly and also offer vegan options. The restaurant is reviewed to be a great family place with great food and kids’ entertainment. Lastly, Giannikos Traditional Taverna offers Mediterranean, Barbecue, and Greek cuisines, located in Rethymnon. The restaurant is reviewed as always the first choice and absolutely amazing. For a complete restaurant guide, look for the 10 best restaurants in Crete and what they’re known for. Surely you’ll have a good appetite.

Elia Restaurant in Malia

Do you need to rent a car to visit Crete?

Yes, renting a car is a necessity to get around Crete. Renting a car when visiting Crete is an advantage to go around the island and maximise time. There are tourist destinations in Crete that public transportation does not stop at. Public transportation sometimes only stops at the nearest station to these attractions, so tourists take a taxi to take them to their destination. Thus, car rental Crete should be considered when planning to visit the island for a better experience, convenience, and appreciation of the destinations by travelling exclusively.

What are the factors to consider before renting a car in Crete?

There are buses and taxis available that tourists can use to travel around Crete. But another type of transportation is Car Rental, which is a more private mode of transportation. Car rental, most of the time, is a must when going around and travelling in Crete. Tourists need a car for them to be able to reach tourist destinations they wish to visit. There are different car rental companies that tourists can opt to rent their cars in Crete during their stay. It is a great option for those who want to have private transportation when going to their destination, especially during the pandemic.

Listed below are the things to consider before renting a car in Crete.

  • Insurance: Make sure that the car has insurance that will cover the damage that may be caused by any possible accidents.
  • Driver’s Age: The driver should be at least over 21 years old and has a driver’s licence for about 12 months.
  • Driver’s Gender: Some tourists can be picky regarding who will be their driver. The gender of the driver is one of the things that tourists consider, as many people believe that men are better drivers than women.
  • Car Type: There are different car types that are available to be rented. Each type caters to a different number of passengers and the amount of bags they can carry.
  • Documents: Other than having a driver’s licence, a credit card is a must to rent a car. A credit card with the tourist’s name is needed to provide the rental car company guarantee.

How much does a car rental in Crete cost?

Car rental costs depend on how many days that car will be rented, the number of passengers, and the type of car that will be rented. A rental for a week can cost around €250. Day trips and night trips in Crete will cost about €30 to €40. It can be used for a week with unlimited mileage and four-seaters. The rental cars are manual transmission, air-conditioned, and have four doors. The rented car should be returned to the company with the same amount of fuel as at the start of the trip to avoid charges.