Street food in Athens (the traditional way…)

Greece, Athens, Street Food, Ariston Tyropita
ateneTiropites, koulouria, loukoumades … Walking around the streets of Athens it’s hard not to notice the countless shops, bakeries, cafes, bars, plus street vendors selling tempting foodstuffs. As appealing as they may be, the fact that they are so many and various and that it’s not easy to identify the ingredients, it may discourage the less experienced, especially the vegetarians… It would be such a pity not to taste some!

Being vegetarian myself, I know how it feels to see delicious snacks with unknown name and ingredients on display in countries where I cannot communicate with the vendors or trust them; I end up avoiding them, although I’m sure that I miss much of the enjoyment that travel life has to offer. I admit that in most cases I stick to fruits, vegetables and packaged food where ingredients are listed. I am often amazed (apart at how many ‘innocent’ comestibles are seem to have been cooked up in chemical labs) at the presence of meat-derived ingredients even in sweets!
The good news for vegetarians is that in Greece they don’t use lard for cooking nor in dough, so you only have the filling to worry about!

Tiropites & Co.


The “pites” (or “pita” in singular form ) can be considered the most common Greek snack. Pita means pie, made by baked dough and filled with various ingredients, mostly cheese and vegetables although there are some sweet versions. They are available at almost every angle in the center of any Greek town; if you are in a village, you’ll find them at the bakery or even at super markets. The prices range from € 1 to € 2.50 depending on the filling and the size.

Greece, Athens, Street Food, Ariston Tyropita

The various fillings are the chief differences but not the only. Let’s start with the different types of dough:

  • Kouroù: type of shortcrust pastry made with yoghurt.
  • Sfoliàta: puff pastry made with butter or rarely with oil. Also available in rolled form (striftì)
  • Tapsioù: it means ‘baked in pan’ and it is considered the most homemade. The layers of dough (filo) are thicker than puff pastry dough and they are usually coated with olive oil instead of butter. This kind of ‘pita’ is sold by the slice.
  • Greece, Athens, Street Food, pitteGreece, Athens, Street Food, pitte

    Let’s see now the most common type of fillings:

  • Tiròpita: this is the classic pita, filled with cheese (in greek “tiri”), mainly goat cheese. Bechamel sauce or yogurt are often added to make it more creamy.
  • Kasseròpita: the filling in this type of pita is ‘kaseri’, a yellow semi-hard type of cheese made of sheep and goat milk, very typical. The dough is usually puff pastry.
  • Spanakòpita: “spanaki” means spinach and indeed this is the main ingredient of this pie but not the only one. Several different herbs are used along with onion. Often cheese is also added and in this case it is also called Spanakotiròpita. In version “nistìsimi” (it means that the food is adequate for people who fast) is without cheese and it is always vegan.
  • Prassòpita: leek is the key ingredient in this pie among with various herbs/onion and often with cheese. You can found it in version “nistìsimi”, suitable for vegans.
  • Zambonotiròpita: filling with yellow cheese (tiri) and ham (zambon). I never tasted it…
  • Kreatòpita: the filling is meat (kreas) minced … I don’t want to know what they put in it!
  • Lukanikòpita: the Greek version of hot-dog
  • Bougàtsa: for the Athenians (in Northern Greece there is a different point of view) bougatsa is exclusively sweet, made with filo/phyllo (layers of dough) and filled with semolina custard. It is cut in slices at serving time and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. You should absolutely try it!
  • In more sophisticated versions, you may find pies with mushrooms (manitaròpita), zucchini (kolokithòpita), potatoes (patatòpita) etc.
    There are also two outsiders, which means that they are less ordinary although it is not unusual to see them along with the ‘star’ pies: the Peinirlì, a kind of boat-shaped pizza of Turkish origins filled mainly with kaseri cheese and Piroshkì, the Russian version of the Italian panzerotto or the American doughnut with various fillings; there is a very interesting vegetarian version with potatoes.

    Koulouri (bread ring)


    The proper name is Koulouri Thessalonikis, as it was “branded” in Thessaloniki in the beginning of the 20th century brought from Istanbul; its origins can be traced back to the Byzantine era! It is simple (but delicious) bread in the shape of a ring covered with sesame. You can find it in any bakery of the country and in street vendors stalls everywhere in the center of Athens and Thessaloniki, from early morning until late afternoon.
    In addition to the basic version, which costs 50/60 cents, there are variants with cheese, olives or even chocolate. Eaten hot from the oven is a pleasure!

    Greece, Athens, Street Food, koulouriaGreece, Athens, Street Food, koulouria
    Greece, Athens, Street Food, koulouria

    Lοukοumàdes


    This is the classic Greek dessert, a type of deep-fried doughnut made from yeast-risen dough served hot and covered with honey (the traditional recipe) or syrup or chocolate. It is the kid’s favorite sweet! The dough is traditionally made without eggs or butter, so they are also suitable for vegans! The prices range from € 3.00 – €3.50 per portion, usually more than ample.

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