Cretan cuisine is renowned both in Greece and internationally for its unique ingredients and flavours

ByAndrea Thompson

May 23, 2024

Based on simple techniques, it’s the variety of local produce that distinguishes the dishes: mountain herbs and greens, bulbs, unique cheeses, fresh fish, the famous Cretan olive oil, and of course raki, a bracing grape brandy.

Don’t leave Crete without trying

Cretan Cheeses

It seems that almost every Cretan village has its own signature cheese. They are usually made from sheep or goat’s milk, or a combination of both and each cheese variety has its local interpretation.


Known by regional names throughout Crete, some call it koukouvagia (literally ‘owl’).  In the east they call it kouloukopsomo (literally ‘puppy bread’). What is it? A fantastic Greek meze or salad reminiscent of bruschetta, but based on barley rusks, not on bread. Drizzled with Cretan virgin olive oil and dusted with salt, oregano, pepper.

Fried snails (Chochlioi boubouristi)

It’s not only the French who treat snails as a delicacy.

Cretan Cheese Pies (Kaltsounia)

These small pies may look like the multitude of cheese pies you’ll encounter throughout Greece, but these are unique! The fillings vary – every region and often each household has its favourite. They tend toward the sweet, and count on any number of those luscious Cretan cheeses, The final touch is Cretan honey on the top, making the pies a heady combination of sweet and savoury.

Lamb with stamnagathi

As with most Greek foods, Cretans have their own take on lamb. Their version incorporates stamnagathi, a wild green that has become trendy of late, and features on many top-end restaurant menus.


As the name hints (gamos means ‘wedding’ in Greek) this rice dish, think deluxe risotto, is offered at traditional Cretan weddings. These days you will find it not only when the whole village is celebrating nuptials in the town square, but also in many Cretan tavernas

Mountain Bulbs (Askordoulakous)

Part of the magic of Cretan food are the ingredients gathered from hillsides and around villages. Askordoulakous are the bulbs of a wild green, and Cretans gather bulbs and eat them as a fresh salad, simply dressed with oil and vinegar or lemon. The delicate white blossoms of the green are also edible, simply boiled or used in other dishes.

Smoked Pork (Hirina apakia)

Not an easy one to recreate outside of Greece, this dish of succulent smoked pork, is made in a multi-day process where the meat is hung above it to smoke.

Sfakia pies (Sfakianes pites)

These yummy pies hale from southern Crete, from a mountainous coastal region called Sfakia. At a glance, these treats look like pancakes, but beyond the flour, the dough contains, local olive oil, and the infamous Cretan liquor, raki.

Cretan Brandy (Raki or Tsikoudia)

In the fall, after the grape harvest, you will find villagers all around Crete carefully tending open fires under copper stills. They are making raki, the welcome pomace brandy distilled from grapes

Cretan cuisine is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world, using fresh local ingredients made with centuries old traditions and culinary wisdom handed down the generations.