I’m happy to report — missions accomplished. Especially the latter. Oh man, you guys, this trip ended up being the Greek salad-a-thon of my dreams!!
As it turns out, salads are standard fare for lunch, dinner and breakfast in Greece, which we took full advantage of. And especially being there at the end of May, when all of their fresh produce is in season, I mean — wow — their traditional Greek salads were just as fresh and vibrant and delicious as I had hoped. Also, totally uncomplicated (and consistent) in terms of ingredients and presentation. And also, notably different in a few major ways than Greek salads I’ve been served in the States. We couldn’t get enough of them. So of course, we immediately came home and made some more for ourselves.
Here’s everything we learned!
Authentic Greek Salad Recipe | 1-Minute Video
The Hallmarks of an Authentic Greek Salad:
So here’s the thing about Greek salads in Greece — they truly are consistent. Same fresh ingredients, same simple presentation, same winning flavors every single time. Granted, various parts of the country do have their own local salads (for example, we tried the Santorini salad and the Folegandros salad), each of which feature a unique local ingredient or two in the mix. But when you order horiatiki — the traditional Greek salad — here’s what you will find every time:
No lettuce. Or any other fresh greens, for that matter. A classic Greek salad is made solely with a base of veggies, tomatoes, olives and cheese…which we loved.
No fancy dressing. I was surprised to find that what I’ve always known as “Greek” dressing in the States didn’t actually seem to be a thing in Greece. Rather, Greek salads were simply drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, maybe a splash of red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of dried oregano and salt. So simple.
Large chunks of veggies. Especially tomatoes. We didn’t see a single cherry or grape tomato on our trip — just full-size tomatoes chopped into wedges.
Mega hunk of feta. Greece takes a lot of pride (as they should) in their delicious sheep’s milk fresh feta. And as such, it’s the star of the show, served in an enormous brick (either square or triangle) sitting on top of the salad. It’s never crumbled. (Although if crumbled feta is all you can find at the store, don’t be deterred…it’ll still be great.)
Green bell peppers. We didn’t see a single red, orange or yellow bell pepper while we were there. (Although those are still my favorites.) Just bright green bell peppers, cut horizontally into strips.
Kalamata olives with the pits. Always.
No frills presentation. About half of the time, our Greek salads were served with just the base ingredients in a bowl, with a side of olive oil and vinegar on the table for us to add ourselves. And then the other half of the time, they came completely prepared. But all of the time, the salads were simple and straightforward, and also not overly-tossed. Those vibrant veggies are so beautiful on their own that they don’t need any fancy garnishes. :)
Greek Salad Ingredients:
So let’s get a little more specific with these ingredients. For a traditional Greek salad recipe, you will need:
Tomatoes: We were always served ripe, round, medium-size tomatoes cut into wedges. But any small to medium ripe tomatoes will do here. And as always, fresh, ripe, in-season tomatoes will kick this salad up a mega notch.
Cucumber: Either Persian or English cucumbers will do.
Green bell pepper: Again, traditional. Although I wouldn’t fault you if you subbed in a sweeter red bell pepper.
Red onion: Usually cut into thin slices.
Kalamata olives: Always whole, never pitted.
Feta: Made from sheep’s milk, and always served in a large chunk.
Extra Virgin Olive oil: I strongly recommend looking for a good-quality oil, since this will be the main ingredient of your Greek “salad dressing” recipe for the salad.
Dried Oregano: This was sometimes tossed with the salads, and sometimes just sprinkled on top.
Sea salt: Always a must, especially on the Mediterranean. ;) That said, feta cheese is usually pretty salty, so I recommend going light with the salt and you can always add more.
Red wine vinegar: Most of our salads were also served with a generous splash of red (or white) wine vinegar, which I fully recommend.
Capers: We also had a few Greek salads that included a sprinkle of capers, which Barclay especially loved.
How To Make A Greek Salad:
To make this horiatiki recipe, simply:
Combine your base ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, add your tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, and olives.
Drizzle with Greek salad dressing. Which simply includes olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a pinch of dried oregano and salt.
Briefly toss to combine. The salad should not be over-mixed, so just give it a very light toss.
Top with feta cheese. The star of the show gets placed right on top, maybe drizzled with an extra bit of olive oil and oregano. Then…
Serve! Or transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
What To Serve With A Greek Salad:
All of those light, fresh, summery flavors would pair well with just about any main dish from the grill this time of year. Or of course, traditional gyros or any kind of pita sandwiches. Or if you’re like Barc and I, a big salad can happily suffice as a main course for the meal. :) But that said, here are a few specific recipes I’d totally recommend:
For more Greek salad inspiration, feel free to check out the salad-a-thon photos that I shared from our trip here (which includes a few non-traditional salads). And also, stay tuned later this week for our full trip report! I’ve been getting lots of requests for our travel tips and recs, and have lots to share with you. ♡
Thanks as always for reading along. And cheers to eating like a Greek local…wherever in the world life may find you!
This traditional Greek Salad recipe is wonderfully uncomplicated, easy to make, and so refreshing. Feel free to toss it everything together in a mixing bowl, or just serve the base ingredients with bottles of olive oil and red wine vinegar on the side for people to dress their individual portions.
4 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 English cucumber (or two small Persian cucumbers), sliced into half moons
1 large green bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives
3–4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for serving
5 ounces feta cheese, thickly-sliced if possible
Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion and olives in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle evenly with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with the oregano and a pinch of salt.
Toss briefly. Then top with feta cheese. And finish the salad by drizzling a little extra olive oil and adding another pinch of oregano on top.
Serve and enjoy! Or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
Did you learn any Greek secrets about how to remove the pit of an olive from your mouth while in public with a little bit of class? I love olives, and don’t mind the pits, it’s trying to find an eloquent way of spitting out the pit that I’m not a fan of :)
Thanks for the recipe perfect daily lunch for summer! I’ll have to do mine non dairy since I’m allergic :( but I think it will still be tasty. Can’t go wrong with lots of yummy veggies and some olive oil drizzle.
So glad you came to Greece. As your recepies are my favorite, either making them or just reading them, and of course as a Greek woman I wondered what did you make of Greek food? Did you really like it? I am glad that you ‘got it’ with Greek salads. I used to live in London and I was really furious with all versions of Greek food there too, which were not remotedly related to Greek food in Greece. If you liked something and could not find the recipe I would be very happy to send you my version.
Well I would looove to have some of your Greek recipes. I have friends visiting from Greece. They said all of the Greek restaurants here (in Mississippi) are more like snack foods. I’m a good southern cook BUT I want to cook them an authentic Greek meal 🤗…
This salad looks delicious! I’m definitely going to try it!!
I envy you being able to spend your birthday anywhere in Greece. The more I see of Greece, the more I like it. Looking forward to making an authentic Greek salad (yes I knew that lettuce or other greens is not part of one). I just wish it were possible to find sheep milk feta where I live.
I actually found sheeps milk feta today (thank you, Costco!), so I’m looking forward to putting a Greek salad on my menu soon.
Yay! I’ve been waiting for this recipe since I saw all of your Greek salad pictures on Instagram :)
Can’t wait to read the travel post – Greece is my dream trip!
Interesting with red wine vinegar. According to the Greek community near me, Tarpon Springs, those Greeks use lemon juice instead of vinegar. They told me that’s what makes it a Greek salad! Who knew? I’ll try red wine vinegar next time.
My mother, aunt, and my NoNo as well as my YiaYia who as a small child from Greece, have lived in Tarpon Springs their whole lives have never used lemon juice instead of red wine vinegar in greek salad. In fact, most true greek salads only use olive oil. You must be going to “those greek” restaurants in town that make it “american” to appeal to their customers.
FYI… “those greeks” in Tarpon Springs are the same greeks in Greece!
Yummy !! Looks So Good !!
Love the picture of you two. So cute❤️
Perfect recipe for summer garden produce!! Love how fresh this is :)
Can’t wait to read all your travel tips! We’re headed there in September!
I must have been Greek in a previous life.
That’s a Greek Salad !!!With no secret ingredients no sauces or other vegetables .Simplicity in the ingredients , pure olive oil, feta cheese …and rustic bread to feel the taste of all the ingredients!!!
YUM. After watching your IG story over the weekend I had to run out to the store on Sunday for some feta cheese and have been making greek salads for lunch all week. Glad to have your recipe now too!
That is the Greek Salad of my travels in the 1980s! I don’t remember the vinegar, but definitely remember the big slab o’ feta with dressed with olive oil and oregano. You occasionally came across a salad with an anchovy on top (yuck). I have fond food memories of horiatiki, pita souvlaki, moussaka, and pastitsio. Mmm.
Beautiful post! Definitely will be trying this salad!
As someone who married into a Greek family this is totally accurate :). We live for summer tomatoes and make this every day when we have fresh ones.
The only thing I will add is that it’s totally normal to dip your bread into the oil at the end to soak up all the goodness that is leftover. We luckily get our olive oil sent to us from famil in Greece so it’s just as good when we make it.
YES! I always add bread somehow, even if it isn’t truly authentic. I just dipped a Thomases English muffin with butter and garlic powder because after I made the salad I realized it was all I had, please don’t hate me LOL ;) Ever since I returned from Greece 2 years ago I buy Agora from Vom Fass because it’s the only one from Greece :)
I make and eat this for my snack at work. Healthier alternative to the usual chips and cookies. It’s one of my summer staples.
With homegrown tomatoes this is rich in flavour. I also added fresh oregano in addition to dried, as well as some cracked pepper. Definitely gonna to keep this as a regular recipe.
So like an idiot I let my gorgeous imported feta go bad, but had the salad for dinner without it and it was still gorgeous, delicious, and refreshing. Can’t wait to make it w feta!
(Reposting because I meant 5 stars not 4!)
YAAASSS!!! I returned from my bucket list trip to Greece in 2017 and I stuffed myself with authentic homemade Greek salad for, I don’t know, a year? I couldn’t believe when I was watching iron chef GZ do an ‘authentic’ salad and he added lettuce. Oh HELL no. And the veggies gotta be chunky, and if you can you MUST buy solid feta in water, not crumbled. It’s a moisture thing. Only thing I would add to your post is as a substitution in the ‘dressing’ we had fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. Yum. OPA! I found your blog because every now and then I google the recipe because I forget an ingredient every now and then. This time it was oregano :)
Ah I see now that lemon juice is is divisive! I will withdraw my comment and try the red wine vinegar instead :)
Exactly what I was looking for! So fresh and simple. Everybody loves it. Thank you!
It is really good. Thanks
Excellent salad and very tasty.
I have made this recipe a considerable number of times. I love it. My husband and I were on a Greek Isle cruise many years ago and Santorini was one of our ports. I recall the beauty of the Island and remember having a wonderful seafood lunch, the walking up and down steps and a Finicula to “street” level. We did not have this wonderful salad (although I’m sure it was offered). Thank you for sharing. Also, I just learned through DNA testing that my heritage is 42% Greek and less Italian than I’ve always thought. It does make sense considering years of migration.
This will be my first ever fixing me a Greek Salad , wish me luck .
I lied near Tarpon Springs for years and loved Pappas Restaurant. I’m wondering……. we used to get the salad atop the Greek potato salad. Can u furnish recipe for the potato salad. I’m sure it used sour cream and green onions but not confident of rest. Thanks!!!!
Sorry, but I went to Greece (Athens) and ate a Greek salad and never never comes with green bell pepper!!
Excellent ideas for greek salad. Thanks.
This salad was so simple, but with EPIC flavor. I served it with hummus, and look forward to my next salad tomorrow.
I make a variation of this that I’m crazy about, Baked Greek Salad — a pint of halved grape tomatoes, a medium-diced green bell pepper, a medium-diced red onion, about 1/2 c. halved kalamata olives, an 8-oz. block of feta, a handful (or more) dried oregano, olive oil/olive juice/feta liquid/lemon juice/lemon zest to taste. All (except the feta) tossed together, then put the feta in the bottom of an 8” square baking dish and pour everything over. Baked at ~375°F for about 20-30 min. or until it smells good. And I serve it over rice, either jasmine or basmati. Believe me, it’s eat-it-with-a-spoon DELICIOUS!
I was stationed at Hellenikon AB (now closed) for 4 years in the early 1980’s and this is EXACTLY how you will find an authenic Greek Salad made in Greece. Bravo for getting it correct and passing on that info to those who do not know!