A lot of people are unaware of what makes Greek food so special. Is it the copious amounts of butter or endless stream of feta cheese and olives? Maybe it’s the Greek salad dressing or the whole lamb we roast on a spit in our front yards. While all these foods play a major role in Greek cuisine, there may be some key elements you are missing. Which is why I present you this list of the seven reasons why Greek food is the best food out there.

1. Baklava


Photo by Zoe Zaiss

I had to start here because let’s be real, it’s just too damn good. Baklava is one of the most common Greek desserts and is found in diners and pizza shops across the country.

The scrumptious treat utilizes a special dough called phyllo dough that is a favorite amongst Greek households. Phyllo dough is extremely thin and is layered several times alternating butter and dough. Yes. Thick, luscious, layers of butter.

My dad and I like to eat baklava sundaes. It is as simple as this: a nice, fat piece of baklava with some vanilla ice cream on top. You will not regret it, I promise. PSA: nut allergies beware.

2. Loukoumades


Photo courtesy of mygreekdish.com

The pride and joy of my Greek heritage. I swear these were made in heaven and sent down by angels. They’re made from a rich dough fried in hot oil and topped with a honey glaze, cinnamon, and nuts.

At my local church’s annual Greek Food Festival, we have a special machine that measures out the correct dough size and automatically drops the dough into the oil. But the rest of the cooking technique is up to the experienced older women that man the machine from year to year. You can request the exact number of loukoumades you want, and they will make them right in front of you.

It only takes one bite to fall in love, even though that one bite may burn your tongue. But hey, pain is temporary, loukoumades are forever.

3. Pastitsio


Photo by Sara Casagrand

A way better version of normal lasagna. The concept is the same: pasta stacked with a meat sauce and some sort of cheese mixture. The special thing about pastitsio, however, is the béchamel sauce. Rather than the typical red tomato sauce, béchamel uses cream and, you guessed it, butter.

This tends to be my go-to meal and is usually a point of argument between my brother and I. We both have big appetites, so the fight for the last piece gets pretty intense.

4. Moussaka


Photo courtesy of @inothekela on Instagram

Or “moose ca-ca;” whichever you prefer. I attempted to make this dish for Father’s Day once. I would not say it was my best work, but on the positive side, my dad enjoyed it (or at least he said so) and we had six extra eggplants left over!

Now you might be thinking, “Ew, eggplant,” but the eggplant does not overwhelm this dish. It is similar to pastitsio because it uses the same béchamel sauce. Therefore you know it will be good, because of butter.

5. Lamb Shank


Photo courtesy of sporkme on tumblr.com

There is no way I could write an article about Greek food without including lamb. We eat lamb in all kinds of ways. We put it on skewers and grill it, we roast it in our ovens (and over our outdoor roasting pits, for the more traditional Greeks), and we cover it with veggies and sauce and let it braise for a short 4 hours — my personal favorite.

The meat on a properly cooked lamb shank will fall right off the bone. It is best served with rice, potatoes, or good company. The company part is important because it is hard to tackle a whole one of these by yourself.

6. Saganaki


Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on flickr.com

This word sounds a little Japanese to me, but regardless, I still eat it. It translates as “flaming cheese,” which is exactly what it is. This dish utilizes Kasseri cheese, and is served in a frying pan while being set on fire.

Yep, you read that right. The flames crisp up the outside of the cheese and make it an excellent dip for an appetizer or snack.

I once ordered this at a hole-in-the-wall Greek diner in Pennsylvania. The waiter came back to ask me if I had a lighter. I don’t think it was their most popular dish. Regardless, setting cheese on fire may seem a little abstract, but it sure makes for a tasty treat.

7. Family


Photo courtesy of hollywire.com

The one thing that truly sets Greek cuisine apart is the family aspect. You don’t cook by yourself. You cook with others, which is what makes the whole experience worthwhile. I once spent hours making nearly 100 pounds of rice pudding for my church’s Greek Food Festival. I never want to see rice pudding again, that’s for sure. But the experience of cooking with some fellow Greeks made the day a lot of fun.

Cooking has always promoted a sense of community because it brings people together in the best kind of way. When Greeks are together, you know you are in for an exciting, loud, and memorable time. And be sure to have an empty stomach, because whether it’s cooking or eating, Greeks do it best.