Crete Diet

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Crete Diet - fresh salad with feta cheese served at the Gramvousa Taverna

The Crete Diet is a lyrical poem, punctuated by fresh produce; vegetables, fruits, oils, nuts and cheeses cultivated for centuries on Kriti.

The cuisine includes fresh olive oil, and plenty of it.

The natural diet of the island of has been recognised as one of the healthiest in the world. It includes wild greens, fresh home-grown tomatoes, broad beans, lemons and fresh olive oil. Crete diet also contains the more unusual mezithra, staka and anthogalo.

This diet is not a weight loss diet or a special diet, it is the regular daily diet of the people of Crete. Every village has its own specialities such as mournidia, mulbury liquor or clear tzikoudia grape liquor.

Dakos salad is typical of the Crete DietDakos Salad - with paximadia or rusks

Crete Diet
'The World's Healthiest Diet'

Tomatoes at the market (image by Karl Blackwell)
Crete Diet - broad beans

Village Rhythms

In the village, the natural rhythms of the harvests influence what is fresh and natural to eat.

In October, the stafília grapes have been harvested and the sultanas dried, so each house has abundant quantities of sultanínas sultanas, bursting with the summer sun trapped inside.

In the village in November, each breakfast was karídia walnuts as they were plentiful. Sometimes simply karídia and méli walnuts and honey.

Later in January, the trees were full of mandarínia so these sweet treats were a feature at most meals and coffee breaks.

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Rice and Crushed Wheat

Stuffed zucchini flowers of CreteΚολοκυθοανθοί γεμιστοί - Kolokithoanthí yemistí - Stuffed zucchini flowers or courgette flowers

A very tasty dish of the cuisine of Crete is Κολοκυθοανθοί γεμιστοί - Stuffed zucchini flowers or courgette flowers. In the video below, Michalis, the cook from 'Crete of Tastes' shows you how to make this delicious dish.

Chondros means fat  and comes from 'chontroalesméno' or coursely-ground and refers to crushed wheat or cracked wheat which is well-used in Cretan cooking. Cracked wheat is made from kernels of wheat that have been coarsely cracked, so that each piece ends up being around one quarter of the size of a kernel. This is used quite a bit in Cretan cooking.

Get the full recipe from Crete of Tastes


Moustalevriá  μουσταλευριάMoustalevriá

After the grape harvest and the all important trip to the einopoiío οινοποιίo wine factory, the scrappy left-over grapes are made into moustalevriá  μουσταλευριά.

This sweet, wholesome dish is traditionally made from the músta must, the squashed skins of the grapes left over from wine-making. It can be translated as 'Grape Must Pudding' and is essentially must with flour and water.

MoustalevriaMoustalevria made for me by Eleni

Chórta - Wild Greens

Fresh Chorta

After winter rains, chórta χόρτα flourishes, and yiayias are busy out in the country lanes with their bags collecting the lush wild greens. There are actually many different types of chórta...getting to know them and how to cook them is one of the pleasures of life in the village, and learning about Cretan food.

These include radikia, amaranth and dandelion but there are many more such as stamnagathi or wild chicory - more information here.

Traditional Tavernas

Quality Label of Cretan Cuisine

Look out for the Quality Label of Cretan Cuisine at tavernas, restaurants and similar labels for Open Wineries, Cretan Grocery Stores and on certified products. This classification by the Agronutritional Coop of the Region of Crete means the taverna, restaurant, winery or product has been authenticated as local; a true Cretan experience.

Look out for the word 'traditional' in the taverna name or paradosiakó Παραδοσιακό which means traditional, or ask around in the village for a 'paradosiakó taverna'.

Food Notes

Greek coffee and briki

As you sit relaxing in the kafeníon, don’t be surprised if a ruddy faced shepherd comes in bearing mizíthra fresh goat's whey cheese from the mountains. This freshness is one of the great qualities of Cretan food.

Around Christmas time, those with squeamish stomachs should stay away from the butcher as he kills the pigs for the village. Our kafedzís, who used to be the town butcher, still performs this service in late December for all the families with pigs. As he knew I was squeamish, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, he would make the hand sign for cutting his throat and say na spháxo ta vorúnia – "I am going to kill the pigs - want to come and watch?" He never tired of making this joke and others which would always make me laugh, and him and the rest of the kafeníon laugh at my grimaces and squirms. Pork is a popular Cretan food.

Crete Diet - Books

One of my favourite modern travel narratives is 'The Taste of Honey' by Byron Ayanoglu about his culinary adventures in Crete. Also titled 'Crete on a Half-Shell', this light-hearted account of one very talented chef from the diaspora returning home to Greece, or at least, begin willing to explore his Greekness by selling up his life in cold Canada and buying a home in Crete, making new friends and opening a find out for yourself how it all turned out.

Byron's book 'Simply Mediterranean Cooking' will have you creating the cuisine of Crete in no time, Byron was chef to Mick Jagger, amongst other gigs, and has written over 15 cook books.

'Cretan Cooking' by Maria and Nikos Psilakis contains 265 recipes of authentic Cretan dishes and will get you and your family satisfied for many delicious meals containing the Crete diet.

Cretan Diet - Experiences

Top Tips from We Love Crete

Experience a day of cooking classes or some days learning about the cuisine of Crete. In the villages and hills of Crete you will find the true hospitality and character of the island. Explore and taste the local fresh organic foods, learn about the balance of produce that makes up one of the healthiest diets in the world.

Here are our tips for food experiences to try on your holiday to Kriti.

Crete diet - all the ingredients and dishes laid out on the tableCrete diet - 1 day tour with a cooking lesson

Cretan Cooking Lessons in Chania - this 1-day tour will give you a real experience of Crete away from the beaches and towns. Including pickup and drop off, picking of vegetables in the kitchen garden, a cooking lesson, history tour in historic home, a scenic walk and a visit to an olive grove followed by appetisers and local wine, then sit down to your own sumptuous lunch in good company.

Food and Wine Experience

Winery and Olive Oil Mill Tasting Tour with Lunch
From Rethymno

Discover real Cretan virgin olive oil and learn how it is produced, taste a traditional Greek coffee in the olive oil mill, experience Dourakis Winery. Visit biological natural vineyards. Try the intense taste of raki or tsikoudia. This half-day tour is 5 hours with lunch and leaves from Rethymno and region.

Chania Cuisine Experience

Street Stories of Chania Morning Tour with Samples of Raki and Mezedes - visit the local food markets and walk for 4 hours through the gastronomic highlights of this fascinating historic town, visit the old Jewish and Ottoman quarters and taste the local white spirit or raki. Enjoy mezedes which are little appetisers, part of the Cretan diet which is one of the healthiest in the world. Find out why. 4 hours.

Rethymnon Experience

Small Group Gourmet Trail of Rethymnon - treat yourself to a 4 hour gastronomic exploration of this cosmopolitan town, with food and beverage tastings, hidden spots not in the guidebooks all through the old zone. 4 hour walk.

Getting to Crete

Take a 1 hour flight from Athens to Heraklion with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air, with many flights available per day.

Or take a 9.5 hour overnight ferry from Pireaus port of Athens to Heraklion port.

More on flights and ferries below.

Car hire in Crete is a really good idea as it is a large island 60 km by 260 km. There is so much to explore.

When you book with our car rental partners - Rental Centre Crete - you are supporting a local company with excellent service and easy online booking. We are sure you will be well looked after by the team. Choose from hybrid, electric or regular vehicles.

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Anastasi & Apostoli - authors of We Love Crete

"We trust you have enjoyed these tips from the team at We Love Crete. Evíva!"

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