Authentic Greek salad is one of the greatest ways to enjoy the best of what's in season in summer. Making a traditional Greek salad or Horiatiki, as it's called in Greece, requires zero skill and less than 10 minutes of your time.
What is an authentic Greek salad
The real deal is a thing of beauty and it sums up what Greek cuisine is all about. The best Greek salad recipe only uses a few top-quality seasonal ingredients.
All the fresh ingredients used in Greek salad are at their peak.
The tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onions are all sweet, crispy and juicy.
The feta cheese creamy and fresh. The olive oil, not even a year old.
The olives perfectly marinated and the vinegar made from a batch of homemade Greek wine.
And, if you have fresh oregano, Bonus! Otherwise, dried oregano is the go-to.
It's basically, the best of what the farmer has. Think about it for a second.
The veggies/fruit all perfectly ripe and the sheep's milk or goat's milk perfect for making smooth creamy feta.
Homemade wine fermented and turned into vinegar.
Last year's olive harvest yielded olive oil and marinated olives.
Everything needed for the perfect Greek salad and all under one roof.
Traditional Greek salad ingredients are simple and specific. NO recipe for greek salad should ever mention things like chicken, pasta, avocado or lettuce.
- Tomato - Use the sweetest tomatoes you can find. They need to be juicy, the flesh soft but firm and not powdery. When I mean sweet I mean sweet as honey. If the regular medium-sized tomatoes are not sweet then better use a good cherry plum tomato.
- Green bell pepper - You could use any colour but, the pale green young ones are the sweetest and if you didn't know this they all start out green and then change colour depending on the varietal.
- Cucumber - Medium-sized and crispy. You don't want a watery old cucumber as it will dilute the flavour of the salad and make it watery.
- Red onion - Sweet young red onions. If they are all old and harsh, you could use banana shallot which is not traditional but strike a good balance between sweet, crisp and pungent.
- Olives - Kalamata olives are the ones used mostly. You could, however, use any well-marinated olive. They need to be soft and juicy while still holding their shape. I love using whole olives but feel free to use pitted olives instead.
- Feta cheese - This is a big one. The feta cheese needs to be from goat's milk or sheep's milk. It also needs to be creamy, soft and delicate. crumbly dry stuff is no good. There are other recipes where crumbly feta is preferred but a traditional Greek salad uses the creamy version.
- Vinegar - Good quality red wine vinegar that is not too harsh. Alternatively, you could use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Oregano - If you can find or have fresh then use that. While you are at it you might as well make this chimichurri recipe that uses fresh oregano. Otherwise, the traditional way is dried oregano.
- Seasoning - Natural sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
How to make it
Making the best traditional Greek salad requires almost zero skill and you will have the salad on the table in under 10 minutes.
All the hard labour has been done for you by nature, the farmer and the producer.
All you have to do is chop up, mix up, dress up and serve up.
- Peel and cut the cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, red onion and put in a bowl.
- Add the olives, salt and vinegar.
- Give it a gentle toss.
- Place the salad into a serving bowl and lay large chunks of feta on top.
- Sprinkle with some dried or fresh oregano and drizzle with olive oil.
- Finish with freshly ground black pepper and serve straight away. With a chilled glass of rose or white wine of course.
That is the simplest most satisfying summer salad you could make.
Where are the lettuce and grilled chicken? Not here and it will never be here either. The end.
Where is the dressing? Already in the salad. It's simply vinegar and olive oil. Nothing else needed.
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You might run into a problem when sourcing the ingredients or feel like slightly adjusting it while still keeping it a Greek salad.
For that reason, I include a few logical variations below.
- Peppers - You can use any colour pepper your heart desire or you could find in the shop. Especially true to those that hate green peppers.
- Tomatoes - Sometimes tomatoes are just nasty plastic crap. Don't use those. Instead, opt for sweet bright cherry tomatoes. You need the sweetness, umami and tartness from a good quality tomato.
- Olives - You could substitute the kalamata olives for any other variety given that they are well marinated. Do not use those pitted pre-sliced canned olives. Those are for people that put lettuce and grilled chicken in their greek salad.
- Dressing - If you don't like vinegar or can't get hold of a good quality one, substitute the vinegar for a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Herbs - If you can not find any oregano you could use a bit of dried parsley or mixed dried herbs.
- Cheese - You could use cow's feta too if you can't find sheep's or goat's feta. Just make sure it's natural and not some rubbery fake cheese substitute.
Greek salad can be served as a side dish, lunch salad or a main meal depending on how healthy your appetite might be. If you ever visit Kikis in Mykonos you will see what I mean.
The fact remains though that it's super healthy, very easy to make and goes perfectly well with a wide range of other dishes.
As a side salad for the following dishes:
- With Grilled meats or fish like this pork belly, lamb chops, lamb koftas, angelfish, salmon fillet or pan-fried steak.
- With a nice fat piece of toasted sourdough or flax sourdough bread.
- Other hot dishes like this baked leg of lamb or even alongside some cheesy quesadillas.
As part of a selection of cold appetisers along with:
- Salads like this Classic Caesar with traditional Caesar dressing, cured salmon salad, Moroccan couscous, beaten cucumbers or this creamy tahini coleslaw.
- Appetisers like these sexy roasted peppers, pea feta and mint dip, or this creamed spinach.
Other recipes you might like
If you like preparing seasonal recipes, salads or Mediterranean food you might find the following posts useful.
- Roasted carrots and chanterelle mushrooms - Great warm salad.
- Seasonal fruit salad - Using the best seasonal ingredients.
- Burst tomato pasta - My favourite pasta dish.
- Sea bass crudo - Light fresh and amazing.
- Triple citrus lemonade or it's strawberry cousin - Refreshing summer soft drinks and great bases for cocktails.
Useful equipment for this recipe
Japanese knife - Buy Now
Mixing bowl - Buy Now
Wooden chopping board - Buy Now
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