Be sure to try out these pastries when you’re next in Crete.
Greece is well-known for its delicious pastries and pies, and the island of Crete has some of the best pastries you’ll find in the country.
From sweet custard fillings wrapped in phyllo pastry, to savory creams and rolled dough, and barley husks topped with fresh cheese and tomatoes. Some pastries are lighter and can be eaten for breakfast, while others can be found in bite-size pieces and can be eaten as a snack on the go. In all cases, however, they’ve been made with a lot of care and with fresh ingredients. The warm delicious smell from the bakeries especially in the early morning hours is heavenly, and we enjoy tasting a variety of pastries on our yoga retreat in Crete.
Here are four of our favorites, but these are just scratching the surface, there are many more – explore and indulge!
4 delicious pastries from Crete Greece:
Spanakopita is a typical Greek spinach pie, very popular with locals and tourists, and simply delicious! It can be eaten at any time during the day, as a snack in bite-size pieces, as an appetizer or even a main dish at lunch or dinner.
It consists of a mixture of spinach, feta cheese, sometimes onions, and local herbs all wrapped in layered phyllo pastry which has been brushed with melted butter and baked in the oven until lightly crispy and golden yellow-brown.
The inside is moist while the outside is slightly crunchy – the perfect combination for a pie. You can find spanakopita in pretty much every bakery in Greece and in most restaurants. It comes in all shapes and sizes, sometimes you’ll see it being served as individual small-size pies, and sometimes in a large pan cut up in squares or triangles.
Spanakopita is thought to have been introduced during the Turkish occupation of Greece over 400 years ago, and the Turks have a very similar dish A.though ask any Greek and they will tell you it’s definitely a Greek dish!
Kalitsounia is a sweet cheese pastry from the island of Crete and absolutely delicious and addictive.
It’s traditionally made with the fresh soft myzithra cheese (similar to a ricotta cheese) and wrapped in rolled dough rather than in phyllo sheets. It can be baked or fried and comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes – round, semicircular, rectangular and triangular.
Kalitsounia pastries are predominantly eaten at Easter time, especially in Crete, as part of the holiday celebration and tradition. But nowadays they can be found throughout the year and throughout Greece. They’re often eaten as a snack or meze, but if you want a special treat, try a Kalitsounia pastry as a dessert with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You’ll be in heaven wanting another one!
Bougatsa is a delicious sweet pastry with a rich creamy custard filling that simply melts in your mouth. It’s traditionally made in big pans with phyllo sheets wrapped around the sweet filling, baked and cut into large squares and sprinkled with cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar.
The best way to enjoy bougatsa is when it’s just come out of the oven and still warm and creamy. Many people have it for breakfast or after a long night out at 5am when the bakeries are just opening up – a great way to help the after-effects of the evening!
Bougatsa is said to have originated in Constantinople (Istanbul) prior to 1453 when it was still Greek and spread across Northern Greece, and only spread to the rest of Greece in the early 1970s. A bougatsa in Northern Greece is not just the cream filled version – you can find meat, cheese, pumpkin, custard and any other filling that’s on the menu. But from Athens downwards a bougatsa is just the custard filled version.
For a truly local experience in Chania Crete, visit Iordanis’ Bougatsadiko for the best bougatsa on the island! It’s become a bit of a cult and destination, with locals and tourists alike enjoying this secret recipe. And you can’t miss the old lady behind the counter with her stern look running a tight ship, serving these delicious pastries straight out of the oven. It’s a real sight!
Dakos is not really a pastry, but it includes a bit of cheese and tomatoes and a bread-like base. And we had to include it since it’s a very typical Cretan dish and one of our favorites. Plus it’s also super healthy.
Some say it resembles a bruschetta, and although the concept is similar, the ingredients for dakos can be found mostly in Crete, which makes this dish quite unique to the region.
The base for dakos is a barley rusk-type bread, very hard and lightly soaked in olive oil to soften it (or sometime even a bit of water) which is then topped with fresh ripe tomatoes and myzithra cheese – the same soft ricotta-type cheese found in kalitsounia pastries mentioned above. This is all then drizzled with Cretan virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt, oregano, pepper. And maybe a couple of capers.
Dakos have a high nutritional value, which make them all the more tempting. They lower bad cholesterol, they’re a great source of soluble fiber from the barley husks, full of protein and calcium from the myzithra cheese, and good fats from the delicious Cretan olive oil. The perfect snack or appetizer.
And there are plenty more…
These are just four of the many delicious pastries and pies you can find in Crete and in other regions of Greece. If you find yourself wandering the streets and passing by a typical greek bakery, we strongly recommend following your nose and wandering in. See what has just come out of the oven and enjoy!
If you’d like to find out more about our Crete yoga retreats, please visit the Yoga Escapes Crete website for details.
We’ll be hosting a yoga retreat in Crete from the 2-9 October 2021.
Places do fill up quite quickly so book early. See you in beautiful Crete!
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Yoga Escapes organizes luxury yoga retreats in beautiful places around the world, offering a mix of Vinyasa yoga and restorative Yin yoga classes. Contact the Yoga Escapes team for info on upcoming yoga holidays.