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Mediterranean Foods You Need in Your Life

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Mediterranean food is home to some of the world’s most loved and iconic dishes. Many also believe this diverse cuisine to be one of the keys to a healthier life.

Mediterranean food’s geography, history, and recipes are also far greater than many people are aware of. So, if you’re curious to find out more, you’ve come to the right place.

Prepare for your tastebuds to tingle as we take an epic culinary journey through this beautiful region and explore 26 of its most delicious foods and dishes.

What is Mediterranean Food?

Simply put, Mediterranean food comes from all of the countries and regions that surround the Mediterranean Sea.

Today, 23 countries are classed as Mediterranean countries. All bring a unique range of flavors and cooking techniques to Mediterranean cuisine.

Where to find Mediterranean food

Mediterranean food map showing the regions and countries that are considered part of the Mediterranean cuisine

Essentially, you can split Mediterranean cuisine into three culinary regions. These are:

  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Southern Europe
  • North Africa

Naturally, all three heavily influence each other. But each region’s climate and cultural differences have allowed them all to develop similar yet differing cuisines.

The Eastern Mediterranean cuisine largely includes Balkan, Greek, Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese, Israeli, Palestine, and Egyptian foods.

The Southern European region covers Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Southern French foods.

Across the sea, the North African influence on Mediterranean food comes from Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Libyan cuisines.

Important ingredients of Mediterranean food

Mediterranean food is full of fresh vegetables, tender meats, and a wide range of tastes.

Experts, however, have defined three core ingredients that all the different regions have essentially built their cuisines on. These are olives, wheat, and grapes.

1 – Olives

Olives have been grown in the Persian region for thousands of years. Today, a staggering 95% of the world’s olives are grown in the Mediterranean area.

This has led to olive oil becoming synonymous with Mediterranean cooking, and the go-to cooking agent over butter, fats, and other oils.

2 – Wheat

Records of wheat being grown in the Eastern Mediterranean area date back nearly 10,000 years.

This is why bread is such a vital ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, which, in time, led to other wheat-based foods, such as Italian pasta.

3 – Grapes

Lastly, there’s a reason wine is the drink of choice for many Mediterranean countries: grapes.

Persia’s position near the Black Sea provided the perfect climate to grow grapes. Evidence suggests grapes have been grown there for at least 8000 years.

But it was the Italians, several centuries before the birth of Christ, that first began using grapes to make wine.

Today, grape production here is pretty much only for wine. And nearly 40% of the world’s wine comes from Mediterranean countries.

Now that we have our bearings and a little context, let’s dive in and learn more about 26 of the Mediterranean region’s most scrumptious foods and dishes.

Mediterranean Foods to Try


Mediterranean food: pita bread
AS Food studio / Shutterstock

With its puffy texture and comforting taste, pita is one of the world’s most well-known and loved breads. This rounded flatbread, made from wheat flour, has been used in the Middle East for millennia.

Pita has evolved through the ages from some of the earliest recorded flatbreads, roughly 15,000 years ago.

It originates from the Fertile Crescent, an area of the Middle East spanning northern Egypt across to the Persian Gulf.

It was the Greeks, however, that really put pita on the map. The term ‘pita’ first entered the English language in the 1930s.

Pita gets its iconic ‘puffed’ look from being baked at very high temperatures, up to 475°F. This evaporates the water in the dough to steam. This allows it to be used as a yummy pocket for a wide range of delicious foods and fillings.

However, some cuisines (such as Greek cuisine) prefer the pocket-less pita. They bake it at lower temperatures, creating a flatter, rounder pita.

Pita is very much the ‘popular kid’ at the school of Mediterranean cuisine. It pairs with so many delicious foods and ingredients.

Greeks love to dip it in rich sauces like hummus. Turkish people stuff it full of tender meat for their beloved kebabs, while Cypriots fill it with soft halloumi.

In Palestine, it’s the perfect bread for a wholesome breakfast of hummus, pickled vegetables, and falafel.

Wherever your Mediterranean adventure takes you, you’re almost certain to see pita in a wide range of exciting recipes. It is very much a bread for all seasons!


Moussaka © Nomad Paradise

Rich, creamy, and truly satisfying, few Mediterranean foods come as hearty as delicious moussaka. This baked eggplant and ground meat casserole was made popular by Greek cuisine during the 1920s.

However, its origins date much further back, to Levant. This region to the east of the Mediterranean Sea includes Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, among others.

The traditional recipe mixes juicy sauteed eggplant and ripe tomatoes with minced lamb.

Nikolaos Tselementes, a French-trained Greek chef, however, was the man who made moussaka one of the most famous Greek dishes. His approach to layering moussaka is the widely used recipe today.

Commonly, the bottom layer consists of layered eggplant and plenty of olive oil.

The middle layer is the meat layer, pairing minced lamb with a range of delicious vegetables and seasonings.

Lastly, a top layer of Béchamel, or white sauce, brings the whole moussaka together. Nikolaos Tselementes would prepare the three layers separately and then bake them together.

With Greece under Turkish rule, Tselementes’ inclusion of the classic French Béchamel sauce was his way of trying to rid the dish of Turkish influence.

Moussaka is loved across the Mediterranean in a wide range of styles and variations. Filling and flavorful, it’s a dish for all occasions.

Moussaka Recipe

Greek Salad

Greek salad
Greek Salad © Nomad Paradise

The Mediterranean climate allows for some truly ripe and juicy vegetables and fruit to be grown.

Just waltz through a Greek, Turkish, or Italian food market, and you’ll be amazed at the size and vibrant color of the fruit and vegetables.

Plus, in the searing heat, often a cold and refreshing salad is the order of the day.

It’s imagined that a Greek salad was the result of farmers in rural areas preparing a quick meal with the food they had on hand.

The Greek salad traditionally combines chopped tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, and olives, fresh from the ground or markets.

Its defining feature is feta cheese. Traditionally, a large slice or slab of feta was placed on top of the salad. Now, you can find salads with cubed or crumbled feta cheese.

Drizzle the salad with olive oil and season it generously, and you have a refreshing salad at the beating heart of Greek cuisine.

Greek Salad Recipe


Baklava © Nomad Paradise

Baklava is an utterly divine and multi-textured pastry dessert, originating from Turkey and the reign of the Ottoman Empire.

It stacks crushed nuts between layers of filo pastry, binding the layers together with sweet honey syrup.

Baklava’s pastry layers have a flakey and buttery texture. This crunch, combined with the thick, sweet texture of the honey, makes for an incredibly sweet, sticky, and exquisite mouthful.

Pistachios in Turkey and walnuts in Greece are typically used in baklava. However, other crushed nuts have been used in Baklava recipes, though they may not be considered traditional.

Served chilled, baklava is a gloriously sweet treat to enjoy after dinner on a warm Mediterranean evening. However, let’s be honest, you can have it at any time of day!

Baklava Recipe


Mediterranean food: dolmas (delicious stuffed grape leaves on a plate with fresh cilantro on a wooden background)
Aleksey Khoruzhenko / Shutterstock

Dolmas are a very important family of Mediterranean foods. The act of stuffing vegetables with a meat and/or vegetable-based filling has been practiced for centuries.

Dolmas are believed to originate from the Middle East. Stuffed vegetable recipes have been documented in Arabic cookbooks long before the Ottoman Empire.

Countries in the East Mediterranean and Middle East regions all have either dolma, or a similar-style of wrapped leaf or vegetable dish in their cuisines.

In Turkey, you’ll find vibrant, roasted eggplant stuffed with ground lamb and hearty rice, cooked with spices, and finished with a drizzle of lemon juice.

Head north to the Balkans, and you’ll find sogan dolmasi in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This recipe stuffs peeled onions with minced beef, rice, seasonings, and sour cream.

To the east, in Syria, Iraq, and Armenia, you’ll find balls of cinnamon-infused rice wrapped in vine leaves.

As Mediterranean foods go, dolma is one of the most historically significant. It shows how innovative and resourceful you can get with simple ingredients.


© Nomad Paradise

Borek was a true favorite of the Ottoman Empire. Its name is believed to be derived from the Turkish word bur, ‘to twist.’

As the name suggests, the first thing you’ll notice about this flavor-filled baked pastry is its spiral shape, which is the traditional way to shape and bake it.

Borek is traditionally made with filo or yufka pastry. It’s baked in a large pan and then cut into slices to be served, typically for breakfast. In other regions of the Mediterranean, it is baked as individual, bite-sized pieces.

As for the fillings, Mediterranean countries all have their own delicious take on this wonderful dish.

Turkey’s Su böreği, a popular variation, has a creamy mixture of feta cheese and parsley between the layers of flaky pastry.

In Armenia, thick cheeses, spinach, or ground beef are the order of the day. Greece has even created a dessert borek, filled with a custard and citrus filling, known as bougatsa.

Borek’s influence can be found as far as the Balkans, North Africa, and even West and Central Asia. It’s a Mediterranean food of the people, that’s for sure.


Related Content: Bosnian Food and North Macedonian Food


Mediterranean food: mezze
zarzamora / Shutterstock

Mezze comes from the Persian language, literally meaning ‘to taste.’ Mezze itself is not a food, but a collection of small dishes and appetizers, varying from country to country.

Turkish mezze encompasses a spectrum of flavors. These include sliced melon, pepper and walnut sauce, and fried calamari.

Tabbouleh, hummus, and baba ghanoush are much-loved mezze dishes as well, while in Greece and Cyprus, fava beans and grilled cheeses are often served.

Mezze serves two different purposes, depending on the region you eat it in. In Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans, mezze is an appetizer that’s widely served at social gatherings where people are drinking alcohol.

Plenty of alcoholic drinks, like rakia and Cyprus brandy, go hand-in-hand with the diverse tastes of mezze, too.

In the Muslim Mediterranean regions, where alcohol is not drunk, mezze can be eaten as a main course.

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad © Nomad Paradise

Our next stop takes us to Lebanon and a multi-layered salad that’s at the core of Levantine cuisine: Fattoush salad.

‘Fattoush’ as a word comes from the Arabic word fatt, meaning ‘to crush’. Fattoush, like Greek salad, is another example of Mediterranean resourcefulness.

It is believed Lebanese farmers would gather up any scraps of pita bread they had remaining. Then, they would fry them in oil and simply throw them into a salad of vegetables they had on hand.

This recipe became wildly popular throughout the Levant region. Many variations of it exist throughout the countries of the region.

Today, a classic Fattoush salad will utilize freshly chopped cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and radish.

A little spring of mint or a dash of lemon helps add an extra layer of flavor to the dish.

Fattoush Salad Recipe


© Nomad Paradise

Time now to head into North Africa and put the spotlight on one of the most well-known foods of vegetarian cuisine: falafel.

Falafel is a simple yet delicious dish. Each ball is made of a mixture of mashed chickpeas and various herbs and spices.

These little bitesize treats are rolled into small patties. They are then deep-fried and served alone or as part of a larger meal or mezze.

The origins of falafel are fuzzy. It’s believed they date back to ancient Egypt, designed as a simple snack to replace meat during fasting.

Fava beans were originally used in falafel. As this food made its way north into the Middle East, chickpeas soon replaced fava beans.

In Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll find them nestled in fresh salads, pita sandwiches, and dipped in a range of tasty sauces, like tahini.

Moroccan Tagine

Mediterranean food: moroccan tagine
Tatiana Bralnina / Shutterstock

A Mediterranean dish with a rich history and a wide range of varied recipes, the Moroccan tagine is essentially a Mediterranean stew.

The word ‘tagine’ however refers to the style of cooking, in a large and shallow pot over high heat, rather than referring to the ingredients.

Tagine dates back to the 9th century, when much of North Africa and Levant was conquered by Arabic ruler Harun al-Rashid and his armies.

Moroccan tagine covers a vast selection of recipes, both meat-based and vegetarian. The sweet and savory fusions are what make tagine so alluring.

Spices are rife in Moroccan tagine. You’ll commonly find the taste of cinnamon, saffron, and ginger, among others, in these dishes.

Then, there’s the fusion of native fruits with classic savory ingredients. One classic Moroccon tagine pairs succulent lamb with prunes or apricots.

All of this deliciousness often simmers in a broth of fresh vegetables and spices. Bold, rich, and outrageously delicious, this is a Mediterranean food to add to the bucket list.


Shakshuka © Nomad Paradise

Believed to have been brought to the Mediterranean by Tunisian Jews, shakshuka is how many people in North Africa and other regions start their day.

Shakshouka consists of a base sauce, made of juicy tomatoes, peppers, onions, and a good drizzling of olive oil.

As with many North African foods, spices are plentiful. The flavors of paprika, nutmeg, cumin, and pepper are all prominent in the sauce.

Eggs are cracked into little divots made in the sauce, and cooked in the same pan. These eggs are heavily seasoned with spices to further intensify the flavor.

These types of tomato-based stews have been eaten in the Middle East for centuries. The Ottoman Empire, in particular, ate many variations of shakshuka.

Traditionally, it’s served in an iron pan, similar to a tagine. This helps keep shakshuka piping hot while you eat it.

Shakshuka Recipe

Ful Medames

Mediterranean food: ful medames
rontav / Shutterstock

If it has fava beans, you can almost guarantee it’s a food from Egypt. Ful Medames is an Egyptian favorite, and its inception dates back thousands of years.

Essentially, Ful Medames is a fava bean stew. But there’s so much more to this wholesome staple than just fava beans.

A number of flavors are common in Ful Medames. Both the zest of lemon juice and the heat of chili peppers are added, while cumin, garlic, parsley, and onion all find their way into the stew, along with other vegetables.

Once cooked, Ful Medames pairs with a wide range of sides. Egyptians enjoy this stew with vegetable oil, hard-boiled eggs, or cured beef, among many others.

It’s believed the core recipe has barely changed from the recipe used in ancient Egypt.

Naturally, this simple but wholesome stew found its way across North Africa and to the Middle East. Today, it is enjoyed in many countries.

Perfect for both breakfast or a main course, Ful Medames is a Mediterranean food not to be missed.


couscous with roasted vegetables and tahini sauce
Couscous with Roasted Vegetables and Tahini Sauce, Photo Courtesy of Be My Recipe

Couscous is such a simple Mediterranean food, but its influence throughout the region, and across the world, has been astronomical.

It’s believed couscous first came from Morocco and Algeria in the 11th century. North African immigrants eventually brought the dish to France, where it’s popularity increased rapidly.

The craft of making couscous is a fascinating one. Put simply, couscous is made of thousands of tiny balls of crushed semolina. Semolina are the excess grains that come from durum wheat, that are not classed as flour.

To make couscous, semolina is sprayed with water, then rolled by hand into tiny balls. Finally, its sprinkled with flour, then drained by sieve.

And where do we even begin with eating couscous? It can be found in salads, with vegetables, in stews, and in some places even as a dessert. Couscous is yet another example of Mediterranean food’s incredible simplicity.



Mediterranean food: ratatouille
© Nomad Paradise

Via North Africa, we’ve now reached France. While northern France is associated with European cuisine, southern France is very much a part of the Mediterranean region.

That leads up quite nicely to ratatouille. This flavorsome vegetable stew is one of the hallmarks of French cuisine, and it’s loved across the globe.

Ratatouille comes from Nice. The first recipes date back to 1877, but the modern recipe gained fame during the 1930s.

This ratatouille is built on a rich base of tomato stew, to which slices or chunks of eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini are added.

Into the stew also go generous amounts of garlic and onion. The broth is then flavored with basil, thyme, and a number of other herbs.

Old-school French chefs believe the true way to make ratatouille is by cooking the vegetables separately, then adding them into a big pot.

Ratatouille is cooked slowly to attain a thick, creamy texture. This also allows the flavors to seep into the liquid.

Read more:

Salade Niçoise

Nicoise Salads
© Nomad Paradise

But our time in Nice is not over just yet. There’s another Mediterranean food from this city with global recognition: niçoise salad.

This fresh and vibrant salad, as with many Mediterranean recipes, started out life as food eaten by poor people.

In Nice throughout the 1800s, a dish of tomatoes and anchovies, splashed with olive oil, was an easy-to-prepare meal for the city’s poorest inhabitants.

In time, the salad found its way into restaurants and began to evolve. By the 1900s, salad recipes were developed to include other ingredients.

Today, the classic salade niçoise stays true to the core ingredients of tomato, anchovies, and olives. It can also include fresh vegetables like peppers and shallots.

The salad is then topped with either hard-boiled eggs or canned tuna, drizzled in olive oil, and seasoned generously.

Described by many as the perfect summer salad, salade niçoise is a wonderful dish for a warm Mediterranean day.

Niçoise Salad


Mediterranean food: paella
 Iryna Denysova / Shutterstock

Our journey continues along the coast down to Valencia and to a dish that’s been a bedrock of Spanish cuisine for centuries.

Paella fuses delicious meat and vegetables with a particular type of rounded rice, iconic with the paella recipe.

As with many Mediterranean foods, it was Middle Eastern settlers who first introduced Spain to this type of rice in the 10th century.

But paella as we love and know today was created much later. Its origins can be traced back to the rural areas surrounding Valencia in the 19th century.

Paella’s appeal is in the way it’s cooked. The ingredients are cooked slowly in a circular, shallow pan over an open fire.

Paella dishes used in restaurants are typically very large. For large Spanish gatherings and families, it’s the perfect meal to feed lots of people at the same time.

Generous amounts of olive oil cook the rice, which gives the dish its iconic golden color. Saffron and rosemary are used to season the recipe.

Traditionally, tender cuts of rabbit, chicken, or duck were used in paella. With Valencia being so close to the coastline, in time seafood was introduced.

This variety of paella, cooking seafood like mussels and shrimp, along with other meats, has become one of the most popular in recent times.

Paella is a Mediterranean food with so much character. It’s wholesome, delicious, and brings people from all over Spain together.


© Nomad Paradise

Let’s stay in Spain, and take a look at another food that’s a huge part of Spanish culture: tapas.

The idea of spreads and appetizers served together dates back to Roman times. However, tapas as we know and love today was first introduced in the 18th century by Spanish innkeepers.

At the time, many travelers were staying at their inns. Naturally, the innkeepers wanted to offer them food. But due to language barriers and other factors, the innkeepers struggled to communicate with the travelers.

So, they would put out a spread of different appetizers. This way, the travelers could pick and choose what they liked.

Today, tapas encompasses ingredients from the bluest seas to the highest mountains. From cold meats to soft cheeses, smoked chorizo to battered squid, tapas is creative and varied.

Mediterranean food is much more than just food. It’s a huge part of social activity and culture. Nothing sums this up more than tapas bars.

If you’re not ready to leave Spain, our article on Spanish food will give you plenty more must-try foods to explore.

Pizza Margherita

Mediterranean food: Pizza
V. Matthiesen / Shutterstock

This is food that needs no introduction. To stay true to the Mediterranean roots though, we need to travel back to 16th-century Naples, Italy.

Through the years, oil, tomatoes, or even fish were added to the top of flatbreads, which at the time were being referred to as ‘pizza.’

A poor person’s food for generations, in time pizza toppings become broader and more creative. In 1889, it is believed chef Raffaele Esposito, a talented Neapolitan pizzamaker, gave birth to the very first pizza margherita.

To honor Margherita of Savoy, the Queen consort, he developed a pizza with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil as the toppings.

These three ingredients were used to represent the colors of Italy: white, red, and green.

Gorge-worthy pizza, naturally, can be found throughout Italy. However, if you visit Naples and order yourself a rustic, stone-baked Neapolitan pizza, you’re truly in for a treat.


Mediterranean food: Risotto
Julie208 / Shutterstock

Hailing from northern Italy, risotto is a simple and wholesome rich dish, that has been eaten for centuries.

The key to risotto is in the broth, in which the rice cooks. Both cook together until a thick, creamy consistency is achieved.

Common risotto variations incorporate the likes of parmesan cheese, onions, wine, and butter, all cooked in a rich broth with risotto rice.

Legend has it that in 19th century Italy, a chef’s apprentice added saffron to a rice dish at a large wedding. For those who believe the tale, this is credited as the very first ‘risotto.’

Today, you can try so many types of risotto, with mushroom risotto being a signature at many Italian restaurants.


© Nomad Paradise

Rich, zesty, and earthy flavors are abundant in Mediterranean cuisine, and tapenade, hailing from the beautiful French region of Provence, is a classic example of these traits.

This savory spread is traditionally made from chopped black olives and either one or both of briny capers and rich anchovies, depending on where the spread is being made.

Other common ingredients that meld the chopped ingredients together include zesty lemon juice, earthy olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs, while you can find variations that use green olives or a combination of green and black.

A staple of French cuisine, tapenade is also very popular in parts of Italy. The classic way to serve it is spread over slices of French or Italian bread, but that’s just the beginning of the fun.

Tapenade can also be spooned onto pasta, generously poured over salads, stuffed in poultry, or spread over seafood. It brings bold, briny, zesty, and earthy notes to the fold, no matter what it’s served with.

Spreads resembling tapenade have even been documented as far back as the reign of the Roman Empire, which is a testament to how well the ingredients pair with each other.

Tapenade Recipe


© Nomad Paradise

Tuscany is renowned for its idyllic beauty and epitomizes all that is humble about the classic Italian rural lifestyle. Few, if any dishes, capture the essence of this more so than Panzanella.

The classic Tuscan and Umbrian Panzanella was a simple affair of stale Tuscan bread, soaked in water, sometimes with vinegar, which was first dried, then mixed with chopped onion. Juicy tomato was added from the twentieth century onwards.

Modern Panzenalla recipes bring other ingredients to the bowl, such as fresh cucumber, herbs like basil, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. The bread is also toasted, rather than soaked in water, to add crunch to the moist texture.

While the dish has gone through several evolutions through the years, no one can argue that traditional Panzanella has earned its place on the timeline of Italian food history.

Panzanella Salad


© Nomad Paradise

So good that in Lebanon, there’s even a National Tabbouleh Day, this fresh and zesty salad is a classic example of the influence the Levant and the Middle East have on Mediterranean cuisine.

Originating from Syrian and Lebanese cuisine but popular throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, tabbouleh is a dish of humble ingredients.

Traditionally, it consists of bulgar wheat mixed with chopped parsley, along with onion and tomato, seasoned with the likes of lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs like mint.

Lebanese and Syrian tabbouleh is characterized by its higher ratio of chopped parsley to bulgar wheat, making for a very herby, clean, and peppery-yet-zesty salad. Similar style salads, in the likes of Armenia and Turkey, typically have more bulgar wheat and less parsley.

Tabbouleh is a classic meze dish, so expect to see it served with the likes of pita bread, hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, and other beloved Levantine meze staples.



© Nomad Paradise

Tzatziki may be the darling dip of Greek cuisine, but that’s very much the beginning when it comes to all of the creamy culinary delights this country has to offer.

Tirokafteri, or ktipiti as it’s known in some parts of Greece, is a Greek dip with a lusciously thick, creamy, yet slightly chunky texture that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

It is made with soft white cheese, typically feta cheese, mixed with Greek yogurt and other ingredients such as pepper, chili, and olive oil.

The result is a flavor profile that has salty, tangy, and savory notes from the feta cheese and yogurt, with just the right amount of heat from the pepper and earthiness from the oil.

Tirokafteri, like many spreads from the region, goes hand-in-hand with a big plate of freshly baked pita bread. However, be sure to dollop it generously on roasted vegetables or spiced grilled kebab meat to really see the magic of this beloved spread come to life.



© Nomad Paradise

With evidence of this dish dating back to ancient Greece, it should come as no surprise that, even today, souvlaki remains one of the most sought-after fast foods in Greece and Cyprus.

At its purest, souvlaki is simply a dish of grilled meat on a skewer. Traditionally, this was most commonly pork, but lamb, chicken, and beef are all meats that can be referred to as souvlaki when grilled in that way.

The roaring sizzle of juicy meat over a hot grill is one of the iconic sounds on the streets of Greek and Cypriot villages, towns, and cities, and when visiting, this dish is simply not to be missed.

Today, marinades play a big role in the flavors of the grilled meat. Our recipe coats juicy chicken in a yogurt, lemon, olive oil, and herb marinade, for a chicken souvlaki packed with flavor.

© Nomad Paradise

While traditionally, souvlaki was eaten straight off the skewer, today, there’s a wide array of ways to enjoy the meat. These include souvlaki-pita, where the meat is wrapped in pita bread coated with tzatziki and stuffed with vegetables, and souvlaki-merida, where the meat and ingredients are served on a plate with crispy fries.

Chicken Souvlaki


© Nomad Paradise

While meatballs are a mainstay of Central and Nothern European cuisines, along with many other cuisines across the world, it’s the unique shape and Mediterranean-inspired flavor profile of soutzoukakia that make these Greek meatballs so utterly delicious.

Traditionally, soutzoukakia are rolled from either ground beef or a combination of beef and pork or lamb mixture. In addition to bread crumbs and egg, spices like cumin and cinnamon are commonly used, and soutzoukakia are typically rolled into oblong-shaped meatballs, not spheres or balls.

From there, the meatballs are first fried in oil to add some golden brown texture, then are added to an already simmering rich and aromatic tomato-based sauce to be served together.

Enjoyed with rice, potatoes, and herbs, soutzoukakia have that gloriously golden brown fried meat texture, laced with sweet, tart, and herby flavors from the spices and seasonings. All of this, enveloped in a moist, rich, tomato and herb sauce, makes for an incredibly satisfying mouthful, no matter what you eat it with.

Similar style meatballs can be found in the likes of Turkish and Cypriot cuisine, and all-in-all, this dish really does fuse the best of Levantine, North African, Mediterranean, and European cuisine together in a marriage of sheer spiced-infused indulgence.



© Nomad Paradise

Finally, in a region responsible for nearly 40% of world exports, how could we not mention the drink adored by the masses: wine.

Wine production has been a Mediterranean craft for millennia. First, it was Persia, thousands of years ago.

Greece and Cyprus were making wine several thousands of years later. Next came Spain.

Its commercialization and distribution was thanks to Italy, in the 9th century. And several centuries later, France began producing wine.

From Veneto in Italy to Thrace in Greece. From Bordeaux in France to Mallorca in Spain. There is just so much amazing wine to try.

When traveling through these countries, always ask small restaurant owners for their recommendations. There will always be local wines, made in a nearby region, that are more than worth trying.

Despite not being a ‘food,’ few would disagree that wine arguably defines Mediterranean cuisine better than any food.

Mediterranean wine is rich, comforting, and full of flavor. More importantly, however, it represents so much more than food and drink.

Wine sums up Mediterranean cuisine perfectly. It’s a way of life. It’s about nature’s finest ingredients, being with friends and family, enjoying life, and so much more.

Mediterranean Food Summary

Mediterranean food map depicting the countries influencing mediterranean cuisine.

That was quite the adventure, I’m sure we can all agree. From hearty Balkan staples to Ancient Egyptian practices, we’ve covered so much.

As we’ve seen, Mediterranean food is much more than Italian food and olive oil. There’s an incredible number of countries that influence it.

For people of the Mediterranean, food is their culture, passion, and way of life.

Whether your travels take you through along the Moroccan coast or down the beautiful beaches of the Balkans, great food will always be around you.

Here’s to Mediterranean cuisine. Its flavor, its diversity, and its ability to bring friends, family, and total strangers together are truly iconic.

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  • Hey there! We are Dale and Doina, the founders of Nomad Paradise. We traveled full-time for over three years, and while we now have a home base in the U.K., continue to take trips abroad to visit new places and try new cuisines and foods. Our food guides are curated with the guidance of local foodies, and their contribution is indicated under each article. We also cook the foods we try abroad, and you can discover how to make them in our 'recipes from around the world' category.

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Brian C. Medley

Wednesday 10th of August 2022

I am extremely delighted to continue to incorporate the Mediterranean foods into my diet. It has helped me tremendously I will keep increasing those types of food to stay healthy...thanks to all who are keeping me informed about Mediterranean foods.