The Mediterranean region is a diverse place that is home to some of my favorite dishes. From paella to pita bread: I can never get enough of Greek, Middle Eastern, and Northern African cuisine.
Many of the food from the region go back into prehistoric history, and these dishes had an important role in creating modern civilization. The citizens of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and The Ottoman Empires loved these dishes, and you can enjoy them today.
Luckily, many of these dishes are easy to cook at home. Even if you’re not a professional chef, you can still enjoy a hearty and savory Mediterranean meal with little preparation and effort.
Popular Mediterranean Food
It would be impossible to cover all the delicacies from the region, so I’d like to cover some of the most popular dishes from the Mediterranean. Let’s take a look at 15 delicious Mediterranean dishes you can try.
Eating spanakopita is a treat. You’ll experience crispy flakes and savory in each bite of spanakopita.
The key ingredient to the dish is the flaky phyllo dough – this gives spanakopita its distinct flaky texture.
Baking spanakopita involves a large baking dish. Once cooked, cut the pie into individual pieces for serving.
The pie is often served on holidays as a side dish to lamb, chicken, and other meats.
Shawarma is one of my favorite on-the-go street foods.
This traditional meat cooking technique first appeared in the 19th Ottoman Empire and a popular food in Turkey.
Today, you can find Shawrma restaurants and stands everywhere worldwide.
Shawarma is a cooking technique that involves stacking meat on a skewer and slow roasting it.
You can find restaurants serving lamb, beef, and chicken shawarma. I’m partial to the chicken version.
To serve the dish, the chef cuts thin slices of the meat off the skewer. It is then served in a wrap with a variety of vegetables, pickles, hummus, and tahini sauce,
Falafel is a street food throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean region.
Its origins are uncertain, but many food historians agree the dish originated in Egypt.
These small deep-fried balls are a quick and yummy snack.
To make falafel, mashed chickpeas are mixed with herbs and spices to form small balls or patties. You then deep fry the dish until it’s golden brown.
Falafel is served as a sandwich with tahini sauce, fried eggplant, and a mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, and dressing.
Thanks to its non-meat ingredient list, falafel is extremely popular with vegans and vegetarians.
Hummus is one of my favorite snacks. This vegan-friendly dish is a mix of mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. The small ingredient list makes it easy to make at home as well.
While the traditional recipe is basic, many restaurants and food manufacturers make different flavored hummus.
You can find a wide range of hummus flavors at your local supermarket, including pumpkin, roasted red pepper, avocado, black bean, and sweet potato.
Traditionally you serve hummus as a dip alongside pita bread, vegetables, and other appetizers.
I often pair hummus with cucumber and carrot sticks for my mid-afternoon snack. It’s a healthy and delicious alternative to a bag of potato chips.
Tabouleh is a traditional Eastern Mediterranean salad that is often served alongside a few other small dishes.
Freshness is key when preparing tabouleh. The fresher the ingredients, the better. Parsley is the main ingredient, but the dish includes diced cucumber and tomato.
Soaked bulgur grain gives the dish some added carbs and fiber as well. Finally, A light olive oil and lemon juice dressing coat the salad.
Light and healthy, this salad can complement almost any meal, but you’ll often find tabouleh served with shawarma, garlic rice, sauteed vegetables or mushrooms, and roasted meats.
Many cooks describe moussaka as Greek lasagna. This casserole has a rich and hearty tomato sauce and features meats like beef or lamb.
Instead of pasta, you’ll use slices of eggplant to create the layers in a moussaka. Inside moussaka, you’ll find a hearty bolognese made from beef or lamb.
Next, coat the dish with a thick bechamel sauce. A mix of cinnamon, onion, garlic, and allspice gives moussaka its distinct Mediterranean flavors.
Moussaka is hearty and often served as the main course for meals. Sides like cucumber salad, pita bread, mixed leafy salad, or Greek tomato fritters make welcome additions to a moussaka family dinner.
Pita might be one of the earliest known prepared foods.
Historians estimate that residents of Mesopotamia began making pita and other bread up to 10,000 years ago. Surprisingly the recipe has not changed much throughout the years.
To make pita bread at home, you’ll need flour, yeast, salt, and water. Once prepared, you bake the dough for a few minutes, and it’s ready to serve.
Pita bread goes with almost anything. You can use it for sandwiches, dips, pizzas, flatbreads, and more.
Traditional sides include hummus, shawarma, Greek salad, tzatziki, and tabbouleh salad.
Don’t hesitate to experiment and use your favorite ingredients with pita bread. I’m partial to tuna salad sandwiches with fresh lettuce, cucumber salad, and tomatoes inside my pita bread.
If you’re looking for something sweet and savory, you have to try baklava – this Greek and Turkish pastry consisting of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, and honey.
Traditionally baklava has walnuts as its main ingredient. Today, you’ll find a variety of alternatives.
You’ll find bakeries serving pistachio, hazelnut, and peanut baklava. Other ingredients include phyllo dough, cinnamon, ground cloves, and honey or sugar.
While you can eat baklava on its own, you’ll also see it served alongside ice cream, Nutella, or cheesecake.
Fattoush is a traditional Lebanese salad made from fried flatbread, mixed greens, radishes, and tomatoes.
To start making fattoush, you’ll season and fry pita bread for the base of this salad. Crumble the pita after frying, and top it with the rest of the ingredients.
Typically, you’ll find a mix of lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, green onions, and radishes in a fattoush salad.
Feel free to pick and choose your favorite vegetables to add to the mix.
The dressing sets a fattoush salad apart. To make the dressing, you combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint, sumac, and pomegranate molasses – this gives the dressing a zesty and sweet flavor.
Dolma is traditionally a dish of stuffed grape leaves that are served throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean region.
Inside the grape leaves, you’ll find a mix of rice, meats, herbs, and spices. The wrapped leaves are cooked in a lemony broth.
If you can’t find grape leaves, feel free to substitute cabbage leaves instead. Other alternative options include cucumbers, eggplant, and apples.
Preparing dolma at home is relatively easy and makes a great midweek dinner. Dolmas can be served as a main dish. I like to serve them alongside a Greek salad or tabouli.
Borek is a hearty pastry dish made with phyllo. Inside the dish, you’ll find a variety of ingredients, including meats, cheeses, spinach, and potatoes.
This dish was first cooked by people throughout the Ottoman Empire, including areas of the Balkans, Caucasus, and Eastern Europe. The dish is also native to Northern Africa and Central Asia.
Prepare borek in a large casserole pan and cut it into small individual portions for serving.
The phyllo dough gives the pastry a fluffy and flaky texture. Inside the pastry, you’ll find a savory mix of lamb and feta cheese. If you don’t enjoy lamb, you can substitute beef for the dish.
Tagine is a Morrocan dish that features chicken slowly braised in a shallow pot.
This dish is hearty and filling and makes a fantastic main course. It’s one of my favorite easy-to-make Mediterranean dishes and is often on the menu at my home.
The key to tagine is the mix of spices and herbs. A mix of paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, ground ginger, coriander, and cinnamon gives tagine its unique flavor profile.
Lemon, fresh garlic, Greek olives, and honey are also added to the mix.
This one-pot dish helped me feed my family on countless busy nights.
Shakshuka is a popular breakfast dish across the Middle East and North Africa.
This meal of poached eggs, tomato sauce, peppers, and onions has so much flavor. It’s also cooked in one pan, so there’s little cleanup.
Flavors come from slowly cooking the tomatoes, peppers, and onions in a mix of cumin, paprika, and garlic.
Once your vegetables are ready, poach the eggs in the sauce – this adds a lot of flavor to the dish.
Shakshuka is a healthy dish and a great alternative to the traditional American egg breakfast.
It’s also easy to make, and you can have this spicy and hearty meal ready in under 20 minutes.
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish consisting of rice, saffron, vegetables, chicken, and seafood.
In another one-pot dish, you simmer all the ingredients of paella in one large pan.
To cook paella at home you’ll need onions, bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and parsley.
Spanish rice is the best option for the dish, but any short-grain rice can work as well. Chicken, shrimp, mussels, and calamari are added for protein to paella.
Saffron gives the rice its unique yellowish tint and flavors. If you don’t have saffron at home, turmeric and calendula are often used as substitutes.
At restaurants, paella is often served family-style directly in the cooking pan.
Last but not least, baba ganoush is one of my favorite Mediterranean appetizers. This dish is a mix of eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings.
Making baba ganoush at home is quick and easy. You’ll need to grill or roast eggplant and mash it to a smooth base. A food processor gives you the best creamy results at home.
Tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt round out the ingredients. Mix them all until you have a creamy sauce and the dish is ready.
Like hummus, baba ganoush makes a great dip for pita bread, cucumbers, carrots, and other bread or vegetables. Baba ganoush works great on sandwiches as well.
Which dish are you going to try first? If you’ve never had Mediterranean cuisine before, I suggest starting with hummus, shawarma, or paella. All these dishes are readily available and taste great.
For the more adventurous readers, shakshuka and tagine are hearty meals you can easily make at home. If you’re on the road and visiting Atlanta, you can always check out this article about the best Greek food in Atlanta for amazing Mediterranean dishes in Georgia.