Greek cheeses are a plenty. I am almost certain that Greece consumes more cheese than any other nation. Cheese is such a rich part of Greece’s history; the ancient Greeks even designated a god to this wonderful food.
Aristaios (Αρισταιος), the son of Apollo, was the god that brought Cheese making (and honey, olive growing, medicinal herbs) to ancient Greece. No wonder his name is a derivative of the Greek word “aristos,” meaning “most useful.”
Since that time, Greek has continued to craft amazing cheeses. The most well-known and biggest export outside of Greece is Feta. The soft to medium cheese that is so versatile you can put it on anything from eggs to desserts. However, there are so many others that are just as good, too!
For example, a salty cheese like kefalotyri is enjoyed fried, grated, and served as mazes (appetizers). A staple yellow table cheese, and one of my favorites, is Kasseri. If you are in the mood for dessert, then you have a sweet cheese like manouri. As you can see, Greek cheeses carry a lot of versatility. Let us take a look at the most popular Greek cheeses Greece has to offer. And yes, the cheeses are listed alphabetically because I try to be organized.
A little note before starting, something that I’ve noticed long ago while staying in Greece, is that when you leave Athens and head to the smaller towns, it’s not uncommon to find cheeses local to that area. So, the next time you are in Greece ask the locals if any cheeses are made in the town. They will be more than happy to share some of their culture with you!
This cheese closely resembles Mizithra. Like most Greek cheeses, it contains milk from either sheep, goat or both. If you get it soft, it is great with fruit. The acidity of the fruit reacts nicely with the cheese. It is also popular in Greek cheese pies. If you want to cook with it, then you would want it hard.
The all mighty Greek feta. The most famous Greek cheese in the world. It was also the most popular with the ancient Greeks as well! Homer use to eat it on his ancient Greek salad as he retold to stories of Achilles and Odysseus’ struggle to get home. In Greece, it is a tradition. Made with sheep or goat’s milk, it is stored in barrels filled with brine (a salt and water preservative) for a minimum of 2 months before being sold. A soft white salty cheese that easily crumbles over the best of Greek dishes. Feta can be used on everything from salad to fired saganaki. One of my favorites is served as an appetizer. Slice of feta with olive oil and oregano sprinkled over it.
Is a milky cheese, combining feta, milk and yogurt. I think it is a suitable replacement for feta however it is milky and not dry. Best served with a meal or with some pita for dipping (think tzatziki).
I first had this in Crete, where it is quite popular. It is a hard cheese with a mild taste (kind of sweet). It is a cheese you can sprinkle over pasta or serve it in slices for an appetizer (mezedes). This Greek cheese comes in two main forms: made with cow’s milk or sheep’s milk. In Crete, Graviera is aged for a minimum of 5 months before serving. Table cheese for appetizers and mezedes.
This unpasteurized (not heat-treated to kill organisms, done by aging cheese instead) cheese is a medium-hard yellow cheese. It is traditionally make with almost 100% sheep’s milk. Kasseri has a stringy texture to it and aged for about four months. Great as a table cheese, saganaki, and in meals.
A hard cheese that in a middle ground between two other Greek cheeses: Kefalotiri and Graviera (below and above respectively). Kefalograviera is made with cow’s milk and usually ages for about 3 months before being eaten. It carries a hard sharp taste and is good paired with other potent foods, such as pastas, and holds well if fried.
Yet another traditional hard Greek cheese. Made with both cow and sheep’s milk, I’ve found it to be one of the most popular Greek cheeses found within the county and in foods. It had a sharp taste that carries a hint of salt with it as well. I would say is resembles Parmesan (as I use it on top of pasta). It gets its sharp taste from being aged for 3 months. This is a very popular cheese for making saganaki.
Not a well known cheese outside of Greece. However, it’s important to note that it is one of only a few others Greek chesses that is smoked (the other, Metsovone, is below). Mostly made entirely of cow’s milk.
What makes this hard salty cheese unique is that during its 12-month aging process, it is kept in olive oil. Made from sheep and goat milk, it is shaped in to “small heads” (kefalaki) and eaten. Goes well with olives and bread.
If you are in Athens, this Greek cheese in like cream cheese. Like the others, this cheese is made from either sheep or goat milk. Great for sweet phyllo pies.
The second smoked cheese on this list. Mostly made from cow’s milk and ages for about 3 months. At the time of writing this, I have yet to try this Greek cheese.
Another cheese I had in Crete (in a cheese pie), it is made from either the milk from goat, sheep, or a cow (can include all three however). It has a rich history and is looked at as the first whey (from sheep or goat) cheese.
I hope you enjoyed this little breakdown of the wonderful cheeses from Greece. I encourage you to try them paried wine some wonderful Greek wine!
Now, check out our Greek recipes and put these cheeses to use.