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Guest Post by Tia Does Travel
Food in Cyprus is to say the least; spectacular. You could literally spend weeks on the island and you will not run out of dishes to try, desserts to taste and local delicacies to indulge in. A fusion of Greek, Cypriot and Mediterranean cuisine, food in Cyprus is colourful, plentiful and totally indulgent. Meat, Fish and fresh vegetables and salads play a primary role in Cyprus cuisine which relies on its simple recipes to really make the fresh ingredients shine. A visit to the Republic of Cyprus is a must; not only for its paradisiacal beaches, water parks, vibrant nightlife and luxury hotels but also for its unforgettable food!
Without further ado, here is a list of the best food in Cyprus that you simply must eat whilst on the island!
29 of The Most Incredible Food in Cyprus to Try!
1. Koupepia (vine leaves) and Gemista
Delicious fresh green vine leaves stuffed with pork mincemeat, rice, tomatoes and herbs. Vine leaves re-cooked in a rich tomato sauce in the oven or a crockpot. Also, the same recipe is followed to make Gemista; beef tomatoes, baby onions, green peppers and zucchini all stuffed with the same stuffing and cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
Served in traditional taverns and houses all over Cyprus they are a fantastic and healthy main dish. You can find gemista and koupepia in Greece too, with the difference being that the ones in Greece are only stuffed with rice and herbs and forego the mincemeat.
A classic and rich in history recipe that will blow your mind. Kleftiko is lamb, marinated in olive garlic and lemon then wrapped in foil with potatoes and bay leaves and very slowly cooked in a traditional clay oven. The result is a phenomenal dish – with meat that falls off the bone and potatoes that melt in your mouth.
The history is that in times of war, soldiers from the mountains would be forced to steal lambs, bury the meat underground and cook it in makeshift fires to get rid of the smoke and smell and avoid detection. Served with bulgar wheat and traditional Cyprus salad – kleftiko is a local favorite and there are taverns dedicated to solely cooking that.
3. Souvla (chicken pork or lamb)
One of the most famous foods in Cyprus, ever, this is yet another absolute must to enjoy on the island. Souvla is large pieces of meat – traditionally pork or lamb – passed through large metal skewers and cooked on a traditional foukou (a charcoal grill). Meat is prepared for hours ahead of the cooking time – usually marinated in olive oil, lemon, oregano, salt and pepper.
The cooking time is a process of 2 hours – approximately 30mins for the coal to heat and another hour and a half for the meat to cook which results in perfectly seasoned and cooked meat- crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Souvla is cooked on every occasion possible – Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Weddings and even just on Sundays. Cooked outdoors, this is an event that men typically take charge of while the women are busy creating delicious side dishes in the kitchens.
Possibly the most popular ‘’fast food’’ in the country – souvlaki originated from Greece and in Cyprus, we adore it too. It is Basically a mini version of souvla, with little square cubes of high-quality pork or chicken cooked in skewers, and served in a warm delicious Cyprus pitta bread stuffed with cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon and picked vegetables. You have a choice of chicken or pork souvlaki or a mixed pitta of souvlaki and sheftalies (see below).
We tend to eat this meal about once a week as it is a healthy and delicious solution to days where we don’t feel like cooking, and it is so popular it is available in dozens of restaurants – as a sit in option, take away or delivery. We like to accompany our souvlaki with Greek yoghurt, tzatziki or tahini dip.
Sheftalia is a peculiar traditional Cypriot dish that visitors fall in love with. An elongated ball of spiced minced pork that is tightly shaped and wrapped in caul fat – the transparent membrane that surrounds a pigs stomach, then grilled to perfection. Sounds gross I know, but one bite of those bad boys and you will be hooked for life! Often served with souvlaki, or alone in pitta and salad, they are a true culinary gem you simply must try. If you are after trying traditional food in Cyprus, start with sheftalies!
A traditional Greek and Cypriot dish similar to lasagna – but 10 times better. An oven dish of layers of Grilled slices of zucchini, eggplant and potato with a layer of mincemeat (pork, beef or lamb depending on the household) cooked in a tomato sauce like a bolognese sauce would. The process of layering vegetables and mince Is continued until the oven dish is ¾ full, then the top is topped with Bechamel sauce and finishes off in the oven. A lengthy process, moussaka is not a dish that can be quickly prepared, but the result is absolutely worth it.
7. Makaronia tou fournou – (pastitsio)
Similar to moussaka, pastitsio is a baked pasta dish that is also layered – with large tubular pasta (like bucatini) pork mincemeat, tomato sauce and halloumi cheese with béchamel sauce at the top. Delicious food in Cyprus that every Cypriot household enjoys.
The Epitome of Cyprus food, I haven’t once met a person not crazy about halloumi. Halloumi is a Cypriot firm, brined, slightly springy white cheese, traditionally made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk, although these days cow’s milk is also used. Its texture is similar to that of mozzarella or thick feta, except that it has a strong, salty flavour imbibed from the brine preserve. Cooking the Halloumi removes all its saltiness and empowers it with a creamy texture.
Since the cheese has a high melting point, it can be easily fried or grilled. Its unusualness lies in the preparation of the cheese where no acid or acid-producing bacterium is required. Halloumi is generally served during the warmer months with watermelon, due to its refreshing qualities. It is an essential part of a Cyprus Meze and many times it is offered as an accompaniment with a cold beer. The cheese also tastes lovely when grilled, pan-fried or thinly sliced on a salad.
As my Italian friends like to call them, the little balls of heaven, Cypriot keftedes are juicy pork meatballs with egg, parsley, onion, spices and bread or tomato as a binding agent then fried to perfection until golden and crispy on the outside, but fluffy on the inside. A truly homey food in Cyprus – and my Cypriot grandma’s most successful dish ever- keftedes can also be enjoyed cold with plenty of lemons!
10. Rabbit Stew
Stifado. a delicious stew or rabbit, pearl onions and tomatoes spiced with rosemary, pepper, red wine vinegar, red wine, cinnamon, allspice and other spices. Stifado is then very slowly cooked to a glazed perfection and typically enjoyed with a Cyprus salad and fresh Cyprus village bread. Although many countries only keep rabbits are pets, this protein is a delicious food in Cyprus.
A delicious dip found in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries- tzatziki is used as an accompanying dip in most of the dished mentioned above. Fresh Cyprus yoghurt, grated cucumber, minced garlic, dry mint, salt and olive oil are the ingredients of this irresistible dip that is now sold and consumed worldwide.
Another yummy dip made out of sesame paste, olive oil, garlic cilantro and parsley. Tahini has a rich and slightly bitter taste that works beautifully with homemade bread and many of the grilled meats that Cyprus cuisine has to offer.
A Greek and Cypriot dip that is fantastic paired with fish meze or other fish dishes and is pair well with all types of bread and pitas. It is particularly popular in fish meze taverns and also during the lent period where we forego meat (50 days before Xmas and 40 days before Easter). Taramasalata is a beige- pink paste of tarama – the salted, cured rue of the cod, carp or grey mullet, mixed to a paste with olive oil, lemon, onion and bread.
14. Courgette with eggs
A simple but delicious side dish of Cyprus courgettes with scrambled eggs fried in extra virgin olive oil. Gorgeous!
Spicy, cured beef village sausages, with red wine, salt peppercorn, garlic and a variety of other spices. Locals love to eat them as part of a meze, as an accompaniment in a barbecue, or fried with Halloumi and eggs for a very Cypriot twist on the fried breakfast! Some of the mountain villages produce these sausages and other cured meats as speciality products, and you can find them in the chiller section of most supermarkets, vacuum packed to withstand the flight home!
If you are squeamish – kefalaki is not for you. However, if you are a seasoned traveller with an adventurous palette, dive right in! Kefalaki is a lambs head – cooked whole – either boiled with salt and lemon or cooked in the oven. A true Cyprus delicacy, kefalaki is full of sweet and tasty meat and the brains and eyes of the lamb are particularly delicious topped with plenty of fresh lemon, salt and pepper!
Kebab. Although kebab nowadays can be enjoyed all over the world – Don’t be fooled into not eating it in Cyprus. So much better, tastier and authentic it will make your future kebabs at home slightly disappointing! Kebab in Cyprus can be typically found in chicken or pork and is served in a Cyprus pitta bread with the fillings of your choice (dips, salads, vegetable etcetera).
18. Avgolemono soup (Egg lemon rice soup)
A very popular soup made with rice, cooked in a rich broth of egg and lemon. Avgolemono is thoroughly enjoyed in the winter months and typically accompanies dishes like kefalaki or a boiled whole chicken.
19. Bulgar wheat (Pourgouri)
Bulgur (also Burghul) is a cereal food made from the groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat. Burghul is a kind of dried cracked wheat. It is most common in European, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine. In Cyprus, pourgouri is a starch side dish and it is cooked in a delicious fresh onion and tomato sauce. Pairs beautifully with village Cyprus yoghurt.
Snails cooked in a rich onion and tomato sauce. A dish served in traditional taverns as part of a meze or in households all over Cyprus. A delicacy of freshly caught snails.
21. Cypriot Salad
Exactly like the almighty Greek Salad with the addition of a few more ingredients. Cypriot salad consists of lettuce, cabbage, caper leaves, onions, black olives, tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce. The Cyprus heat makes this fresh and refreshing salad and absolute must with almost any meal in any meze tavern, restaurant and Cypriot household.
Yes, you heard it, potatoes – of any kind possible. Cyprus is home to some of the most delicious potatoes in the world and exports them all around the world. The flavour is unlike any potato you have tried at home!
Delicious sweet and fragrant local watermelon specifically paired with halloumi cheese. The combination of sweet and savoury is a local favourite!
24. Meat Meze and Fish Meze
I saved the best for last with the classic Cypriot meze! The granddaddy of food in Cyprus- this is an experience you are unlikely to forget. The Cypriot version of the Spanish Tapas, This large feast, which has been a popular part of the Cypriot culture for many centuries, and is as much as a social event as it is a meal. Dishes are shared amongst friends and family and the whole experience lasts over 2 hours! This is a set order- no need for menus. You just take a sit and order meze for all. If you are by the sea, opt for a fish meze which will be fresh and if you are in the city opt for a met meze.
Tip: taverns you give the option of a mixed fish and meat meze are touristic attractions and will not offer an authentic experience.
Mezedes (meze) consist of 15-30 dishes – many of them mentioned above- Generally, the meal begins with olives and various dips, such as tzatziki, Tahini, Taramosalata and plain yoghurt all served with a basket of fresh bread and a bowl of crisp village salad. Thereafter, dishes such as grilled Halloumi cheese and Lountza (cured pork loin are served often in Cyprus pitta bread.
A meat meze tavern will continue with grilled meats such as pork chops and barbequed chicken and pork, spicy Loukanika sausages, kleftiko and delicious stewed dishes such as Stifado and Tavas. In a fish meze tavern, a variety of locally caught fish is served grilled and fried, including small-fry of various fishes, seafood like mussels, oysters and prawns, sea bream with olive oil and lemon dressing, cuttlefish as well as delicious calamari and octopus.
In the more traditional establishments, you may be offered watermelon, sweet pastries like pourekia and fresh fruits to finish off the meal. Prepare yourselves for the culinary experience of your lives and remember…arrive very very hungry!
Cypriot Desserts to make you forget all about your healthy eating plan!
Creamy custard pie with a crispy filo pastry shell that’s finished off in the oven. Galaktompoureko screams of Greek and Cypriot Cuisine!
26. Daktila (ladies Fingers)
A traditional Cypriot Dessert of crispy phyllo pastry that is scented with orange blossom water, then filled with almonds, cinnamon and sugar before being drenched in syrup. Sounds like heaven right? That’s because it is.
A delicious dessert suitable for the fasting periods of the year, halva’s main ingredient is almonds – alongside honey, blossom water, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and mastic ground and often, raisins. The result is a grainy paste that is left to cool and served cold. Delicious!
Reminding you of mini fried doughnuts, Loukoumades are small balls of fried dough, dipped in a hot orange blossom syrup and served hot! Often served up in roadside caravans and stalls, these days there are also plenty of little shops and eateries where you can enjoy them. Crispy on the outside, syrupy and gooey on the inside, loukoumades are nothing short of divine.
Divine little pastries with a sweet filling of Anari Cheese (a soft cheese) and cinnamon. After being stuffed they get fried then traditionally dusted with icing sugar. Other variations include the addition of rosewater to the filling and syrup to replace the icing sugar.
Tell me below which food in Cyprus you would try first!
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