Best Traditional Greek Desserts and Where to Try Them in Athens (Part 1)
Whenever I travel, I always prepare myself for the inevitable that happens almost every time, no matter where I go or what I do: gaining those few -or more than few, to be honest- extra pounds that comes from eating and tasting anything unknown and unfamiliar to my palate, whether savory or sweet, whether on a dish, boxed or wrapped.
Well, I love food! Correction: I love good food; but sweets are my one fatal weakness, my kryptonite when it comes to food. The truth is I do have a sweet tooth and the word no is no part of my vocabulary when it comes to that sweet indulgence, we call dessert; and the Greek cuisine has a lot to offer in the domain of “sugary creations” with several traditional desserts for you to try during your visit in Athens.
I’m no expert, but I can share with you the best -in my opinion- traditional Greek desserts and my go-to places in Athens, if you want to satisfy your everlasting cravings and get a real taste of the Greek traditional dessert cuisine!
1. Karidopita (walnut cake with spices and syrup)
If there is one thing I remember from when I was young, it was the exquisite smell of the freshly baked karidopita my mum used to make that filled the house. The combination of walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup is what makes this cake a delicious dessert option to accompany your afternoon coffee with. However, if you’re looking for the real deal, then you don’t have to go far. All you have to do is visit Ta Serbetia stou Psyrri, where you can find the best homemade-like karidopita, tasting exactly like the one my mom used to make at home.
Where: Ta Serbetia stou Psyrri, Aisxulou 3, Athens
Read also: Top 10 Ice Cream Places in Athens
Having its origins in the regions of North Greece, bougatsa is the snack that comes in both savory and sweet versions and is actually a “pita”, but not quite… Its peculiarity is the phyllo sheet used to prepare it, which is different from the usual ones that we taste in a tyropita (cheese pie) or spanakopita (spinach pie). It is made with buttered handmade phyllo sheets, which are then laid one over the other and filled with creamy custard. The best way to serve a bougatsa is no other than warm, topped with just a noticeable sprinkle of powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Bougatsa can be easily found in almost every bakery all over Athens. Nevertheless, not all bakeries offer the best bougatsa you can taste. There is, however, a particular little shop in Kaisariani that promises to give you the authentic taste of the traditional bougatsa. At Vosporos you will find the most delicious bougatsa, and people in the area know that. So, they don’t mind, if all they have to do is wait a little bit longer for the fresh batch to come out of the oven to have a piece.
Where: Vosporos, Leof. Eth. Antistaseos 20, Kaisariani
This is the typical and healthiest dessert that can be found in different forms, depending on the ingredients used and the preparation procedure, and that couldn’t be left out of this list. The most common one that you can find everywhere, in any supermarket, convenience store or delicatessen shop, is the one made with tahini, sugar syrup, honey or molasses, coming in every flavor: vanilla, cocoa, mixed (vanilla and cocoa), vanilla and almonds, chocolate-covered vanilla, etc. However, the Greek traditional halva, quickly and easily made in every home kitchen, is the one made with semolina, olive oil, sugar syrup and spices. So, if you are looking for a delicious no-dairy, egg-free, no-butter dessert alternative, that’s the one! Especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan and your options for sweets are limited, then you should try the semolina-based halva and in particular the one you can find at Kyveli pastry shops. (Note: if, for some reason, you end up spending your holiday in Thessaloniki, you should definitely pay a visit to the Hatzifotiou pastry shop and try their halva!)
Where: Kyveli, Kapsali 3, Kolonaki
Interested in trying something new?
No one can deny that the traditional Greek dessert cuisine is based on syrup and we can witness this in almost all Greek sweets, from karidopita and halva to the next must-try option: baklava. If you ask me, should you get the chance to try it, then you are in for a serious treat. The preparation process is simple, but it takes time and some expertise to have that delicious, mouthwatering product ready to be served. Baklava is made with phyllo sheets, coated with a big potion of melted butter and filled with a mixture of walnuts (or pistachios), cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar between almost each layer. Once this is baked in the oven, the sugar syrup is added in the baking pan, so that the baklava is properly soaked in it, where it remains until consumed. For the best baklava in Athens, all you have to do is locate the Ta Gioulia patisserie, where you will find the best and crunchiest baklava the city has to offer.
Where: Ta Gioulia, Anagenniseos 49-51, Perissos
Last, but not least in this list, is a dessert I loved eating while I grew up and still eat every time I get the chance to. If you love bougatsa, then you’ll absolutely love galaktoboureko, the dipped in syrup equivalent of a bougatsa. The galaktoboureko is baked layers of phyllo dough, coated with melted butter and filled with a semi-sweet, fluffy custard cream, and finally dampened in syrup. The secrets to a galaktoboureko rich in flavor are to use real cow’s butter and to dip it still hot in cold syrup, which means immediately after you take it out of the oven.
If you want to have a taste of the traditional galaktoboureko, made with ingredients of best quality, handmade phyllo dough and the richest and most flavorful cream, then you should make your way to Kosmikon, the pastry shop with the longest history in galaktoboureko since 1961. Their to-die-for galaktoboureko can be found in any of its five pastry shops in Agios Nikolaos, Agios Eleftherios, Palaio Faliro, Agia Paraskevi, Glyfada and Agia Marina.
Where: Kosmikon, Leof. Ionias 104, Agios Nikolaos
Cook like a Greek for a day!
Read also: The 10 Best Street Food Spots in Athens
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Have you ever tried any of the above desserts? Which Greek dessert is your own favorite? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Text: Spyros Balesias
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