There are many reasons to fall in love with Crete. But none so significant and universal like the Cretan Diet. No matter your taste and preferences, the local cuisine will fascinate you. Healthy, delicious, and easy to make, the food is the highlight of the island. Sounds interesting? Keep reading to get a taste! 

Cretan Diet

It is all about getting back to basics

Since time immemorial, Cretans have eaten only what their land produced. Thankfully, the local climate favors the natural growth of various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and many other ingredients. As a result, Cretans have found solace in simple dishes with minimum processing.

The simplicity of Cretan cuisine is one of its main advantages. After all, once you use fewer spices and aromatics, the pure favor and distinctiveness of the elements remain. And when you have such good raw material, it makes sense to let it shine on its own.

Cretan gastronomy is also known for its flexibility and creativeness. Households may have wild greens for lunch and evening, but the two meals may look nothing alike. The resourcefulness of the Cretan people translates to their cooking. There are hundreds of ways, if not more, to cook a set of wild greens, beans, or any other raw ingredient.

It comes with significant health benefits

The main reason why Cretan food has become known all over the world is no other than its health benefits. Although it is also scientifically proven with various medical studies, you only have to look at the lifestyle of the locals to notice the many benefits of the Cretan diet.

Traditionally, people on the island live a simple yet very active life. They wake up early, go to the fields, work hard, visit their families and spend time with friends. If it were not for the food in Crete, locals would not be able to sustain that level of activity in their lives. Although less common today, this lifestyle still exists in small and remote villages.

And if you ever doubt that, you only have to look at the thousands of published scientific papers that study the effects of the Cretan diet. Although the list is endless, two of the most known health benefits include the scarcity of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

It is the backbone of the Mediterranean diet

Cretans often do not like to hear about the “Mediterranean” diet and instead talk only about their “Cretan” cuisine. Yet, Crete is part of the Mediterranean Sea and has developed a distinctive diet that shares several elements with many neighboring cuisines.

In general, the Mediterranean diet comes from the traditional cuisines of Greece, Turkey, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The foundation of the diet includes plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. That could very well be a definition of the Cretan diet as well. 

However, using the broader term “Mediterranean” does not capture the distinctive features of Cretan cuisine. The two may be similar, but there has traditionally been only one diet on the island. And that is the Cretan diet.

It is a unique cuisine, similar but not the same as Greek cuisine

Just like with the Mediterranean term, there might also be confusion between the Cretan and Greek diets. A similar story applies here too. The dietary pattern of Greeks has historically included a high intake of fruits, wild plants, olives, nuts, and cereals. It is not too different with Cretans, who identify as Greek after all.

But, on what exactly does the Cretan diet differ from the Greek diet? Because Greek regions share a similar climate, they have the same access to unprocessed ingredients. However, from place to place, every population can create different plates from the same elements.

For example, Crete is famous for its many unique dishes. Think of Dakos, fried snails, Cretan salad, or Kalitsounia pies, not to mention the hundreds of local varieties of cheese. In addition, Cretans, mostly those who follow the traditional way of life, consume meat-based products for less than a third of the year.

Its beauty lies in the raw ingredients

The deep taste and aromas of Cretan food lie in the freshness and quality of the main ingredients. Perhaps, no element is more known than Cretan olive oil. Cretes use olive oil in almost any recipe, often even in desserts. It is no coincidence the entire island is a vast olive grove with up to 40 million trees. 

Next to olive oil, greens and herbs are among the most widely used ingredients in every Cretan household. More than 100 species of plants are identified, but no one knows exactly how many wild greens Crete has. And they grow everywhere, from the coastal zones to the higher mountain regions. 

Thanks to its mild climate, the island is also suitable to grow organic vegetables, fruits, and beans. Yet, no matter how good the Cretan food can be, you cannot call a meal Cretan if there is no glass of raki or wine on the table. After all, the island is house to some of the most prestigious vineyards in Greece and the world. 

In short, the Cretan diet is among the most known and healthy in the world. It shows that beauty lies in simple aspects of life, such as the food coming straight from the ground. And everything with minimal processing. It is a diet that if you follow, your body will thank you.

About Crete

Cretan recipes are out of this world. Yet, if you want to experience Cretan food in its totality, you first have to learn a few things about Crete. No single article or webpage is enough to tell you all about Crete, but here are seven key points you need to know. Or the 7 Cretan Wonders, if you prefer. 

Crete History. A story of many millennia

Did you know that the first civilization in Europe took form on the island of Crete? Yes, of all the places in Europe, Crete saw the rise of the Minoan civilization in 3000 BC. Its remains are still evident in the many archaeological museums and sites such as the Knossos Palace.

Since the Minoans, the island has seen the development of many other ancient Greek tribes during the Iron and Classical age. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians, Ottomans, and Germans have occupied and left their marks on the island history. 

Crete weather. Your best friend on the island

Your weather app is no good in Crete. If you are the kind who checks the weather forecast before getting out, your time in Crete can come as a cultural shock. The Mediterranean climate on the island means most of the year is always hot and sunny.

In short, out of all the spectacular things, your best ally in Crete will be the weather. It is so stable that you will forget how good it always is. At least during summer. Winter can be a different story, with a few cold and rainy days but still mild temperatures.

Crete landscape. Nature at its best

Like any Mediterranean island, Crete is home to a rich landscape that will make you fall in love with the island. Would it be the pine trees along the coast, the tall mountains, or the endless valleys? No matter where you go on the island, the nature around you will seem like paradise.

Remember that the longest canyon in Europe is Samaria Gorge, located in East Crete. And this gorge is only one of the many. In short, nature lovers will feel at home in Crete.

Crete regions. There is something for everyone

There are mainly four regions in Crete. The standard tourist centers of Chania and Rethymno are on the West Crete, whereas the Lasithi region is the relatively underdeveloped eastern side of the island. 

In central Crete, Rethymno is the capital and administrative center of the island. Every region has thousands of attractions worth discovering. For example, even four months of travel would not be enough to give justice to all the beauty the island hides.

Crete beaches. Just like the postcard and even better

Of all the wonders of Crete, its beaches attract the most attention. And for a good reason. Crystal clear waters, golden sand, and modern facilities create an idyllic setting to enjoy your time under the Greek sun. 

One of the most exotic sandy beaches of Crete is the Balos lagoon. Famous for its crystal Caribbean-like waters. Just as popular, the pink beach of Elafonisi is another must-visit in Crete. And if you also consider the hundreds of remote and hidden beaches all around the island, you know your choices are limitless.

Crete villages. The hidden beauty of the island

While big towns like Chania and Heraklion will be your gateway to Crete, you must spend a few days in a Cretan village. There is no better way to embrace the Cretan vibes and see how simple life can be so fulfilling.

Among the many surprises you will encounter during your time in a Cretan village, you will love the locals the most. Although Cretan hospitality is evident everywhere on the island, permanent village residents are something else. Even if they don’t speak English, they will somehow make you fall in love with them.

Crete food. The epitome of the Cretan lifestyle

You can never go wrong with Cretan food. Just pick a local tavern and order whatever your appetite desires. No matter your taste, you will love every single bite. That is the essence of Cretan cuisine. 

An indispensable ingredient in almost every Cretan dish is the olive oil, often referred to as “Liquid Gold” on the island. Whether you are a meat lover, vegetarian, or vegan, you cannot but love Cretan cuisine! And you do not even have to be in Crete to enjoy it. If you find the right ingredients and have the right recipe, you can bring Crete to your home.

Crete is full of wonders and Cretan food is one of them, and there is no better place to learn all about it than this blog. Now that you know a few things about Crete, you can understand why Cretan cuisine is among the top of its kind. Everything in Crete is remarkable, and so is the food. The question is: Are you ready to explore the most amazing Cretan recipes?


Hi from Crete!
It’s impossible to think of Crete just as a mere destination.
Its unique essence is intimately attached to its culture and its traditions.
The flavors of Crete artfully blend with the landscape, the people, and the history of the island.
After years of exploring and writing about Crete, it was about time to bring you also the local taste.