This is the real Greek salad recipe (a.k.a. Horiatiki) as it is made by most Greeks. There is also a second recipe with a different presentation!
I know, I know, I’m unforgivable! I am a Greek guy, I have a Mediterranean focused food blog for almost a year now, and I still haven’t posted a Greek salad recipe. I was a little hesitant at first, because there are already enough good recipes on several blogs and sites, but I have also stumbled upon some which incorporate ingredients not generally used in the authentic recipe. This is why I decided to post this authentic Greek salad recipe (Horiatiki) and also dare to suggest an alternative presentation, more elegant but more time consuming too.
Have you ever seen a Greek grandma – or yiayia as her grandchildren call her – cutting greens and vegetables? She does it without a cutting board. Yes, Greek yiayias never use a cutting board. I believe this is because most Greek homes weren’t very spacious back then, and they had to minimize all the utensils and equipment used when cooking. So, every time they have to cut vegetables, herbs, and greens, they would just hold them over the bowl with the one hand and cut them with the other using a sharp knife. This method produces roughly chopped pieces with a rustic look, approximately the same size but with a different shape. Moreover, all the juices end up in the salad bowl, so no flavor is lost. I can’t tell you to try it since you risk cutting yourself with the knife, but if you decide to do it, then don’t put much thought into it. Just grab a tomato and start cutting it over your bowl. You may find it quicker, easier and with less clean-up!
So, which are the basic ingredients for an authentic Greek salad and what else can you add?
The basics: Tomato, cucumber, green bell pepper, onion, feta cheese, olives, salt, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar are the ones that can’t be missing.
What you can add: capers, barley or wheat rusks, red bell pepper, and green onion. I also remember one time when my grandfather squeezed unripe grapes over the salad bowl instead of vinegar, but this is was only done because we were having lunch in the fields and had forgotten to bring wine vinegar with us.
And how should you cut the ingredients?
Tomatoes should be roughly chopped, with all the pieces being uneven but about the same size. Cucumbers (you can peel them or not) should be sliced, feta cheese cut into cubes or broken into pieces with a fork and onion should also be sliced. Peppers are either sliced or cut into pieces approximately the same size as cucumbers.
For the alternative presentation, I decided to use baby tomatoes. I emptied them and filled them with the rest of the Greek salad ingredients. This method is a bit time consuming since you have to be careful not to break the exterior of the tomatoes for a nicer presentation. After I was finished I was actually amazed by the way they turned out because – at least to my eyes – they seemed like a dish you would order from a good restaurant. If you decide to make them this way, be sure to use an extra sharp knife when cutting the tomatoes to achieve clean cuts.
To make the filling I finely chopped a few olives and some pieces of green bell pepper and then used a fork to mash them with some feta cheese, oregano, and a few drops of olive oil. You can also do that in a mini food processor, but not in a big one since the quantity is very small. I then chopped the onion and cucumber slices to small cubes. To make a base for the baby tomatoes to stand straight, I decided to form small nests from crashed barley rusks.
Some notes tips:
Try to use fresh, ripe, seasonal ingredients and if possible organic
Use extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar
Real feta cheese is made from sheep and goat milk. Everything else is not considered feta.
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- For the classic presentation:
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
- 2 medium persian cucumbers, sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1/3 cup olives, whole (preferably Kalamata olives)
- 1 cup feta cheese, cubed
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1-2 tablespoons wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 cup barley rusks broken to pieces
- For the “elegant” presentation:
- 9 baby tomatoes
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 olives, pitted and finely chopped
- 1/5 green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons e.v. olive oil
- 4 slices cucumber, finely cubed
- 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
- 9 capers
- 9 tablespoons finely crushed barley rusks
- Some olive oil to drizzle over the tomatoes
- Sea salt flakes to sprinkle over the tomatoes
For the classic presentation: Mix everything in a large bowl and serve immediately.
For the elegant presentation:
Cut the top from each baby tomato. Hollow them out using a melon baller or a small spoon.
Transfer the feta, olives, pepper, oregano, and olive oil to a small bowl and mash with a fork.
Fill the baby tomatoes half way up with the feta mixture.
Mix cucumber with onion and fill the tomatoes all the way up.
Place one caper on top of each tomato. At this point, you can leave them as is or cover them with their lids.
Put one tablespoon of crushed rusks onto a plate or serving board and place one baby tomato on top. Repeat with the rest of the tomatoes.
Drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt flakes and serve.
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Michael Kitson says
I LOVE this set of photos. Beautiful!
Thank you very much, Michael!
Ben Myhre says
Alright… what you did there with the tomatoes is very cute. I am sure it is tasty and is pleasing to the eye.
Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. Yes, every way you make it, Greek salad is very tasty!
Lee Ann Yette says
I enjoyed reading how you explained how Greek yaiyais cut their vegetables. I have to add the Lebanese Soto’s do the same. I learned by watching my mother cut her vegetables for the salad. I’ve kind of dropped the habit but still do it on occasion and have to listen to my husband harp on me about not cutting myself. The ironic thing about it is that I have never cut myself cutting my tomato or cucumber against my thumb like to grandmas did it, however, I have cut myself several time cutting the conventional way more times than I can count, sometimes pretty bad.
I’m so excited I have been able to teach my “white” husband to eat the Mediterranean diet. Besides the obvious health benefits, this allows me to get back to my grass roots of how I grew up eating. I enjoy reading about the Mediterranean way of eating and your block was very enjoyable.the only thing I do miss when ready most blogs about the diet is the mention of Lebanon of which is the true source of a lot of the recipes found in the diet, not just Greece and Italy. While Lebanon sits right there on the Mediterranean Sea, it brings a plethora of wonderful, fresh and nutritious food to the table. Happy eating.
Lee Ann Yette says
Spelling correction… we called our grandmothers “sitto” not Soto. Sorry.
Hi Lee Ann and thank you for your kind words!
It always gives me much pleasure when I read about the similarities all the countries around the Mediterranean Area have.
I will also try to find some Lebanese recipes to post 🙂