Learn all the secrets for how to make the best traditional Greek salad, also known as Horiatiki or village salad. Easy recipe by a Greek cook!
Greek salad, called Horiatiki or Greek village salad, is one of the most popular summer salad recipes in Greece and one of the most iconic dishes of Greek cuisine.
Every Greek restaurant has it on the menu, and every Greek home has it on the dinner table. Especially nowadays when you can find juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers all year round, it's an easy salad you can make whenever you want, regardless the season.
However, it is during the summer that all the vegetables that go into this easy salad shine, so this is definitely the season to make it.
Greek salad is usually served as a side dish next to the main course, but you can also have it for lunch or as a light dinner. To make it more satiating you can definitely add 1-2 barley rusks which will soak up all the juices. Alternatively, you can also try this creamy Greek pasta salad which is equally delicious, and this Cretan Dakos salad with barley rusk.
The following recipe is for the authentic Greek salad (Horiatiki) and the common substitutions that are sometimes used in different areas of Greece. There is also a part about what is NOT added to an authentic Horiatiki, but that's just for reference. Don't be discouraged to use any addition you think it will suit your taste.
There is also an alternative presentation idea, which is like mini individual servings but keep in mind that it's more time consuming.
A traditional Greek salad is made of the following simple ingredients:
- Tomatoes: usually beefsteak tomatoes are used but you can choose any kind of juicy tomatoes, including grape or cherry tomatoes.
- Cucumbers: for the best results opt for thin-skinned, seedless cucumbers such as Persian or English cucumbers.
- Red onion (white onion or shallots can also be used).
- Green bell pepper.
- Kalamata olives (whole or pitted).
- Feta cheese.
- Extra-virgin olive oil.
- Red wine vinegar.
- Dried oregano.
Note: there isn't such thing as a Greek salad dressing.
This means that you DON'T have to shake it separately in a jar or whisk it in small bowl. All you have to do is just pour some extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar over the salad. That's it, that's the dressing.
Maybe, the only extra thing you can do is to squeeze a small ripe tomato over the salad to get some extra juices, like Greek chef Argiro Barbarigou does in her recipe for choriatiki salata (recipe in Greek language).
Substitutions - additions
Depending on the area you can find some additions or substitutions such as:
- Other types of white cheese: anthotyro, kalathaki Limnou, or Greek goat cheese.
- Black olives or green olives can be used instead of Kalamata olives.
- Red bell peppers or poblano peppers can be used instead of green peppers.
- Summer savory or marjoram can be mixed with or replace the oregano.
- Freshly ground black pepper can sprinkled over the feta cheese.
- Capers. This is added especially on the islands.
- Green onions. They can replace the onion or added as an extra ingredient.
- Wheat or barley rusks. They will soak some of the olive oil and the juices of the salad, becoming delicious.
- If you don't have red wine vinegar, the best alternative is white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Fresh lemon juice can be used but is not recommended because it will alter the taste of the salad.
What is NOT used in the traditional greek salad recipe:
As stated previously, this is just for reference. Don't be discouraged to use any addition you think it will suit your taste.
- Romaine lettuce or other kind of leafy greens such as spinach
- Green beans or legumes
- Lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
See how easy it is to make a Greek salad:
Step 1: Slice the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the onion and the green pepper and transfer them to a large bowl with all of their juices. Add the olives and the feta cheese and toss.
Step 2: Drizzle with the olive oil and the red wine vinegar. Then sprinkle with the dried oregano and some salt.
Step 3: Serve.
How to cut the fresh vegetables
Tomatoes should be sliced in 8-10 slices or roughly chopped in large chunks.
Cucumbers (you can peel them or not) should be sliced into approximately ¼-inch thick slices.
Onion should be sliced whole or cut in the middle and then sliced.
Peppers are either sliced or cut into pieces approximately the same size as cucumbers.
Feta cheese can be cut into cubes or crumbled. Alternatively, it can be placed on top of the salad and broken into pieces with a fork just before serving.
How Greek grandmas do it:
Have you ever seen a Greek yiayia 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 had to cut fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and greens, they would just hold them over a 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 different shape. Moreover, all the juices drip into the bowl, so no flavor is lost.
I don't suggest trying it that because you risk cutting yourself with the knife if you don't do it right, but you should definitely keep all the juices from the sliced vegetables and add them to the salad bowl.
For an alternative presentation, I used baby tomatoes because they're bite-sized and very cute.
I carefully emptied the flesh and filled them with the rest of the Greek salad ingredients, finely chopped.
To make the filling I finely chopped a few olives, some green pepper slices and feta cheese and mixed them with a sprinkle of oregano, and a few drops of olive oil and vinegar (this can also be done in a food processor). I then chopped the onion and cucumber into very small cubes and tossed everything together with a pinch of salt.
This method is perfect for a party but it's also time consuming since you have to be careful not to break the exterior of the tomatoes.
To make the cherry tomatoes stand straight, I placed them on small "nests" made from coarsely crushed rusks.
Greek salad can be stored in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. It should be stored inside an airtight container or in a bowl wrapped with plastic wrap.
The next day the flavor of the onion will be more intense which is not necessarily a bad thing! If you don't want an strong onion flavor, I suggest storing the onion in a separate container.
Let the salad stay out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving because the tomatoes taste more intense and sweet when at room temperature.
If you're wondering what to serve with Greek salad, then you may be interested in the following ideas:
- Pastitsio (Greek lasagna)
- One pan Greek baked chicken with potatoes
- Spaghetti with ground beef sauce
- Souvlaki (pork skewers)
- Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie)
- Gemista (Greek stuffed vegetables)
- Baked chickpeas (Revithada)
- Gigandes plaki (Baked giant beans)
- Easy Mediterranean brown lentil soup
- Spanish beans with chorizo sausage
Traditional Greek salad (authentic recipe by a Greek)
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
- 2 medium persian cucumbers, sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- ½ onion, sliced
- ⅓ cup olives, whole or pitted (preferably Kalamata olives)
- 1 cup feta cheese, cubed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon capers
- A few whole wheat or barley rusks
- Slice the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the onion and the green pepper and transfer them to a large bowl with all of their juices. Add the olives and the feta cheese and toss.
- Drizzle with the olive oil and the red wine vinegar. Then sprinkle with the dried oregano and some salt.
- Taste and add more vinegar and salt if needed. Serve.
Yes, definitely! While I was growing up I really can't remember a day that we didn't have salad on the dinner table.
And Greek salad, especially during the summer when there's an abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers, is the most frequent salad Greeks make.
Many times, a simpler version is enjoyed, called "tomatosalata", meaning tomato and cucumber salad.
No, traditional Greek salad (Horiatiki) doesn't contain lettuce.
There is however another lettuce-based salad which is very popular in Greece, called maroulosalata. The main ingredients for maroulosalata are chopped lettuce, green onions, fresh dill, olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Greek salad has many health benefits. It is made with fresh veggies and extra virgin olive oil, providing many phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber and healthy mono-saturated fat, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of lycopene which is linked to several benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.