Top 20 Most Popular Greek Cheeses
Whether it’s served in a salad, used in a main dish, simply served as a meze with wine, or used as an ingredient in desserts, cheese is a vital part of Greek cuisine. Besides its uses in modern times, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting cheese was sacred food to in Ancient Greece.
Knowledge of cheesemaking was allegedly gifted to the Greeks by Aristaeus, a son of the god Apollo. This meant that it was a part of every family meal, even then.
A few eons later, during the Byzantine empire, cheese began to be made the way feta cheese is made today. In fact, after the Ottomans freed the Greek people, the economy was mostly based on cheesemaking. The cheese producers got extremely creative, and that’s how more than 70 types of cheese came to exist around the country!
Nowadays, cheese is literally everywhere. It can be found on top of a traditional Greek salad in the form of feta; or inside the Cretan mizithropita (mizithra cheese pie) that is usually topped with thick golden honey; or in a graviera, tucked and melted between baked eggplants covered in luscious tomato sauce; or in many other small dishes accompanying lots of wine, ouzo or tsipouro!
It’s truly one of the most versatile ingredients, and in Greece, how it is served depends on the area you are in. If you are a big cheese fan, then look no further; Greece is the place to be!
1. Feta Cheese
Feta is one of the most famous and loved Greek cheeses in the world. It’s slightly soft and white with a little bit of a tangy finish, and it’s regarded as one of the savory Greek cheeses.
When it’s produced in the traditional way, a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk are used to achieve the texture and taste. You’d think that since the recipe is so seemingly straightforward, there wouldn’t be any variations of it.
On the contrary, there’s different types of feta around the country, varied even in the island complexes! Depending on where you are, you can mostly find it on top or next to Greek salads, baked in thick and crunchy warm pies, or even served with fruit.
If your recipe requires feta and you simply don’t have any left in the fridge and you’re wondering what could replace it, check out our guide on the best feta alternatives, though truth to be told, nothing can truly replace it.
Graviera is a hard yellow cheese with a mild savory flavor, and it has at least three different known variations: one is made in Karditsa, another in Crete, and one on the island of Naxos. All three have the same parmesan-like cylindrical shape with small holes when you cut into them—yet they taste nothing like the Italian cheese.
The Karditsa and Crete varieties are made with a mix of sheep and goat’s milk, or just plain sheep’s milk, and the minimum aging time is three months for both. The Naxos graviera is the only one made with cow’s milk and is lighter in color and flavor.
All three types are usually served on their own as a snack or meze for offering around the table. However, a lot of people enjoy them with sweet summer fruit like figs or honeydew melon.
This is considered a saltier and spicier version of Graviera cheese, and is mostly produced in West Macedonia and Epirus. The difference between Kefalograviera and Graviera is the fact that the former has more holes and it’s mostly served fried in the form of saganaki, or grated on top of plain homemade pasta.
Kefalotyri is a cheese with one of the longest production histories in Greece. It looks like Graviera but can be found in both light yellow and white, depending on the milk it is made with—mostly a mix of sheep and goat’s milk.
It’s very savory, slightly spicy and makes for a delicious addition to the traditional Greek cheese pie. It fries well for saganaki and can even be served plain.
This cheese’s unique feature is that it’s quite crumbly, whether the soft or hard version. This is because it is made out of cheesy milk, taken from the production of a different cheese, and fresh milk. In order for it to harden, cheesemakers put the mixture inside a very strong type of cheesecloth and hang it from a high place.
That’s why when it’s done hardening, it is shaped like a pear! Some versions of Mizithra are quite savory and some have a sweet undertone, like the one found in Crete.
In Chania, they put Mizithra cheese inside thin dough, bake it inside a traditional stone oven, and top it with freshly-made honey! It’s a very innovative kind of meze that can only be found in that region of the country.
6. Cretan Xinomizithra
Xinomizithra is much like the original Mizithra, but it has a tangier flavor that is borderline sweet and sour. It is considered a fermented cheese, due to the fact that it is left in natural temperatures for about 24 hours so it can get that distinct sour undertone.
The Cretans argue that it’s an ideal cheese for both sweet and savory pies, and so they serve it both ways in their dinner tables.
Kasseri is one of the most popular cheeses in the country, and it is mostly produced in the northwest regions of Greece and on the island of Lesvos. It’s another yellow cheese that has a semi-hard texture and is made with sheep’s milk or a mixture of a lot of sheep’s milk and a tiny bit of goat’s milk.
It has a mild savory flavor and it melts beautifully. This is precisely why in its more modern uses, people replace mozzarella with this cheese on top of pizzas, or they smother pasta with it when making a cheese pasta soufflé.
Galotyri is a very soft, fresh and tangy white cheese, that looks like a cheese dip. It is matured inside large containers with the addition of fresh milk on top, hence its texture and its name which means “milky cheese”.
It’s mostly produced in Epirus and the mountainous area of Pelion. Since it’s so soft and fresh, it usually accompanies main dishes, or it’s just served as a meze along with multiple other side dishes.
Anthotyro is a very unique type of cheese. It has two different variations: a soft one that is barely savory, and a hard one that’s quite spicy and salty.
The former one is mostly used in cheese pies or as a sort of dip paired with warm bread. The other one is mostly crumbled over warm and meaty pasta dishes, or over salads in some areas.
Reminiscent of Anthotyro, Anevato cheese has a very soft and grainy texture. It’s special because it has a tangier flavor, especially when you get to enjoy it fresh. It’s mostly produced in the area of Grevena and in Kozani. Its name essentially means “something that rises up to the top”, and it refers to the way it is made.
The morning of the production, the cheesemaker boils the sheep or goat’s milk in large cauldrons and then adds an enzyme called rennet. By nighttime, the milk has thickened and the cheese has risen up to the top of the cauldron.
Then the milk is drained and the cheese is left to age for at least two months. The end product is a slightly greasy cheese that is mostly used in cheese pies.
11. Katiki from Domokos
It’s a very soft dip-like white cheese, with a very slight savory, tangy flavor. It’s mostly made in the region of Domokos, yet it is quite popular and distributed all across Greece.
Since it’s so soft and doesn’t crumble like Mizithra does, it is mostly eaten with freshly-baked bread or with rusks as a dip.
Referred to as the Greek Roquefort cheese, Kopanisti is produced in the Cyclades. It’s another soft dip-like cheese, yet it’s yellow and very spicy!
It’s mostly served as a meze with ouzo or tsipouro, but in some places it is baked in pies, making for a delicious spicy and savory snack.
13. Ladotyri from Mytilene
Ladotyri means oil-cheese. It got its name from part of the production process where it’s submerged in olive oil to mature. It’s a hard cheese with a yellow-red color and has a very distinct pungent aroma. It’s very spicy and can be found on the lunch tables of Mytilene island!
Metsovone is a hard cheese that is smoked, very savory, and slightly spicy. It’s produced in the area of Metsovo in the north of Greece, which is where its name is derived. Due to its very distinct flavor, it’s either enjoyed raw or grilled as a meze, or even inside grilled toasties or as a pizza topping.
Manouri looks like Mizithra since it’s quite soft and white. However, its sweet and salty flavor really comes through as it is made with whole milk and a fraction of butter.
It’s produced in the areas of Macedonia and Thessalia, where it’s enjoyed with honey and nuts when it’s fresh, and over steamy pasta sauces or simply grilled when it’s slightly matured.
This is a cheese that is very good for low-fat diets since it doesn’t have a high percentage of fat, unlike Manouri. Batzos is white and semi-hard and has a salty flavor with a tangy undertone. It tastes best when it’s fried for saganaki or served plain with a fresh and colorful salad and good bread.
17. Kalathaki from Lemnos
Kalathaki literally means small basket, and that’s exactly what this cheese is shaped like! It’s a soft white cheese that is aged inside an actual small woven basket and is then preserved in brine.
It’s one of the saltier cheeses, even more than feta. Kalathaki is used to stuff traditional Greek meatballs, pies filled with greens and herbs, or to top roasted vegetables in a dish called briam.
18. Piktogalo from Chania
A white cheese that looks very much like thick Greek yogurt, Piktogalo literally means thick milk. Cretans usually eat it plain or they stuff it in pittas with herbs or other ingredients.
It’s one of those cheeses that can only be found in Chania, so if you are keen to try yogurt in another form, a trip to stunning Crete is a must!
19. Saint Michael Cheese
Saint Michael cheese is traditionally and uniquely produced with cow’s milk on the island of Syros. Despite its very common yellow color and hard dry texture, it’s very flavorful as it’s quite savory and slightly spicy, rather like parmesan.
Naturally, it’s named after the island’s saint, Saint Michael, and the homonymous church that can be found there. Citizens and tourists alike enjoy this cheese with bread, fruit or even on its own.
Sphela via gargalianoionline.gr
This cheese is also known as feta of fire, or cheese of fire, and that’s not because it’s spicy. Sphela sure looks and tastes like feta, but there’s a difference in the way that it’s made: after the cheese is separated from the whey and milk, it goes back on the stove and gets reheated.
It’s produced mostly in the Peloponnese region, where they tend to have it warmed, grilled on its own, or inside aluminum foil to make it extra soft like a warm dip for freshly baked bread.
If you want to learn more about Greek cuisine, check out our stories on the most popular Greek dishes and Greek desserts.
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Excellent article! I hope many Americans come across this piece as they only think greece makes feta and have no idea that so many cheeses are produced.