10 Delicious Traditional Foods from Rhodes You Will Love!
The “island of the knights”, Rhodes is the jewel of the Dodecanese, not simply its capital!
A stunningly gorgeous island in the northeast of the Aegean, Rhodes is a time capsule taking you back to the Greek medieval times when Venetian knights fortified the islands against pirates and the ever-strengthening Ottoman empire.
From the castle town that is its Chora (the name Greeks use for the main town on an island) to the lush rolling hills and mountains inland to the beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters, Rhodes has something for everyone: romantic sunsets and hideaways, lush nature for adventure, sandy beaches for soaking up the sun, and a rich and deep history that surrounds you at every point.
Just being on the island is a treat, and so is tasting the local Rhodes food and traditional dishes! Rhodes boasts a huge variety of flavors and textures that carry its rich history to your table with each bite.
There are so many iconic dishes that are mouth-wateringly delectable that you could say Rhodes’ cuisine is designed to make you smile! Some of them are renowned all across Greece and some are unique to Rhodes, making locals and tourists flock to the island to sample them.
We have compiled a list of the most iconic and most popular traditional dishes from Rhodes to give you an idea of the culinary goodness you will be enjoying once you’re there!
The character of Rhodes’ cuisine
Rhodes has been conquered and controlled countless times in its turbulent history, by forces from the East and the West alike: Francs, Venetians, Ottomans, even Italians governed Rhodes on and off for centuries. As such, the Rhodian cuisine incorporates influences from them, blending flavors and textures with the ever-dominant Greek food culture and Mediterranean cuisine.
Today, Rhodes’ cuisine is a wonderful mix of Middle Eastern, African, and European flavors, giving a unique local spin on the traditional Greek cuisine and solidly representing the cultural crossroads that Rhodes has always been. It is also representative of the local qualities of the land, which has always been fertile with lush variety in its flora and fauna.
The basis of Rhodian cuisine is wheat and olives, representative of the opulent harvest the locals enjoy. There are a lot of dishes with local pasta, meat, fish, seafood and the ubiquitous wild greens, vegetables, legumes and fruit.
Herbs are copiously used to add fragrance and uniqueness to the flavor. Meat dishes used to be rare in the daily lives of the Rhodians, usually only served on festive days and holidays, so they are all exquisitely opulent and rich in flavor. There is also a vast array of local desserts made with honey and nuts among other things.
For traditional Rhodian cuisine, full use of the local produce of the land is key and the blend of flavors is balanced in such a way that every ingredient is celebrated.
Here are some of the most iconic traditional dishes from Rhodes that illustrate exactly that.
The name literally means small pies, although these are not pies at all!
They are deep fried snacks made with chickpeas mashed with eggs, chopped tomatoes, and onions. The taste pops thanks to the addition of parsley and mint.
Depending on the season, pitaroudia might have more ingredients mixed into the mashed chickpeas, such as soft cheese (usually mitzithra), minced meat, red pumpkin, and more!
They are crunchy, fragrant, extremely flavorful and a great accompaniment for a chilled beer, wine, or ouzo.
2. Lopada (Rhodian Bean Soup)
Bean soup is a ubiquitous dish that is popular in all of Greece (so much so that some claim that bean soup is the Greek national dish!).
However, Rhodian bean soup is unique and traditionally made with a variety of bean grown locally on the island. Called lopada, after the name of the bean (lopia), this soup is actually baked in the oven and is so thick it is eaten with a fork, and lots of bread, of course!
Lopada is cooked in a traditional lidded clay pot called a hull, which is prevalent in the Balkans in general, in which the beans are cooked together with olive oil, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and parsley.
It cooks slowly for roughly 5 hours until the beans are soft and creamy and the water is almost completely evaporated, leaving a thick soup that might become the tastiest you’ve ever had!
3. Rhodian Pougia
Pougia means little pouches and that’s exactly what these pies are: little pouches of fragrant goodness!
These pies are made with hand-kneaded dough that is rolled out thin and filled with herbs and wild greens. when in season, other vegetables might be used such as pumpkin or asparagus. They are baked over an open fire, traditionally in a clay pan that is preheated over the grill.
4. Gemista (Rhodian Stuffed Vegetables)
However, it’s done differently in Rhodes, making it unique to the island. Usually, large vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, large zucchini, and eggplants are carved out to become receptacles for a delectable mix of rice and herbs, as well as the flesh of the veggies!
In Rhodes, this is done with bulgur rather than rice, giving it a light yet rich, even healthier and nutritious variation to an already tasty dish.
5. Matsi (Local Pasta)
Rhodes is renowned for having had its own local tradition in pasta making long before the Italians ever set foot in Greece. Matsi is the general name for it, but depending on the shape and use its name can change.
Matsi is made with semolina, egg, milk, and salt and has a silky texture you won’t be able to resist! Enjoy it in various dishes or simply with melted butter and cheese, as is the tradition.
6. Koulouria (Wedding Pasta)
This dish used to be served at weddings or other big feasts, so you know it’s something special! Local pasta, usually cut in small oblong pieces or other similar shapes is cooked in a broth made with goat bones, pork, and veal.
The pasta is then served up with butter and kefalotyri, the Greek version of gruyere, for extra creaminess. The dish is so popular that you will find it in most restaurants even if there is no local wedding to attend.
This dish is unique to Rhodes and has many dedicated fans all over Greece. If you are a meat lover, this may become your favorite dish as it has for so many others!
It is cooked in a deep clay pot called a lakan, from where it gets its name. Chickpeas, trahanas – a local pasta that traditionally goes in soups – or wheat are cooked slowly with beef and fat.
Cumin and cinnamon are a must, adding to the blending of flavors that slowly merge. Truly traditional lakani is cooked in a wood oven for almost an entire day until everything is soft, succulent, and thickly creamy.
This is a dessert based on pasta! A favorite with local kids since time immemorial, matsogalo is local pasta (matsi) cooked with milk and sugar until it becomes a loose pudding.
It’s served in a cup and topped with cinnamon. It’s bound to change your view of pasta as a purely savory dish!
Melekouni is the local version of a nut bar! It is extremely sweet but has no added sugar.
Its basis is prime quality honey (usually pure thyme honey) mixed with sesame, whole almonds, orange rind, and a wide variety of herbs and spices such as cinnamon, mastic, nutmeg, clove, and more.
It’s shaped like chunks of cake and is an excellent travel snack. It’s chewy and sweet, nutritious and packed with energy, so perfect for your hike or exploration of the various sights in the island!
10. Takakia (Mantinades)
This iconic traditional treat is served up at weddings and celebrations and comes from the village of Archangelos in Rhodes.
They are made with hand-kneaded dough rolled out very thin, then filled with nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and brown sugar, and rolled into a roll that is then chopped up in pieces. The pieces are topped with olive oil and baked, then doused in honey syrup.
It is crunchy, syrupy goodness that you won’t be able to resist once you’ve had the first bite!
We have barely scratched the surface of the richness of tastes and flavors that is Rhodian cuisine. There are many more meat dishes cooked with legumes or vegetables, excellent cheeses, good wines, and delectable desserts that await anyone who loves good food and unforgettable experiences.
Related: Most Popular Greek Desserts