Greek Salad Recipe (Horiatiki Salata)

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Need a traditional Greek Salad recipe? Find it below along with 7 tips for Greek Salad success.

PSA: Sometimes the most simple things can be the most difficult. I’ve eaten thousands of Greek salads (and poor interpretations of them) in my lifetime. And make them all the time for my Los Angeles personal chef clients. While they are seemingly simple, you should get a few things right. Read on to discover the most important commandments of this summertime speciality.

A Greek village salad — Horiatiki Salata — is a simple combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, olives, cheese, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. At its most basic, it celebrates these summertime ingredients at their peak.

Always use in-season tomatoes

I prefer a mix of organic heirloom tomatoes and smaller cherry or grape tomatoes. If I can’t grow them myself, I scout my farmers market or look for tomatoes from local farms at my grocery store. If you insist on eating a Greek salad out of season, opt for organic cherry/grape tomatoes exclusively, so you actually use ingredients with flavor. (Try a side-by-side taste test to understand what I’m saying here.) However, they won’t stack up to in-season tomatoes. But you can macerate them in red wine vinegar before adding them to your salad to bump up the flavor.

Greek Salad dressing and seasoning

Restaurants in Greece will rarely serve you a dressed Greek salad. Instead, you can add extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon to your taste. I recommend liberally incorporating high quality extra virgin olive oil into your salad when you’re making it at home. And always sprinkle in some pinches of Greek oregano throughout the salad and on top of the feta or cheese that you’re using.

Skip the greens

A traditional Greek village salad never will and never has had lettuce. There are just so many recipes that are just so wrong. Don’t be fooled!

Capers, olives, banana peppers, etc.

Salty, briny is an important addition to the salad. What you get in your Greek salad is determined by what’s around. The olives are normally the ones you grow. But since you’re probably not growing olives, the most common are Kalamata olives (with the pits). Additionally, if you have capers or caper berries you can add those too. Pickled kritamo (sea fennel/rock samphire) on the islands also often makes appearances in Greek salads there. You can sometimes find it outside of Greece in Greek shops.

Go big with cheese

Normally, it’s big block of feta perched on top of the salad. Then, on some islands is a generous dollop of soft fresh whey-based cheese called mizithria. You will probably never see a village salad presented in Greece with crumbled feta. What people do in their homes is their own business.

But here’s the thing: When you’re buying real feta, it’s made from sheep’s milk or a combo of sheep’s and up to 30% goat’s milk. Cow’s milk “feta” isn’t actually real feta, and the flavor isn’t there. Also, feta needs to be stored in brine, so any feta that you see that is being sold already crumbled is just suspicious. Don’t use it on this salad.

Finally, I will make one exception: If you’re vegan, then feel free to use vegan “feta“. It’s not the same as real feta, but does the job. Truthfully, in this case, I would just leave it off the salad because I don’t like to eat anything highly processed, but that’s just my preference.

Green peppers are gross, right?

Does anyone actually like green peppers? If they are left to ripen they turn yellow or red. So opt for those that have matured for a mellower sweeter taste. I also love sweeter mini peppers that I can get in the states. Farmers in Greece grow other varietals of delicious peppers, like Florina peppers in northern Greece. Experiment with what you like best.

Have some good bread on hand for your Greek Salad

The best thing about a Greek salad? Papara. That’s when you get to dip your bread into the olive oil, vinegar/lemon, and tomato juices at the bottom of the bow. It’s really all you need in life.

Did I leave anything out? Let me know in the comments.

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