The Food You Absolutely Need To Try In Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki - close up of the white tower symbol of the city

Let’s explore the food options in Thessaloniki, you will not regret it! 

One of the most significant features of Greek hospitality is the passion for good, tasty and high-quality food. In Thessaloniki this characteristic is even more important. In the past few years, the municipal authorities have invested in the development of the gastronomic tourism in Thessaloniki. As a result of that, there are many options to fulfill your appetite from street food and traditional Greek taverns to international cuisine and fancy restaurants. The culinary culture of the city mainly derives from the East and especially the refugees from Asia Minor that were established here during the 1920s and brought with them the secrets of their cuisine.

If you are not able to decide which delicious, traditional goods you have to try first, we are here to give you a detailed list of all the musts of Thessaloniki’s gastronomic treasures. 

Breakfast: “Bougatsa” at Bougatsa Giannis

As is well known, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Thessaloniki as a city takes that responsibility very seriously! The most famous breakfast choice here is undoubtedly the bougatsa. 

Coming from the Byzantine years, bougatsa is a kind of pie that became extremely famous in Greece and particularly in Northern Greece after the population exchange of 1922. The meaning of bougatsa is probably “cheesy or sweet filling of pie, enclosed and sealed in the dough”.  The traditional recipe can be savory, filled with cheese or sweet, filled with semolina custard and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Beyond the traditional flavors, nowadays you can find the bougatsa filled with meat, spinach or chocolate. 

As far as the right place to enjoy the best bougatsa in, Thessaloniki has more than 1,000 bougatsa-selling spots. My recommendation would be “Bougatsa Giannis” on 136 Mitropoleos Street. It has been operating since 1996 and is famous for feeding the city 24 hours/day since then. 

If you want to try something different from the usual, go to Estrella Café on Pavlou Mela Street and choose the “bougatsan” from their menu. This is a delicious combination of fluffy croissant pastry and the filling of Thessaloniki’s famous snack, meaning of course the sweet semolina custard cream of bougatsa. Raspberries, strawberries or other toppings, depending on the season, accompany the dessert, or you can devour it plain. Head chef of Estrella, Mr. Dimitris Koparanis invented this “hybrid” pastry in 2013 and since then it has gone viral, making it one of the most famous cafes in the city. 

food in thessaloniki
food in estrella

For some serious drooling, check out the behind the scenes video, showing how “bougatsan” is prepared. 

Coffee: Frappe

The coffee culture in Greece is a matter of great importance in everyday life. Besides from the traditional Greek coffee, which is an all-time classic option, the most famous type of coffee is frappe. Frappe is an  instant coffee with sugar, water and plenty of ice cubes in order to make it cool enough for the hot Greek summer days . It was invented by accident at the 1957 International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki. Don’t miss the chance to relax at a beautiful café (preferably by the sea) while you are slowly sipping your frappe. 

Snack: Sesame Begal or “Koulouri Thessalonikis” 

This is may  be the most famous product of, not just the city Thessaloniki but  the whole country. The recipe is simple: a typical bagel topped with sesame seeds. It is one of the healthiest sources of carbohydrates, protein and energy; making it truly tasty despite its simplicity. On the other hand, if you would like something extra special, choose a stuffed koulouri. Your options on that are many: feta cheese, bacon, cream cheese and smoked turkey, raisins, chocolate or marmalade. 

You can find a koulouri literally everywhere, in every bakery or street vendor across the corner. It is the perfect choice of a snack while you are exploring the city! 

greek breakfast - lady behind counter in bakery picking koulouri sesame breads
close up photo of Greek koulouri in bakery with sesame seeds

Lunch: Thessaloniki Style 

A typical Greek lunch includes a main course, lots of starters or “mezedes”, as they are called in Greek and a dessert. “Mezedes” are small portions of different kinds of food that are there to warm up your appetite for the main course. 

Spinach Pie or “Spanakopita”at Miltos Bakery: 

Spanakopita is actually a pie, made of delicious dough, filled with spinach, scallions and (of course!) scrambled feta cheese. You can get a great spinach pie anywhere in Greece, but especially in Thessaloniki. Τhe people of Asia Minor who settled here in the 1920s are known for their delicate yet tasty dough.The pies are a big part of the gastronomic identity of Thessaloniki and the traditional recipes are enriched by every Greek grandma, who adds a secret ingredient which promises to enhance the flavor of the spanakopita.  Although it is a great option for a starter, you can also enjoy a bite of your spanakopita for breakfast; buy a piece of pie on the go as a perfect snack or even for dinner. 

Every bakery in Greece offers a variety of traditional pies. When in Thessaloniki, go to Miltos Patisserie on 82 Tsimiski Street in the city center and try their great spanakopita along with a glass of fresh orange juice. 

spinach pies in thessaloniki miltos
food in thessaloniki spinach pies

“Bougiourdi” at Mythomageiremata: 

If you are more of a fish-lover, then choose bougiourdi  as a starter. In a terracotta dish you put a generous portion of feta cheese, slices of fresh tomato and fresh green peppers, topped with olive oil, boukovo,which is chili flakes, salt and oregano. The feta sizzles until it gets crispy, but still melting on the inside. The flavors mix together to create a delicious dish, which is a great match to a glass of ouzo! Here is an extra tip: dive some crusty bread in the small terracotta pan so you can taste it properly like a local. The perfect place to enjoy it is by the sea, so visit Mythomageiremata tavern in Peraia, just outside of Thessaloniki. 

Main Course: Souvlaki or Pita Gyro Sandwich at Yok Balik

As you may know, the number 1 street food from the northernmost part of Greece to the southernmost island, is Souvlaki. In Thessaloniki, it is equally popular, but it is called “Pita Gyro Sandwich”. The ingredients are mainly the same: gyros, which is either pork or chicken meat, cooked on a vertical rotisserie, and served wrapped in a pita bread with French fries, tomatoes, onions and sauce. Instead of all time classic tzatziki sauce, try the spicy cheese sauce or “tirokafteri”, which is quite popular in Northern Greece. 

The main difference with the Athenian souvlaki is the size of the sandwich. Thessaloniki’s gyro sandwich is large; the pita having to work extra hard to wrap itself around all the ingredients; it is impossible for it to contain all the meat! We are talking about double the size of the Athenian souvlaki. As far as the taste goes, it is delicious wherever in Greece you are. My favorite place for gyro is Yok Balik at 34 Ethnikis Aminis Street. Here you can find quality gyro and souvlaki, in huge portions and incredible taste. 

Soutzoukakia Smyrneika or Grilled Soutzoukakia

A typical Greek Sunday lunch would have as main course soutzoukakia smyrneika. This is actually meatballs, usually in rectangular shape instead of rounded, cooked in tomato sauce and accompanied by rice, mashed potatoes and a slice of crusty bread to dive it in the sauce. Its name, meatballs from Smyrna in English translation, reveals the origin of the dish, which is Asia Minor. 

The battle for the best soutzoukakia of the city has been neverending and we (the humble customers) could not complain for having so many delicious options. Diagonios has been one of the most well known local hangouts in the city since its beginnings in 1977. People flock every day to taste quality meat dishes like gyros and soutzoukakia, that are served without alot of garnish or sides, forcing you to concetrate on the quality and taste of the meat infront of you. 

diagonios soutzoukakia - food in thessaloniki
the shop at diagonios in thessaloniki - food in thessaloniki

Grilled soutzoukakia are an equally popular option in Thessaloniki. In this version, there is no tomato but Greek yoghurt and pita bread are what usually accompanies the dish instead.

On the other side of the city, in the charming area of Kalamaria, with the relaxing marina offering majestic sunsets is Nea Diagonios. Do not be confused by the name, there is no connection between the two. Want more reasons to try out Nea Diagonios? Plenty of awards in the last couple of years, including the International Restaurant Awards, which took place at Saint Petersburg, Russia in July 2019, where they walked away with the title Luxury Grill, should convince you! 

Desserts: Thessaloniki Style 

 Thessaloniki as the gastronomic capital of Greece, will not disappoint you on the sweets field. A sweet paradise of desserts awaits visitors offering a variety of flavours and textures,  from traditional syrup-laden pastries to mouthwatering profiteroles and ice- creams. Here are the absolutely must-try: 

Trigona Panoramatos at Elenidis: One of the trademarks of the city

Trigona in Greek means triangles, and the dessert is named after the triangular shape of the phyllo crunchy cones which are filled with cream. In the 1960s Giorgos Elenidis came up with the recipe of trigona, and since then the family at Elenidis Patisserie still bakes trigona according to the original recipe by grandpa Giorgos Elenidis. They come in classic flavors such as kataifi and baklava and are still handmade.

Don’t miss the chance to try the authentic trigona at 69 Komninon Avenue in Panorama, which is the place where the dessert got its name. 

Tsoureki at Terkenlis Patisserie

Tsoureki is a Greek version of a sweet plaited brioche bread. According to tradition, Greeks used to prepare it during Easter celebrations and eat it on Easter Sunday. Nowadays, it is so popular that you can find it throughout the year in every pastry shop.

 If you are passing by Aristotelous square, you will without a doubt smell the freshly baked tsoureki from Terkenlis Patisserie, which was founded in 1948 and is one of the most famous bakeries in Thessaloniki. Go inside and choose the one you most desire. There are many flavors  such as plain, filled with chocolate, or – the most popular- chestnut cream topped with white chocolate. You can either purchase a single slice of tsoureki or go for the whole loaf, because you know, the more the better! 

slices of chestnut brioche in thessaloniki
terknelis food in thessaloniki
unboxing food in thessaloniki terkenlis chestnut
window display in terkenlis pattiserrie thessaloniki food in thessaloniki

More info about Terkenlis Patisserie in Thessaloniki:

*Terkenlis has shops in many locations around Thessaloniki. The Tsimiski Square branch is ideally combined with your visit around Aristotelous Square.

Tsimiski 30, Thessaloniki 546 36

p: +30231 027 1148

Opening Hours: 

Sun-Wed 7AM – 11 PM

Thu – Sat 7 AM – 12 PM

Click here for directions 

Personal Website

Kazan Dipi at Konstantinidis Bakery

Kazan Dipi is a traditional dessert from the Byzantine ages that came to Thessaloniki along with the Asia Minor refugees. It is actually a milk pudding. The story behind the name of this dessert is interesting. When the Sultan asked his pastry chef for a dessert, the pastry chef burnt the milk. As an excuse, he introduced it to the Sultan as a kazan dipi. Kazan dipi actually means “the bottom of the caldrons” and nowadays it is referred as the creme brule from the Balkans. 

At Konstantinidis Patisserie, you can find a variety of syrup-laden desserts such as baklava, kataifi, ekmek kataifi, almond pie, milk pie (or galaktompoureko), kourkoumpinia, which are small pieces of fried dough dipped in syrup, and the list goes on and on. 

Thessaloniki is referred by many as the gastronomic capital of Greece, based on the culinary tradition and delightful flavors that it offers. All the above are a good start to your journey on Greek cuisine. For more, stroll through the narrow streets of the city and you will find hidden gastronomic treasures, that are waiting for you to discover.

  • These are just a few of the foods that we recommend you try while in Thessaloniki. Is there anything you would add to the list, let us know in the comments below!

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