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Greek Cheeses

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Every country has its own unique set of foods and dishes, and this entry aims to summarise the different cheeses available in Greece. By far the most well-known Greek cheese is feta, which is made from the milk of sheep and goats. It contains a lot of salt, as this was originally necessary to preserve the cheese.

About Greek Cheeses

Greek cheeses are traditionally made with ewes' milk or goats' milk, or a mixture of the two. If the cheese is made from cows' milk it must still contain a reasonable proportion of ewes' or goats' milk. The cheeses are listed below and are divided into categories according to resistance when cut.

The Naming of the Cheeses

Often the basis for the naming of a cheese is its method of production or a description. Tiri is the Greek word for 'cheese', and ladi means 'olive oil'. Hence Ladotiri means 'olive oil cheese', as it is preserved in olive oil. Kefalaki means 'small head', the name given to maturing Ladotiri due to its shape. Metsovone is made in regions of Metsovo, giving it its name.

Pronunciation Guide

In Greek, the vowel sounds are short, and are pronounced as follows:

  • The 'a' as in star.
  • The 'e' as in yes.
  • The 'i' as in kit.
  • The 'o' as in got.
  • The 'u' as in June.

As the cheeses are written in the English alphabet as opposed to Greek script, the words are written phonetically1. The emphasis on certain syllables is more or less the same as in English. Often the ending tiri is written as tyri. This is not because there are two spellings of the word in Greek — it is an artefact of translation.

Hard Cheeses

  • Anthotiros (dried) - a dried version of the soft cheese, it is often used as a table cheese or grated for use in cooking.
  • Formaella of Parnassos - a hard cheese with a sour yet rich flavour. It is made at the foot of the Parnassos mountain, and is sometimes eaten as Saganaki, which is a form of fried cheese made by heating a hard cheese until bubbling then igniting it with alcohol.
  • Graviera of Crete and Naxos - a hard, mild cheese with a slightly sweet flavour used as a table cheese.
  • Kapnisto Metsovone - a smoked cheese made with cow's milk.
  • Kefalograviera - a cross between Graviera and Kefalotiri which makes a good table cheese or grating cheese. It is quite often eaten as Saganaki.
  • Kefalotiri - a salty, tangy cheese with the hardness of parmesan, it is used to make Saganaki and cheese pastries (see recipe below), and for grating over pasta2.
  • Ladotiri - a rich cheese matured in olive oil, known as kefaliki during ripening.
  • Metsovone - see Kapnisto Metsovone.
  • Mizithra (salted) - also available unsalted, the unsalted type is used grated in cooking. It is made from the whey of ewe's, goat's or cow's milk.
  • Provio - a good hard cheese with a reasonably mild yet rich flavour.
  • Sfela - a hard cheese similar to Batzos (see next section).
  • Touloumotiri - a sweet, moist cheese, usually white in colour and traditionally stored in sheepskin or goatskin bags.
  • Xynomizitra - a type of mizithra, typically dried for grating.
  • Xynotiro - a hard, flaky cheese with a sour taste which is normally low-fat.

Semi-hard Cheeses

  • Batzos - semi-hard cheese preserved in brine, making it very salty.
  • Feta - also gets its salty flavour from aging in a brine bath for up to a month. Delicious in a salad, feta is also sometimes used in cheese pastries.
  • Haloumi - similar to feta, it is made in Cyprus and has mint added. It is used as a table cheese or in cooking to make pizza.
  • Kasseri - a pale yellow cheese which varies in strength and makes a good table cheese. Eaten by Greeks for centuries, this cheese is the Greek equivalent of cheddar.
  • Telemes - similar to feta, but made with cows' milk, which alters the appearance and flavour.

Soft Cheeses

  • Anevato - a mild whey cheese made from unprocessed ewes' and goats' milk.
  • Anthotiros (fresh) - a smooth cheese with a soft texture and mild taste used to stuff cherry tomatoes and make cheese pastries, and also used as a table cheese.
  • Galotiri - a soft cheese used as spreadable table cheese, it has a sour yet refreshing flavour.
  • Kalathaki of Limnos - a soft white cheese made named after the basket in which it is drained. It has a taste similar to feta, and is used in cheese pastries, eaten as Saganaki, and also used as a table cheese.
  • Katiki - a normally low-fat soft cheese, it is made from the milk of goats from the Domokos region and is used as a spread or an ingredient in pies and salads.
  • Kopanisti - a soft cheese spread made from feta, olive oil and sometimes garlic.
  • Manouri - a cream cheese made from whey derived from full-fat milk. It has an exceptional and unique flavour.
  • Mizithra (unsalted) - also available salted, the unsalted type can be similar to cottage cheese. It is made from the whey of ewes', goats' and cows' milk.
  • Pichtogalo - a soft cheese made using milk from Crete.
  • Xynotiri - a bitterly acidic soft cheese.

Cooking with Greek Cheeses

Cheese Pastries

Cheese pastries, or Tiropitakia, are a traditional Greek food. This recipe makes about 30 pastries, and you will need:

  • 250g of feta cheese or a similar semi-hard Greek cheese
  • 100g of Graviera or Kefalotiri cheese
  • 2 medium-sized eggs
  • 125ml of milk
  • butter for glazing
  • 10 sheets of filo pastry dough
  • pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6. Lightly oil a large baking tray and set aside.

Mash the soft cheese, grate the hard cheese, and add these to a bowl with the yolk and whites of the eggs, and the milk. Add pepper to vary the flavour; there is no need to add salt as the cheese is already very salty.

Cut each filo strip into three pieces and brush with melted butter. Add a teaspoon of filling to one end of each strip and fold so that the pastry covers the filling completely. Butter the pastries again and put them in preheated oven until they are golden brown. It is important that they are piping hot when you take them out to ensure there is no risk of food poisoning. Keep in a closed container and eat soon after making them.

Cheese Pie

Cheese pie, or Tyropita, is another Greek food. This recipe makes one big cheese pie, and you will need:

  • 500g of feta cheese or similar
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 5 medium-sized eggs
  • about 25 sheets of filo pastry dough
  • olive oil to line tray
  • butter for glazing
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste


Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Crush the soft cheese and add the egg yolks and whites while stirring. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Line a reasonably large baking tray (with raised sides) with olive oil and cover the bottom with about ten buttered sheets of filo pastry. Pour in the cheese mixture and smooth the top, then cover the top with the remaining filo. Trim off the excess around the edges and mark the servings with a knife. (To do this, mark along the surface of the filo dough so as to leave an indent but not cut them. This will make it easier to cut the pastry later.)

Bake the pie in the preheated oven until the top layer is golden-to-dark brown, then remove and leave to stand to cool down a little. Cut along the serving markings and serve. It is important that the pie is piping hot when you take it out to ensure there is no risk of food poisoning. Keep it in a closed container and eat soon after baking.

Traditional Greek Salad

You will need:

  • 1 small Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • black olives (A couple of handfuls should do, but the quantity is up to you.)
  • 250g of feta cheese or similar, cut into chunks
  • 50ml olive oil (although it is best to add however much you feel is necessary), a little vinegar and a pinch of oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste


Mix the vegetables with the olives and cheese, and place in the fridge to chill. Combine olive oil, vinegar and oregano to make the dressing. When about to serve, mix salad well and top with cheese, then serve with dressing.

Cranberry, Feta and Roasted Walnut Salad

You will need:

  • 1 packet of salad greens, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 handfuls of cranberries
  • 125g of feta cheese or similar, cut into chunks
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon each of honey and mustard
  • 25ml olive oil
  • black pepper to taste


Mix the greens, walnuts, cranberries and cheese. Whisk together the vinegar, pepper, honey and mustard, then add the oil slowly to give a well mixed dressing. When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad and mix carefully.

Greek Salad with Pita and Potatoes

You will need:

  • 2 pita breads torn into bite-size pieces
  • 500g of cooked new potatoes (That is to say the little ones without jackets, but it is also advisable to buy new ones instead of using the ones you bought a year ago...)
  • 150g of feta cheese or similar
  • 150g of Greek yoghurt
  • 4 teaspoons each of dill and mint
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • 2 handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber peeled and sliced
  • 1 small Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 handful of black olives
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat an oven to 180ºC/350º/gas mark 4, then heat the pita for about 15 minutes until crisp. Blend together the soft cheese, yoghurt, dill, mint and garlic. Mix together the pita, potatoes, tomatoes and sliced cucumber. Add the blended dressing and mix the salad. Serve in a bowl with the lettuce placed in the bottom and olives, green onion and cheese sprinkled on top.

1Except for the vowels.2Italian pasta, not Greek pasta - this is a type of dessert.

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