When you are living in Cyprus for quite some time, you start to feel like a local and you want to discover more about the culture and traditions that this island hosts. One of the most popular ways people get into Cypriot cuisine is by trying out traditional dishes such as Sheftalia, Kleftiko, or Moussaka. Cyprus food has managed to create its own style, inspired by different cultures from around the world such as people from Greece, France, Italy, Britain, and Turkey that settled in Cyprus throughout history. As a result, we have traditional dishes with Cypriot touch.
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Our favorite Cyprus food
In this blog post, we will elaborate on Cyprus food and traditional dishes you should try out while living in Cyprus or when visiting it. Cyprus cuisine is a tasty way to enjoy food. With so many different dishes to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help you out, we’ve found 12 of the most popular Cyprus foods that are worth your time!
This is a traditional dish of Greece and Cyprus. There are many different stories about the origin of mousakas, but it usually includes eggplant, ground meat or lamb, tomato sauce, cheese and béchamel sauce – all baked together to create an amazing flavor! We were trying this dish in many places, but for now, we can say that mousaka in Kebab House in Larnaca is the best.
If someone asks us which kind of meat we like the most, our answer will be Sheftalia. The word “Sheftalia” is a word from the Greek language that means “something wrapped”. This Cypriot dish is made out of minced meat which comes from lamb and pork mixed with mint and cumin. The mixture then goes in a special casing that can be either grilled or baked! It looks like sausage, but the taste is different. We really love this dish because it’s always juicy and extremely yummy! It is even a must-try when you visit Cyprus! Sheftalias are sold all over Cyprus, but you should try one at the traditional Cypriot restaurant, Lithos in Oroklini or Kebab House in Larnaca.
Souvlaki is a Greek dish that consists of meat, vegetables, pita bread. It can also be made with chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. Souvlaki can be both grilled and fried depending on the recipe. It is very easy to eat it with your hands, which makes Souvlaki a perfect dish for picnics.
Another great option for Cyprus food is Kleftiko. This dish has a very interesting story behind it! It comes from the mountains of Greece and literally means “robber’s style”. Why? Well, according to some stories bandits used to cook this meal in a sealed pit so that nobody could smell the meat while they were cooking it – theft was their business after all!
Today Cypriots make Kleftiko with lamb and wrap it up in clay, so all its flavors are locked inside! The lamb is cooked for a long time until it becomes very tender. Then, you just need to break the clay and enjoy! You can find this dish in many restaurants all over Cyprus. We really recommend trying this dish at Militzis or Buffavento restaurant too – you will not regret the experience! Also before going to a restaurant we would propose to check if they are making Kleftiko now. As we already said that it’s cooking for a long time and because of not so many visitors during lockdown regarding COVID, some places stopped to make it.
We think you will find Koupepia pretty familiar, as it looks like dolma or if you are from Ukraine, you definitely have tried Golubtsi. Koupepia is made out of vine leaves filled with rice, parsley, and mint that have been boiled until they become soft. The rest depends on people who cook it – some add lamb meat or even chicken. Some restaurants cook Koupepia in tomato sauce that makes it even more delicious.
Halloum is one of the popular cheese types in Cyprus and it’s said that halloum means “sheep” or “ewe”. This salty cheese is made out of goat and sheep milk that has been boiled before being placed in a brine solution to ferment it. Haloumi doesn’t melt under heat so you can enjoy it fried or grilled! You will find this tasty dish in many restaurants all over Cyprus. You can order it as an appetizer as it cooks very quickly.
This meat is very tender and has a different taste than the one of regular lamb. Cypriots cook this lamb is on a grill and usually served with “sauce” made out of lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and salt. The combination between this sauce and the special taste that comes from young lamb makes it an amazing dish! If you are visiting Cyprus during springtime, you must try this dish! You can find it in taverns or traditional Cypriot restaurants. For us, the best place to enjoy young lamb is at Militzis in Larnaca.
If you are a fan of beef, then this dish is definitely for you. This traditional Cypriot stew contains braised beef in a tomato sauce with red wine and spices such as bay leaves, cinnamon, extra virgin olive oil, and garlic. The meat cooks slowly until it becomes so tender that it melts inside your mouth! You can enjoy Stiffado with rice, potatoes or pasta. If you are visiting Cyprus during the autumn time this dish will definitely be on the menu! You can find it in many taverns and restaurants all over Cyprus.
This is another traditional dish of Cyprus. Briam is made with eggplants, zucchini, potatoes, and tomatoes that are baked in the oven together to create a unique flavor. It reminds us of ratatouille. We like to combine Briam with fresh feta. And we think if you are vegetarians this dish is a great choice.
Gigantes plaki (giant beans)
This is a traditional dish of Cyprus. Gigantes beans are large, white dried beans that have been boiled until they become really soft. They are then cooked with tomatoes, celery, onions, and parsley creating an amazing flavor! In the end, you get giant beans in a creamy thick tomato sauce that you can enjoy with feta cheese and fresh bread! This dish is good for vegetarians. It is delicious and we strongly recommend trying it in one of the traditional Cyprus restaurants.
For sure you know Greek salad. It’s the most common dish in Greece that you can find already everywhere and for sure here in Cyprus! When people mention Greek salad they mean tomato, cucumber, feta cheese with oregano salt, and olive oil. This salad fits really well with everything, with meat, fish dishes, or just like a separate dish. Honestly, we love feta cheese and we find everything with it yummy. We like also how Cypriots serving the greek salad. Usually, they don’t cut feta cheese and just put a big piece of it on the top.
For sure you know Tzatziki as it’s very popular in many countries. It is made out of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic. This sauce can be served with meat dishes like pork chops but also with souvlaki and gyros. It’s a traditional sauce in Cyprus as well! We like it so much that we even eat it by itself, just mixed with some salt and oregano.