You'll love this simple and traditional Greek Salad with ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, black olives and creamy feta. I'm sharing everything I learned from my visit to Greece! Read through for tips and watch my quick video.
I was lucky enough to visit the Greek island of Patmos and Kos a few years ago. Every part of the trip was special, but I absolutely fell in love with the people, their local shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I loved observing the Greek life and partaking of the simple, finger-licking Greek food.
In one of the small family-owned restaurants we visited, I enjoyed a fresh salad that opened my eyes to what a truly traditional and uncomplicated Greek salad should be! And, that's exactly what I have tried to re-create with this simple Greek salad recipe.
Horiatiki: Greek Village Salad
In Greece, Horiatiki or Greek village salad, is served most often from early spring to the early part of fall. And it's truly the best use of the season's quality produce including juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers, and onions.
Quality Greek kalamata olives and creamy feta cheese, made from sheep’s milk, are a must in this salad. And the cheese is never crumbled, but served in large chunks or blocks crowning the beautiful fresh salad!
The dressing is as simple as they come, a splash of good extra virgin olive oil and citrus (a little red wine vinegar or lemon juice).
This villagers' salad is super simple with no shortage of flavor, but it begins and ends with the quality of ingredients used. If you go to Greece and end up ordering Horiatiki, here's what you are likely to find in it:
- Tomatoes - Choose Perfect ripe tomatoes (somewhat firm but yielding slightly to the touch; glossy skin; fragrant
- Cucumbers- choose firm, smooth-skinned cucumbers. I prefer English cucumbers, which are seedless and tend to be sweeter in taste.
- Red onions- choose firm and smooth looking onions. Tip: if you want to take the edge off, soak the sliced onions in a solution of iced water mixed with vinegar for a bit before adding them to the salad (I do this in the video below).
- Kalamata Olives- I love Greek kalamata olives (or black olives) in this salad, they add a great briny, salty flavor that compliments the beautiful veggies so well.
- Green Bell peppers- choose firm and smooth looking green bell pepper. No other colored bell peppers are used in a traditional Greek salad.
- Dried oregano- Greek oregano, sometimes fresh, is used, it is not typically available here but quality dried oregano will work really well
- Kosher Salt
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil For authentic and best tasting Greek salad, I like to use this Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil. It's an exquisite cold extracted and unfiltered oil with a perfectly balanced complexity— rich green, fruity and pungent with a peppery finish.
- Red wine vinegar- You can also use another citrus option like fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- Creamy feta cheese - made from sheep’a milk and served in large chunks or blocks crowning the salad (not crumbled).
- No lettuce or any leafy greens
- No additional fillers
Greek salad dressing
The good news is, you don't need to do the work of making a dressing. Traditional Greek salad is typically served with a splash of citrus and extra virgin olive oil. Very basic and elegant.
I have also learned to keep bottles of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar (or lemon halves) on the table in case anyone needed an extra splash, a trick I saw in many restaurants while visiting the Greek islands.
But if you've made my ladolemono (Greek salad dressing recipe), you can absolutely use a bit of that on the salad.
A few tips for how to make Greek salad
If you're wondering how to put this salad together, it could not be any simpler. I took a hint from how my Greek friends serve it:
- The base ingredients of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and onions are typically cut in large slices or chunks and served in a bowl (or in a small bowl for each individual).
- Add pitted kalamata olives (or black olives) to your liking.
- For seasoning, a dash of kosher salt and dried oregano (I like to finish with a bit more dried oregano at the end)
- To dress the salad, toss gently with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Sometimes, the oil and vinegar are set aside for each person to add whatever amounts they need; I really like this idea because I feel like I could always use an extra drizzle of good olive oil!
- Feta cheese is always served in large blocks on top of the salad, never crumbled like you might see here in the States.
- No extra garnishes or fillers needed.
Serve it with
This vibrant salad full of color and flavor can easily work as a side dish to compliment just about any entree you'll find on this site. Here are some ideas:
- Chicken: Chicken Gyros; Chicken Souvlaki; or, a less obvious but perfect choice, Grilled Harissa Chicken
- Lamb: Greek burgers; or Lamb Chops
- Fish: Baked Cod, Grouper, Lemon garlic Salmon, or Salmon Burgers
- Vegetarian Entrees: Spanakopita, Greek Green Beans, Mediterranean Three Bean Soup
This salad is best enjoyed fresh. But if you have any leftover Greek salad, store it in a tight lid container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
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Traditional Greek Salad Recipe
- 1 medium red onion
- 4 Medium juicy tomatoes
- 1 English cucumber (hot house cucumber) partially peeled making a striped pattern
- 1 green bell pepper cored
- Greek pitted Kalamata olives a handful to your liking
- kosher salt a pinch
- 4 tablespoon quality extra virgin olive oil I used Early Harvest Greek olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Blocks of Greek feta cheese do not crumble the feta, leave it in large pieces
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- Cut the red onion in half and thinly slice into half moons. (If you want to take the edge off, place the sliced onions in a solution of iced water and vinegar for a bit before adding to the salad. I do this in the video).
- Cut the tomatoes into wedges or large chunks (I sliced some into rounds and cut the rest in wedges).
- Cut the partially peeled cucumber in half length-wise, then slice into thick halves (at least ½" in thickness)
- Thinly slice the bell pepper into rings.
- Place everything in a large salad dish. Add a good handful of pitted kalamata olives.
- Season very lightly with kosher salt (just a pinch) and a bit of dried oregano.
- Pour the olive oil and red wine vinegar all over the salad. Give everything a very gentle toss to mix (do NOT over mix, this salad is not meant to be handled too much).
- Now add the the feta blocks on top and add a sprinkle more of dried oregano.
- Serve with crusty bread.
*This post appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers benefit.