The Art of Greek Grilled Meat: Best Souvlaki and More

Discover the art of Greek grilled meat with the popular dish of souvlaki and more. Souvlaki, a Greek fast food, can be made with various meats and vegetables, although pork is the most common choice in Greece and Cyprus. Dating back to antiquity, souvlaki has been enjoyed for centuries and is even mentioned by Homer. In this recipe, grilled lamb is used, but feel free to add your favorite vegetables to enhance the flavors. The meat is marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper before being grilled to perfection. Serve with pilaf or fried potatoes and a refreshing tomato salad for a truly authentic Greek meal. Get ready to indulge in the rich flavors and traditions of Greek cuisine.


The Art of Grilling Meats in Greece

Grilling meats in Greece is not just a cooking method, but a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations. It is a culinary art form that brings people together and celebrates the rich flavors of Greek cuisine. From traditional souvlaki to mouthwatering grilled lamb chops, Greek grilled meats offer a unique and delicious dining experience. In this article, we will explore the popular grilled meat dishes in Greece, the marinades and sauces used, the different variations of souvlaki, and tips for achieving the perfect grilled meat. So fire up your grill and get ready to embark on a flavorful journey through Greek cuisine!

Popular Grilled Meat Dishes in Greece

When it comes to grilled meats, Greece is renowned for its flavorful and succulent dishes. One of the most beloved grilled meat dishes in Greece is souvlaki. Originating from antiquity and even referenced by Homer, souvlaki has become a staple in Greek cuisine. It is traditionally made with pork, but chicken and lamb are also commonly used. Souvlaki is typically served on skewers and can be enjoyed on its own or wrapped in a warm pita bread with various toppings and sauces.

Another iconic Greek grilled meat dish is gyros. This beloved street food is made from thinly sliced meat, typically pork or chicken, that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The meat is then thinly sliced and served in a warm pita bread with tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, and other toppings. Gyros are a flavorful and satisfying option for those looking for a quick and delicious meal.

For those with a taste for adventure, kontosouvli is a regional BBQ specialty that should not be missed. This dish involves spit-roasting large chunks of meat, usually pork or lamb, over an open fire. The slow and steady cooking process ensures that the meat is tender and juicy, while the smoky flavors add depth to the dish. Kontosouvli is often enjoyed at festive occasions or as a centerpiece for a family gathering.

Lastly, we have paidakia, which are mouthwatering Greek grilled lamb chops. These tender and flavorful chops are marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs, then grilled to perfection. Paidakia are a popular choice for meat lovers in Greece and are often served alongside traditional Greek sides like roasted potatoes and Greek salad.

Greek Marinades and Sauces for Grilled Meats

One of the secrets to the deliciousness of Greek grilled meats lies in the marinades and sauces used. These flavor-enhancing elements elevate the taste of the meats and add depth to the overall dish. One of the most versatile Greek sauces is tzatziki. Made from strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and herbs, tzatziki is a refreshing and tangy sauce that pairs perfectly with grilled meats. It can be used as a marinade, a dipping sauce, or a topping for souvlaki and gyros.

In addition to tzatziki, there are other traditional Greek marinades and sauces that are commonly used in grilling. One popular choice is a marinade made from olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano. This simple yet flavorful combination infuses the meat with a Mediterranean twist. Another traditional sauce is skordalia, a creamy garlic sauce that adds a rich and garlicky flavor to grilled meats.

Other traditional Greek marinades and sauces include ladolemono, a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs; souvlaki marinade, which combines olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano; and pomegranate glaze, which adds a tangy and sweet flavor to grilled meats. These sauces and marinades are easy to make at home and will take your grilled meats to the next level.

Souvlaki: The Classic Greek Grilled Meat Skewer

When it comes to Greek grilled meats, souvlaki is the star of the show. This classic dish is loved by locals and tourists alike for its simplicity and delicious flavors. Souvlaki is typically made by skewering small pieces of meat, such as pork, chicken, or lamb, and grilling them to perfection. The result is juicy and tender meat with a smoky and charred exterior.

Origins of Souvlaki

The origins of souvlaki can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was a popular street food enjoyed by the working class. In its earliest form, souvlaki was made from small chunks of meat that were skewered and cooked over an open fire. The word “souvlaki” actually means “little skewer” in Greek, which perfectly describes the dish.

Variations of Souvlaki

While pork is the most commonly used meat for souvlaki in Greece, other variations are equally delicious. Chicken souvlaki is a popular choice, as the lean meat absorbs flavors well and grills to perfection. Lamb souvlaki is another classic option, offering a rich and gamey flavor that pairs beautifully with Greek marinades and sauces.

In addition to the choice of meat, souvlaki can also be customized with different toppings and accompaniments. Some popular options include adding grilled vegetables, such as bell peppers and onions, to the skewers for added flavor and texture. Toppings like tzatziki, feta cheese, and Greek salad add a refreshing and tangy element to the dish. The versatility of souvlaki allows for endless possibilities, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Choosing the Right Meat for Souvlaki

When it comes to choosing the right meat for souvlaki, it’s important to select cuts that are tender and flavorful. For pork souvlaki, cuts like pork shoulder or tenderloin work well, as they have a good balance of fat and lean meat. For chicken souvlaki, boneless, skinless chicken thighs are an excellent choice, as they stay moist and flavorful when grilled. As for lamb souvlaki, cuts like leg of lamb or lamb shoulder are ideal for their rich and gamey flavors.

It’s also important to cut the meat into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Aim for pieces that are approximately 1-inch in size, as they will cook quickly and evenly on the grill. Marinating the meat in a Greek marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs will further enhance the flavors and ensure that the meat stays tender and juicy.

Recipe: Classic Souvlaki with Pork

Now that we’ve explored the origins and variations of souvlaki, it’s time to try our hand at making this classic Greek grilled meat dish. This recipe will guide you through the steps of making delicious pork souvlaki at home. So gather your ingredients, fire up the grill, and get ready to enjoy a taste of Greece!

Ultimate Guide to Paidakia: How to Perfect Authentic Greek Grilled Lamb Chops


  • 1.5 pounds pork shoulder or tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Wooden or metal skewers


  1. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Whisk until well combined.
  2. Add the pork cubes to the marinade, making sure that each piece is coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
  3. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 30 minutes to prevent them from burning on the grill.
  4. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  5. Thread the marinated pork cubes onto the skewers, leaving a small space between each piece.
  6. Brush the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the pork is cooked through and slightly charred.
  7. Remove the skewers from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.
  8. Serve the souvlaki with warm pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and your favorite toppings and sides.

Now that you have mastered the art of making classic pork souvlaki, you can experiment with different variations and toppings to create your own signature dish. Whether you’re grilling for a crowd or enjoying a weeknight meal, souvlaki is sure to impress and delight everyone at the table.

Other Greek Grilled Meat Dishes

While souvlaki is undoubtedly the star of Greek grilled meats, there are other mouthwatering dishes that deserve a spot on your grill. From the iconic gyros to regional specialties like kontosouvli and mouthwatering grilled lamb chops known as paidakia, Greece offers a world of flavors and textures for meat lovers.

Gyros: The Iconic Greek Street Food

No article on Greek grilled meats would be complete without mentioning gyros. This beloved street food has gained global popularity for its flavorful and satisfying qualities. Gyros are made from thinly sliced meat, typically pork or chicken, that is marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. The marinated meat is then stacked on a vertical rotisserie and cooked slowly, allowing the flavors to meld together and the meat to become tender and juicy.

Once cooked, the meat is thinly sliced and served in a warm pita bread with various toppings and sauces. Traditional gyro toppings include fresh tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce, though other options like feta cheese, lettuce, and sliced cucumbers are also commonly used. The combination of flavors and textures in a gyro makes it a satisfying and delicious meal that can be enjoyed anytime.

Kontosouvli: A Regional BBQ Specialty

For those looking to explore regional BBQ specialties in Greece, kontosouvli is a must-try dish. Hailing from the island of Crete, kontosouvli involves spit-roasting large chunks of meat, usually pork or lamb, over an open fire. The slow and steady cooking process ensures that the meat is tender and juicy, while the smoky flavors from the fire add depth to the dish.

Kontosouvli is often enjoyed at festive occasions and special gatherings, where friends and family come together to celebrate. The combination of crispy, charred exterior and succulent, flavorful interior makes kontosouvli a true delight for meat lovers. It is typically served with traditional Greek sides like roasted potatoes and horiatiki salad, creating a complete and satisfying meal.

Paidakia: Mouthwatering Greek Grilled Lamb Chops

If you’re a fan of lamb, then paidakia is a dish that will tantalize your taste buds. These mouthwatering Greek grilled lamb chops are a true delight, featuring tender and flavorful meat that is grilled to perfection. The lamb chops are marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs, which infuses them with a Mediterranean flair.

Once marinated, the lamb chops are grilled until the exterior is charred and the interior is cooked to your desired level of doneness. Whether you prefer your lamb chops medium-rare or well-done, the key is to keep them juicy and moist. Paidakia are often served alongside traditional Greek sides like roasted potatoes, lemon roasted vegetables, or Greek salad, creating a well-rounded and satisfying meal.

With these additional Greek grilled meat dishes, you can expand your culinary repertoire and explore the diverse flavors of Greece. Each dish offers a unique and delicious experience that showcases the beauty of Greek cuisine.

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Greek Grilled Meat

Grilling meat to perfection requires a combination of techniques and attention to detail. Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect Greek grilled meat every time:

Marinating Techniques for Tenderness and Flavor

Marinating the meat is crucial for enhancing the flavors and ensuring that it stays tender and juicy on the grill. For Greek grilled meats, marinades are typically made with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. The acid in the lemon juice helps to tenderize the meat, while the olive oil adds moisture and flavor.

To properly marinate the meat, make sure that each piece is coated with the marinade and let it sit for at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and infuse it with deliciousness. When grilling, you can baste the meat with any leftover marinade for added flavor and moisture.

Grilling Methods and Tips

Grilling meats requires a balance between high heat and gentle cooking. Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect Greek grilled meat:

  • Preheat your grill before adding the meat. This ensures that the meat will cook evenly and prevents sticking.
  • Brush the grill grates with oil to prevent the meat from sticking. This is especially important when grilling lean meats like chicken breast.
  • Keep an eye on the meat and avoid flipping it too frequently. Let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes on each side to develop a nice char and seal in the juices.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the meat is cooked to your desired level of doneness. Internal temperatures for cooked meats are as follows: 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare, 160°F (71°C) for medium, and 165°F (74°C) for well-done.
  • Let the meat rest for a few minutes after grilling. This allows the juices to redistribute and the meat to become more tender.
  • Don’t forget to garnish your grilled meats with fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice, or a sprinkle of oregano. These finishing touches add an extra burst of flavor and make the dish even more delicious.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to grilling perfect Greek meats that are flavorful, tender, and irresistibly delicious.

Accompaniments for Greek Grilled Meats

No Greek grilled meat feast is complete without a selection of delicious accompaniments to enhance the flavors and complete the meal. Here are some classic Greek side dishes and sauces that pair perfectly with grilled meats:

Classic Greek Side Dishes

When it comes to Greek side dishes, simplicity and freshness are key. Classic options like lemon roasted potatoes, Greek rice pilaf, and grilled vegetables are the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats. These sides are flavorful, satisfying, and showcase the natural flavors of the ingredients.

Lemon roasted potatoes are a staple in Greek cuisine. They are typically oven-roasted until golden and crispy, then tossed with fresh lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. The combination of tangy lemon, savory garlic, and crispy potatoes is a match made in culinary heaven.

Greek rice pilaf is another delicious side dish that pairs well with grilled meats. It is made by sautéing rice in olive oil, then simmering it with broth, onions, and aromatic herbs. The result is a fluffy and flavorful rice dish that absorbs the flavors of the meats and sauces.

Grilled vegetables are the perfect way to add a burst of freshness and color to your grilled meat feast. Bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and onions are popular choices for grilling. Simply brush the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill until tender and slightly charred. The smoky flavors from the grill add depth to the vegetables, complementing the grilled meats beautifully.

Greek Salad: The Perfect Refreshing Side

No Greek meal is complete without a refreshing and vibrant Greek salad. Made with ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, tangy feta cheese, briny olives, and fragrant herbs, Greek salad is a true showcase of Mediterranean flavors. It is traditionally dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and dried oregano, which add a zesty and herbaceous note to the dish.

The combination of juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and creamy feta cheese provides a refreshing contrast to the rich flavors of grilled meats. The briny olives and fragrant herbs add depth and complexity to the salad. Whether enjoyed as a side dish or a light main course, Greek salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats.

Traditional Greek Sauces and Dips

Greek cuisine is known for its delicious sauces and dips, which add layers of flavor and creaminess to grilled meats. In addition to tzatziki, there are other traditional Greek sauces and dips that complement grilled meats beautifully.

Skordalia is a creamy garlic sauce made with mashed potatoes, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. It has a rich and garlicky flavor that pairs well with grilled meats. It can be used as a dipping sauce or a spread for sandwiches and wraps.

Tyrokafteri is a spicy feta cheese dip that adds a tangy and fiery kick to grilled meats. It is made with feta cheese, roasted red peppers, olive oil, and chili peppers. The result is a creamy and flavorful dip that will awaken your taste buds.

Taramasalata is a popular Greek dip made from fish roe, bread crumbs, olive oil, and lemon juice. It has a creamy and tangy flavor that pairs well with grilled meats. It can be served on its own or as part of a meze platter.

Whether you choose to serve tzatziki, skordalia, tyrokafteri, taramasalata, or a combination of these sauces and dips, they will add a burst of flavor and creaminess to your grilled meat feast.

Pairing Greek Grilled Meats with Wine and Beer

To complete your Greek grilled meat experience, it’s important to choose the right beverages to accompany the flavors and enhance the overall dining experience. Greece is renowned for its wine and beer, both of which have their own unique characteristics that pair beautifully with grilled meats.

Greek Wine Varieties to Complement Grilled Meats

Greece is home to a rich wine heritage, with a wide variety of grape varietals and wine styles to choose from. When it comes to pairing wine with grilled meats, red wines are often the preferred choice, as they tend to have more robust flavors that can stand up to the intensity of the grilled meats.

For grilled meats like souvlaki and kontosouvli, red wines made from local grape varietals like Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, and Mavrodaphne are excellent choices. These wines are known for their bold flavors, complex profiles, and ability to complement grilled meats. They offer a balance of fruitiness, acidity, and tannins that pair well with the smoky and charred flavors of the meats.

If you prefer white wine, there are also Greek options that can enhance the flavors of grilled meats. White wines made from Assyrtiko and Moschofilero grape varietals offer crisp and refreshing flavors that can complement the grilled meats. These wines have citrusy and floral notes that add a bright and lively element to the meal.

Greek Beer Options for Grilled Meat Feasts

If you’re more of a beer lover, Greece offers a variety of local beer options that can be paired with grilled meats. Greek craft breweries have been gaining traction in recent years, producing flavorful and well-crafted beers that can elevate your dining experience.

When it comes to grilled meats, opt for beers with robust flavors that can match the intensity of the dishes. Amber ales, India pale ales (IPAs), and stouts are excellent choices. These beers have bold and complex flavors that can complement the smoky and charred flavors of the grilled meats.

For those who prefer lighter and crisp beers, Greek lagers and pilsners are also a good choice. These beers have a clean and refreshing flavor profile that can provide a palate cleanser between bites of grilled meats.

Whether you choose to pair your Greek grilled meats with wine or beer, the key is to select beverages that can enhance the flavors of the dishes and create a harmonious dining experience.

The Cultural Significance of Greek Grilled Meats

In addition to being a delicious culinary tradition, Greek grilled meats hold a significant cultural importance in Greece. Grilling has long been a part of Greek festivals and celebrations, bringing people together to enjoy delicious food and each other’s company.

Grilling Traditions in Greek Festivals and Celebrations

Greek festivals and celebrations are known for their lively atmosphere, music, and of course, delicious food. Grilled meats are often the centerpiece of these events, as they symbolize abundance, togetherness, and celebration.

One of the most well-known Greek festivals that highlights grilled meats is the annual Greek festival held in various cities around the world. These festivals feature a variety of Greek foods, including souvlaki, gyros, and other grilled meat dishes. Visitors can immerse themselves in Greek culture, enjoy live music and traditional dances, and savor the flavors of Greece.

In addition to festivals, special occasions like weddings and baptisms often feature grilled meats as part of the menu. These events bring families and friends together to celebrate important milestones and create lasting memories. The act of grilling and sharing delicious food fosters a sense of community and togetherness, which is at the heart of Greek culture.

The Role of Grilled Meats in Greek Social Gatherings

Grilled meats also play a significant role in everyday social gatherings and family meals in Greece. Greeks have a strong culture of hospitality and love to gather with friends and family to enjoy good food and company. Grilling meats is a popular choice for these occasions, as it allows everyone to participate in the cooking process and enjoy the delicious results.

In a typical Greek social gathering, the host takes on the role of the grill master, ensuring that the meats are cooked to perfection. Guests gather around the grill, sipping on wine or beer, and indulge in the mouthwatering aromas wafting from the grill. The act of grilling becomes a social event in itself, where stories are shared, laughter fills the air, and bonds are strengthened.

Grilled meats in Greece are more than just a meal – they are a celebration of culture, tradition, and the joy of coming together. The art of grilling is deeply ingrained in Greek society and holds a special place in the hearts of the Greek people.


Greek grilled meats are a culinary delight that combines the flavors of the Mediterranean with the art of grilling. From the classic souvlaki to the iconic gyros and regional specialties like kontosouvli and paidakia, Greek grilled meats offer a wide variety of flavors and textures to satisfy every palate. The marinades and sauces used in Greek cuisine elevate the flavors of the meats, while traditional Greek side dishes, salads, and sauces complete the meal.

Pairing Greek grilled meats with the right wine or beer can enhance the flavors and create a harmonious dining experience. And let’s not forget the cultural significance of Greek grilled meats, which bring people together in festivals, celebrations, and everyday gatherings, forging bonds and creating cherished memories.

So fire up your grill, gather your friends and family, and embark on a flavorful journey through the art of grilling meats in Greece. Whether you’re savoring a juicy souvlaki, indulging in a mouthwatering gyro, or feasting on tender grilled lamb chops, you’ll be experiencing the true essence of Greek cuisine. Opa!

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