K. Kouzouni

Traditional Sweets with an Island Flair

If Greek Islands had a flavour, they would probably taste like honey with cinnamon, clove, rosewater, syrupy fruits and roasted almonds. Traditional island sweet dishes are an essential part of your laid back holidays in Greece; enjoy your breakfast by the sea, taste flavourful treats in a small cafe and thrill your taste buds with honeyed combinations. Greek Islands are renowned for their particular sweets. Here are some of the most tempting and popular sweet treats you can taste in Greece and - why not - take back with you when you leave.

Islands as Sweet as Sugar

On most of the Aegean Sea islands, particularly the Cyclades, almond sweets (amygdalota) are top of the list; these finger or pear-shaped treats are made of ground blanched almonds kneaded with rosewater and sugar, and baked. When ready, they are allowed to cool and then they are dusted with caster sugar. The most famous amygdalota are made on Andros, Mykonos, Hydra and Spetses Islands.

Spoon sweets are traditional flavourful sweet treats you’ll come across on the islands as well as on mainland Greece. In-season fruits, unripe nuts and some vegetables are boiled in syrup and kept in jars throughout the year. The most popular spoon sweets are made with fruit like grapes, sour cherry, bitter orange, quince, bergamot, citrus, rose petals, apple, fig, cherry, walnut, chestnut, as well as with vegetables like aubergine, tomato and olive.

Honeyed Preparations across the Islands

Greek Islands hold special sweet surprises for your palate; savour the local sweet creations and finish each one of your culinary experiences in the most delightful way.
Taste the delicious watermelon pie [karpouzopita], made with watermelon, honey and sesame seeds, on Milos and Folegandros Islands. Try koufeta, a traditional type of bonbon made of skinned almonds added in simmering thyme honey, on Anafi and Santorini Islands. Syros Island is well-known for its loukoumia, a mouthwatering sweet that will thrill your taste buds with its gummy texture, offered in a variety of rose water, mastic, bergamot and lemon flavours. On Chios Island, taste ypovrychio (meaning ‘submarine’); it’s a spoonful of mastiha served in an icy cold glass of water, a flavourful refreshment with a rich soft texture. On Ios Island, you must try the tasty pastelia (sesame bars), kserotigana (fried pastry topped with honey) and kalasounia (myzithra cheese pies made with phyllo pastry, myzithra cheese, honey and cinnamon).

A delicious sweet to try on Naxos Island is the local walnut pie, called melachrino, made with citrus liqueur, a popular and very fragrant sweet dish. Savour also spoon sweets and flavourful local pies with honey. The island is famed for producing fragrant citrus fruits & liqueurs. On Rhodes Island your sweet options include katimeria (delicious cookies drizzled with honey), melekounia (flavourful sesame bars), moschopougia (a sweet made with walnut, nutmeg, rosewater, and caster sugar), kaisi paste (a fragrant apricot sweetmeat served as a spoon sweet), and more. Venizelika is a sweet treat you will find on Limnos Island. It is made from almonds and dark chocolate and covered with vanilla-flavoured ypovrychio as frosting.

On Greece’s biggest island, Crete, satisfy your sweet tooth with kalitsounia or lychnarakia; these are little tart-like pastries filled with local Cretan sweet myzithra cheese and dusted with cinnamon. They used to be served as an Easter treat, but nowadays you can see them on bakery and confectionery shop windows all year round. You will find a variation of kalitsounia called melitinia, on Santorini Island. Another popular local sweet is diples or kserotigana, served on festive days (such as name days) and on other happy occasions.

For those you about to visit the Ionian Islands, keep the following suggestions in mind: Try candied kumquat (made from kumquat citrus fruit produced on Corfu Island) as well as sykomaides (dried fig pies made with ouzo and black pepper). On Zakynthos and Kefalonia Islands savour mandoles (red-coloured sugar coated almonds), pastelia (sesame bars) and mandolata (nougat made with egg whites, roasted almonds, sugar or honey). Ladopita (a pie made with semolina, flour, oil, water, sesame, cinnamon and almonds) is a traditional treat and soumada is a delicious alcohol-free beverage made from bitter almonds on Lefkada Island. Last but not least, try rovani, the sweet sponge cake prepared on Ithaca Island.

Related experiences