The Fabulous Food Specialties of Thessaloniki

In Thessaloniki, dishes are just a little spicier, juicier, zestier. Yet so delicate, refined. Try these five fabulous food specialties of Thessaloniki to taste the complete Thessaloniki experience.

The reason that Thessaloniki has so many fabulous food specialties is the same reason it’s such a fascinating city overall. Many cultures have made the city home, and each left its exotic traces behind. This was a key center of the Ottoman Empire for nearly five centuries, which means the dishes here are a little spicier, juicier, more delicate, more refined. Then, in the 1920’s, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Asia Minor came to the city. This strengthened the city’s connection with the culinary traditions of the East.

Food specialties of Thessaloniki
Classic bougatsa with cream filling

Related post: Best Things to Do in Thessaloniki – Sights, Activities, and Cultural Experiences

Five Fabulous Food Specialties of Thessaloniki:


This meze – one of the food specialties of Thessaloniki – is like a lusty Greek fondue. A slab of feta is placed in a terracotta dish, splashed with oil, and covered with a few slices of tomato and slivers of long green hot pepper.Then it gets a shower of “boukova”- hot chili pepper flakes. The spicy feta broils until it gets crisp on the edges. It keeps its shape, but melts inside. The oil and peppers sizzle. It smells delicious. Scoop it up with crusty bread to cut the spicy heat. This is equally good with wine, beer, ouzo, or tsipouro. But you may find that the sweet light licorice flavor of ouzo is a great combination with the heat.


Gyros is a food specialty known all over Greece. So perhaps it seems unfair to call it a food specialty of Thessaloniki. But truthfully, no place has Gyros like Thessaloniki’s. The meat – pork or chicken – is just a little saltier and a little spicier than anywhere else. Thin shavings of crisp juicy meat are piled impossibly high into a pita bread. Add whatever you want. A gyros “with everything” in Thessaloniki means onions, tomatoes, ketchup, and mustard. But you can get it with anything you want: tzatziki, eggplant spread, spicy cheese…. The guy behind the counter then tries to close the pita around the heap of meat but doesn’t succeed. So then he wraps it tightly in paper to keep it together. You need to keep it in the paper to eat it.

Food Specialties of Thessaloniki
Bakaliaro with skordalia

Bakaliaro- Salt Cod with Garlic Sauce

Thessaloniki is not the only place in Greece where you can enjoy this specialty. However, Thessaloniki’s version is among the best. This is Greece’s bold Mediterranean answer to fish and chips. There is an alley by the harbor that has no view. Here, two old places here serve fabulous slabs of salt cod. They’re coated in clouds of crisp fried batter. On the side is “skordalia”- stale bread, oil, water, vinegar, and lots and lots of garlic. Add a fried hot pepper on the side. The whole thing arrives at the plastic table on a sheet pf grease paper. Are you new to retsina, the casual white wine flavored with resin? This is time to get acquainted with it. The crisp refreshing taste cuts through the heat and the garlic. This delicious specialty counts among the distnctive food specialties of Thessaloniki – truly an experience.

Food Specialties of Thessaloniki
Patsas at Tsarouchas


Of the food specialties of Thessaloniki, Patsas is the most exotic.

This is definitely a dish for the daring. Calves’ hooves, tripe, and belly boil with water and salt. And that’s it. This soup, which has its roots in the ‘melanos zoumos’ (black broth) that fed the armies of Alexander the Great, has long been popular in Thessaloniki. The Greeks who came from Asia Minor brought a taste for it. Another thing that came with the Greeks from Asia minor is Rebetiko. This urban folk genre with an exotic eastern flavor serves as the Greek version of the blues. Patsas and Rebetiko go together. This is the traditional dish to cap off a late Thessaloniki night out: Patsas is famous for its effectiveness in averting a hangover.

Related post: Kinda Blue – Exploring the Roots of Rebetiko


The Greeks from Asia Minor brought many food specialties to Thessaloniki. Bougatsa is the best of all of them. Their way with delicate phyllo shines in these super-fresh pies. Bougatsa used to be just plain phyllo, because the phyllo was so delicate and delicious. Eventually, bougatsa got an upgrade, with fillings of cream, cheese, spinach, or spicy minced meat. The pies are served chopped into bites. Bougatsa is popular for breakfast or late-night. The best bougatsa places make only bougatsa, and nothing else. Look for them between 3 am and no later than noon.

Related post: Thessaloniki’s Best Bougatsa

Amber Charmei
Amber Charmei
Hi, I'm Amber Charmei - I left Manhattan, my hometown, about 20 years ago to live in a city with a much longer backstory and a prime location in the Mediterranean. Thessaloniki is is one of my favorite cities in Europe. Roman ruins, Byzantine glories, Belle-Époque mansions, and plenty of mid-century style set a compelling urban stage for contemporary life. Thessaloniki's multi-cultural heritage gives it an international quality, a zesty cuisine, and a peerless nightlife. I love the museums and the beaches, the Rebetiko and the chaotic public markets, and everything else. Thanks for stopping by - I hope I can help you discover what you're looking for, and fall a little in love with the city, too.

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