Once upon a time, vegan food in Greece was essentially whatever meatless, dairy-free foods you could find at the local taverna or rustle up at home – a plate of fasolakia ladera, legumes, pasta, salads, fried completely vegetable patties and other foods unrelated to meat and dairy. Today, every large supermarket (plus a huge array of online markets as well as some smaller markets in central Athens) is at least decently stocked with sophisticated vegan alternatives. Whether you fancy some cheese, yoghurt, milk or different kinds of meat, you’re likely to satiate your desires without straying from your dietary code. Not to forget the flood of quality vegan food restaurants in the cities – selling everything from fancy, traditional Greek and exotic foods to street and junk food.
As someone who has researched, taken cooking classes in and followed the vegan diet throughout the decades, I was both excited and curious to try out some of these new alternatives for myself and report on the experience. Can a BLT with substitute bacon (aka facon) be as delicious as the real thing? How about a melty grilled cheese sandwich or makaronia me kima (spaghetti bolognese)?
Here, we present you with the new and popular Greek or foreign brands in Greece selling a plethora of vegan products, and offer a review of the ones we have tried.
Vegan cheese lovers in Greece rejoice! From feta to gouda, manouri-style white cheese to cheddar, there are numerous plant or soy-based cheese and other dairy products to enjoy.
Violife has built a strong brand presence in Greece and abroad for its tasty alternatives, which look and taste closest to the real thing. Vegans can make anything from a cheese sandwich to pizza to a Greek salad to cheese cake to melty tacos with cheeses like cream cheese; grated cheese; feta-style “Great White”; plain and smokey-flavored sliced cheese; Camembert-style cheese for your crackers; and more.
Tried & Tested: In my recent attempt to return to a vegan diet, during Greek lent, I tried Violife’s butter (Vioblock), their mozzarella-style sliced cheese, cream cheese and their (grated) Tex Mex cheese. The butter was literally like the real thing in terms of flavor, appearance and texture, perfect for my crisp hot toast in the morning. The mozzarella slices, which I topped a homemade pizza with, melted only half way and had something between a slightly leathery and creamy texture but a satisfying taste. The cream cheese, which I used in sandwiches, tasted authentic at first bite but left a bit of an aftertaste, and the Tex Mex cheese was great on my tacos and the friend I prepared them for didn’t notice the difference.
Evlogimeno (which means blessed) sells vegan sliced cheese, zaraki – described as ideal for cooking with, block cheese, grated three-cheese mix, feta-style white cheese, and almond milk (normal and sugar-free versions).
Tried & Tested: My first experience of any vegan cheese was with Evlogimeno’s white cheese, which a friend had added to a Greek salad instead of feta without my knowledge. It was like the real thing, and tasty too boot.
Viofast Makes a standard cheese that can be used in sandwiches or cooked, in two versions (normal and low sodium) as well as a white cheese.
Kolioswhich produces regular cheeses also makes vegan alternatives, from white cheese to pizza topping (regular and Italian style), classic to cheddar style.
Vegan Meat Substitutes
There are two main meat-centered vegan food brands bringing Greece-based vegans great substitutes, Foodelco and Esti.
Greek company Foodelco imports a broad and high-quality range of beef, chicken and fish substitutes by globally recognized brands, and supplies these products to supermarkets as well as the restaurant and the hospitality industry. I tried a broad range of products that Foodelco supplies over a period of time, preparing various dishes for myself and friends, and the delicious results were mostly rewarding. Foodelco aims to provide healthy, delicious and varied products for vegans as well as to offer meat-free options for omnivores who’d rather avoid the harmful effects of meat-eating.
Tried and Tested: My great love for bacon is one of the most challenging factors that prevent me from maintaining – or enjoying – a vegan diet. I fried up some Bacon-style strips from the brand Next!, and made my favorite BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato, with a dollop of ketchup, in fluffy bread) sandwich and was amazed by the result: the strips were crunchy, delicious and a little smoky just like real bacon. I also used the strips to make carbonara-style pasta with an equally successful result. For me, having bacon without that involving the maltreatment of pigs or the toxic effect scientific studies have reported this particular food has on the human organism, is revolutionary!
Foodelco also sells Chick’n Chunks by Next! I made chicken tortillas using this chicken and found it comes very close to the real thing.
The high-protein, eco-friendly Beyond Meet (by now a widely acclaimed brand globally) products brought by Foodelco, such as Beyond Meat Burger, Beyond Mince, Beyond Meat Sausage, Pinsa Romana with Beyond Mince and Bougatsa pie with Beyond Mince were all truly great, and one would never know the difference between this mince and regular beef mince. Flavorsome, with great texture, juicy and with no after-taste or odd smell, they are truly a godsend for vegans who miss meat.
The company also sells fish-replacement products, which are otherwise extremely rare to find in the Greek market. Their range is based around products by the brand Good Catch Such as breaded Fish Fillets, Fish-Free Tuna-Style Frozen Flakes, and various fish cakes.
I tried the Thai-style Fish-Free Cakes, which I served myself with rice, salad and a drizzle of Sriracha sauce, and although the fish cake texture (fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside) was nice, but I would have liked a slightly richer fish flavor. The same goes for the tasty plant-based Crab-Free Cakes, New England-style, which I used as a mayonnaise-based sandwich filling. Either way, as I was fasting at the time I had these, I was satisfied.
Also supplying the Greek market with meat replacements is the US-based “Product of Greece” esti, which sells a broad range of foods such as Dairy Free Yogurt (plain, vanilla, almond and chocolate, mixed berries, and chocolate flavors), meat balls and burgers.
Esti offers pizza lovers A broad variety of plant-based pizza (meat & cheese, Mediterranean, roast vegetables & feta cheese, spinach & tomato, Margherita), spinach pie, and cheese (sliced mozzarella, cheddar, feta and regular style). Esti also produces an interesting sounding range of dips, many of them (baba ghanoush, various kinds of hummus – including dark chocolate) vegan.