The food in Cyprus is among the finest in the world. Healthy and filling, traditional Cyprus food dishes make the most of seasonal ingredients. Here are 10 of the best Cypriot dishes, and tips on where to eat in Cyprus.
Cyprus Food Dishes
Cyprus food has some similarities with Greek and Turkish cuisine, however each dish has its own unique flavor.
Cyprus Fruit and Vegetables
Thanks to its dry climate, you’ll find an abundance of fruit and vegetables in Cypriot food. Kolokasi, also known as taro, is a popular root vegetable which is poisonous if eaten raw. Always cooked before eating, kolokasi is usually diced and served in stews.
Other popular crops in Cyprus include lemons, oranges, apples, carobs and olives. Cyprus boasts the healthiest olive oil in the world!
Atsas Organic Farm produces an olive oil from Kalamon olives with a record-breaking phenolic content of 3660 mg/kg. Pomegranates are also plentiful and used in salads as well as desserts.
The Ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love planted pomegranate trees on the island of Cyprus. You can enjoy a delicious dessert of pomegranates, yogurt and oranges at The Mill Hotel in East Troodos.
They love cheese in Cyprus! It’s quite healthy on the whole, with feta and Cypriot halloumi cheese being popular.
Halloumi cheese originates from Cyprus and is semi-hard. It is sometimes made from cow’s milk although previously made with a mix of cow and sheep’s milk.
When you visit Cyprus, we also recommend trying graviera cheese in pastry and manouri cheese with honey and balsamic glaze. You can sample the latter dish at Piatsa Gourounaki on Ledra Street in Nicosia. It’s a very friendly restaurant that serves large portions.
A typical breakfast in Cyprus includes fresh figs, tomatoes, cucumber, grilled halloumi or soft white Anari cheese and boiled eggs. You may also be served Cypriot sausage known as loukanika and lountza which is smoked pork tenderloin.
Breakfast is accompanied with fresh psomi bread topped with sesame seeds, nuts, yogurt and honey.
Cypriot Main Courses
Many dishes in Cyprus contain meat, including moussaka and afelia, which is cubed pork meat cooked in red wine with coriander seeds. Sheftalia is a sausage made from minced lamb and pork, red onion and parsley, enveloped in caul fat.
Fresh fish is also in abundance, with river trout being a specialty of the Troodos Mountains. The Mill Hotel in Kakopetria is a good place to sample it.
Squid and octopus are used in quite a few Cypriot seafood dishes. We were impressed by the grilled squid with ouzo at Pantopoleio Kali Orexi and the prawn linguine at The Gym, a stylish Nicosia restaurant and shop.
You should also try the mussels at Kokouvayia Bistro and Bar and the tuna steak with a herb crust and sesame seeds at Vino Cultura, which are both in Nicosia.
If you’re looking for healthy dining options, Zest Coffee + Kitchen in Nicosia is a great choice. They have a regularly changing menu of homemade vegetarian lasagne, salads and salmon pie.
Most of the restaurants that we mentioned above stay open until late. For example, Vino Cultura has regular jazz nights.
Baklava was originally a Middle Eastern dessert. It’s a tasty mix of filo pastry and chopped nuts, drenched in honey. Flaounes are sweet and savoury pastries made at Easter time, containing halloumi cheese.
Loukoumades are small deep-fried honey puffs while shamali is a semolina cake. One of the most popular Cypriot desserts are spoon sweets. These are preserves of fruit such as cherries, dates, apricots and grapes, served with a glass of cold water.
You can see spoon sweets being made in the Troodos Mountains, at Nikis Sweets in Agros. This cottage industry mainly employs local women.
They make Cypriot Soutzioukos sweets with no added preservatives, just almonds or walnuts dipped in grape juice, rosewater and wholewheat flour. The spoon sweets then dry on special racks.
Another good place to buy spoon sweets is from Eleni’s Homemade Sweets in Farmakas. Traditionally offered as a gesture of hospitality to house guests, these days they are sold in jars and eaten one at a time as they’re very sweet!
One of the most popular drinks in Cyprus is coffee. There’s a strong coffee shop culture in Cyprus and COFFEEHOUSE TasteHabitat is one of the best places to enjoy it.
They have branches in Nicosia, Larnaca, Paphos and Latsia, with Limassol opening soon. You can get signature coffee cocktails here, together with salads, sandwiches and cookies.
Traditional Cypriot coffee is prepared in a small long-handled copper pot, called a mbriki. As it is quite strong, you’d normally drink it with a glass of water on the side.
Cocktails are also widely drunk in Cyprus, with the brandy sour being the most popular. Made from Cypriot pomace brandy, it’s informally considered to be the national cocktail of Cyprus. Head to Skinny Fox in Nicosia for some of the best mixology cocktails.
Although Cyprus wines are somewhat under the radar, the Cypriot wine industry is actually the 50th in the world by quantity. Cyprus wine quality is pretty good too, with many award-winning wineries.
Commandaria wine is one of the oldest wines in the world. This sweet dessert wine tastes a bit like port and can be drunk or used in cooking, for example with sauteed mushrooms. Try a selection of Cypriot wines at Vino Cultura in Nicosia, which is also a great tapas restaurant.
Tsiakkas Winery is family-run and located 30 minutes from Limassol in Pelendri. They’ve won many awards for their Tsiakkas Commandaria, as well as their red and white wines.
Santa Irene Winery in Farmakas village has also won awards for its wines. They specialize in two grape varieties, the local red Mavro Ambelisimo, and white Xynisteri variety.
This state of the art winery produces up to 50,000 bottles a year. Their wine labels are designed by the owner’s daughter.
You can take a vineyard tour and see the earthenware pots formerly used for wine production. Eat at Ierambelos fusion cuisine restaurant, which has great views of the vines.
1. Cypriot Meze
The word meze means little delicacies and Cypriot meze certainly live up to their reputation. These small dishes are similar to tapas in their variety.
First, there’s a selection of dips, olives and salads which usually include hummus, tahini and taramosalata, a fish roe dip. You’ll also most likely be served melitzanosalata, a baked eggplant dip and tzatziki which is made with yogurt, cucumber and olive oil.
These dips will be accompanied by pita or other homemade bread. Next up are generally vegetables and cheeses, such as beetroot, pickled cauliflower, grilled halloumi and feta.
There’s usually more to come, including pastourma spicy sausages, lountza pork fillet and stuffed vine leaves. Surprisingly, meze are followed by main courses although you’re probably feeling pretty full by now!
A good place to enjoy delicious hot and cold Cypriot meze cooked on a Josper grill is at Ierambelos in Farmakas. This is a scenic wine growing area of the Troodos Mountains.
2. Lamb Kleftiko
A hearty Cypriot dish, kleftiko is lamb marinaded in garlic, cinnamon and lemon. The word kleftiko means stolen in Greek. It’s thought that hundreds of years ago, if someone stole a goat or sheep, they would cook it in a hole in the ground and seal the top so that no one would spot smoke rising.
These days, it’s lamb that is used to make kleftiko. The meat is really tender due to the slow marinade and being cooked in parchment pouches.
You can enjoy a delicious homemade lamb kleftiko at Matheos Restaurant on Onasagorou Street in Nicosia. It’s a very casual restaurant with a few tables overlooking the high school. They serve the kleftiko with rice and potatoes so watch out if you’re limiting carbs ;-).
Koupepia are vine leaves stuffed with ground pork, beef mince or veal and rice. They are similar to dolmades in Greek cuisine, but cooked with lemon juice and tomato.
Vine leaves have several health benefits, being rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins A and C. Eating them may help to regulate your blood glucose level and protect your nervous system.
4. Cypriot Village Salad
Salads are an important part of Cyprus food. Cypriot salad is traditionally served as one of the mezes or with main dishes such as stifado.
This healthy dish is made with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, green peppers and crumbled feta cheese. It also often includes chopped onions, capers or caper leaves. A Cyprus village salad is usually dressed with lemon juice or vinegar.
You can enjoy tasty Greek Cypriot salads at Valtou Rigani in Nicosia, as well as at Ambelikos AgroHotel in the Troodos Mountains. A popular variant is the Cypriot grain salad, with cracked wheat or freekeh.
Popular in Greece as well as Cyprus, keftedes are pork or pork and beef meatballs, often served with Cypriot pita bread. The Cypriot version often contains grated potato as well as bread.
They’re seasoned with parsley and also sometimes with mint. Keftedes are usually served with fried potatoes, salad and a yogurt dressing.
A delicious Cypriot meat and onion stew, stifado is a great Winter warmer. The word stifado is thought to come from the Italian term stufa, meaning oven.
Stifado was brough to Cyprus by the Venetians and can be made with beef, rabbit, tripe or even octopus. Whole small onions are simmered in red wine for several hours. The casserole is then served with pilaf or homemade bread.
7. Cypriot Souvla
The difference between Greek souvlaki and Cypriot souvla is that the Cyprus dish is cooked further away from the hot coles. The meat pieces are also cooked for longer on low heat.
Home barbecues are an important part of Cypriot culture, and most families have a foukou or rotisserie barbecue. Souvla is often made with pork shoulder although lamb or chicken can also be used.
These succulent meat skewers are brushed with oil, salt, wine or oregano during cooking. This gives the meat a very tender taste.
8. Chicken Orzo
Orzo is a type of pasta that rather confusingly looks like a grain of rice! This wheat-semolina flour pasta is used quite a lot in Cyprus, for Greek orzo salad and also in tray bakes.
Chicken orzo is generally prepared with sun-dried or cherry tomatoes, feta or halloumi cheese and oregano. You can taste a delicious version at Lush Beach Bar Resto in Larnaca.
Enjoy corn-fed chicken breast served on wild mushrooms with halloumi orzotto, sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus and parmesan flakes.
9. Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Known as kolokithoanthoi in Cyprus, these stuffed courgette flowers are as tasty as they look. The original recipe is an appetizer vegan dish.
They are also sometimes served as a main course with meat added. This zucchini dish really symbolizes Summer.
The zucchini flowers should be prepared just after they are picked or placed in cold water if you can’t start the recipe preparation immediately. As well as zucchini flowers, fresh herbs such as mint and parsley are usually included, together with grated carrots or fennel and chopped red onions or scallions.
Finish your Cypriot meal with a pastry-based dessert. Kataifi is a sweet treat containing kataifi dough, cloves, cinnamon, walnuts and honey. You can also use almonds or pistachios.
Originally served at Christmas in Cyprus, kataifi is now enjoyed all year round. If you’re making this recipe abroad and can’t get hold of kataifi dough, substitute it with shredded filo pastry.
This sweet dessert is popular in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. One of the best places to enjoy kataifi in Cyprus is at Valtou Rigani. They have restaurants in Larnaca and Nicosia, and serve the kataifi with cream in a jar.
This filling is wrapped in buttered filo, baked, and then drenched in syrup to give it a unique crispy-yet-sticky texture.
As you can see, the food of Cyprus is truly delicious!
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