Apart from the striking landscapes, fascinating sights, labyrinthine alleys and sandy beaches, this diverse cosmopolitan island will amaze you with its rich culinary and winemaking heritage. In the scenic villages, you may well discover locals welcoming you with all sorts of traditional delights, from mezedes accompanied by souma (a local spirit similar to tsipouro or raki) or a few glasses of wine from their personal vines, to delicious home-cooked meals and a cup of strong and flavoursome Greek coffee.
Rhodes grows much of its own food and produces its own wine, the mainstays of Rhodian cuisine being mainly wheat, olives and wine, legumes and dairy products. One cannot overlook the importance of legumes in the diet of Rhodians. Rhodes’ ‘lopia Katavias’, a traditional PDO bean variety, are small-grain beans with delicate peels that boil very quickly. What’s more bulgur replaces rice in almost all Rhodian recipes; in the stuffed vegetables, in soups, in meat fillings, adding nutritional value to all local recipes. One thing that needs to be highlighted is that the spice, cumin features quite heavily in Rhodian dishes unlike the rest of Greece – well, not to this extent at least. Interestingly, locals call it ‘lingering smell’.
Favourite flavours of Rhodes are the local mizithra cheese, the wide selection of olive oils, the pickled caper leaves, the fresh olive oil, and the rich local honey. Ottoman Turks, Venetians, Franks, even the Italians in the first half of the 20th century, have left their mark on what we today call ‘Rhodian flavours’, and once you have tasted our unique world-renowned cuisine you will not need any other reason to return.
The abundance of all kinds of eateries on the island offers not only delectable traditional dishes that follow age-old recipes passed down through generations, but also take traditional elements and incorporate them in contemporary flavour combinations and new cooking techniques. Below we have compiled a list that includes most but not all, of the local dishes of Rhodes, as there are many with many variations depending on the region of the island you happen to try them in. However, these top picks will give you a fairly comprehensive guide on what to order to experience the best of Rhodian gastronomy.
AVRANIES: A local variety of asparagus found in the wild, prepared with olive oil and onions and drizzled with a lemon sauce.
PITAROUDIA: One of the most popular Rhodian delicacies, pitaroudia are fried round ‘patties’ of pureed chickpeas with finely chopped mint, onions, and tomato.
VOLOI ME PLIGOURI: A local appetiser that consists of bulgur wheat, minced meat and tomato.
SALAMOGIA: Myzithra Cheese (unsalted soft cheese made from ewes’ milk) in Brine with Peppercorns.
TZATZIKI: A refreshing side dish made from strained yogurt, cucumber and garlic.
HORTA: Boiled Greens. Very healthy, with Lemon (or Vinegar) and Olive Oil
MELIASTI: Feta Cheese wrapped in Filo (Phyllo) and topped with Honey and Sesame.
FETA STI SHARA: Grilled Feta Cheese topped with slices of Tomatoes, Mild Pepper, Oregano, and Olive Oil, wrapped in foil
REGGA: Smoked Herring in olive oil.
CHTAPODI XYDATO: Marinated Octopus in traditional Greek Style.
SKORDALIA: A surprisingly delicious dip made with Bread, Garlic and Olive Oil.
KARAVOLOI: Snails prepared in olive oil with onion, tomato, fresh pepper, bay leaves, and lots and cumin.
CHTAPODOKEFTEDES: deep-fried octopus ‘meatballs’ prepared with lots of local herbs.
LIVER “FLEGMONI”: Tasty appetiser. Cooked liver with olive oil. Very common in the villages.
DOLMADES: Cabbage, stuffed with minced pork and oatmeal. Accompanied by egg and lemon sauce.
POUGGIA: Pies filled with wild greens.
MILLA AND TSIRIGIA: From the fat of the pig that has a little meat. Placed over low heat until the fat has melted completely. Tsirigia is the cut that remains in the strainer when the fat has drained. Milla is a pure fat and replaces butter in pasta, in risotto, in pies, fried eggs and other food. It gives great flavour. It’s eaten spread on bread with sugar or salt.
MATSI: Definitely of the top 3 of Rhodes’ most popular dishes, matsi is handmade pasta cooked in meat stock instead of water, and enriched with lots of cheese and butter. Matsi pasta can be served with either lentils, chickpeas or even beans.
KOULOURIA: again, a pasta thickened with loads of grated cheese. It is traditionally served at weddings and other official celebrations.
SOUPIORIZO: A delicious risotto with squid.
GARIDAKI SYMIAKO: Little fried Shrimp (from Symi Island ) can be eaten whole
MARIDES: Small deep-fried fish that can be eaten whole, heads bones and all
BAKALIAROS SKORDALIA: Cod in Garlic Sauce
GARIDES ME FETA – Shrimp with Feta Cheese
MYDIA ME TOMATA & SKORDO: Mussels with Tomato and Garlic.
TSOUKA: This is a Rhodian stew that includes trahana (a fermented mixture of grain and yogurt or fermented milk) and bulgur wheat. Tsouka is traditionally made with goat meat (and sometimes veal) and is truly one of the most delicious dishes of Rhodes. The crisp crust that forms on the top of the pot is simply to-die-for!
GEMISTA: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and zucchini stuffed with mince, rice or bulgar, onion, tomato and parsley. Sometimes they are also prepared without mince.
MOUSSAKA and PASTICCIO (or Pastitsio): These dishes are part of the modern Greek cuisine and are also widespread in other areas of the country. Their main ingredients are mince and bechamel sauce. Mousaka is made with fried potatoes and vegetables (zucchini and eggplant), while Pasticcio is made with minced meat and pasta.
ORNITHA ME LOUKOUMI: ‘ornitha’ means ‘chicken’ in Greek and is a chicken dish consisting of rice, giblets, onions and herbs. It is traditionally served with local chylopites – an egg-based homemade pasta that is also referred to as ‘loukoumi’.
LAKANI: is a local dish that refers to the ceramic pot (lakani) it is cooked in. This delicious dish consists of veal, goat or lamb meat slow-cooked in tomato sauce inside a traditional wood oven and served with roughly-ground wheat or chondros.
RIFIKI: One of the tastiest local recipes is ‘Rifiki’ – a baby goat stuffed with wheat or rice, liver, onions, tomatoes, and spices. It is similar to the Rhodian Easter dish of ‘pashatis’ or stuffed lamb roasted in the oven.
BARBOUNOFASOULA: Red beans with oil, chopped parsley, onion, tomato, pepper and salt.
GOAT STEW: Traditional recipe from Psinthos village. Goat traditionally cooked with rice and cinnamon.
FISH MARINADA: Fish marinated with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and rosemary.
STIFADO: Rabbit stew with onions in marinade.
PLIGOURI WITH TSIRIGIA: Whole wheat cooked with pork fat and drippings. It becomes like a pilaf.
MELEKOUNI: If you’ve been to Rhodes, then you’ve definitely heard of melekouni; it looks like an almond brittle, but it is not exactly the same in taste and texture. Melekouni is the traditional dessert of the Rhodians for all celebratory events, such as engagements, weddings, births, baptisms, and nominal feasts. It has a soft yet sturdy texture, and contains roasted sesame, honey, almonds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Depending on the season, the mixture is also flavoured with orange, tangerine or citron peels.
KATIMERIA: Small rolls with a hole in the middle filled with honey. Eaten hot or cold. After some time they get softer and tastier.
KATAIFI: a traditional pastry that looks like it is wrapped in shredded wheat, made with Nuts on the inside and soaked in a Sugar or Honey.
XEROTIGANA ARCHANGELOU: Pancakes from Archangelos Village. Made with Olive Oil, Orange juice, Lemon juice Soda Water, and Syrup.
GALACTOBOUREKO: custard baked in filo (phyllo pastry).
MOSCHOPOUGIA: Another acclaimed dessert of Rhodes is moschopougia, which literally translates as ‘good-smelling pouches’. These small, heavenly pies are filled with ground nuts (most often almonds), nutmeg, sugar and are drizzled with rosewater.
TAKAKIA: also known as madinades, takakia are pastries filled with ground nuts, nutmeg, cinnamon & cloves, coated in olive oil and honey. This local dessert is reminiscent of baklava.
TAHINOPITTA: Tahini is an integral ingredient of Rhodes’ cuisine and is used in various ways, even as a fish sauce and in pastries and types of bread.
Tahinopita is a small tahini pie that is coated with a mixture of tahini, sugar, cinnamon and cloves and wrapped in a pastry roll.
FANOUROPITTA: (St Fanourios’ Cake): St Fanourios’ worship started in Rhodes where, according to tradition, the Saint’s icon was found during the excavation of an old temple, outside the city walls. Islanders who have lost something traditionally bake the Saint a “Fanouropita” and ask the Saint to reveal to them that which has been lost. “Fanouropita” also baked at the feast of the Saint (August 27th) and offered to those partaking in the feast as blessing. It is made of flour, wine, water, seed oil, sugar, cinnamon and orange juice.
Don’t leave Rhodes without without sampling the honey. It’s drizzled on pies (both savoury and sweet), poured over yogurt and added to sesame seeds and nuts to produce melekounia bars, served at weddings and baptisms and eaten as an energising snack. You can visit Melissokomiki Dodecanisou (the Beekeeping Company of the Dodecanese), which has gathered a cooperative of around 70 beekeepers and stocks a wonderful variety of honey (thyme, pine, blossom etc) as well as other beehive-derived products (royal jelly, wax and pollen and even shampoos and soaps). And there is an accompanying Bee Museum (the only one in Greece), where you can learn all about the island’s beekeeping tradition since antiquity.
In ancient times, Rhodian wines were marketed throughout the Roman Empire under the brand “God of Sun and the Rose” and became the largest trader of wine.
Although vineyards are found throughout the Dodecanese islands, only Rhodes and in recent years Kos have established themselves as strong cards in the wine-making industry.
For the most part, Rhodes’ vines are cultivated in the area of Kamiros and on the slopes of Attavyros. The road passing through the area of Kamiros to the foot of Mt. Attavyros could easily be characterized as “the road of wine”. This road leads the visitor to the heart of the vines of Rhodes, as well as to most wineries and “souma” distilleries of the island. With vineyards split between lowland and mid-mountainous regions, it’s a chance to appreciate the island beyond its coastline
The climate of Rhodes favours viticulture with its bright sunshine, relatively frequent rain and cool sea breezes that keep temperatures at a moderate level from May to September. The harvest takes place during the early morning hours over a seven-day period. It starts in the second half of August for the white varieties and around the beginning of September for the red varieties.
In Greece, 28 wine varieties are entitled to PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), of which two can be found in Rhodes.
Renowned wines of the varieties Athiri, Mantilaria (PDO of Rhodes) and White Moschato (PDO Moschatos of Rhodes) as well as the local red, sweet wine, also known as “Embonas wine” are produced on Rhodes. However, European varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon have also been successfully introduced.
The PDO Rhodes white wine is produced from at least 70% of the grapes of the Athiri variety and the remaining 30% from the Malagouzia and Assyrtiko varieties. The Athiri variety has been popular on the island since antiquity. It has a very low yield, a fresh fruity taste and a mild aroma.
The PDO Rhodes red wine is produced from at least 70% of the grapes of Amorgiano, while the remaining 30% consists of the Mavratheriko variety. Amorgiano is a rare variety of red grape that grows in the Aegean islands and Crete. The rosé wines it produces are distinguished for their fruity, delicate aroma, while the red wines are characterized by their richness, volume, and spicy notes.
Additionally, Rhodes is the leading supplier of Greek sparkling wines. They combine fruity notes with a crispness and freshness no wine lover can resist. It is no coincidence that some of the sparkling rosé varieties have been characterized as the best sparkling wines in the Mediterranean.
Apart from wines of excellent quality, ouzo (a 40-proof clear alcoholic beverage that is flavored with anise) is very common. Another wine distillation product is “souma”. This is a drink found in almost all coffee shops and taverns. It should not be confused with ouzo as it is produced using a different method and its taste is more similar to “raki” or “tsipouro”. Retsina and local beers are also very popular.
Lastly, Rhodes offers the opportunity to go winetasting. CAIR winery is the leading producer of natural sparkling wine in Greece, and has offered high quality wines since the time of the Italian occupation. Wine fundis should not miss out on their “Muscat of Rhodes” or “White Wine” varieties. Excellent wines are also produced by the Emery Winery, owned by the Triantafyllou family, which has been producing wines on the island since 1923. Both wineries offer tastings and guided tours, either individually or in groups.