The Real Greek Salad. How to Make it, How to Eat it and Why it’s good for you.


The Greek salad is one of the most popular and well-known Greek dishes outside and inside Greece. Greeks love the horiatiki, which means village in Greek. In the summer months it is present on most Greek tables at home and at the tavernes.

It is basically a salad made with tomato, cucumber, olive oil, olives and feta and there are variations around Greece. For example on the islands another white soft cheese is used instead of feta cheese and in Crete there is the well-known dakos; tomato and feta (or other local white cheese) piled on a large barley rusk that has been soaked with a bit of water and olive oil.

Before we go on with the recipe, we need to make some clarifications and correct some misconceptions.

Here are some rules of the Greek salad:

  • There is no lettuce or any other leafy greens in the salad.
  • The salad is not mixed before it is served.
  • The feta cheese is not cut in cubes but rather a large piece is placed on top of the salad.
  • The tomato and cucumber should be cut in fairly large pieces not small cubes.
  • There is no red pepper in the traditional Greek salad.
  • The salad is served with bread, not pita.
  • The salad is served in a shallow bowl; do not serve it in a deep bowl.
  • Use the best ingredients. As with most simple dishes, the horiatiki needs excellent ingredients. Make sure you have extra virgin olive oil, in season ripe tomatoes, juicy Greek black olives, good fragrant oregano and real feta (Greek) cheese…
  • Some folks here in Greece do not add vinegar. Vinegar is added  due to the cucumber (mostly in homemade Greek salads). The women in my family added it, but for an outside resource you can check the Tselementes cookbook (a classic and one of the first widespread Greek cookbooks) also mentions vinegar.

The Real Greek Salad.

The Real Greek Salad.


  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber,
  • 5-6 Greek black olives
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 chunk of feta about 1 ½ to 2 ounces,
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Oregano
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt


  1. Cut the tomato in wedges-do not cut in cubes.
  2. Peel the cucumber and cut in slices that are about ½ inch thick, you may cut the rounds in half.
  3. Cut onion in thin slices.
  4. Put tomatoes and cucumbers in a shallow bowl and combine. Place the thinly sliced onion
  5. on top. Add the olives.
  6. Drizzle with some olive oil and a splash of vinegar.* Add some salt to taste.
  7. Place a piece of feta on top and sprinkle the whole salad with oregano.


*You can also add some green bell pepper and capers.

* I do not usually measure out the oil, but if you are, just use the ratio 2:1 for the olive oil and vinegar. Don’t skimp on the olive oil, you don’t want it to be drowning in it but the salad should be coated in the oil.

How to eat a Greek salad

Yes there is a special way to eat this salad for maximum enjoyment.

1. With your fork break the big chunk of feta.

2. With your fork grab a piece of feta, a tomato and whatever else you can manage and eat it.

3. If you want to be polite you can spoon out a serving on your plate, but the beauty of the Greek salad is that it is best consumed directly from the serving plate. That way you have a choice of the different combinations you can eat with your fork; tomato & feta or cucumber, pepper and olive? The combinations are endless. Why limit yourself to a small serving on your plate? I personally cannot enjoy a Greek salad if I can’t just eat it directly from the serving dish.

4. If you’re really comfortable with the other people at the table, grab a chunk of bread and dip it in the leftover mixture of olive oil, juices from the tomato and crumbles of the feta.

Nutritional Value of the Horiatiki – Greek Salad

Juicy red tomatoes, crisp cucumber, sharp onion, olive oil and of course … feta. I love the horiatiki salad, because it is healthy and almost decadent at the same time, just like most Greek food.

The horiatiki salad that usually serves as an appetizer, can be an excellent main course, especially in the summer. After a day on the beach, a horiatiki salad accompanied with some crusty bread and a glass of wine hits the spot. But this salad is not only about looks, it has substance too. Rich in fiber and antioxidants due to a combination of tomato, onion and olive oil. Feta cheese is the perfect complement, providing the necessary protein. How many calories? A whole horiatiki salad will provide you with about 600 calories, 100% of your daily vitamin C needs, and 50% of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin B2.

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  • Reply Maria May 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I love the Greek salad just like you describe it. Don’t understand why one gets it so often with lettuce in other parts of the world! And with sun-warm tomatoes makes the best. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD May 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Thanks Maria! You’re right, the tomatoes are the secret to its success.

    • Reply Lorna September 22, 2012 at 1:29 am

      It is a filler not as expensive

    • Reply Breffni April 19, 2016 at 3:24 am

      I have lost 25 pounds in 3 months having early dinners of hiriotiki salad as main course almost every night

  • Reply artemis June 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Lovely blog! Though I have to say I have never heard of a horiatiki with vinegar. The secret is to salt the tomatoes and let them sit for a few minutes (10-20) before finishing the salad. The salt brings out the tomato’s juices and is all of the acid you need.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD June 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Thank you Artemis. Nice tip! The vinegar is added for the cucumber.

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  • Reply Jan July 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Just had a fantastic 10 days in Greece. Greek salads uniformly great although in Athens they did add lettuce — but very little

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD July 9, 2013 at 5:53 am

      Thanks for sharing Jan.

    • Reply Little Cooking Tips June 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

      It was probably a modernized version Jan:) We really don’t add lettuce in Athens:)

  • Reply Margarita August 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks for the recipe! Greek choriatiki salad is probably the tastiest salad I have ever tried and it is one the best options for a light summer dinner. However, as Artemis mentioned, the real Greek choriatiki salad does NOT contain vinegar.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you Margarita,
      Actually vinegar is added as I mentioned earlier due to the cucumber (mostly in homemade Greek salads). The women in my family added it, but for an outside resource you can check the Tselementes cookbook (a classic and one of the first widespread Greek cookbooks) also mentions vinegar.

      • Reply kiki August 25, 2013 at 6:38 pm

        The vinegar goes great with tomatoes too. I just enjoyed one delicious “horiatiki” that I made.

        • Reply Elena Paravantes RD August 26, 2013 at 7:38 am

          Thanks Kiki!

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  • Reply evangelos mitsakos April 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Elena
    just a few observations about Greek salad
    1.there are green peppers
    2.onion has to be red
    3.olives have to be kalamata olives


  • Reply Elena Paravantes RD April 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you for your tips Evangelos! Exactly, that is why I clarify that there are no red peppers 🙂 Although I may disagree with you on the olives, although I love kalamon, have tasted wonderful Greek salads from other Greek olive varieties.

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  • Reply Little Cooking Tips June 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Beautiful work Elena! BRAVO! A PROPER GREEK SALAD!!!:) You forgot to mention the green bell pepper in the ingredients, which is of course added in the salad in your photos:)
    Again, thank you for sharing an authentic Greek salad!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD June 6, 2014 at 6:40 am

      Thanks for your comment. In some versions, green pepper is optional (I note that additional options in the recipe), but yes in the restaurants green crunchy pepper is always present.

  • Reply Nick July 27, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I make it with red onion, cucumbers(same amount of slices as tomatoes), tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta, olive oil and a touch of vinegar, salt and pepper.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD July 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

      Thanks Nick for your version

  • Reply UC August 25, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I loved this recipe! As a typical foreigner, I had never reacted to restaurant “Greek Salads” served with lettuce and cubed Feta cheese … After tasting the true version, I rather spend my money on really fresh organic ingredients and make this at home instead of eating a fake version at a restaurant. Thanks so much for educating me!

  • Reply stabros lazarakis March 18, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    i prepare my salad in a bowl, all the ingridients except feta, properly seasoned and leave those sit for 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature (olives brings out their flavour, cucumber, onions and peppers ‘cook’ a bit in the acid and tomatoes drain a bit of water and oil transfers all flavours in vegetables of oregano and dill ,that i use to add..) than i fill up my huge plate (i have a plate reserved just for horiatiki) adding feta more oregano and a waterfall of green gold Elaklion oil (of my production) that’s it…haven…and if u want to exaggerate, let the salad rest with some paxamadi crumbled in it before serving! (i have to stop…i’m gonna eating the screen)

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD March 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      Sounds good Stabros!

  • Reply Yianni May 9, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Right on the money! I don’t add salt in my Greek salad though. The capers provide the sodium. I guess for those in salt sensitive diet it works. Oh and for those who want to add a different type of cheese other than feta, Myzithra is a good choice.

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  • Reply Scott K. November 8, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    File this under sacreligious: I will add avocado to my horiatiki. Don’t knock it until you try it. I call it my California Greek Salad.

    I also use heirloom tomatoes whenever possible, and hothouse cukes. Never lettuce, only kalamatas for me. I’ve been to Greece twice, and I’ll make a complete meal of horiatiki, hummus, and spanakopita.

    My other favorite salad is heirloom tomato with avocado, sprinkled with white balsamic vinegar, sometimes with onion. Simple and delicious, no oil necessary.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD November 21, 2015 at 7:38 am

      Avocado is great, and it is a great combo with tomato. Just clarifying what a “Greek” salad really is.

  • Reply Clarence November 23, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    A Greek salad with no lettuce? I’ve been doing it wrong for years. Thanks for educating us all.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD December 5, 2015 at 7:48 am

      Thanks Clarence.

  • Reply Eleni January 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm


  • Reply Jeff January 25, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Is it always vinegar, and not that mainstay of Greek cooking, lemon? A good, authentic tzaziki recipe would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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