Authentic Cretan Salad: Dakos

July 9, 2014
Cretan Salad Dakos

The most known Cretan salad is what we call kritikos dakos. It is delicious, it is healthy, it is the ultimate representation of the Mediterranean diet, straight from Crete.

First of all it’s been described as a Greek bruschetta, but it isn’t, it is a bit different. Here’s what it is: Dakos specifically refers to a recipe that uses the famous Cretan barley rusks. These rusks are made with whole grain barley flour, water and salt. They are super hard and super healthy. You can find the recipe here >>
Also dakos includes olive oil, tomato, and crumbled cheese, traditionally this cheese is Cretan mitzithra but you often see it (outside of Crete) made with feta.

And that’s it. Sometimes there may be a few capers scattered around, but really it is just tomato, rusk and olive oil.

Nutritional Value of the Cretan Salad

Nutrition wise, I cannot think of a better dish for anything really…salad, appetizer, meze, main course.

First of all let’s talk about the paximadi (rusk), these are traditionally made with barley flour (whole grain), salt and yeast. Barley contains a type of fiber known as soluble fiber that helps lower the bad cholesterol (LDL). But it also contains beta-glucan a component of carbohydrates found only in specific grains such as barley, that appear to also lower cholesterol but also lower blood sugar and provide better control of insulin. Barley has also been found to lower blood pressure and reduce hunger and increase satiety.

The tomato and olive oil as you may already know, are excellent sources of antioxidants (and the oregano if you add it). The olive oil also gives all that good fat (and favor) and the cheese is your source of protein and calcium.

Yes, this is a complete meal, but also a healthy meal for several reasons: It is a rich source of fiber, it fills you up, it provides antioxidants and vitamins, it contains good carbs, good fats and protein.

I will say that if you do not have Cretan rusks to use thick whole grain bread that is toasted or you can make them, check my recipe here.  They are so healthy and can be used for the dakos, you can crumble them in salads or just eat them with a bit of olive oil and oregano. And they a have a long shelf life. If you don’t want to make them you can buy them, I did a quick search and even Amazon carries several Greek brands.

Cretan Salad Dakos

The recipe is straightforward and only takes a few minutes. Make sure you grate the tomato, I’ve seen recipes with chopped tomato, but grated tomato is how it is usually served. This makes the dish even more enjoyable: you have the top layer with the soft and smooth tomato-cheese mixture and below a crunchy but juicy barley rusk crust. I also load these with a lot of tomato. I actually used almost one medium tomato for each dakos.

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Authentic Cretan Salad: Dakos

Cretan Salad Dakos
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
This authentic Cretan Salad includes crunchy barley rusk soaked in olive oil and topped with tomato and cheese.
Course: Appetizer, lunch
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean
Keyword: Cretan Salad
Servings: 4
Author: Elena Paravantes
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  • Grate the tomatoes do not drain all the liquids.
  • Pass the rusk under running water (very quickly) and place on a plate. (Skip this step if you using bread). Cretan rusks are very hard but you do not want to soften them too much, you do not want a soggy dakos. It should still be crunchy but easily breakable.
  • Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and let it absorb. (Please note that here in Greece we often add much more olive oil, but this amount works fine).
  • Spoon the tomato on top, covering the whole rusk and then add the crumbled cheese.
  • Drizzle with another teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Top with a Kalamata olive
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Leave a comment or share on instagram and mention @greekdiet
Photo by Elena Paravantes

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  • Reply Lori May 6, 2023 at 12:13 am

    Absolutely loved this recipe and will be doing again.

    Highly recommend your cookbook – have tried a number of recipes, thank you.5 stars

  • Reply Chrysoula Holtzhauer March 26, 2022 at 10:59 pm

    Yes, but you must add red onions!!! Excellent recipe!5 stars

  • Reply Betsy October 28, 2021 at 12:10 am

    I have just received a bag of dakos Barley rusks! Very excited to try them. I’ve read your recipe and feel silly but I can’t picture how you actually eat it? Will it be a pick-it-up type food? Or fork and knife? My husband and I are so surprised at how extremely hard they are! But it sounds like something we’d like!
    With much thanks for explanations about why I’m eating what I’m eating!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN October 28, 2021 at 7:09 am

      Hi Betsy! Yes, the rusks should be hard, but before you eat them, you pass them under running water and then you add some olive oil before topping them with tomatoes etc. So you will break the rusk with a fork and getting a forkful of the broken ruks some tomatoes and cheese (you can use a knife to push it on your fork-but you can pretty much break/crack the rusk with the fork only). If it is a small ruk you can eat by hand like you would a bruschetta.

      • Reply Betsy October 30, 2021 at 3:19 pm

        Thank you for your advice! The tomatoes are unappealing this time of year. I passed the rusk under water, put olive oil on, then feta. I was impatient to try it and should have let it soak a bit more but it broke apart like you said! Very pleasant taste. I’m looking for other ways to eat them. Next I will need to find barley flour! Think I’ll need to order it online

  • Reply Gail Dunning June 1, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    I am in love with this salad! The other day, I had one for breakfast. I make mine with Krisp bread as shown in the cookbook.

    I can’t find my grater, so I semi purée cherry tomatoes in my mini chopper. This creates lots of juice. I use lots of tomatoes. Today I put a few thin slices of avocado on the bottom, piled on the tomatoes, added a bit of Feta,sliced a couple of olives, plus oregano – very yummy and very messy!

    I read the label on my Trader Joe’s kalamata olives. They actually come from Greece.

    I think homemade is always good, as well as authentic commercial barley rusks, if you can find them. I did buy a pack of Ezekiel English muffins to try. I let one sit out on the counter and it got very hard. You wouldn’t be able to eat it without “pre-treating” it. I broke off a piece to taste. It is very coarse grained and has sesame seeds. It looks like the pic associated with the recipe above. I thought it tasted good. I think a little water, the juice from the tomatoes and the olive oil will soften it up fine.5 stars

  • Reply Gail Dunning February 12, 2021 at 2:45 am

    Today I found some Myzrithra cheese at the grocery. I took a Swedish multi-grain crisp bread and rubbed a few cherry tomatoes over the rough surface. I put a couple of thin slices of the cheese on the tomatoes, added some oregano and a fairly generous glug of olive oil and was that ever good!

    Somewhere Elena said Myzrithra cheese is typically used in Crete for Dakos. I was surprised to see it at the local grocery. Made in Italy – go figure.

  • Reply Tom June 23, 2019 at 11:42 am

    would love to know where I can find Barley Rusk

  • Reply DeAnna Reiman August 21, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    I’m just starting to follow a Mediterranean diet and it is perfect timing to find your site. I’m going to serve the Cretan Dakos today to my family.

  • Reply Karen September 6, 2014 at 1:33 am

    Love Dakos! Love Cretan Rusk! But as I am generally gluten-free, they sometimes give me a little tummy trouble the day after…As a nutritionist and a consumer I have to say I LOVE your site, FB page and all the information in it. We recently came back from a 2 week holiday in Kythera (I am half Kytherian) and am still living in the dream of beautiful Greek food and clear waters. We live in Singapore, and not always easy to get both! Do you recommend a good gluten free version of the cretan rusk?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN September 6, 2014 at 7:07 am

      Thank you Karen! I love Kythera! We have family there and have been several times.

      Perhaps the tummy trouble is due to the high fiber if this dish. Unless you have celiac or some other diagnosed allergy, the gluten may not be what causes those symptoms.

      For a gluten free version, the only thing one would do was use gluten free bread or make their own rusks without the barley flour. However, then it would no longer be a Dakos, nor would it have the health benefits of the barley.

  • Reply lagatta à montréal August 23, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    People in the Maghreb (North Africa) also eat a lot of barley bread, and I can easily find it in Montréal, where there is a large Maghrebi population (whether Muslim or Sephardic Jewish). There is also barley couscous, which is a very nutritious food.

  • Reply hanneke July 13, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I’m enjoying your site so much!
    I hope I may ask an off topic question: My neighbour, here on Crete, brought me some striped, a bit hairy, vegetables. They look a bit like cucumbers/courgettes.
    I googled but no result. Do you happen to know this mysterious vegetable and how to prepare it? Thank you!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks Hanneke! Not sure what that can be. Maybe some sort of wild variety of zucchini. You can try making a lathero with it.

      • Reply eni July 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

        The striped, hairy vegetable is the local, delicious cucumber. It is usualy very crunchy and smells heavenly. Wash it well, peel it and eat it just with a bit of salt.

        • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 16, 2014 at 6:04 am

          Thanks Eni! Would love to have some of those.

        • Reply hanneke July 19, 2014 at 5:50 pm

          Thanks a lot Eni,You are right it is delicious and tastier than the regular cucumber! How lucky we are to have such wonderful vegetables on Crete!

          • Dimitri February 10, 2016 at 2:50 am

            It’s called ksylaggouro, which literally translated to wooden cucumber. I agree it’s the best thing ever.

  • Reply Steven July 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Is this also known as κουκουβάγια?

  • Reply Zuzanna July 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Sounds very delicious:) Hope to find barley rusks in Poland.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks Zuzanna! There are online stores that can deliver cretan rusks anywhere in Europe too.

  • Reply The Olive and The Sea July 9, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Dakos! So delicious! I love how your post addresses the nutritional benefits and recipe differences between the Cretan and Greek version. Great site with wonderful information and recipes!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks! I think it is important that foods tastes good buy can also be good for you.

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