Famous Food in Cyprus
Updated: Jun 7
Cypriot cuisine has similar ingredients and flavors as Greek and Turkish food.
A typical Cypriot dinner begins with appetizers, dips, and salads, followed by meat-heavy mains, and concluding with a light dessert and traditional strong coffee that’s brewed with local beans. Eating together is cultural in this Eastern Mediterranean country and meals are often shared to build relationships and community.
Here are some of the most delicious Cypriot food you should try if you visit Cyprus.
Appetizer (Mezze) & Main Courses
Halloumoti / Hellimli is a Cypriot savory pastry/ bread made with halloumi cheese, it is consisting of flour, water, salt, butter, halloumi cheese, and olive oil.
The flavor can be enhanced with chopped onions and mint.
The dough is traditionally baked in clay ovens until the exterior of the bread became golden color.
Village salad is a rustic and simple salad, it is similar to Greek salad.
Village salad made of tomato, cucumber, whole kalamata olives, and thinly sliced red onion, with the addition of fresh lettuce, then topped with chunks of feta cheese, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with dried oregano.
Literally means “small dishes" from 5-20 dishes. It contains dishes of Pita bread, and a variety of dips* such as tzatziki, taramosalata, and hummus. Ouzo and Arak go best with a meze.
Meze acts as a tasting platter of appetizers, either as an accompaniment with drinks or as the first course. It may also contain salads and desserts.
It can be served hot or cold.
*- Tzatziki – a healthy yogurt dip made with garlic, cucumber, and olive oil;
- Tahini is a paste of crushed sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic;
- Taramosalata, a type of fish roe mixed with pureed potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, and onions;
- Hummus, a traditional pureed chickpea and tahini dip;
- Halloumi, which is grilled and spiced soft goat or sheep’s cheese.
Koupepia is one of the most famous traditional Cyprus dishes.
It is made of grape leaves, stuffed with rice, minced pork, or beef with fresh herbs & other seasonings, then cooked in tomato sauce.
It can be made with meat and served warm or as a vegetarian dish that may be served cold. They can be part of a meze platter or even a main dish.
Stuffed vine leaves, popularly called Dolmades (plural of Dolma) in Greece are the inspiration for Koupepia although its origins are from the Middle East.
Gemista is also a popular dish in Cyprus.
Gemista recipe is the same recipe as Koupepia; Gemista is vegetables usually tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant filled with rice (sometimes with ground meat) and baked in the oven, and served in traditional taverns.
Gemista translates as “ones that are filled”.
This dish can be found commonly throughout Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East.
Halloumi is famous Cypriot cheese that is made from sheep or goat milk.
It has a high melting point which makes it possible to fry and grill.
Halloumi is almost always served in traditional taverns as an appetizer, either raw or grilled.
It can also be served in sandwiches, salads, or with fruit particularly watermelon and wine, it is also served with vegetables, mussels, and other seafood, or small sausages.
Tiropittes / Tiropitas
An appetizer made from phyllo pastry, cheese, and egg mixture, then wrapped in a triangle shape.
Sometimes bechamel sauce is added to the cheese mixture to make it even creamier.
They can be made as individual triangles or even a whole batch in a casserole dish and cut up in squares when needed.
Koubes originate from the Levant region and are basically a torpedo-shaped croquette.
The outer shell is made of bulgur and filled with minced meat, parsley, onion, and spices then coated with Bulgur, flour & egg then fried. These tasty bites are served with lemon wedges, with the zingy zest of the fruit really bringing out the filling flavor.
Stifado is beef stewed in tomato sauce (sometimes with a little bit of red wine) onion, garlic, red wine, and the main spices are cinnamon, bay leaves and, peppercorns.
Meat cut into large pieces and roasted with vegetable oil, is stewed along with vegetables in the pot or deep frying pan for 2-2,5 hours.
The dish is served with potatoes, rice, and vegetables.
Kleftiko is another dish that is slow-cooked, the "lamb's leg" is cooked for several hours- about 4 to 5 hours.
It is marinade with a mix of olive oil, bay leaves, garlic, herbs, lemon, salt, and pepper which is then poured over the lamb and the lamb is then left inside the fridge to marinate overnight or at least for four hours. A different method also uses wine in the marinade which makes it different from Greek cuisine.
It’s cooked in baking paper to save the rich aromas and liquids of the juicy meat. It’s commonly served with potatoes, though they are traditionally cooked separately.
*The name means “stolen lamb” as historically people would steal meat and bury it to be slow-cooked in covered holes in the ground so that no smoke would give away the location of the thieves. Today, it’s cooked in a traditional round, white oven for many hours.
Afelia / Afella
Afelia is a dish made from pork marinated in red wine and cooked with mushrooms, potatoes, and coriander seeds.
The pork is boiled with the spices till the water dries out and then lightly fried in a tava, similar to a saucepan, in olive oil, before the wine is added to it. The spices used most often are coriander seeds, a must, pepper, bay leaves, garlic, and cumin.
The dish is ready when the wine that is added to it gets evaporated too.
Usually served with rice. & yogurt.
Another dish with Greek origins, Afelia was the equivalent of Ovelia in Greece which meant cooked meat.
Souvlakia and sheftalia
Souvlaki or “Souvla” as the Cypriots call it, is thinly sliced meat pieces traditionally lamb, pork, chicken, or sometimes beef – served on top of pita bread with a pickled salad, hummus, and tzatziki, or tahini dip.
It is can be served either as a sandwich in pita bread or on skewers.
The meat can be accompanied by sheftalia.
Sheftalies are small patties of minced pork, or lamb wrapped in caul fat & spiced with herbs, cinnamon, parsley, and onion it can be baked in the oven, fried in the pan, or grilled.
The dish is served with potatoes, fresh vegetable salad, and lemon. which are spiced sausage parcels with herbs, minced pork, or lamb that are grilled, there are vegetarian options too, with mushroom and halloumi.
It is served with yogurt spread (‘tzatziki’), and fried potatoes.
Souvla is another popular meat dish that looks like Russian shashlik. The difference is simple: before cooking souvla you do not have to do anything with lamb or pork (just cut meat into big portions, salt and roast on the open fire for an hour and a half), while the meat for shashlik needs to be marinated first.
Souvla is usually served with raw vegetable salad, fried pita bread, and Halloumi cheese.
Kolokouthkia me ta afka (courgettes with eggs)
This dish is part of mezze dishes, it consists of fried courgettes with scrambled eggs in olive oil sprinkled with salt.
Served with a side of salad and is mostly an accompaniment to the main meal.