The Best Local Foods to Eat in Cyprus

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The Best Local Foods to Eat in Cyprus

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Cyprus boasts a remarkable cheese consumption per person, ranking among the highest globally. This is largely due to the island’s love for halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese that’s both versatile and delicious, often grilled or served fresh.

Additionally, Cyprus delights food enthusiasts with its succulent souvlaki – skewered and grilled meats, often enjoyed with a side of tzatziki, a yogurt-based sauce with cucumber and garlic.

The Cypriot culinary adventure wouldn’t be complete without sampling baklava, a sweet pastry layered with nuts and honey. Each dish reflects Cyprus’s rich gastronomic heritage, inviting visitors to experience flavors that have been perfected over generations.


Meze offers a delightful culinary experience with its colorful selection of small, yet richly flavored dishes, ideal for communal dining and enjoyment. Essential to traditional Cypriot food, meze isn’t just about eating; it represents a social event that fosters dialogue and builds lasting memories among diners. The assortment of dishes in meze displays Cyprus’s culinary wealth through an extensive range of tastes and locally sourced ingredients.

Tzatziki stands out as a favorite among meze options. This smooth yogurt-based sauce, enriched with garlic and cucumber, provides a zesty flavor that enhances the overall meze experience. Another standout is halloumi, a cheese native to Cyprus, known for its unique firm texture and mild saltiness. When grilled, it pairs wonderfully with olives, ripe tomatoes, and freshly baked pita bread.

Seafood enthusiasts shouldn’t miss out on the calamari and octopus dishes. These seafood selections, marinated in a mix of olive oil, lemon, and herbs, highlight the freshness of the Mediterranean. Whether grilled or fried, they offer a taste of the sea that’s both delicate and rich.


Exploring the culinary landscape of Cyprus is incomplete without savoring souvlaki, the island’s signature dish. This Cypriot favorite tantalizes the taste buds with its expertly grilled skewered meat, crisp vegetables, and a harmonious blend of spices. For those seeking the finest souvlaki in Cyprus, consider these five establishments:

  • Zanettos Tavern

In Nicosia’s vibrant core, you’ll find Zanettos Tavern, a familial establishment renowned for its exceptional souvlaki. Here, the pork is marinated to tender perfection and accompanied by freshly baked pita bread.

  • Hellas Restaurant

Limassol’s Hellas Restaurant boasts an impressive selection of souvlaki, featuring chicken, pork, and lamb. Each option is skillfully prepared on an open grill, ensuring a deliciously charred exterior.

  • The Old Bridge

Paphos is home to The Old Bridge, a quaint eatery celebrated for its souvlaki crafted from local produce. Their secret lies in the fusion of succulent meat, crunchy vegetables, and their signature tzatziki sauce.

  • To Koupri

To Koupri, tucked away in Larnaca, promises an innovative take on souvlaki. Diners can select from an array of inventive marinades, such as the zestful lemon herb or the bold spicy paprika, for an enhanced culinary adventure.

  • Antonis Tavern

In the bustling Ayia Napa, Antonis Tavern is acclaimed for its hearty servings and genuine taste. Their souvlaki is an essential experience for visitors and a staple for residents.

While comparing the souvlaki of Cyprus to Greece’s version, discernible distinctions emerge. The Cypriot style often features a more robust marinade, yielding a deeper taste. Additionally, the inclusion of halloumi cheese is a Cypriot twist, introducing a delightful, salty creaminess to the dish. Whether in Cyprus or Greece, souvlaki’s regional nuances are worth appreciating.


Continuing our culinary exploration of Cyprus, let’s now turn our attention to the delectable delight known as halloumi, a cheese that adds a unique and flavorful dimension to the local cuisine.

Halloumi is a traditional Cypriot cheese made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, giving it a rich and creamy texture. It’s known for its distinctive squeaky texture when grilled or fried, making it a popular choice for both locals and tourists alike.

One of the best ways to enjoy halloumi is by trying out different halloumi recipes. From simple grilled halloumi skewers to halloumi salads with fresh Mediterranean vegetables, the possibilities are endless. The salty and tangy flavor of halloumi pairs perfectly with the vibrant flavors of Cyprus, creating a harmonious blend that will leave your taste buds craving for more.

For those looking for halloumi cheese alternatives, there are a few options to consider. Paneer, a popular cheese in Indian cuisine, has a similar texture to halloumi and can be used as a substitute in many dishes. Another alternative is queso blanco, a Latin American cheese that also has a mild and salty taste. While these alternatives may not be exactly the same as halloumi, they can still provide a delicious and satisfying experience.

Whether you choose to enjoy halloumi in its traditional form or experiment with different halloumi recipes, this versatile cheese is sure to leave a lasting impression. Its unique texture and flavor make it a must-try when exploring the local foods of Cyprus.


Tzatziki, a beloved feature of Cypriot food culture, is a yogurt-based sauce that elevates the flavor profile of any meal. This sauce combines Greek yogurt known for its thickness, finely shredded cucumbers, pungent garlic, smooth olive oil, and aromatic herbs like dill or mint. Tzatziki’s adaptability as a condiment means it can enhance a variety of dishes.

Here’s how you can enjoy Tzatziki and the advantages it offers to your health:

  • Classic Tzatziki: The original recipe for Tzatziki is a simple yet delicious blend of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, and herbs. Its refreshing and slightly tangy taste is perfect alongside barbecued meats or as a dip for fresh bread and crunchy vegetables.
  • Fiery Tzatziki: For those who favor spicy flavors, a sprinkle of chili flakes or a few drops of hot sauce can transform the classic Tzatziki into a bold condiment.
  • Citrus-Infused Tzatziki: A splash of fresh lemon juice can enhance Tzatziki with a citrusy sharpness, making it an ideal accompaniment for fish and other seafood.
  • Creamy Avocado Tzatziki: By incorporating mashed avocado, Tzatziki gains a lush, buttery consistency, making it an exceptional choice for roasted veggies or as a flavorful spread on sandwiches.
  • Nutritional Benefits: Tzatziki isn’t just savory; it’s also nutritious. The yogurt in Tzatziki is rich in probiotics, which help maintain a balanced digestive system. Cucumbers contribute hydration and essential nutrients. Garlic has antibacterial effects, and olive oil is a source of beneficial fats for cardiovascular health.

Tzatziki truly captures the essence of Cypriot gastronomy and is a condiment well worth sampling for its taste and health perks. Enjoy this delectable sauce and the culinary journey it represents.


Kleftiko stands out as a hallmark of Cypriot culinary tradition, capturing the island’s flavor profile. The dish’s roots trace back to the Greek ‘kleftis’ or ‘thief’, hinting at its historical preparation by insurgents who cooked stolen lamb underground to remain unnoticed.

Crafting Kleftiko requires patience and care. The lamb marinates in garlic, lemon, olive oil, and a selection of herbs and spices typical of the Mediterranean region. Encased in parchment or foil, the lamb is then gently roasted in a clay oven over several hours. This method yields meat so tender it separates from the bone effortlessly.

The extended roasting period melds the ingredients, enhancing the lamb with the aromatic herbs and spices. Each mouthful offers a rich, flavorful experience. Kleftiko not only reflects Cyprus’s culinary heritage but also the island’s appreciation for time-honored cooking techniques and natural produce.

In Cyprus, Kleftiko is more than just a dish—it’s a culinary event that showcases traditional methods and ingredients. The slow roasting brings out the best in the flavors, resulting in a dish that’s both heartwarming and deeply satisfying. Whether served in a cozy taverna or made at home, Kleftiko offers a genuine slice of Cypriot taste that often leaves diners longing for another helping.


Loukoumades are a traditional Greek sweet treat, known for their crisp golden shell and soft, airy center. These delightful morsels are an essential experience in Cyprus, where they play a significant role in the nation’s food heritage. Let’s delve into why loukoumades are so appealing:

  • Recipe variety: Whether it’s the classic honey and cinnamon-topped loukoumades or innovative versions filled with Nutella or ice cream, there’s a taste for everyone.
  • Cultural roots: In Cyprus, loukoumades have deep historical roots, tracing back to ancient celebrations. They represent prosperity and joy.
  • Taste experience: The pleasure of eating loukoumades comes from their texture and taste contrast. They offer a satisfying crunch followed by a melt-in-your-mouth center.
  • Social aspect: In Cyprus, sharing loukoumades is a way of connecting with others, often enjoyed in gatherings that foster community and joy.
  • Savory options: Beyond sweet, loukoumades are also made with savory fillings like cheese, meats, or veggies, expanding their appeal.

Loukoumades not only taste wonderful but also embody the rich cultural tapestry of Cyprus. Whether you’re sampling the traditional sweet version or exploring savory twists, these treats are a highlight of Cypriot cuisine. Don’t pass up the chance to savor loukoumades when you visit the island.


As I delve into the gastronomic wonders of Cyprus, my focus shifts to Commandaria, an exceptional sweet wine with a storied past and a distinctive taste. Commandaria isn’t just a drink; it’s a treasured part of Cyprus’ cultural heritage, being one of the oldest named wines still in production.

Understanding Commandaria means exploring its captivating history and its meticulous crafting process. This amber-hued wine is made from grapes left to bask in the sun until their natural sugars are concentrated. These sun-dried grapes are then pressed, and their juice is aged in oak barrels for at least two years, a key step that enriches the wine’s character, infusing it with flavors of caramel, dried fruit, and a hint of spice.

The significance of Commandaria to Cypriot culture is profound. Often celebrated as the ‘wine of the gods’, it has a history that stretches back to antiquity, with references in Homer’s epics and a storied presence at feasts for the divine. In contemporary Cyprus, Commandaria remains a hallmark of hospitality and festivity, gracing tables during important celebrations.

Commandaria is a sensory indulgence, whether savored alone or paired with sweets or cheeses. Its smoothness, depth of flavor, and enduring aftertaste are a testament to its legacy.


Baklava is a cornerstone of Cypriot cuisine, with its captivating combination of flaky dough, crunchy nuts, and sweet syrup. This dessert is a staple in Cyprus, reflecting the island’s storied past through its various interpretations.

  • With pistachio baklava, the standard recipe is enhanced by crushed pistachios, lending a striking green hue and a distinct flavor that’s always a hit.
  • Walnut baklava holds on to its classic status with the full-bodied taste of walnuts, marrying well with the butter-laced pastry for a rich texture.
  • Almond baklava is a nod to the mild and sweet almonds, offering a smooth complement to the tender pastry layers.
  • The citrus version introduces a tangy twist with orange or lemon zest, injecting a lively contrast to the dessert’s sweetness.
  • Chocolate lovers rejoice with chocolate baklava, where smooth chocolate intertwines with the pastry for an indulgent experience.

Cypriot bakers exhibit their craft through baklava, creatively enhancing time-honored recipes. They’ve encapsulated the dessert’s spirit while infusing their distinctive touches. Whether the timeless walnut is your choice or you’re eager to explore novel tastes, baklava in Cyprus is a testament to culinary artistry.

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