For years now, the Mediterranean way of life has been looked to for health inspiration, and it’s easy to see why. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy fats are good for us, particularly our hearts.
Eating like they do in countries such as Greece, Italy, and Turkey has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s also associated with a reduced risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
What the Mediterranean Diet Is All About
The Mediterranean diet draws upon the culinary practices of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Middle East, all areas where food is prepared to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and herbs make up the foundation of this diet’s “pyramid,” and every meal is centered around them. Fish is eaten at least twice a week, while poultry, eggs, and dairy are eaten less often, perhaps just a few days a week. Meats and sweets, meanwhile, are served in moderation.
1. Fattoush Salad
Pita chips in a salad? The crunchy bites means the fattoush always goes fast in a Middle Eastern meze. The salad features all of the fresh summer salad ingredients you’d find in a traditional garden, along with a lime vinaigrette that has allspice and cinnamon.
2. Bourtheto Fish Stew
One of the best things about Mediterranean cooking is its simplicity, and this fish stew nails it. From the Greek cooking blog Lemon & Olives, this recipe is low on ingredients and high on flavor.
3. Lemon Shrimp Pasta
No, pasta doesn’t have to be off-limits when you’re eating healthfully. Choose whole-grain pasta and keep your portion sizes under control, and you’ll have no problem fitting recipes like this one into your daily Mediterranean diet.
4. Cicoria e Fagioli
Six ingredients and 20 minutes, and you can have a warm, satisfying, and healthy meal ready for your family.
5. Halloumi, Mushroom, and Chorizo Tacos
Tacos aren’t exactly Mediterranean, but halloumi is. The salty goat cheese originates from Cyprus, and pairs well with anything savory or sweet. You don’t have to fry the halloumi in this recipe, but if you do, use just a dribble of olive oil.
6. Cabbage Stuffed with Marinated Cod
This is a Spanish recipe that’s heavy on flavor, but it’s pretty time-intensive. You’ll need to plan ahead because the cod needs to be soaked for 36 hours, but it’s definitely worth the wait.
7. Zucchini Blossoms with Bulgur
Have you ever eaten flowers? These zucchini blossoms will make you wonder why you didn’t start sooner. Stuffed with herbs and bulgur wheat, the pretty flowers are just as satisfying to eat as they are to look at.
8. Chickpea and Eggplant Warm Salad
Fresh, satisfying ingredients that won’t put you in a post-meal coma — another benefit of eating Mediterranean-style foods. This salad from Silvia’s Cucina tastes indulgent, but is very healthy.
Tabbouleh traces its roots to Syria, but you’ll find it in many other Mediterranean restaurants, too. With herbs and fresh lemon juice, it’s refreshing and filling, making it popular as a side dish to falafel or fish, or even as a meal on its own.
You can eat this one warm in winter, or cold in summer — perfect for a home-prepared work lunch. “Louvi” is what they call black-eyed beans in Cyprus. There are many traditional ways to prepare them — paired with green beans, or zucchini, for example, but this recipe calls for chard.
Okra — you either love or hate the slimy pods. If you love them, you’ll definitely enjoy this recipe that pairs small, fresh okra with stewed tomatoes. It’s a simple dish that’s a staple of any Greek or Arabic kitchen. Eat it by itself, with bread or rice, or as a side dish (it pairs well with fish).
A classic Mediterranean dish, hummus is made with chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and more. It’s great as a sandwich filling, salad dressing, or for dipping vegetables in.
13. Swordfish with Capers
With a mild flavor, swordfish lends itself to whatever you add to it. In this case, those additions are simple yet flavorful. Think garlic, capers, and herbs. You’ll enjoy this no matter what the weather, but we’re thinking dinner in the summertime.
14. Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds
Tagines, or tajines, are clay pots used for cooking in North African countries. But if you don’t happen to have one, your Dutch oven will work fine. This authentic Moroccan recipe is fairly intensive, but your family will thank you as your home fills with the smells of ginger, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon.
15. Lentil Soup with Kale
This hearty recipe calls for kale, but could just as easily be made with Swiss chard or spinach. Just make sure it’s fresh! Real Mediterranean cooking rarely calls for convenience foods like frozen or canned vegetables.
16. Grilled Fish in Saffron Sauce
Grilled fish is a great summer dish that is deceptively simple to make. This Lebanese recipe calls for whole fish, but if fish faces are not your cup of tea, you can swap in larger fillets, like swordfish.
17. Barbunya Pilaki
A typical Turkish dish, barbunya pilaki can be served hot as a main dish, or cold as a side dish. Boil your borlotti beans and let them cool, before mixing in tomato, parsley, and the rest of the ingredients.
18. Eggplant Frittata
This would make for a great Sunday brunch with friends. The cheese used is high in quality, but kept to a minimum. It’s loaded with garlic for flavor and can be ready in less than an hour, including prep time.
19. Calamari Salad
Seafood is a staple in coastal cuisines, and this salad from Frutto Della Passione requires the freshest calamari. If you can get it, don’t fry it up, but enhance the flavors with simple ingredients like white wine, olive oil, garlic, and salt.
You may have had spanakopita at your favorite Greek restaurant. This is similar, but without the buttery phylo dough. Spanakorizo, or spinach rice, features hints of mint, dill, onions, and lemon. It’s a delightful side dish or vegetarian entrée. Try topping it with a spoonful of Greek yogurt.
Leafy greens are extremely nutritious and provide loads of flavor to any dish. This recipe from Diane Kochilas, a Greek blogger and chef, combines tender greens of your choice with onions, tomatoes, and flavorful spices and herbs. It would be a great dish to warm up to on a cold winter evening.
Read more about: Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan and Beginner’s Guide