When grilling Mediterranean style remember: freshness is key, always use high-quality extra virgin olive oil, the simpler the better, and charcoal reigns supreme.
When I think of grilling in the Mediterranean, I can hear meat sizzling over hot charcoal with juices dripping onto the hot coals. I can smell the meat aromas mixed with herbs and citrus that characterize so many of the amazing marinades and sauces used in Mediterranean grilling recipes. I also think of simplicity, because grilling in the Mediterranean is all about highlighting the freshness and quality of your ingredients. What is better or more traditional than a platter of grilled meats, marinated simply in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper, and served with grilled bread, freshly chopped onion, and extra slices of lemon?
Grilled bread is a very common site in the Mediterranean. Bread is eaten in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet and when people are grilling meat, seafood, veggies, etc., they like to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and dried herbs on fresh bread and get some grill marks. They may rub some fresh garlic on the bread before grilling too. Pita bread, sourdough bread, ciabatta, flatbreads, baguettes and many other types of bread are grilled in the Mediterranean.
Grilling Meat Mediterranean Style
Besides grilling on a grate over hot coals, meats are slowly roasted rotisserie style, also over charcoal. Gas grills are hardly used. A lot of the home grills in the Mediterranean have slots for a rotisserie. This is because they rotisserie whole animals for special occasions. Many of the rotisseries are still turned by hand instead of by a small motor. Mediterranean grilling recipes have changed very little since ancient times. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it right?
Grilled seafood is a huge part of the Mediterranean diet as well. Grilled seafood is done simply with olive oil and lemon juice. Nothing better compliments the flavor of freshly caught and grilled seafood than a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Fresh herbs, onions, and garlic are other popular ways to compliment the freshness of the seafood itself. One of the most popular ways to eat fish is grilled whole, skin and head on, over hot charcoal and simply dressed in extra virgin olive oil and lemon. When you have an extremely fresh fish, you don’t want to ruin the natural flavor by hiding it with complex sauces and spices.
The Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Parsley Topping in this menu is a perfect example of the simplicity of Mediterranean grilling. A fresh swordfish steak is salted and grilled to perfection, and then topped with a mixture of chopped parsley, chopped onion, fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. These flavors work so well together and accentuate the flavor of the fresh swordfish steak. This is a recipe from the island of Crete where swordfish is pretty common and prepared in simple but delicious ways.
I like to serve grilled fish with some type of dark leafy green. The grilled romaine with sweet tahini vinaigrette is both a salad and a grilled vegetable recipe. The tahini vinaigrette is addicting. This pairs really well with the grilled swordfish. The Grilled Shrimp Salad with Fresh Dill Dressing is an eye-popping salad that combines simply grilled seafood, with a lot of colorful vegetables and a simple dill dressing that is herby, tangy, and lemony. This is a salad that is going to brighten up your cookout spread and have people begging for the recipe! I would serve this salad with the Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Garlic Balsamic Marinade. These grilled portobellos are so meaty tasting! The balsamic vinegar is what really brings out the meaty flavor.
Grilled Skewers (kabobs)
A very common site in the Mediterranean is skewers of meat being grilled over hot charcoal. Whether you call it kabob, kebab, souvlaki, or something else, it’s all marinated meat skewered and grilled. This is a very primal way of cooking and it’s just plain fun to eat meat like this. Lamb is grilled on special occasions in the Mediterranean, not eaten every day contrary to popular belief. Pork and chicken are the more common meats because they are much cheaper. Below is a simple recipe for lamb kabobs from the island of Crete. The lamb is marinated simply and then skewered and grilled with cherry tomatoes and onions. The cherry tomatoes and onion add even more flavor to the marinated meat as it grills. This is a great example of how meat is almost always accompanied by vegetables in some way or another in Mediterranean cooking. These lamb kabobs can be made with pork or chicken as well. Serve these kabobs with the Quinoa Salad with Cucumber and Olives or the Warm Red Bliss Potato Salad with Artichokes, Capers, and Lemony Dill Vinaigrette along with some grilled bread and you have yourself a full, healthy Mediterranean meal.
If you’re looking for a good marinade or spice rub we have a variety of recipes below. Salad dressings work great as marinades for meat. I love a yogurt-based dressing like the Balsamic Dill Yogurt Dressing. The yogurt helps to tenderize the meat. If you’re looking for some simple marinades for chicken, check out the 3 Mediterranean Chicken Marinades. There are two more yogurt-based marinades to choose from here. If you’re looking for a more oil-based dressing, there are some great Italian and Greek dressings that are simple and delicious.
These recipes can be made in any combination to have an awesome grilled Mediterranean menu for your next cookout or get-together. When choosing ingredients for these recipes, strive to get the freshest ingredients possible. A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is a must for all of these recipes. Fresh herbs are always preferred over dried unless the recipe specifies otherwise. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a must, don’t bother with the stuff in the bottle. Organic, grass-fed meat is highly recommended, and fresh over frozen seafood is essential.
So when grilling Mediterranean style remember: freshness is key, always use high-quality extra virgin olive oil, the simpler the better, and charcoal reigns supreme.
Grilled Shrimp Salad with Fresh Dill Dressing is a big hit at our picnics and barbecues. It is super easy to make. Shrimp takes less time to marinate and less time to cook than most any other meat, chicken or fish.
The star of this recipe is the healthy creamy yogurt dressing. If you’ve ever had “Greek” dressing that comes in a packet, this is similar but it uses healthy fats and isn’t processed. The processed “Greek” dressing will ruin your attempt at eating healthy! If you like Greek salad with Greek dressing, you’ll love this healthier version!
During the summer in Greece, this salad is on every table! It doesn’t get more classic than this. This is a meal in itself but easy enough to throw together as a side salad. High-quality extra virgin olive oil is a must!
This is easily one of my favorite salads in the summer. Pesto just makes everything taste better, but the different contrasts of textures and flavors in this salad are amazing. The crispy roasted potatoes, the soft tomatoes, the crunchy red onion, and the soft roasted red peppers all doused in pesto has become one of my favorite potato salads of all time.
Are you tired of the typical potato salads loaded with mayo that are fattening and non-nutritious? This version is flavor packed with capers, onions, lemon, and dill. Why use mayo, when you can use extra virgin olive oil?
Fresh garden tomatoes are imperative to this salad tasting right. In Italy, where this salad was created, beautiful dark red ripe tomatoes grow easily. If you live in a colder climate, you can’t get this quality of tomatoes year round. This is why you should make this Caprese salad recipe while the tomatoes are juicy, fresh, and have peak flavor. Fresh basil is also best when in season. Dried basil won’t work in this salad.
Tabouli is one of the most refreshing mezes out there. It’s the perfect healthy, light summer food to cool you down. It’s mostly fresh parsley which gives it the beautiful dark green color. It uses bulgur which is whole wheat. The addition of freshly chopped tomatoes and lemon add acidity. This tabouli recipe is delicious by itself, but even more amazing with fresh pita bread to scoop it up.
This is by far the best grilled eggplant I’ve ever had. One night recently when the weather was perfect for grilling I had some eggplant, so I thought I’d make up a recipe. I accidentally added too much balsamic vinegar which ended up being a blessing in disguise. This is one of the keys to this recipe, adding way too much balsamic vinegar. It completely changes the flavor of the eggplant once it’s completely grilled. It gives the eggplant a meatiness and sweetness that compliments the savory eggplant perfectly.
Portobello mushrooms are a great meat alternative. Out of all vegetables, to me, portobello mushrooms have the most similar flavor and texture to meat. The balsamic in this marinade brings out the meatiness even more.
We tried this recipe at Yale University, at the Mediterranean Diet Round Table Conference, and it was so simple but delicious, we had to get the recipe from the chef! This tahini dressing is light and the perfect consistency to drizzle onto the romaine. The romaine remains crunchy but has that beautiful char flavor from the grill. If you’ve never had grilled romaine before, try this recipe!
As soon as grilling season is here, I start making this all the time! You don’t need to marinate these for very long for them to soak up a lot of flavor. None of the marinade is wasted here because you can throw the grilled veggies back in the marinade to soak up even more flavor. These taste even better the next day for leftovers because they’ve been sitting in the olive oil and juices, marinading even more. The perfect addition to any meat, chicken or fish grilling recipes!
This dip goes well with so many of the recipes on this menu. The grilled marinated vegetables above are great to dip in tzatziki. Either of the souvlaki recipes below also works great. My number one food to dip in tzatziki, however, is olive oil french fries.
In Crete, everything is fried in extra virgin olive oil. In the video, you can see my aunt making these olive oil french fries from scratch. I definitely had to take a video of her when she was peeling the potatoes because she’s such a pro. She’s been peeling potatoes with a tiny paring knife her entire life. If I try to peel them like her, I waste so much of the flesh, but she gets the skin off paper thin. I love how she fills up the frying pan from her massive vat of extra virgin olive oil that’s made from my Uncle’s olive trees. These go perfectly with any Mediterranean grilling recipes!
This recipe is by Koula Barydakis and is featured in our book Foods of Crete: Traditional Recipes from the Healthiest People in the World. It takes only 20 minutes to make. Begin by washing the swordfish and lightly salting both sides. Let the fish sit for a few minutes while you are preparing the lemon parsley and onion mixture. Grill the fish until firm and top with the lemon-parsley mixture. So easy to make a dish that will be the hit of your grilling party!
Chicken thighs are one of my favorite cuts of chicken because they’re super flavorful and hard to dry out. I always used to swear by the skin on, bone in version. Well, my love has shifted to the boneless skinless chicken thighs for a few reasons. Number one, I don’t have to peel the skin off and eat around the bone. Number two, the skinless boneless thighs soak up a lot of marinade and are hard to dry out because it’s mostly dark meat. Chicken thighs with the skin are very forgiving because of how much fat there is, but when you marinate the boneless skinless thighs, you pretty much ensure they aren’t going to dry out on the grill.
The keys to delicious grilled lamb is 1) marinating the meat for up to 8 hours, 2) cutting the meat into small enough pieces for quick cooking and 3) creating just the right temperature (medium) on the grill so that the meat is juicy on the inside with just a hint of crispy on the outside. One of my favorite Mediterranean grilling recipes!
Armenian losh kebab is the Armenian version of the burger. This burger, however, is laden with fresh parsley and onion, and specific spices. Losh kebab can be served in a couple of different ways. At the Armenian picnic that I go to, it is served with buttery Armenian rice pilaf, salad with olive oil and vinegar, pita bread, and a mixture of chopped onions and fresh parsley.
These are three marinades that I make all the time because they’re quick, I have the ingredients on hand, and the chicken always comes out tender and flavorful. You can use these marinades for other meat, but chicken works best. All of these marinades are adaptable to your taste. If you add or subtract an ingredient, they’ll still work great.
You won’t even notice that there’s no cheese in this pesto, it’s so good. I use a mixture of basil and arugula for this specific pesto recipe. This is great for dipping bread, marinating meat, or using it as a salad dressing. I make this pesto all summer long and I never get tired of it!
On Sunday, I will make this vinaigrette in a mason jar and use it all week. I refrigerate it, but other people I know leave it out. Whenever I need a quick salad dressing (or marinade), I just take it out of the fridge, give it a good shake and pour it on! This also makes a great marinade for any grilling recipes.
This creamy yogurt-based dressing is great on any salad. It also works great to marinate chicken because the yogurt helps tenderize the meat. Save some dressing that’s not touching the chicken, so you can use the dressing as a dip after.
Once you make this spice blend, you’ll have it for a while. This is a really versatile blend that can be used on pretty much anything. It’s got a really smokey flavor and adds a lot of flavor to anything you’re grilling. You can add it to a wet marinade, or use it as a dry rub.
You probably don’t have a vertical rotisserie to make real shawarma, but you don’t need one to enjoy the same delicious flavors. Combine olive oil and this shawarma seasoning on some chicken, pork, or beef, and grill.
The Mediterranean Way 10 Week Diet & Lifestyle program teaches you everything you need to know to easily and deliciously get the benefits of the proven healthy Mediterranean diet. Meal Plans, Recipes, Shopping Lists, Weekly Challenges and Lessons, Private Facebook Support Group, Cooking Videos and more!
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"The scientifically acclaimed “Mediterranean Diet” is presented at its best here, with the liberal use of olive oil and plenty of vegetable and fish dishes in addition to mezedes (appetizers), meat dishes, desserts, and pretty much every Cretan dish you can think of." - Mary