Mediterranean Diet Desserts

By Winter LeBlanc
Updated May 26, 2023

One of the questions I get asked the most is, “What do they eat for dessert in the Mediterranean?”  The simple answer is fruit. For most meals in most Mediterranean countries, if there is a dessert at all, it is almost always a piece of fresh fruit.

Does that mean that there are no other types of Mediterranean Diet desserts?  No, of course not! The Mediterranean is known for a bevy of different delicious sweets. Some are eaten in the afternoon with coffee or tea, sometimes they are eaten after dinner.

They are universally eaten in much smaller quantities than in other countries like the U.S. and are more of a special treat, not something that would be eaten after every dinner. These desserts range from gelato in Italy to baklava in Greece to basboosa in Lebanon. There are literally thousands of different recipes for desserts all over the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean Diet Desserts

What desserts are allowed on the Mediterranean Diet?

Eating a piece of fruit after a meal is the popular dessert of the Mediterranean and can be eaten often. If you are eating other Mediterranean sweets it is best to eat them on special occasions. Mediterranean Diet desserts tend to be homemade and not highly processed.

Fresh ingredients are often used in Mediterranean desserts. Healthier ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, honey, fresh herbs and yogurt are the mainstay of many of these sweet treats. If you are eating the Mediterranean diet to lose weight you may want to stick to the fruit and wait to have other sweets until you are at a maintenance phase of your weight loss. Same goes if you are trying to reduce risk of diabetes or heart disease. Generally though, an occasional sweet is fine.

Below are some of our favorite Mediterranean desserts. Please enjoy!

Mediterranean Diet Desserts

Torta Caprese (Italian Chocolate Cake)

Torta Caprese (Italian Chocolate Cake)

Torta Caprese is an Italian flourless chocolate cake recipe born on the Isle of Capri, it’s made with melted dark chocolate and almond flour. Not to be confused with Caprese salad (buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes), Caprese cake is probably one of the first gluten-free cakes ever made. Its Italian culinary heritage is in the Neapolitan pastry tradition.
Its origin dates back to 1920 from a mistake by Capri pastry chef Carmine di Fiore, who was intent on preparing a cake to serve to some American gangsters who had come to Capri. The story says that he forgot to add flour. Enjoy a slice of Torta Caprese with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of gelato, and let this indulgent treat transport you to the heart of Italy’s culinary traditions.

Try our Torta Caprese (Italian Chocolate Cake)

Greek Almond Cookies Article

Almond cookies are very popular in Greece. There are many different varieties as each island, city, and region has its own version. In Crete, this is a very special cookie to serve to guests and at special occasions, including weddings, baptisms, and engagements. Bursting with almond flavor and dusted in powdered sugar, these snowball-like cookies are also often made during the holidays, like Christmas and Easter.

Try our Greek Almond Cookies Here!

Portokalopita (Traditional Greek Orange Cake) article

Portokalopita is an old-fashioned Greek orange cake made with orange zest, Greek yogurt, and dried crumbled phyllo folded into the cake batter. It’s known for its zesty orange flavor as well as its sticky sweet texture thanks to the orange syrup poured over the baked cake.

Try our Portokalopita (Traditional Greek Orange Cake)

Basboosa Article

Basboosa is a sweet semolina cake soaked in sugar syrup. As mentioned, it’s common in many countries of the former Ottoman Empire. So don’t be surprised to see it or a similar version in Middle Eastern, Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish cuisine. You bake the cake batter, which is sweetened with an orange flower water and rosewater-fragranced simple syrup, in a sheet pan. Then you cut the semolina cake into a diamond shape or square.

Try our Basboosa Here!

Fruit salad, best known in Italy as macedonia, is a dish that can never miss at the end of any traditional Italian family meal. The origin of the name is not certain, but it probably refers to the region of the Balkans with the same name. What is sure, is that it’s a dish beloved by adults and kids alike.

Try our Italian Fruit Salad Here!

Try this traditional Italian breakfast torta full of fresh jam and delicious crumble. The Mediterranean Diet never tasted as good! This torta is a rich Mediterranean breakfast that would be served on special occasions.

Try our Breakfast Torta with Jam Here!

Italian Chocolate Coffee Cake

Who says that you can’t make a delicious cake without using any butter? Here in Italy, it’s pretty common to bake sweets with olive oil, and this chocolate coffee cake recipe is the perfect demonstration that a cake can be mouth-watering and heavenly satisfying even without containing a lot of saturated fats.

Try our Italian Chocolate Coffee Cake Here!

Mediterranean Diet: lemon olive oil cake

This Greek Lemon Olive Oil Cake from our favorite cookbook author, Koula Barydakis, is perfectly moist and full of zesty lemon flavor.  It can be eaten as a dessert, breakfast or a snack and has been a hit with both our friends and family.

Try our Greek Lemon Olive Oil Cake Here!

Thanks so much to our dear friend and herbalist, Brittany Wood Nickerson for contributing this great Rosemary Olive Oil Teacakes recipe. This is a healthier version of cake with the addition of olive oil and herbs. We tried it ourselves and it was truly delicious! An added benefit is that it is very easy; you could make it with your kids for a fun baking project.

Try our Rosemary Olive Oil Teacakes Here!

Cinnamon Walnut Apple Cake with Olive Oil

In Crete, we use olive oil for everything, including baking sweets (Mediterranean Diet recipes classically use olive oil for baking). This cinnamon walnut apple cake has been baked for special occasions in my family for generations.  Even though we have fruit for dessert on most nights, we will make this as a treat when we are celebrating. Olive oil makes for velvety and moist baked goods and I would highly recommend it for most of your baking needs. One tip is to try to get a buttery or fruity flavored olive oil when you are baking. Eat this cake with afternoon tea or coffee or after a light meal.

Try our Cinnamon Walnut Apple Cake with Olive Oil Here!

Mediterranean Diet: Orange Sesame Cookies baked with Olive Oil

These delightful Orange Sesame Cookies are baked with olive oil which makes them moist on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.  Are they a Mediterranean Diet breakfast recipe or a dessert?  Well, they are both.  Perfect when you are on the run in the morning, grab a few cookies and a cup of coffee on your way to work, or enjoy them after dinner with some herbal tea.

Try our Orange Sesame Cookies Here!

Almond Cake Baked with Olive Oil, Cinnamon and Raisins (Crete)

Cooks all over the Mediterranean bake sweets with olive oil.  When baking sweet treats you want to have an olive oil with a buttery taste.  Oils with a strong “olivey” taste might not work as well for sweets, but are great for breads and savory treats.  This almond cake makes a great dessert served with tea or coffee after a light meal.  Cinnamon, walnuts and raisins give this cake incredible flavor and is packed so nutrient packed you can have it even as a Mediterranean Diet breakfast.

Try our Almond Cake Here!


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Foods of Crete Cookbook

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One Comment

  1. Irina November 1, 2022 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for such wonderful recipes. So excited to start trying to me one by one! Blessings to you.

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