You might think you know how to make a Greek salad, but do you really? A proper ‘horiatiki salata’ (or Greek village salad) means no lettuce, no chopped up feta, and no fancy dressings. Just toss together ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onion and green peppers, black Kalamata olives, dried oregano and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Then place a big slice of Greek feta cheese on top.
A horiatiki salad is such a simple, nutritious and delicious light meal or side, but it’s also a show-stopper if you get it absolutely right!
What’s a horiatiki salata?
Horiatiki salata (pronounced hori-AT-iki sal-AT-a) literally means village salad in Greek. It’s also occasionally called a peasant salad, but of course it’s best known simply as a Greek salad!
A traditional horiatiki salad is a very simple but also extraordinarily delicious classic Greek dish – virtually a national dish of Greece!
It makes a perfect side dish to serve with many types of mains. But it can even be served on its own for lunch with fresh bread (called horiatiko psomi in Greece!) on the side. It literally can be a meal in itself.
And here’s the thing. I lived in Greece for years and ate hundreds of Greek salads both at restaurants and elsewhere and the recipe just doesn’t vary that much.
I certainly don’t recall eating Greek salads with lettuce in them!
So what’s in a traditional horiatiki salad? Ripe and juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber and green peppers, tangy red onion, salty Kalamata olives, Greek oregano, extra virgin olive oil, and a big slice of creamy feta cheese on top.
It’s honestly the perfect combination of flavors. It’s a huge party for your tastebuds, and that’s why it tastes so good!
If there’s one Greek dish you should learn how to make, it’s an authentic Greek salad. It’s colorful, filling, quick and easy to make with simple ingredients, and super healthy. It’s equally as perfect to go with a midweek meal for your family or to serve at your next dinner party as a show-stopping side!
Did you know? There isn’t just one kind of classic Greek salad. There’s another cool Greek salad that DOES include lettuce. It’s called a maroulosalata, or Greek lettuce salad. Give that a try too!
The great news is that a traditional Greek village salad is super easy to make at home wherever in the world you are. Here’s what you need.
Tomatoes: Any tomatoes will work. However, I usually look for the ripest, biggest, reddest, juiciest tomatoes I can find. You’ll want plenty of tomatoes in your salad – so 4 to 5. If it isn’t the season for beefsteak tomatoes, vine-ripened tomatoes can also be a good choice.
Cucumber: I usually grab a long, thin English cucumber since they don’t have many seeds and the skin isn’t bitter or tough. I usually use half to two thirds of it, depending on the size. Smaller Lebanese cucumbers can be another good choice. I usually leave the skin on for ease, but if it’s tough or bitter you can peel it.
Green peppers: Whether you know them as bell peppers, capsicum or just green peppers, 1 entire green pepper adds bright green color, crunch and even a bit of design to your salad (see below for tips on how to cut them!).
Onion: Red onion has a milder taste, but white onion works, too (just add less). I usually slice around an eighth to a quarter of an onion into thin rounds, but you can add more to taste if you like.
Kalamata olives: The olives don’t strictly speaking have to be Kalamata olives, but try to choose a big, black variety. You’ll need about a cup.
For a more authentic Greek salad experience, stone-in olives are best.
Dried oregano: You’ll want to toss plenty of this through the chopped salad ingredients and a little more over the top of the salad after you’ve added the feta (not essential but looks great!).
Can you use fresh oregano instead? Absolutely! Simply replace each teaspoon of dried oregano with a tablespoon of chopped fresh Greek oregano. It’ll be delicious!
Extra-virgin olive oil: Since this is the only ‘dressing’ you’ll add to your horiatiki salata, and you’ll use a whole quarter cup, use the best quality that you can. No olive oil blends and no substituting with another type of oil!
Feta cheese: A big slice! For one large Greek salad, I usually get a big 150 to 200 gram slice from the deli counter at my local supermarket. I’ve experimented with many types of feta, and always come back to an authentic Greek brand. Dodoni is widely available and a good quality option. You can even sometimes buy this in a big tub of brine.
In case you’re still wondering… no lettuce! Although to be fair, a Greek salad can occasionally (very occasionally) have a few green leaves tossed through it, such as rocket/arugula. Try this if you like! 😉
Top tip: Use the best, freshest ingredients possible. I make horiatiki salads all year round, but they’re especially delicious in the summer months when the tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers are in season.
How to make it
This is what I think is the easiest way to make an authentic Greek salad that’s perfect every time!
Step 1: Very roughly chop the tomatoes. Just slice every which way. No need to be neat or methodical about it at all. The first time I saw tomatoes chopped this way was in Greece. It was literally a life-changing moment!
Step 2: Slice the cucumber into thick slices. I usually chop each slice into two. Throw them into a large salad bowl. I often underestimate just how large the bowl needs to be!
Step 3: Slice the onion and pepper into nice thin ’rounds’. Add most of the sliced onion, sliced peppers, olives, oregano and olive oil. Toss really well.
Reserve a few of the nice green pepper and onion ’rounds’ to place on the top of the salad. I usually add a few reserved olives on the top, as well.
Step 4: Lastly, simply lay the big slice of feta cheese on top. Sprinkle over a bit more oregano and the last drizzle of olive oil.
Step 5: Take the Greek ‘salata’ to the table and break up the cheese before everyone serves themselves. This is a fun traditional way to serve it!
Helen’s top tips
- Squeeze about half of the tomatoes as you add them to the serving bowl. This is a great tip I once got from a Greek friend. This way, you get more juice to mix with the olive oil and mop up with bread. Delicious!
- Slice the pepper from the bottom up to get the pretty ’rounds’ to place on the top. They almost look like flowers! Then slice the rest of the pepper any which way and throw it in.
- Watch your teeth if you’re using pitted olives! There are often bits of the pits left inside. I actually prefer to use olives with the pits still in. That way you know what to expect!
- Fresh crusty bread is perfect for mopping up all the delicious juice. Some people even like to throw some chunks of bread into their salad before eating it.
- Wild card option: If you can get hold of some Greek rusks (called ‘paximathi’ in Greek), these are great tossed in, too (common in Crete). They’re very hard, so hold them under running water for a few seconds to soften them slightly.
How do I make Greek salad dressing?
Erm, you don’t. The good quality olive oil you drizzle over the salad generously combines with the juices from the other salad ingredients to make the perfect tasty and easy dressing. No other salad dressing necessary!
Another reason this delicious Greek salad is so easy to make.
Some traditional village salad recipes include a splash of red wine vinegar (white wine vinegar is OK too). By all means try this if you like!
How to serve it
Probably my favorite way to eat this traditional Greek village salad is by itself for lunch with some 2-minute toast with olive oil and salt or pita bread (or air fried pita chips – why not?!) on the side.
But there are also endless main meals that it goes well with. (Hint: they don’t have to be Greek!)
- Burgers (Any kind, but do try these crispy chicken burgers!)
- Pizza (How about a 10-minute air fryer naan pizza?)
- Any grilled, BBQ’d or roasted meat (Try these favorite oven or air fryer baked chicken thighs.)
- Pasta (Try a Greek salad with this creamy chorizo pasta.)
But of course, there are certain Greek main dishes that I would never dream of serving without a horiatiki salata on the side!
- A classic Greek moussaka (this is an easy version that you really must try soon!) or an authentic pastitsio or Greek baked pasta.
- Pork or chicken souvlaki (try my super easy and tasty oven chicken skewers or Greek chicken gyro pita!).
- This amazingly tasty and simple Greek lemon chicken and potatoes dinner (I will literally not allow you to make this without a horiatiki salad to go with it!).
- Any time you serve these incredible (and incredibly popular) Greek roast potatoes.
- This very easy Greek spinach and feta filo pie (vegetarian option!)
- One pan bifteki (Greek burgers and potatoes). These air fryer Greek chicken meatballs (keftedes) go extremely well with this salad, too.
- This delicious, healthy and very easy Greek baked fish.
Oh, and any time you make this ‘best salad in the world’ (I am NOT exaggerating), do make a bowl of this easy tzatziki as well. It only takes 10 minutes, and you won’t regret it. These two are a match made in heaven!
For more ideas, see this list of 50 best easy side dish ideas for a Greek salad, from meat to pasta, appetizers, dips and more!
Up to 2 days. While you can make it a few hours ahead and keep it covered in the fridge, it’s best eaten the day it’s made. The leftovers still taste great the next day for lunch, but they might be a little past their best.
Well we all know that the Mediterranean diet is good for you! A Greek salad is high in heart-healthy fats in the olive oil and olives and the vegetables are low-calorie and full of health-protecting vitamins and antioxidants. Also, compared to other cheeses, feta is low in calories and fat and high in nutrients, helpful bacteria and fatty acids.
Greek Village Salad (Horiatiki Salata)
Equipment (affiliate links)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
- 4 medium tomatoes (4 – 5 depending on size) The redder & juicier the better, randomly sliced into chunks.
- ½ cucumber (½ – ⅔ depending on size) thickly sliced
- 1 green pepper Some sliced into thin rounds from the bottom up, the rest sliced any which way.
- ⅛ red onion Sliced thinly in rounds (you can add more to taste, ⅛ – ¼ of an onion).
- 1 cup Kalamata olives Stone in or pitted (any large black olives are fine).
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (Good quality)
- 5 ounces feta cheese (A really thick slice – usually 5 to 7 ounces)
- Add the tomatoes and cucumber to a large salad dish. Squeeze some of the tomatoes a little as you add them to release some juice.4 medium tomatoes, ½ cucumber
- Add most of the green pepper (reserve 3 or 4 whole slices for decorating the top), most of the onion (reserve a few 'rings') and most of the olives.1 green pepper, ⅛ red onion, 1 cup Kalamata olives
- Now add most of the oregano and most of the olive oil and toss the salad well.2 teaspoons dried oregano, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Arrange the reserved slices of pepper and onion and the rest of the olives on the top of the salad.
- Finally, place the feta on the very top (in one big slice). Sprinkle the feta and salad with the rest of the oregano, then drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil.5 ounces feta cheese
- Serve as a side dish or for lunch with fresh crusty bread to mop up the juices!