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A Traditional Greek Easter Menu

A Traditional Greek Easter Menu

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Easter celebrations around the world vary from culture to culture, religion to religion, but there are a few common threads that unite these spring holidays, no matter where you reside: lamb, spring vegetables, and eggs.

The Breaking of the Fast

In Italy, families sit down to an Easter meal after mass on Sunday. For the Greeks, however, the celebration starts the night before. (Only every four years does Greek Orthodox Easter and the western Easter Sunday coincide; this year the dates coincide.) According to Jim Botsacos, the executive chef and partner at New York City’s Molyvos Restaurant, the festivities begin after midnight mass with the breaking of a 40- to 45-day long fast, during which people will have abstained from eating any foods with or derived from animals with a blood line. That means no meat, no dairy, and no fish.

Traditional Red Eggs

Carrying lit candles, people return home or to a restaurant where they sit down to a table of Greek Easter bread and hard-boiled eggs dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. The eggs are for fun; a game is played where one egg butt is hit against another egg butt (or point to point); if your shell doesn’t crack, you move on to the next egg match. If you’ve exhausted both the head and butt of an egg, you’re out. It is said that whomever has the egg that lasts the longest will have good luck for the year to come.

A Menu Inspired by Spring and Family Favorites

To break the fast, a traditional Easter lamb soup, called magiritsa, is served. A stock made from the lamb’s head forms the soup’s base; sautéed onions and lamb innards, like tripe, sweetbreads, and intestines, each cooked separately, are then added. The whole dish is often served garnished with an avgolemeno sauce, cooked rice, shredded lettuce, spring onions, dill, and lemon.

Following the soup, a main course of roast spring baby lamb and a variety of spring vegetables is served. Botsacos typically starts the meal with shared meze like Hortopsomo, miniature wild green-stuffed pies. Lamb follows, typically a whole roast animal for a large group; smaller cuts like legs, shanks, or racks could also be served. A variety of salads and sides accompany the lamb and are served family-style. While each family has their own traditional favorites, Botsacos' often serves beet salads with yogurt dressing, roast potatoes, rice pilaf, and gigante beans with skordalia. One of his favorites is a very traditional green salad made with fine ribbons of romaine, tossed with scallions and arugula, and lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. It’s refreshing and light — the perfect palate cleanser.

After the meal was finished, typically around 2 a.m., families would retire for a couple hours of sleep, only to arise again in the morning to get the next lamb roasting for an Easter Sunday meal — a slight variation of the same meal again.

A Traditional Greek Easter Menu

Hortopsomo, to share

How to Host an Olympic-Sized Easter: A Greek Feast from Chef Michael Psilakis

All that changes after the elaborate midnight mass, a beautiful and spiritual event where the congregation follows a flower-covered tomb in a candlelit procession. "You go home around 1:30 a.m. to a huge meal. Huge!" says Psilakis. His was always a feast at his maternal grandma Yaya's house. To top it off, the next day everyone went to his mom's house. "It was like having two different chefs prepare a meal," says Psilakis proudly.

Always on that menu: a special soup made from a lemon and egg sauce with plump dumplings of lamb meat braised in a liquid for over two hours. Following the special soup was the real star: a whole spit-roasted lamb. When Psilakis was a kid, his father built a "temple," as he calls it, in the backyard specifically for roasting whole animals on a spit. "We roasted 20-30 animals a year!" remembers Psilakis. Early in the morning on the day after Easter, he and his father would prepare for the Olympic day of eating by hoisting the lamb on the spit. After rotating for hours over a hot flame, the tender meat was ready for the oversized group of family and friends to descend, sticking forks into the lamb and eating it right off the spit.

Everything on the Easter menu is served family-style, including a big salad with lemony dressing and moussaka &mdash lightly fried eggplant and zucchini layered with potatoes and lamb and topped with béchamel, all sopped up with the soft and sweet Easter bread. (If you don't have time to bake, many Greek and Italian bakeries sell Easter bread during the holiday.) But the most important item on the table: red-dyed eggs.

Duplicating a feast equal in magnitude to this one may be a bit challenging without a roasting shrine and a team of family members to help out with all the dirty work. No worries: Chef Psilakis shares a few of his classic recipes that are robust, toothsome, and easy enough to prepare at home.

Time to round up your family and friends for your very own big fat Greek Easter feast!

Chef Psilakis's Recipes

Three Tips from Chef Psilakis on Prepping for the Big Day

1. Don't get overwhelmed.

"People get nervous about cooking for a group, but they shouldn't because all you're doing is cooking more."

"My biggest tip for anyone is to start by writing down a production list. It is something we still do every day at the restaurant. List what to do in an orderly fashion. If you need to peel garlic for one thing, peel enough so you have it for all the other recipes. It's those little things that you keep putting back that take up time." His advice: Plan out cooking the way you plan out the day in the office. "Take the time to think about it, put it down on paper. Spend more time thinking, and that will allow you to spend less time cooking."

3. Remember the reason you're there.

"At the end of the day, it's about the people you have coming over to your house: the people you love. I can't help but make things more elaborate than they should be, but I try to focus on making good, clean food that allows me to spend as much time as I can with the people I'm inviting over. Food is just the vehicle we use to bring us all together."

Leading up to the Great Easter Sunday is the traditional 40 day lent, during which meat and dairy products are substituted with plentiful amounts of vegetables, fish and seafood. Browse through my handpicked collection of tasty, healthy Easter Lent recipes and discover a new treat for you to enjoy every day of the week!

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Greek Okra stew recipe with Tomatoes (Bamies Laderes)

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Greek Shrimp Saganaki recipe with Feta cheese (Garides Saganaki)

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Perfect Lenten Chocolate Brownies!

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Scrumptious Lenten Apple Pie Recipe! (Greek Milopita)

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Delicious Lenten Greek Honey puffs recipe (Loukoumades)

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Greek Octopus and onion stew recipe (Octopus stifado)

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Amazing Lenten Chocolate Sponge Cake!

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Crispy Fried Calamari recipe (Kalamarakia Tiganita)

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Greek Dolmades recipe (Stuffed Vine/ Grape Leaves Dolmathes)

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Gemista recipe (Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers with rice)

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Greek Easter Traditions

After all the preparations, Greek Orthodox Easter festivities typically begin at a Saturday night, midnight church service.

People gather in darkened churches and, at midnight, the church bells ring out to proclaim Christ risen. People light candles, and the church is flooded with the light of their flames.

After returning home from the midnight service, it is traditional to sit down to a meal that breaks the 40 day, Lenten fast. This meal starts off with matiritsa, a soup made from lamb offal and green vegetables.

Easter Sunday is a day filled with good food and family. From the early morning meal to a large lunch, that may include a whole roast lamb, this day is full of traditional dishes that are waited-for year round!

Whole Roasted Lamb from Kopiaste

4 of 8

Cheese Plate

A cheese plate is a perfect appetizer to start a big meal. Tasia shared some of her best tips on how to set up a cheese plate:

1. Start soft: Try Belle Chevre's Greek Kiss, which comes wrapped in grape leaves for a dramatic presentation ($7.50 for 4 ounces

2. Add something creamy: Belle Chevre's Fromage Blanc ($8 for 8 ounces) spreads easily on crackers.

3. Add something hard: Tasia likes an aged goat cheese or a Manchego.

4. Toss in a conversation starter: Belle Chevre's julep-inspired Southern Belle is dressed with mint, bourbon pecans, and sugar ($7.50 for 4 ounces).

5. Add edible accents: Bread, fruit, nuts, and honey. "I like to tuck in a beautiful honeycomb for texture," Tasia says.

A Traditional Greek Easter Menu - Recipes

The Feel-Good Guide to Sports, Travel, Shopping & Entertainment

Greek Orthodox Easter - Sunday, May 2, 2021
Greek Easter Traditions & Recipes

The streets of Greece and Greek Orthodox communities throughout the world ring with happy voices sharing "Christos Aneste" ! - Christ is Risen.

Greek Easter Bread

Easter time, from the carnivals that come before the Lenten fast through Holy Week and the celebrations of Easter, is a special season in Greece.

Greek Orthodox Easter 2021

Since the date of Greek Orthodox Easter is based on a modified Julian calendar (while the Western world uses the Gregorian calendar), the festivities sometimes do not occur at the same time as other Christian Easter celebrations. Sometimes the dates can be as much as a month apart.

In 2021, Greek Orthodox Easter is celebrated on Sunday, May 2nd -- a month later than Easter observances in the Western church -- and marked by unique traditions that make Easter in Greece different than Easter celebrations in other lands.

Greek Lenten & Easter Traditions

Greek foods and traditions mark the season as uniquely Hellenic. The history of Greece traces back far past the beginnings of Christianity, but from the very earliest days of the Christian faith the Islands of Greece and the Greek people have embraced these beliefs and made them part of the Greek heritage. Of all the Christian feast days, Easter is the greatest time for foods, feasting and celebration to people in the Greek Orthodox faith.

The celebrations for Easter truly begin two months before with Mardi Gras. The Carnival or Apokria season starts on the Sunday of Teloni and Fariséou and ends on Shrovetide Sunday with the Burning of the Carnival King. setting fire to an enormous paper mache effigy of Judas in the early evening. The fireworks and feasting continue throughout the night. The next day, Kathara Deftera is known as Clean Monday or Ash Monday

On Clean Monday, it's time to fly a kite.

For Greeks, Clean Monday is one of the most festive holidays of the year. Decorated with the colorful local almond trees and mimosas bursting into bloom, nature invites children and their parents into the hills of Athens and the Greek countryside.

Flying kites and feasting at local tavernas or outdoor picnics is how Lent begins in Greece.

Htapothi Octopus and calamari or squid, prawns, Soupies Giahni - cuttlefish stewed in wine, rice pilaf with mussels, varieties of bean stews and salads are main dishes traditionally served.

Lenten dolmades - rice stuffed grape vine leaves, Halva a semolina pudding, plenty of meat free salads and the once-a-year lagana, a yeastless bread, are a small portion of the unique tastes of the day accompanied by joyous music.

If Apokria, Kathari Deutara and Lenten Sunday feasts are the preliminaries for Greek Easter, Holy Week is the peak of these activities.

On Holy Thursday the bright dyed red eggs that are symbolic of Easter in Greece are prepared. Tradition says that the Virgin Mother, Mary, dyed eggs this color to celebrated the Resurrection of Christ and to celebrate life. Every Greek family prepares these eggs as part of the Easter Sunday Resurrection Table.

Otherwise, the women in Greek families are busy baking koulourakia - butter twist cookies and tsoureki - traditional sweet bread for the Easter feast.

On Good Friday or Great Friday, flags at homes and government buildings are set at half mast to mark the mournful day. The Procession of the Epitáphios of Christ, the Ritual Lament that has survived from Homeric times, mourns the death of Christ on the Cross with the symbolic decorated coffin carried through the streets by the faithful. On Corfu, the procession of St. Spyridon is held on Easter Saturday.

Holy Saturday is filled with anticipation of the religious celebration of Easter and the Resurrection. People begin to gather in the churches and squares in cities, towns and villages by 11 p.m. for the Easter services. Large white candles are carried by just about all of the faithful. At midnight the church bells toll as the priests announce Christos Anesti!. Christ is Risen! Fireworks are set off, in some areas gunshots are fired and the each person in the crowd answers with the joyous responses of Alithós Anésti - Truly He is risen.

Greek Easter - A Time for Family

By tradition, red is the color
of Greek Easter eggs.

The people leave the churches and crowded squares and make their ways to homes of friends and relatives. The candles they carry are placed in each home and burn through the night to symbolize the Light returned to the world. Celebrations continue with the cracking of eggs and The Resurrection Table. The Kokkina - pasxalina avga - dyed red Easter eggs that are found on the Resurrection Table become pieces of a traditional game. Each person takes an egg and challengers attempt to crack each others' eggs. The breaking of the eggs is meant to symbolize Christ breaking from the Tomb. The person whose egg lasts the longest is assured good luck for the rest of the year.

The traditional foods on the Resurrection Table: hiroméri - smoked salted pork cheeses magiritsa - a creamy, lemony soup made from the lamb sweetmeats koulourakia - Greek Easter cookies Tsoureki Lambropsomo and other Easter breads and plenty of Greek wine, retsina and ouzo insure a feast which will last throughout the night.

After the night of feasting and celebration, everyone is still up early on Easter Sunday morning. The Easter Sunday table is prepared and the festivities continue! The Easter meal is truly a feast. Salads of beans, greens and seafood, vegetable dishes that are grilled or cooked to be served with the rice dishes, Kokoretsi, breads, cakes, cookies, wines, ouzo.

The main dish at the Easter Table is the Easter lamb or goat (usually kid). Served in honor of the Lamb of God who was sacrificed and rose again on Easter, a whole spiced lamb roasted over a charcoal fire is the most traditional of Greek Easter foods. The Easter Sunday celebration lasts through the day while visits are made to family and friends and the Easter feast is shared with every guest.

Each person that enters the home is greeted with Gia to kaló tis iméras! - "For the good of the day!" with a plate of food and an invitation to join in the feast. Besides bringing insult and bad luck to a host who is rejected, the foods are so delicious. who could refuse?

Easter Monday is a much more relaxed day when everyone gets ready to return to work and school. The main work of Easter Monday is to finish the foods that were not eaten the day before!

Magiritisa is another dish that is traditionally prepared during Greek Easter. This is a soup that is a bit of an acquired taste for some because it is usually made out of the head of the whole lamb. When the lamb is being prepared for the spit, the head is reserved for this soup. Some say that the meat located on the cheeks of the lamb is some of the most tender! Most recipes involve other parts of the lamb, such as the organs. This is considered to be a delicacy and there are those who really enjoy it!

Eggs have long been a symbol of spring, and they have also been adopted as a religious symbol for Easter. Greeks hard boil eggs to serve on Easter and then dye them red, which symbolizes Christ’s blood. When the egg is cracked and the peel is taken off, this symbolizes Christ emerging from the tomb after he was resurrected.

The Menu


In Greece, the Thursday before Easter is called Great Thursday, and it&aposs the day when the spring lambs are slaughtered and hung in anticipation of the Sunday feast. Here, it&aposs the day you should place your leg of lamb order with the butcher. Once you bring it home, rub the meat with a flavorful paste pureed in the blender (just garlic, olive oil, oregano, and cinnamon) before roasting. Gussy up plain yogurt with fresh parsley and more cinnamon for the accompanying sauce.

Unique Flavor And Aroma

They’re so crispy when you take a bite, and then they start to melt in your mouth. They also contain an unusual aroma, that of Mahleb. Mahleb is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a species of cherry and is also used in our traditional sweet braided bread, called “Tsoureki” that is made in Easter as well.

This comforting sweet spice is what makes me think of Easter when I smell it. Like cloves, and cinnamon reminds me of Christmas.
And let’s admit it, what are Holidays worth, if it wasn’t for all this lovely food that we’re making? Can you imagine Thanksgiving without a turkey? Or Christmas without gingerbread? Not really…

Especially in Greece, we really like to grab every chance we get to have a “Glenti” (The word for a Greek party with friends and family) with lots of food.

Our 30 Most-Popular Easter Dinner Recipes

Cook a classic Easter dinner with recipes for ham, lamb, scalloped potatoes, spring vegetables — and our best treats and cakes.

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Classic Glazed Ham

First things first: the ham. This recipe will walk you through the easy, albeit detailed, process of cooking an Easter ham from start to finish, i.e. how to trim, score, roast and glaze a bone-in gammon. Plus, you can choose from four different glaze recipes based on your family's taste.

Four-Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

When it comes to Easter, you gotta have cheesy potatoes with your ham. To make this decadent side dish, layer thinly sliced potatoes with heavy cream and mozzarella, asiago and raclette cheeses. Top with Parmesan and bake until bubbly.

Honey-Glazed Carrots

Quick as a rabbit, these honey-glazed baby carrots are ready to serve in just 15 minutes &mdash the perfect side dish for your springtime feast.

Creamy Spring Peas with Pancetta

Easter Dinner on Two Sheet Pans

Easter dinner for four comes together easily in a little over an hour when you cook it on a pair of sheet trays. With tender asparagus, sweet glazed carrots, a decadent potato gratin, roasted ham, and even homemade biscuits, there's plenty to eat with little fuss.

Carrot Cake

Top this dense carrot cake, a classic crowd pleaser, with homemade cream cheese frosting. Alton coats the carrots in flour before mixing in the wet ingredients to keep the carrots from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze

If you're really looking to pare it down for the main event, this simple recipe is the way to go: Brown sugar, mustard and vinegar are the only ingredients you'll need for this easy glazed Easter ham.

Classic Deviled Eggs

Don't fix what ain't broke, right? This is our most-popular deviled egg recipe ever &mdash and our fans are loving it right now.

Macaroni and Cheese

Leave room for this decadent, Venetian-inspired macaroni and cheese. Diced ham and chopped parsley imbue the dish with fresh, springtime flavors.

Asparagus and Cheese Tart

Take advantage of fresh asparagus by making this impressive springtime tart. (It's way easier than it looks.)

Orange Baked Ham

Maybe you're looking for something citrusy? Ina dolls up her ham with a glaze that comes at you with three forms of orange flavor: marmalade, juice and zest. It glistens and gleams.

Pizza Rustica

Pizza rustica is traditionally served on Easter and for good reason &mdash it is a showstopper and perfect to dish up on a special occasion. Although it takes a little bit of work to prepare, you can make it a day ahead and bring to room temperature before putting it on your holiday table.

Bunny Oreo Balls

This no-bake dessert is the perfect way to hop into spring! White melting wafers and mini marshmallows transform these cookies-and-cream bites into impressive bunnies that are sure to be a hit all season long.

Hot Cross Buns

These fresh sweet buns are a classic Easter treat around this time of year. Plumped currants and a lemon-spiked glaze dress these up for the holiday.

Crown Roast of Lamb

This is an amazing cut of meat for a special occasion like Easter, when the lamb is very much at the center of the cultural and culinary narrative. Follow Alton's lead to cook it up perfectly.

Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Roast

If it's not ham you're after, you could go the more elegant route with Giada's weekend pork roast. She rubs hers with a garlic-herb mixture and wraps it in pancetta for a stunning main course.

Coconut Bunny Butt Cake

If you're going the cheekier route for dessert, then this one's for you.

Lemon Curd

You'd be surprised at how easy it is to make lemon curd at home, especially with the Barefoot Contessa as your guide. With a jar of this around the holiday, you can add a little springtime to just about anything.

Easter Pie

Easter pie is an Italian springtime tradition, but it's easy enough to make year round. Giada's sweet version has a ricotta-orange filling with a tender phyllo dough shell.

Easter Bunny Cake

Celebrate Easter with this cute coconut-topped bunny cake. It's easy to make with our step-by-step guide.

Easter Bread

This light and airy bread is just sweet enough to go along with your traditional Easter dinner. (Add up to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract with the eggs if you prefer it a little sweeter.) Make it the day before, and if you have any left over, make amazing French toast with it the day after!

Roasted Asparagus

No Easter menu would be complete without the all-star spring vegetable, asparagus. Roast it with oil, salt and pepper to bring out its natural flavors.

Glazed Pineapple Ham

Ree&rsquos easy recipe will get your Easter main dish on the table in under an hour. She cuts ham into slices and arranges them in a baking dish with pineapple slices and maraschino cherries for a quicker cook time &mdash and a pretty presentation.

Lemon-Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Who knew that just a few simple ingredients (garlic, lemon zest, fresh parsley and grated parmesan cheese) could turn roasted potatoes into the most crave-worthy side dish?!

Baked Mac and Cheese

I n classic Southern style, this is a baked mac and cheese set in a light egg custard and flavored with sharp yellow Cheddar. Creamy and moist, it bridges the gap between those who like their mac and cheese sliceable and those who prefer to spoon it, oozing, from the pot.


Michael has been watching his mom make baklava since he was 4. We can't imagine that you'll have leftovers of this delightfully sticky treat, but if you do, you can freeze it (once the syrup is absorbed) for up to a month, then just thaw it at room temperature.

Extra-Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

These sliced spuds have the most decadent texture thanks to lots of heavy cream. The finished dish is rich, savory &mdash and perfect for Easter dinner.

Bunny Butt Marshmallow Pops

These cute bunnies are so easy to put together. They make a fun Easter-basket treat when wrapped in clear cellophane bags and tied with a pastel ribbon.

This gorgeous spring salad might just be the star of your Easter dinner. With tart apples, aromatic fennel and dill and ribbons of shaved Pecorino cheese, this simple side dish looks as good as it tastes.

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

Rainbow carrots need only olive oil, salt and chopped chives to become a colorful side dish.

Watch the video: How to Prepare a Traditional Greek Easter Menu (June 2022).