Dakos, the Cretan Meze, Is Having a Moment

Tomato, feta cheese and olive oil on a barley rusk make dakos a summer dish few can resist.
(Photo: Yiannis Somarakis)
By Costas Vasilopoulos
May. 30, 2023 11:53 UTC

The Greek salad (or hori­atiki), long praised for its unique com­bi­na­tion of fla­vors and nutri­tional value, is a sum­mer sta­ple pop­u­lar among locals and tourists alike.

However, dakos, a salad widely con­sid­ered a Cretan spe­cialty, has started gain­ing trac­tion, becom­ing a seri­ous con­tender with the Greek salad adorn­ing tables in homes and restau­rants.

A por­tion of the tra­di­tional dakos dish accounts for 20 per­cent of the daily need of the human body for pro­teins and 20 per­cent in dietary fibers.- Anastasios Papalazarou, dieti­cian and nutri­tion­ist

Dakos topped the list of the world’s best-rated sal­ads of Taste Atlas this year, an expe­ri­en­tial travel guide aim­ing to pro­mote local food and tra­di­tional dishes world­wide. Last year, dakos came in sec­ond place on the same list.

Once con­sid­ered food for the poor, dakos is a sim­ple dish com­pris­ing a dry bar­ley rusk, grated or chopped ripe toma­toes and crum­bled feta or Cretan xino­myzithra cheese, dressed with gen­er­ous splashes of extra vir­gin olive oil.

See Also:Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The rusk is usu­ally sprin­kled with water to soften it. Some dish vari­a­tions also include table olives, dry oregano and capers.

Simple is the best way to describe Cretan cook­ing,” food expert Lane Nieset wrote in Food and Wine mag­a­zine.

The main ingre­di­ents may stay the same, but Cretans can con­coct mul­ti­ple cook­books out of a short pantry list of items,” she added. Barley rusks, for exam­ple, dou­ble as crou­tons in salad or form bruschetta-like dakos.”

According to Anastasios Papalazarou, an Athens-based dieti­cian and nutri­tion­ist with more than 25 years of expe­ri­ence, the sim­plic­ity and high nutri­tional pro­file char­ac­ter­ize the sal­ads of Greek cui­sine.

“[The sal­ads] are packed with nutri­ents and are super easy to make using inex­pen­sive and sea­sonal ingre­di­ents,” Papalazarou told Olive Oil Times.

However, they are not very pop­u­lar world­wide, pos­si­bly because qual­ity ingre­di­ents needed to make the sal­ads are dif­fi­cult to come by in coun­tries away from the Mediterranean,” he added.

Papalazarou said that the dakos salad boasts a vari­ety of nutri­ents, includ­ing plant pro­tein, fibers and vit­a­mins.

A por­tion of the tra­di­tional dakos dish accounts for 20 per­cent of the daily need of the human body for pro­teins and 20 per­cent in dietary fibers,” he said. The tomato, on the other hand, is rich in lycopene, a pre­cious carotenoid, and also offers vit­a­mins C and E, antiox­i­dants. Additionally, the dish is an excel­lent source of monoun­sat­u­rated fats due to the use of olive oil.”

See Also:Olive Oil is the Essence of Traditional Greek Dishes on Christmas Eve

While Greek salad is more effec­tive at hydrat­ing the human body, Papalazarou added that the dakos salad makes for a more bal­anced meal.

Both dishes are of high nutri­tional qual­ity,” he said. Dakos boasts a larger quan­tity of car­bo­hy­drates and vit­a­mins because of the rusk and is a more com­plete and fill­ing meal.”

The Greek salad, on the other hand, pro­vides more hydra­tion since it boasts a larger quan­tity of veg­gies and is a bet­ter source of flavonoids and sele­nium thanks to the cucum­ber and onion it con­tains,” Papalazarou added.

In Heraklion, Crete, Yiannis Somarakis runs the Kyparissi tav­ern, serv­ing local spe­cial­ties for decades. He said dakos is pop­u­lar among locals, while for­eign­ers are just start­ing to learn about it.


Locals, espe­cially the young, often opt for a dakos salad,” Somarakis told Olive Oil Times. We make it with toma­toes from our gar­den and feta cheese. We do not wet the rusk with water. Instead, we let the olive oil and the juice of the toma­toes slowly soften the rusk.”

Our cus­tomers from abroad, on the other hand, are quite famil­iar with the Greek salad but not so much with dakos,” he added. Usually, I have to explain to them what dakos is. But, once they try it, they love it.”

Somarakis said dakos can be served as a salad or an appe­tizer, not­ing that the exact ori­gin of the dish has yet to be fully traced.

There is no def­i­nite con­sen­sus that dakos is of Cretan ori­gin,” he said. It may have orig­i­nated in Crete or another place in Greece. After all, it is a quick and easy meal that can be found in every cor­ner of the coun­try.”

The dish’s ver­sa­til­ity also allows for alter­ations to suit dif­fer­ent dietary require­ments. Papalazarou sug­gested some tips for a lighter ver­sion of dakos with­out com­pro­mis­ing taste.

Dakos is packed with nutri­ents but can also be a calo­rie-rich meal,” he said. Those look­ing to reduce their calo­rie intake can replace the feta or xino­myzithra with a lower-fat cheese, add only one table­spoon of olive oil, and use a smaller rusk as the basis of the dish while increas­ing the quan­tity of the tomato and olives.”


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