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Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese)

Aug 08, 2023Aug 08, 2023

Saganaki is a very popular Greek appetizer of pan-seared Greek cheese served alongside lemon wedges. It’s crispy on the outside and beautifully melted on the inside. Enjoy this traditional Greek dish at the beginning of a meal as a small bite to share around the table.

Saganaki is a showstopper at many Greek restaurants, where it often arrives at your table still sizzling in the skillet. The next step is rather dramatic, as the server proceeds to light it on fire, with the help of ouzo, just before serving. This last step in its presentation is what gives it the name “flaming Greek saganaki.”

In this saganaki recipe, the table side show is totally optional but surprisingly easy to accomplish! I know this festive dish—the savory version of our beloved feta, honey, and sesame saganaki—will quickly become the top request at your dinner parties. If you love melted Greek cheese as much as I do, you may want to try them both!

“Saganaki” is a Greek word that refers to a certain method of preparation, as well as the pan itself. The dish is cooked in a traditional, shallow, heavy-bottomed frying pan with two handles, which is called “saganaki” in Greek.

There are a few other traditional Greek recipes cooked in this kind of skillet, which include shrimp saganaki (a shrimp, tomato and feta cheese bake) and mussels saganaki, which are both cooked in a similar way. The most popular version is, of course, this simple and delicious fried cheese appetizer, cheese saganaki.

One of the reasons that this saganaki recipe is so easy to make is its short list of ingredients. Besides a block of good semi-hard cheese, all you need is some olive oil, a lemon and flour.

The key to a great Greek saganaki is to pick the right kind of cheese. It has to be firm enough to hold up to heat, but not so hard that it does not melt. The thickness of the cheese is also important—make certain to cut it into ½-inch thick slices.

Traditionally, the cheeses used in a saganaki recipe are semi-hard, dry Greek cheeses. These are mostly made from sheep’s milk, such as kefalotyri, graviera, or, kefalograviera. Kasseri or even feta can also be used, but they melt quickly so you need to keep an eye on them as they cook. If you live near a Greek or Mediterranean market, they should carry most of these cheeses.

If you cannot find any of these cheeses, look for alternatives with similar textures and a mild, nutty flavor. A young pecorino or even a nice provolone cheese could work. The Cypriot halloumi cheese, which is much saltier than the Greek cheeses suggested in this recipe, would also be a good substitution.

Saganaki is pretty simple. All you have to do is follow these four easy steps:

For a dramatic presentation, you can flambé the cheese. This never fails to provide some fun entertainment for your guests once your cheese saganaki is ready!

If you are not keen on setting your pan on fire, do not worry. In most Greek households, including Greek restaurants, cheese saganaki is served without the flames. Just with a good squeeze of lemon juice is all the embellishment you need.

The flaming version of the cheese saganaki most likely did not originate in the Greek islands as it is commonly believed. It is mostly a Greek-American custom created in Chicago. This additional showmanship caught on and now can be found all over the world, including in some touristy tavernas in Greece.

Traditional or not, it is a lot of fun and a good way to get a party going. Tie up your hair and give it a try!

Enjoy this delicious traditional Greek starter with some crusty bread to mop up the delicious pan sauce naturally created by the oil and lemon juice.

Saganaki is always served as a starter. It’s often part of a large mezze spread to share with everyone around the table before the main dishes come.

To round out the meal, serve this fried Greek cheese with other delicious regional treats like keftedes (Greek meatballs), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), zucchini fritters, tzatziki, and spanakopita. Throw in a nice seasonal salad like the peasant salad or a classic maroulosalata. With such an amazing spread of small plates to share, your guests won’t miss the main course!

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Photo Credits: Andrea GralowWhat is Saganaki? Ingredients for this Saganaki RecipeCheeseOil: Ground black pepper: Flour: LemonSpirit (optional): How to Choose the Right Saganaki Cheesekefalotyri, graviera, or, kefalograviera. Kasseri or even feta pecorinoprovolonehalloumiHow to Make Fried Greek CheesePrepare the cheese. Coat the cheese in flour. Pan-fry the cheese. Serve:How to Flambé Cheese (Optional)Add the alcohol. Ignite! Do I Have to Flambée Saganaki?How to Serve Fried Greek CheeseBrowse all Mediterranean RecipesVisit Our Shop.Try These Crispy Cheesy DelightsPrepare the cheese. Coat the cheese in flour. Fry the cheese. Finish and serve. Visit our shop