The Cretan Salad is a dish that originates from the Greek island of Crete. It is a simple salad that is made hearty with the addition of barley rusks and cheese. Great as a side or light meal and is perfect for a summer barbecue.
This easy Cretan Salad has many variations; they all include tomatoes, cucumber, barley rusks and a Cretan cheese, either soft mizithra cheese (similar to goats cheese), crumbled feta or the dry anthotyros that we have in this version.
Ingredients and Substitutions
This really wouldn't be a Cretan Salad without the addition of Cretan classics such as barley rusks and anthotyros/mizithra cheese, which may not be readily available, so we have given you a few alternatives here:
- Dry anthotyros is a traditional Greek cheese made from unpasteurized sheep and goat's milk, which adds a wonderfully rich, salty flavour to this salad. Substitute with either freshly grated raw halloumi cheese, grated Spanish Manchego, Italian Ricotta Salata (which is dried ricotta cheese) feta or fresh mozzarella.
- Barley rusks are double-baked bread made with barley flour and have a wonderful nutty, whole-grain flavour, which comes in either hard or crispy. You can substitute with krisprolls or bagel chips.
Alternatively, make your own just by thickly slicing a wholemeal or whole grain sourdough and then toasting it in the oven at a low 135°C (275°F) for about 45-60 minutes, tossing it every now and then to help it dry evenly.
- Olive oil it is essential in this recipe to use good quality olive oil as the barley rusks need to soak it up to soften. Either pure olive oil, virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
- Dried Greek oregano 'rigani' is more aromatic than the dried oregano sold in supermarkets, but if you cannot find it, use dried oregano.
- Remaining vegetables, the rest of this salad is made up of readily available ingredients found at your supermarket; opt for an aromatic tomato variety such as truss tomatoes or ox heart tomatoes; for cucumbers, opt for a seedless variety such as Lebanese, Persian or Kirby; green capsicum/pepper either bell peppers or bullhorn peppers will work; red onion for its sweeter flavour but white onions are also acceptable.
How to Make this Salad
Step 1 - Prepare the Veg
Wash the tomatoes, remove the core and bottom, and cut them into large chunks or wedges.
Wash the cucumber, trim the ends, peel, leaving alternative green strips, then cut into rounds.
Remove the core and seeds from your capsicum, rinse well, and cut them into thin slices.
Remove the papery skin from your onion trim, then slice it into thin wedges.
Step 2 - Prepare Barley Rusks
If you are using hard rusks that are difficult to break apart, you will need to moisten them, so they are not rock hard in your salad - dentists are expensive 😉.
To do this, you run your barley rusks under cold running water under the sink, just enough to wet them but turn them into mush.
Then, with your hands, break them apart into medium sized pieces.
There is no need to do this if your rusks are crumbly or if you are using bagel chips or krisprolls.
Using a box grater, coarsely grate the anthotyro cheese.
Step 3 - Assemble Your Cretan Salad
Place all your vegetables in a mixing bowl; add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and oregano, and season with salt and pepper.
Toss until well combined, taste and adjust seasonings according to your liking.
Arrange in a salad bowl and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. Doing this will allow the flavours to meld together and for the barley rusks to soften.
Serving Suggestions 🍽
Another recipe that is seen quite often on our table and at our barbecues. A wonderful salad to serve with barbecued meat and poultry and great to serve with a traditional Greek lamb roast. Also excellent with moussaka, pasticcio, lasagne, and keftedakia (Greek meatballs) or kofta.
People Also Ask
What is the difference between Greek Salad, Cretan Salad and Dakos Salad?
- Greek Salad and Cretan salad use tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers/capsicums and, onions and, oregano, oil/vinegar dressing.
- But Greek Salad has a huge chunk of feta cheese on top, while Cretan Salad includes barley rusks and uses either mizithra cheese or dry anthotyro cheese.
- Dakos Salad, or Cretan Dakos, is made with a large barley rusk that has been dunked in water, grated tomato, olive oil and mizithra cheese or crumbled feta cheese. Some versions will include chopped olives or baby capers.
To Make It Ahead of Time
- You can make up the salad without the dressing up to an hour or two in advance.
- Add the dressing half an hour before serving to allow the barley rusk to soften and for the flavours to meld together.
How Do I Meal Prep This Salad?
If you put the dressing in a separate container, you can certainly take it for your lunch the following day or even for a picnic.
I would not recommend making a big batch of this salad for eating throughout the week.
But you can make this salad an hour or two in advance to allow the barley rusks to soak up the oil and tomato juices and soften.
How Can I Store It?
Keep it in an air-tight container in the fridge, and it should be good to eat a day or two after making it.
- You can make Cretan salad keto or low-carb by omitting the rusks as we have done in our Keto Greek Salad or even preparing large keto croutons instead.
- For vegetarians and vegans, you can either omit the cheese or replace it with vegan feta cheese.
- As bread and cheese are not allowed on Paleo or Whole30 diets, this salad would not be suitable, but you may leave out the barley rusks and try a paleo cheese substitute instead.
More Greek Salads to Try...
If you would like to explore some more Greek salad recipes, we have quite a few to choose from; try our -
- Greek Salad "Horiatiki" - traditional Greek salad recipe;
- Maroulosalata - traditional lettuce salad recipe;
- Greek Lamb Salad - a sensational dinner salad for the meat lovers in the family.
- Greek Potato Salad - this recipe is a version of one my grandfather loved to make.
- Greek Style Brussels Sprouts - everything tastes better with feta 😉.
- 500 grams truss tomatoes (approximately 3 medium, 17.64oz)
- 300 grams Lebanese cucumbers (approximately 3 small, 10.58oz)
- 100 grams green capsicum (bell pepper) (approximately 1 small, 3.53oz)
- 100 grams small red onion (approximately 1 small, 3.53oz)
- 100 grams barley rusks 1 (approximately 4 small, 3.53oz)
- 100 grams Anthotyro cheese 2 (approximately ½ cup, 3.53oz)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Wash all the vegetables remove the cores, tops and bottoms. Then cut the tomatoes into large chunks, the cucumbers in rounds and the green capsicum and onion into thin wedges. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- If your barley rusks are hard then run them under cold running water to soften first.
- Break the barley rusks into medium pieces and coarsely grate or crumble the anthotyro cheese on top of the vegetables.
- Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Toss until combined, taste and adjust seasonings according to your taste.
- Arrange in a salad bowl and chill for 15-30 minutes then serve.