The Best Mediterranean Diet Recipes

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy and delicious way to eat.

The Mediterranean diet has been a favorite of dietitians for many years. It has consistently ranked No. 1 overall in U.S. News Best Diets rankings. While the health benefits are well established, we wanted to know more about the experiences of people who actively follow the Mediterranean diet.

So the health editors at U.S. News teamed up with the food pros at America’s Test Kitchen to survey more than 230 people who follow this healthy way of eating. They shared their biggest challenges, as well as the health benefits they personally experienced. You can read more about those survey results here.

The survey also asked participants about the foods they ate — such as new discoveries and go-to meals. While many noted that they enjoyed the freshness and diversity of flavors — from Greek and Spanish, to Italian and Middle Eastern — in the new foods they had added to their diets, a few did stand out. The favorite Mediterranean-inspired snacks and dinners to make include:

— Olives and olive oil.

— Grains like tabbouleh, couscous, quinoa, farro and bulgur.

— A variety of fish and seafood.

— Chickpeas and hummus, including hummus-based wraps.

— Pasta, especially orzo.

— Vegetables. A significant number of people shared that they were eating more vegetables than before beginning the diet.

— Greek salads, with several adding that they’re filling and quick to prepare.

Many mentioned that they “like experimenting with different grains,” and one respondent wrote that they liked the “nuttiness” of whole grains like farro and bulgur.

The diverse flavors and easy recipes of the Mediterranean diet

One selling point of the Mediterranean diet is that it doesn’t ban entire food groups. Thus, it’s considered relatively easy to follow. And the easier a diet is to follow, the better the odds are of sticking to it.

Because the Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern — not a structured diet — you’re on your own to figure out how many calories you should eat and how you’ll shape your Mediterranean menu. It’s also easily adaptable if you have specific dietary or cultural preferences or restrictions.

For some expert help, the team at ATK has shared seven recipes from their bestselling cookbook: “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook: 500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes for Living and Eating Well Every Day.

These simple recipes for snacks, soups, salads and dinners feature some of the favorite Mediterranean foods from the survey.

Classic hummus

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

For a flavorful, silky-smooth hummus that puts supermarket versions to shame, we started with canned chickpeas. We used the food processor to simplify the preparation; instead of laboring over the fussy job of removing the chickpeas’ tough skins, we simply pureed the unskinned chickpeas into a velvety emulsion with olive oil and tahini.

Makes about 2 cups.

— 1/4 cup water.

— 3 tablespoons lemon juice.

— 6 tablespoons tahini. (ATK recommends Ziyad Tahini Sesame Paste.)

— 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling.

— 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed.

— 1 small garlic clove, minced.

— 1/2 teaspoon salt.

— 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin.

— Pinch cayenne pepper.

— 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley.

1. Combine water and lemon juice in small bowl. Whisk tahini and oil together in second bowl. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.

2. Process garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne and remaining chickpeas in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. With processor running, add lemon juice mixture in steady stream. Scrape down sides of bowl and process for 1 minute. With processor running, add tahini mixture in steady stream; process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until flavors meld, about 30 minutes.

3. Sprinkle with cilantro and reserved chickpeas, drizzle with extra oil to taste and serve.

Classic gazpacho

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

To showcase the brightness of fresh vegetables in our gazpacho, a tomato-based soup, we chopped the vegetables by hand to retain their color and firm texture. A sherry vinegar marinade guaranteed well-seasoned vegetables, and tomato juice and ice cubes provided the liquid base. Chilling the soup for at least four hours allowed the flavors to meld.

Serves 8 to 10. This recipe can be halved. Cut some extra vegetables to use as a garnish. Serve in chilled bowls with croutons, chopped pitted black olives, chopped hard-cooked eggs and finely diced avocados.

— 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces.

— 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces.

— 2 small cucumbers (1 peeled; both halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into ¼-inch pieces).

— 1/2 small sweet onion or 2 large shallots, minced.

— 1/3 cup sherry vinegar.

— 2 garlic cloves, minced.

— Salt and pepper.

— 5 cups tomato juice.

— 8 ice cubes.

— 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional).

Extra-virgin olive oil.

1. Combine tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onion, vinegar, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt in large (at least 4-quart) bowl and season with pepper to taste. Let sit until vegetables just begin to release their juice, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato juice, ice cubes and hot sauce, if using. Cover and refrigerate until flavors have melded, at least four hours.

2. Discard any unmelted ice cubes, and season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold, drizzling individual portions with oil.

Country-style Greek salad

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

Most restaurant versions of Greek salad consist of iceberg lettuce, chunks of green pepper and a few pale wedges of tomato, sparsely dotted with cubes of feta and garnished with one forlorn olive of questionable heritage. For our Greek salad, we aimed higher and left out the lettuce altogether to make a “country-style” salad that is popular throughout Greece.

We wanted a salad with crisp ingredients and bold flavors, highlighted by briny olives and tangy feta, all blended together with a bright-tasting dressing infused with fresh herbs. For a dressing with balanced flavor, we used a combination of lemon juice and red wine vinegar and added fresh oregano, olive oil and a small amount of garlic. We poured the dressing over fresh vegetables, including tomatoes, onion and cucumbers, as well as other ingredients, including fresh mint and parsley, roasted peppers and a generous sprinkling of feta cheese and olives.

Marinating the onion and cucumbers in the vinaigrette toned down the onion’s harshness and flavored the cucumbers.

Serves 6 to 8.

— 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

— 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

— 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano.

— 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

— 1 garlic clove, minced.

— Salt and pepper.

— 2 cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced thin.

— 1/2 red onion, sliced thin.

— 6 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges.

— 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 1/2-inch strips.

— 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered.

— 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley.

— 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint.

— 5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 1/4 cups).

1. Whisk oil, vinegar, oregano, lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add cucumbers and onion, toss to coat and let sit for 20 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, red peppers, olives, parsley and mint to bowl with cucumber-onion mixture, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer salad to wide, shallow serving bowl or platter, and sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately.

Grilled swordfish skewers with caponata

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

Swordfish has a robust taste all its own and needs co-starring ingredients with just as much oomph. We decided to put the smoky flavor of the grill to work, threading swordfish pieces onto skewers and pairing them with a Sicilian-inspired grilled caponata — a saucy mix of eggplant and tomatoes with a sweet-and-sour profile.

As a base for the caponata, we grilled eggplant, cherry tomatoes, lemons and scallions alongside the swordfish and added an aromatic blend of warm spices for a potent sauce to complement the fish. Once grilled, the lemons transformed from tart and acidic to sweet and rich. Rubbing the swordfish with a bit of ground coriander, salt and pepper added complexity and provided flavor that popped with the tomato, scallions and a final sprinkling of fresh basil. If swordfish isn’t available, you can substitute halibut. You will need six 12-inch metal skewers for this recipe.

Serves 4 to 6.

— 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

— 1 1/2 tablespoons honey.

— 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 lemons, halved.

— 5 teaspoons ground coriander.

— 2 garlic cloves, minced.

— 1 teaspoon ground cumin.

— Salt and pepper.

— 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

— 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

— 1 1/2 pounds skinless swordfish steaks, 1¼ to 1½ inches thick, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces.

— 12 ounces cherry tomatoes.

— 1 small eggplant (12 ounces), cut crosswise on bias into 1/2-inch-thick ovals.

— 6 scallions, trimmed.

— 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped.

— 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil.

1. Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, honey, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons coriander, garlic, cumin, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg together in large bowl. Microwave, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute; set aside.

2. Pat swordfish dry with paper towels, rub with remaining 1 tablespoon coriander and season with salt and pepper. Thread fish onto three 12-inch metal skewers. Thread tomatoes onto three 12-inch metal skewers. Brush swordfish, tomatoes, eggplant and scallions with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

3A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

3B. For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.

4. Clean cooking grate, then repeatedly brush grate with well-oiled paper towels until black and glossy, 5 to 10 times. Place swordfish, tomatoes, eggplant, scallions and lemon halves on grill. Cook (covered if using gas), turning as needed, until swordfish flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 140 degrees and tomatoes, eggplant, scallions and lemon halves are softened and lightly charred, 5 to 15 minutes. Transfer items to serving platter as they finish grilling, and tent with aluminum foil. Let swordfish rest while finishing caponata.

5. Once lemons are cool enough to handle, squeeze into fine-mesh strainer set over bowl, extracting as much juice as possible. Add juice to spiced oil-honey mixture; whisk to combine, and stir in olives.

6. Using tongs, slide tomatoes off skewers onto cutting board. Chop tomatoes, eggplant and scallions coarse; transfer to bowl with caponata; and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove swordfish from skewers, sprinkle with basil and serve with caponata.

Baked orzo with eggplant and tomatoes

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

We wanted to put a modern spin on a classic Greek manestra — a simple, hearty baked dish of orzo (pasta in the shape of large, plump rice), tomatoes and oregano, sometimes adorned with a little cheese and a splash of olive oil. To make our interpretation of this dish into a filling meal, we decided to include a few additional components.

Tasters particularly liked the addition of eggplant; pretreating it with salt in a microwave rid the eggplant of excess moisture and allowed us to saute it using a minimal amount of oil. Tomato paste, garlic and anchovies gave the dish a rich umami core. Toasting the orzo added a nutty dimension. We found that the dish dried out in the oven unless we topped it with an unhealthy amount of cheese; so instead, we shingled tomato slices on top to keep the orzo moist while the casserole cooked through. As a final homage to traditional manestra, we topped the dish with feta, oregano and olive oil.

Serves 6

— 1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

— Salt and pepper.

— 2 cups orzo.

— 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving.

— 1 onion, chopped fine.

— 3 garlic cloves, minced.

— 4 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried.

— 2 teaspoons tomato paste.

— 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and minced.

— 1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth.

— 1 1/4 cups water.

— 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup).

— 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced.

— 4 tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick.

— 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup).

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line large plate with double layer of coffee filters, and spray with vegetable oil spray. Toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and spread evenly on coffee filters. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, 7 to 10 minutes, tossing halfway through microwaving.

2. Toast orzo in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer to bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer to separate bowl.

3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in again-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, 1 tablespoon oregano, tomato paste and anchovies, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in orzo, eggplant, broth, water, Parmesan, capers and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, and spread into even layer.

4. Shingle tomatoes attractively over top, then sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Bake until all liquid has been absorbed and orzo is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle feta and remaining 1 teaspoon oregano over tomatoes and drizzle with extra oil. Serve.

Warm farro with lemon and herbs

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

Nutty, chewy farro, a relative of wheat (and thus not gluten-free), is a popular grain in Italian cuisine and makes for a satisfying side. We used the pasta method to cook our farro; the abundance of water cooked the grains evenly. Sautéed onion and garlic gave the dish savory backbone, and bright lemon and herbs lent it freshness.

We prefer the flavor and texture of whole farro; pearled farro can be used, but the texture may be softer. Do not use quick-cooking or pre-steamed farro (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this) in this recipe. The cooking time for farro can vary greatly among different brands, so we recommend beginning to check for doneness after 10 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6.

— 1 1/2 cups whole farro.

— Salt and pepper.

— 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

— 1 onion, chopped fine.

— 1 garlic clove, minced.

— 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley.

— 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint.

— 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add farro and 1 tablespoon salt, return to boil and cook until grains are tender with slight chew, 15 to 30 minutes. Drain farro, return to now-empty pot and cover to keep warm.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and farro, and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in parsley, mint and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Tabbouleh

Why This Recipe Works, According to the Cooks at America’s Test Kitchen:

Tabbouleh is a signature Levantine salad from the Eastern Mediterranean that puts parsley front and center, along with bulgur, tomatoes and onion, all steeped in a penetrating mint and lemon dressing.

We started by salting the tomatoes to rid them of excess moisture that otherwise would have made our salad soggy. Soaking the bulgur in lemon juice and some of the drained tomato liquid, rather than in water, allowed it to absorb lots of flavor as it softened. Chopped onion overwhelmed the salad, but a couple of mild scallions added just the right amount of oniony flavor. Fresh mint and a bit of cayenne pepper rounded out the dish. Adding the herbs and vegetables while the bulgur was still soaking gave the components time to mingle, resulting in a cohesive dish.

Don’t confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which has a much longer cooking time and will not work in this recipe. For a gluten-free recipe, you can substitute quinoa for bulgur.

Serves 4 to 6.

— 3 tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

— Salt and pepper.

— 1/2 cup medium-grind bulgur, rinsed.

— 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons).

— 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

— 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

— 1 1/2 cups minced fresh parsley.

— 1/2 cup minced fresh mint.

— 2 scallions, sliced thin.

1. Toss tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt in fine-mesh strainer set over bowl, and let drain, tossing occasionally, for 30 minutes; reserve 2 tablespoons drained tomato juice. Toss bulgur with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and reserved tomato juice in bowl, and let sit until grains begin to soften, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, oil, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in large serving bowl. Add tomatoes, bulgur, parsley, mint and scallions, and toss gently to combine. Cover, and let sit at room temperature until flavors have blended and bulgur is tender, about 1 hour. Toss salad to recombine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Easy Mediterranean diet recipes you will love

— Classic hummus.

— Classic gazpacho.

— Country-style Greek salad.

— Grilled swordfish skewers with caponata.

— Baked orzo with eggplant and tomatoes.

— Warm farro with lemon and herbs.

— Tabbouleh.

More from U.S. News

A Day’s Worth of Meals on the Mediterranean Diet

16 Tips From Real People to Succeed on the Mediterranean Diet

Blue Zone Foods to Add to a Diet

The Best Mediterranean Diet Recipes originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 12/27/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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