Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (2024)

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 Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (1)

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!

Table of Contents
  1. What is Saganaki?
  2. Ingredients for this Saganaki Recipe
  3. How to Choose the Right Saganaki Cheese
  4. How to Make Fried Greek Cheese
  5. How to Flambé Cheese (Optional)
  6. Do I Have to Flambée Saganaki?
  7. How to Serve Fried Greek Cheese
  8. Try These Crispy Cheesy Delights
  9. Greek Cheese Saganaki Recipe

What is Saganaki?

“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.

Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (2)

Ingredients for this Saganaki Recipe

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.

  • Cheese: Kefalotyri,Graviera, or, Kefalograviera are the preferred Greek cheeses for this recipe. If those aren’t available to you, you can substitute authentic Greek kasseri, feta cheese or halloumi. Just make sure to keep a close eye as it will melt more quickly.
  • Oil: Use a high quality extra virgin olive oil, like our Greek Koroneiki, for pan-frying. Do not use vegetable seed oil as it will distort the flavor.
  • Ground black pepper: Since the cheese is naturally salty, we only use pepper to season the flour.
  • Flour: Standard all-purpose flour coats the cheese, allowing it to get golden brown and crispy without falling apart.
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon wedges squeezed over the hot, melting cheese gives a delicious balance between bright, savory, creamy, and rich.
  • Spirit (optional): Use brandy or ouzo to give it the traditional flambé.
Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (3)

How to Choose the Right Saganaki Cheese

The key to a great Greeksaganaki 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 Cypriothalloumicheese, which is much saltier than the Greek cheeses suggested in this recipe, would also be a good substitution.

How to Make Fried Greek Cheese

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

  • Prepare the cheese. Slice a (cold) 8-ounce block of cheese into two ½-inch wide pieces. Briefly run it under room temperature water and pat dry.Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (4)
  • Coat the cheese in flour. Spread all purpose flour onto a rimmed plate and season with black pepper. Dredge each half in the flour and pepper mixture, shaking off any excess.Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (5)
  • Pan-fry the cheese. Add ¼ cup of olive oil to a medium nonstick skillet. Set over medium heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), pan-sear the cheese slices until they’re golden brown and bubbling on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. The cheese should form a nice thin crust with a soft, melty interior.Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (6)
  • Serve: Squeeze on some lemon juice and serve the fried Greek cheese immediately. Or, flambé the cheese with the help of brandy or ouzo (see instructions below).

How to Flambé Cheese (Optional)

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!

  • Add the alcohol. To flambé safely, first pull the hot skillet off the heat of the stove (and away from your face). Then, pour half a shot glass (about ½ ounce) of brandy or ouzo into the skillet.
  • Ignite! Carefully ignite the alcohol using long matches or a BBQ lighter. As soon as the “oohs” and “aahs” subside and the alcohol burns off, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and serve.

Do I Have to Flambée Saganaki?

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!

Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (7)

How to Serve Fried Greek Cheese

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, traditional Greek 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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Greek Cheese Saganaki

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Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (14)

Saganaki is a beloved Greek appetizer that’s easy to make at home. Simply fry cheese until it’s golden brown and melted and serve with a squeeze of lemon. If you’re feeling festive, treat your guests to a (totally optional) tableside flambé.

Prep – 4 minutes mins

Cook – 6 minutes mins

Total – 10 minutes mins



Serves – 4




  • 1 (8 ounce) block semi-hard cheese like kefalotyri, graviera, or pecorino (see note)
  • All purpose flour, for coating
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
  • ½ ounce brandy or ouzo, to flambé (optional)


  • Prepare the cheese. Use a sharp knife to slice the cheese into two ½-inch-thick slices. Rinse each slice with room temperature water, then pat them dry slightly. (This will help the flour adhere to the cheese.)

  • Coat the cheese in flour. Spread flour onto a rimmed plate and season with black pepper. Dredge the two pieces of cheese in the flour, coating all over.

  • Fry the cheese. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), carefully arrange the slices side by side in the skillet. Pan-fry the cheese for a couple of minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Lower the heat slightly so it does not brown too fast. Flip the cheese and sear until the other side is golden brown.

  • Finish and serve. Squeeze some lemon juice over the cheese and serve at once. Or, to flambé the cheese, pull the pan off the heat. Pour the brandy into the skillet and carefully ignite it. Once the alcohol burns off, squeeze some lemon juice on top and enjoy!


  • You can use feta cheese, but it will cook more quickly. Make sure to keep an eye on things and take it off the heat as soon as it’s golden brown.
  • Try to get a block of cheese (about 4x4-inches), instead of a wedge of cheese. This will allow you to cut it into two thick slices of even thickness. You can also ask the cheesemonger to cut the block for you into two, ½ inch-thick slices of cheese (4 ounces each). To make four individual portions, you can cut each slice into two triangles, for a total of four triangles.
  • Visitour shopto browse quality Mediterranean ingredients includingolive oils,honey,jamsandspices.


Calories: 136.3kcalCarbohydrates: 2.5gProtein: 0.4gFat: 13.6gSaturated Fat: 1.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9.9gCholesterol: 0.3mgSodium: 3.8mgPotassium: 37.7mgFiber: 0.8gSugar: 0.7gVitamin A: 7IUVitamin C: 14.3mgCalcium: 9.8mgIron: 0.2mg

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Saganaki Recipe (Fried Greek Cheese) | The Mediterranean Dish (2024)


What is saganaki cheese made from? ›

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.

What is a good substitute for saganaki cheese? ›

You can also use Graviera, Kefalograviera, Kefalotyri, or even firm feta cheese.

How is saganaki often served in restaurants? ›

North American serving style

In many Greek restaurants in the United States and Canada, after the saganaki cheese is fried, it is flambéed at table (often with a shout of "opa!"), after which the flames usually are extinguished with a squeeze of lemon juice.

How do you eat saganaki? ›

Saganaki is served with a bit of lemon and that's it. Place it on the table and cut it in bite size pieces. Generally it is not consumed with bread, I find that it is nice to eat with a salad like a simple tomato salad or a romaine as it balances out all richness of the cheese.

What does saganaki mean in Greek? ›

The word 'saganaki' in Greek means 'little frying pan' and it is also the name given to the grilling cheese. famously fried and flambéed in a saganaki and. popular all over Greece as a shared starter. You can.

What is the best cheese to fry? ›

Cheeses that have a high melting point can be fried. While the cheese melts slightly, it will generally retain its shape in the fryer or skillet. Popular fried cheese options are cheese curds, queso blanco, halloumi, paneer, mozzarella, bread cheese, certain cheddars, and provolone.

What cheese doesn't melt when fried? ›

But as the weather gets hotter, maybe we should take a look at some cheeses that don't melt. There's a family of semi-firm cheeses — among them, queso panela, queso fresco, paneer, halloumi, feta, cotija, ricotta and soft goat cheese — that won't melt over direct or indirect heat in your kitchen.

What cheese can you fry that doesn't melt? ›

Opt for varieties such as Halloumi, Paneer, or Queso de Freir – these cheeses are known for their ability to hold up well under heat. Proper preparation is key when it comes to frying cheese without breading. Begin by cutting your chosen cheese into slices or cubes of your desired thickness.

Can you eat saganaki raw? ›

Saganaki cheese must be consumed straight after cooking, which is why it is usually served in the pan. “Saganaki is never taken out and put onto the plate, it's always served in the pan,” says Conistis.

What is the difference between saganaki and Haloumi? ›

What is this? Some say Saganki is essentially halloumi that has been fried because saganaki means 'small frying pan'. Wikipedia says: 'In Greek cuisine, saganaki (Greek σαγανάκι) is any one of a variety of dishes prepared in a small frying pan, the best-known being an appetizer of fried cheese'.

How many meals a day in Greece? ›

Greeks typically have 3 meals a day. Traditionally the largest meal of the day was lunch, but many habits have changed due to Greeks adapting a westernized way of living.

What is lunch like in Greece? ›

Greek lunches are traditionally a light meal that consists of a homemade vegetable stew or casserole. It is served with staple sides of cheese, bread, salad, and most importantly, wine.

What animal is saganaki from? ›

Saganaki cheese (Turkish: saganaki peyniri) is a Greek and Turkish cheese made of sheep's milk, cow milk, goat milk, or a combination, and used to prepare saganaki.

What cheese was invented in Greece? ›

Feta (Greek: φέτα, féta) is a Greek brined white cheese made from sheep's milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk.

What is deep fried cheese called? ›

Queso frito 'fried cheese' has many variations. Spanish versions sometimes use paprika. It is also found in Central American cuisine. Malakoff is a Swiss-fried cheese dish. Mozzarella sticks are slices of mozzarella cheese that are battered or coated in bread crumbs and then deep-fried or pan-fried.

Is saganaki actually Greek? ›

Is saganaki authentic Greek? Absolutely! It is a traditional starter of Greek cuisine.

Is saganaki a cow or goat? ›

Cheese saganaki is traditionally made with a firm, salty goat, cow or sheep's milk cheese such as halloumi, Kasseri or kefalotyri, but queso fresco, Manchego or paneer will work, too. Ouzo, an anise-scented liquor, is often used to set the cheese on fire, but any high-proof spirit will work.

Can you eat saganaki cheese raw? ›

Saganaki cheese must be consumed straight after cooking, which is why it is usually served in the pan.

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