This scrumptious Fried Feta Saganaki will have you shouting "Opa!" in 10 minutes or less ... if you love Greek food, then you have to try this delicious, easy recipe!
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When I lived in Chicago (years ago!), my husband and I loved going out for Greek food. Along with its famous deep dish pizza, Chicago is also know for its bustling Greektown. And even beyond that neighborhood, the city is full of amazing Greek restaurants.
We had our favorite spot, of course, and my stomach starts rumbling just thinking about all the delicious foods we ate there. No matter what else we ordered though, there was one dish we never passed up ... Greek flaming cheese aka Saganaki!
Now, I'll try pretty much any recipe at home, but anything involving soaring flames, and I'm out! But I read a little about the history of this dish recently, and apparently the flames are a Chicago (and now American / Canadian) thing. Once I heard that, I immediately knew that I needed to make my own version of this iconic dish.
If you're as big of a fan of that cheese on fire as me, then you have to try this Fried Feta Saganaki! While it's a little different (not to mention safer and easier to make) than the restaurant version, it's just as tasty. And best of all, it only takes about 10 minutes to prepare.
Ready to try this wonderful cheesy appetizer for yourself? Then, keep reading for all the mouthwatering details!
What is Saganaki?
Saganaki is a Greek fried cheese appetizer. In Greece, it is cooked in a small frying pan called a saganaki (hence the name). However, a regular skillet works just as well.
This dish is popular in Greek restaurants in the U.S., where it often set aflame with a splash of brandy ... at which point you must yell "Opa!" The flaming cheese is then extinguished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. While certainly a fun experience and very tasty, this flaming cheese version was actually created at the Parthenon restaurant in Chicago and not in Greece.
For this recipe, we are skipping the flames and serving the cheese the more traditonal (and easier / less hazardous) way. And don't worry, even if you don't serve this delicious appetizer flambéed , you can still yell "Opa!" before eating it.
What kind of cheese is Saganaki made from?
Saganaki is usually made with graviera, kefalograviera, kasseri, or kefalotyri cheese. Sometimes you'll find it made with halloumi or feta cheese, too. For this recipe, I chose to use feta cheese, because it's so much easier to find than these other Greek cheeses here in the U.S.
Does feta melt?
Feta does not melt when heated, however does get soft and creamy. If you've ever had this dish made with chewier Greek cheeses, you will notice that Feta Saganaki has a completely different, much creamier texture.
This recipe uses basic ingredients you can find in any grocery store, which means you can throw this appetizer together anytime you get a craving. Here's what you'll need:
- Block Feta Cheese
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh Lemon
There any many varieties of feta, however this recipe works best with a firmer feta cheese ... like the kind you'll find in most grocery stores. If you use a creamier feta, just be aware that it will be more likely to fall apart when heated. I used this President Feta (my go-to, easy to find brand), and it worked perfectly.
You'll Also Need
To prepare the feta, you'll also need a a wide, shallow bowl (such as a pasta bowl) for dredging the feta with flour, a large skillet, and a spatula for flipping the feta. A thin spatula works best with the fragile cheese.
How to Make Fried Feta
This delicious appetizer recipe couldn't be easier to make, so let's get begin.
Start by heating your skillet and the olive oil. That way, the pan will be hot when your feta is ready.
Tip: The cheese in this recipe is shallow fried, not deep fried. Which means you will only need a couple tablespoons of oil, making it less messy, too.
While the pan heats, prepare the feta. For a standard 8-ounce block of feta, you will want to cut it into four thick slices. You can make this recipe with any size block of cheese however, just try to keep the slices about 2-ounces each ... so 3 slices for a 6-ounce block, 5 slices for a 10-ounce block, etc.
Next, add about a half cup of flour to a shallow bowl. Dredge the feta slices in the flour, turning to coat all sides. The moisture that is naturally found in feta will help the flour stick to it.
Was your feta was packaged in brine? Before dredging it in flour, drain it, then blot off any excess liquid with a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel.
Tip: I created this recipe to have a thinner, lighter coating of flour. If you'd prefer a thicker coating, dip the feta slices in a beaten egg before dredging them in the flour.
When your frying pan is hot, add the feta slices. They should sizzle when hitting the oil.
Cook the feta until until it's a deep golden brown on the bottom, then carefully flip it. Finish cooking until it's browned on the other side, too.
The feta cooks fast, especially the second side. It should only take about five minutes!
Tip: Take care when flipping the feta! It's a little fragile when heated.
Transfer the fried cheese to a platter, then squeeze a lemon wedge or two over the top. The lemon really brightens up the flavor of the rich cheese, so don't skip it!
Wasn't that easy?
If you've ever had Saganaki in a restaurant, you probably didn't realize it was this easy to make at home. This is truly the perfect appetizer anytime you're craving something delicious and different ... especially when you're in a time crunch!
What to Serve with Greek Fried Cheese
The recipe is wonderful served simply with a squeeze of fresh lemon, but it's even better served with crusty bread to spread the cheese on. Yum!
You'll also love it paired with sliced tomatoes (or even grape tomatoes), which helps cut the richness of the cheese. And briny olives are wonderful alongside, too. If you'd like to go all out for a party, pair it with a variety of appetizers—like hummus, tzatziki, fresh, marinated, grilled, or roasted veggies, dolmades, spanakopita triangles, etc.—to create a beautiful Greek mezze platter.
Want to turn this Fried Feta Cheese into more of a light meal? Try pairing it with a salad ... this Greek Quinoa Salad, Quick Chopped Salad, Lemony Chickpea Salad, or this Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad would all be delish!
However you serve this tasty dish, don't forget to shout "Opa!" before digging in.
Looking for similar appetizer ideas? Try one of these recipes next:
- Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Olives
- Feta Stuffed Peppers
- Feta, Pepper, and Olive Bites
- Layered Greek Hummus Dip
- Baked Ricotta
Fried Feta Saganaki
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese (227 grams)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- lemon wedges
- sliced bread, tomatoes, and olives (optional)
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, cut feta into four thick slices.
- Place flour in a shallow bowl, then dredge feta slices in flour, coating all sides.
- When pan is hot, add feta slices.
- Cook feta until dark golden brown on one side, then carefully flip and cook until browned on the other side. About 5 minutes total.
- Transfer to a platter and serve hot with lemon wedges, and if desired, bread, tomatoes, and olives. Enjoy!