The traditional Saganaki - Greek fried cheese is a delicious appetizer with only three ingredients. A crunchy golden crust reveals a decadent warm cheese inside that is hard to say no to. It is ready in 15 minutes tops.
Saganaki - σαγανάκι is a really simple Greek recipe. There are a few variations but this is the simple cheese version. It is a very popular greek meze, an absolute must to order when you are dining at a traditional taverna.
Traditionally the name saganaki refers to various appetizers prepared in a traditional "sagani" pan. It is a small pan, usually made from cast iron with a thick bottom and two facing handles. Popular dishes are fried in a sagani, like shrimp, mussels, and this popular cheese appetizer. In Greece, when you order a saganaki, it usually refers to the fried cheese appetizer. The other versions are always accompanied by the main ingredient's name, such as shrimp saganaki or mussels saganaki.
How to make saganaki
The secret to a good saganaki is the right cheese. It should be hard to withstand the heat and not melt and dissolve in the pan. The cheeses traditionally used for a saganaki recipe and are the best choices are graviera (greek gruyere) and kefalotyri, which are hard yellow cheeses.
When frying, it is important to achieve a beautiful and thick enough crust so that the cheese won't melt in the pan. A trick is to pass the cheese through cold water, dredge it with flour and fry it over high heat. If using a softer and less durable cheese, it is advisable to repeat this process twice to form a thicker crust. It is a good trick for a crispy saganaki crust.
I cook my saganaki in a hot cast iron pan. You can use any non-stick pan if a cast iron pan is not available.
- Hard cheese
- All-purpose flour
- Olive oil
- Lemons for serving
Cut the cheese into 0.5 inch thick slices and 2.5 to 3 inches wide. Each one must be thick enough that it doesn't melt during frying.
Immerse each slice in cold water.
Dredge it in the flour. Do the sides as well. Shake off any excess flour.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry each cheese slice until it's golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.
Flip the slice halfway through to brown both sides nicely
Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Tips & substitutions
- You can add seasonings to the flour if you like. Add a pinch or two red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper. A teaspoon of old bay seasoning will work as well; be aware of the salt content of the cheese you will use for a good balance of flavors.
- Another idea for a coating is to dip the floured cheese into a beaten egg. Dredge it in breadcrumbs and fry until all sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
- You can cut the cheese into pieces the size of a matchbox, coat with flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, and fry them in a frier until golden brown.
It is a cheese with a firm, slightly springy texture and delicate savory, tangy flavors. Hard cheese has a dense consistency and is perfect for frying because it won't melt in the pan and holds its shape.
Graviera cheese is ideal. They call it the Greek gruyere. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor.
Gruyere works really well for this recipe.
Kasseri cheese makes a great saganaki. It is slightly salty, sweet with a distinct aroma. Its flavor is similar to provolone.
Another cheese usually used for saganaki is kefalotiri. It is a salty cheese mostly used over pasta in Greece. An equivalent can be pecorino romano. Both are the saltiest cheeses on the list.
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Saganaki - Greek Fried Cheese
- A cast iron pan
- 1 lb Hard cheese Like gruyere, graviera, kasseri or pecorino romano.
- 1 cup All-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil for frying
- 1 Lemon quartered
- Cut the cheese into 0.5 inch thick slices and 2.5 to 3 inches wide. Each one must be thick enough that it doesn't melt during frying.
- Immerse each slice in cold water.
- Dredge it in the flour. Do the sides as well. Shake off any excess flour.
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry each cheese slice until it's golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.
- Flip the slice halfway through to brown both sides nicely.
- Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.
If you’ve tried this recipe or any other on The Greek Foodie, then don’t forget to rate it and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it.