Does Greek Food Have Peanuts? (Not usually, but . . .)

I love Greek food! From dolmas to spanakopita to grilled meats and other favorites; it’s all delicious. But for those with a peanut allergy, it’s common to wonder does Greek food have peanuts?

Here’s what I know from eating a lot of it:

No. Peanuts are not common in Greek food. It’s more common to find almonds and pistachios than to find peanuts or even peanut oil for that matter due to the high price of peanut oil compared to other oils.

There’s a lot to learn about nuts in greek food, though.

I’m going to show you what to avoid and what nuts are most commonly seen in greek dishes.

Let’s jump right into it.

How common are peanuts in Greek food?

It’s very common for Greek food to use tree nuts in both their main dishes and desserts. Thus, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios are most frequently used in meals.

This is where it comes down to having a peanut only allergy and a tree nut allergy.

So if you have a peanut allergy, greek food should be reasonably safe. However, if you have a tree nut allergy, you must avoid greek food or at the very least stay cautious.

It is not very common to see peanut in general when eating greek food.  This makes Greece perfect for people with peanut allergies.

However, you should always try to carry a note on you explain your allergy in the language of the country you’ll be visiting.

You can always just tell the waiter “Horis katholou fistikia i xirous karpous”. It means without any kind of nut. It’s best to avoid all nuts even if you aren’t allergic to them all. This way, you prevent cross-contamination.

What nuts do Greeks eat?

Tree nuts are the most common nuts in greek foods. And they are most often seen in desserts. The main nuts used are:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios

Fystiki Aeginas is one of the Greek’s most famous pistachios. They get sun-dried for at least 3 days. Between the soil and climate, they are just hands-down better than any other pistachio!

They’re good to eat by themselves or in a dish. 

So while nuts are common in desserts, here are a few ways you might see nuts used in savory dishes:

Chestnuts

Making a turkey for Christmas in Greece means you’ll find chestnuts and rice in it. You can even find nuts in a few different easter dishes.

Pine Nuts

Pine-nut is a standard nut used in traditional dishes. Pine-nut and rice grape leaves are very traditional in Greece. But you might also see pine nuts tossed in a salad, or turned into a sauce too.

Almonds

Stewed almonds is a Greek delicacy!  For this dish, the almonds get picked when they are still green. Then they get stewed onion, tomato, lemon juice, and olive oil. Check out this recipe to make this delicious dish!

So ultimate people with a peanut allergy who can tolerate other nuts are going to be fine eating in Greece or Greek restaurants. Just be aware, be cautious, and talk to your server.

There are places that would be much worse to go to with a peanut allergy. Such as Vietnamese which put peanuts in most dishes and sauces.

I have a recent article about peanuts in Vietnamese food. Click the link to read it on my side.

Funny enough, even with how much nuts are used in desserts and festive food, there isn’t a word for nuts used regularly in greek.

It more common to hear nuts referred to as dried fruit, which includes everything from walnuts to sesame seeds.

Do Greek desserts have peanuts?

When it comes to being cornered about peanut allergies, desserts should be where your worry is. 

But as we’ve covered extensively, Greek food, even desserts, don’t typically have peanuts in them. Pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are just far more common.

One dish that should be safe to eat is galaktoboureko. This dish is semolina custard baked in filo and covered in syrup. Fun fact the name actually means milk burek.

Check out this awesome recipe if you want to make it at home!

In trying to locate a recipe for Greek desserts with peanuts, I literally was not able to find much of anything. However, because tree nuts are common, and because they may be processed in facilities that may also process peanuts, those with an extreme peanut allergy, should avoid some of the following desserts, just to err on the side of caution.

Baklava

Baklava is a sweet pastry that is made of filo filled with chopped nuts. The nuts are usually pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts. It’s held together and sweetened with syrup or even honey.

There are nut-free versions of this sweet dessert that you can make at home. 

Saragli

Saragli is a slightly different version of Baklava, more specifically rolled Baklava. It’s also usually only made with walnuts.

Does Greece have as many peanut allergies as the United States?

Greece does not have as many people with peanut allergies as the United States does.

To be specific, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “2.5 percent of U.S. children may have an allergy to peanut”. (source)

Comparatively, in Greece, while #13 of the countries with food allergy issues (The US was #6), most of the issues are with milk and eggs. In fact, it’s hard to find any real data about peanut allergies in Greece. And the studies that have been done, tend to lump in all food-borne allergens. (source)

It’s very rare for someone to have a peanut allergy in Greece. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t understand peanut or nut allergies.

If you go to a tourist destination spot you’ll find very accommodating restaurants.

You do have to be careful though as some places might not take you as seriously. This is only because in places other than the United States they look at allergies as a cold.

Such as seasonal allergies with coughing and sneezing. So people in Greece might not realize that your allergy has the potential to kill you.

This makes it important to carry a card saying how real and serious your allergy is. Make sure you have copies and to tell the waiter to give it to the cook too.

Most cooks will be happy to make sure no peanuts are in your food. Just make sure to avoid desserts or stick to desserts that you already know are safe.

Do Greek restaurants use peanut oil?

Unlike in America or even Mexico, where peanut oil is used more often, Greece is not known for using peanut oil.

The biggest issue isn’t allergy-related or flavor, it’s cost. Peanut oil tends to cost a lot more than other types of cooking oil. So for that reason, at least in Greek restaurants in Greece and the US, you’re not likely to find it. But do ask!

Olive oil and sunflower oil is most commonly used in most dishes. Sunflower oil is usually used as a substitute for olive oil. You may even find sesame oil, which is commonly used on bread.

But speaking of Mexico, I do have a recent article about peanuts in Mexican food. It goes over the same basics of this article but for Mexican food.

Click the link to read it on my site.

Even in desserts, you won’t see peanut oil being used. Greek food doesn’t contain peanuts, so the main thing to worry about is cross-contamination.

If you or someone you know has a peanut allergy, as I’ve mentioned, it’s best to have an emergency card on you. Usually, this will state how bad your allergy is and that you can not nuts of any kind.

This way there is no confusion with any of you.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about peanuts in Greek food?

Peanut allergies are very serious and you want to make sure you always take a few steps to ensure you’re always safe.

Like I mentioned before make an info card that has a picture of peanuts on it. This way the waiter and cook can’t mistake what you mean.

In this article though we showed how peanuts are not found in most greek food. You will find nuts in desserts and should be cautious of cross-contamination. Peanut oil should also be the least of your worries as this is almost never used at restaurants in Greece. Remember to have a card on you to explain the seriousness of your allergy.

For a little extra help here is something you can right on a card.

Είμαι αλλεργικός στα εξής: κάστανα, καρύδια, κουκουνάρι, φιστίκια Αιγίνης, φουντούκια, φιστίκια κάσιους, αμύγδαλα και όλους τους ξηρούς καρπούς. Αν φάω φαγητό που περιέχει αυτά τα συστατικά, κινδυνεύω να πάθω αναφυλακτικό σοκ. Αν συμβεί αυτό, θα χρειαστώ αμέσως ιατρική φροντίδα.

This means

“I am allergic to the following: chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, Aegina pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and all kinds of nuts. If I happen to eat any food that contains any of those ingredients, I am in danger of an anaphylactic shock. If this happens, I will immediately need medical care.”

Stay safe and enjoy your travels.


Photo which requires attribution:

Serendipity (Mr. Peanut) by shannonpatrick17  is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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