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What is Saganaki?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Saganaki is a Greek appetizer which is made by frying or broiling cheese. Like other Greek appetizers or meze as they are known in Greek, saganaki is designed to be consumed in small amounts, as part of a large spread of small dishes. There are a variety of ways to make saganaki, ranging from frying the cheese in a traditional frying pan known as a sagani to broiling the cheese in the oven.

In Greece, saganaki is typically made with traditional Greek cheeses, which tend to be both very aromatic and salty. These intense cheeses are well suited for frying; people outside of Greece can use feta, a traditional Greek cheese, but they can also experiment with cheeses like Parmesan and mozzarella. Other Greek cheeses which are used to make saganaki include: mizithra, kefalotiri, and manouri. Especially soft, runny cheeses are not recommended, as they will fall apart in the cooking process.

When prepared in the traditional way, saganaki is fried in a sagani and served in the same frying pan, to retain the distinctive golden crust. Consumers cut off small chunks of the cheese, and they may sprinkle it with lemon juice or consume it straight. Cooks who do not want to fry their cheese can glaze it with melted butter and then broil it in the oven. In both cases, the inside of the cheese becomes soft and runny, while the outside is crispy, with a crunchy and bubbly outer layer.

Some versions of saganaki involve the use of a simple batter, which is designed to make the cheese even crustier. Cooks may also wrap cheese around other foods, like shrimp, to create a variety of appetizers. In adventurous kitchens, the cheese is soaked in brandy and flambéed, served hot at the table after being extinguished with lemon juice. This type of saganaki is especially popular in North America.

While the thought of fried cheese might not seem particularly healthy, it is important to remember that saganaki is served as part of a much larger spread of foods, including a variety of meze from fried ocotopus rings to stuffed grape leaves. Each diner takes only a small portion, getting a sampling of a variety of foods, and therefore the unhealthy nature of saganaki is mitigated. For cooks who want to hold a meze party at home, it can help to enlist several people to bring appetizers, thereby ensuring a broad spread of items without creating a heavy burden of work for one person.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Sep 27, 2011

Is saganaki and fried halloumi cheese the same thing?

I had something very similar to saganaki at a restaurant but I don't think it was saganaki. The restaurant owner said that it is a specialty food in Cyprus, made by lightly frying halloumi cheese.

It was a very soft cheese and looked more toasted than fried. It would get long like mozzarella when I tried to cut it. But it does sound similar to saganaki and was served as an appetizer with bread. It didn't have a crunchy outer covering though.

Since Cyprus and Greece are very close, I imagine that this is either the Cyprus version of saganaki or something very similar.

By SteamLouis — On Sep 26, 2011

I had a lot of saganaki when I was in Greece. It was especially popular in taverns and served with alcohol like the famous Greek ouzo- a Greek alcoholic drink made from anise seeds.

The ones I had were mostly made from goat cheese, although several were made from cow's milk. I think the reason that this is such a popular appetizer in Greece (aside from the fact that it tastes really good)is because it is really easy and quick to make.

Most of the other Greek appetizers are served cold- the salads, eggplant, dolmas and yogurt. And all of these foods are prepared hours before and are ready to go when a table orders it. The only one which has to be made when ordered is saganaki because it has to be eaten hot or the cheese will harden. But it's not a problem because it is so easy and prepared in a matter of minutes.

I remember always looking forward to the saganaki at restaurants because I would be so hungry by dinner time and wanted something hot, comforting and satisfying which saganaki is.

By burcinc — On Sep 26, 2011

That sounds amazingly delicious and so unhealthy as most delicious foods are! I'm happy that the article pointed out that saganaki is meant to be eaten in moderation along with other foods. And I'm sure that it is not something that Greeks have every single day.

Knowing myself though, if I was offered a variety of appetizers including saganaki, I would eat the saganaki first and way too much of it! Who can resist fried cheese?!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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