Cheese has been an integral part of the Greek diet since ancient times, having been mentioned in the ancient epic works of Homer. Literally hundreds of varieties of cheese exist throughout Greece with each area having its own regional type. Few varieties are common outside Greece, although the popularity of lesser-known types is growing and are becoming readily available at speciality cheese markets around the world.
Feta is by far the most popular and well-known variety of Greek cheese. The pungent, salty nature of feta is due to the sheep or goat's milk that is used in its production, as well as its curing process, which involves brine. Feta is used in many Greek dishes, such as spanakopita and horiatiki, and is also eaten plain with a drizzle of olive oil and oregano on top.
Mizithra is a sheep or goat's milk cheese that comes in two forms. The fresh type of mizithra is similar to cottage cheese or ricotta and is commonly used in sweet desserts, whereas the dried variety is salted and aged until hard and is used as a grating or cooking cheese.
Kefalotiri is a hard, aged cheese similar to Parmesan or Romano cheese and is used for grating over pasta or in saganaki, which is fried cheese. The salty, piquant taste of kefalotiri comes from ageing, which must be for at least 3 months to be considered a true kefalotiri cheese.
Ladotyri is a small, spherical cheese made from ewe's milk. Sometimes called kefalaki, which means "little head" due to its shape, it is a popular cheese from Mitilini. It has a strong flavour and is slightly salty from its ageing process, which requires that it be fermented in olive oil. Most often eaten as a table cheese, ladotyri is also eaten in salads.
Manouri is a soft, creamy cheese from Macedonia and Thessalia. Manouri has a subtle flavour and texture due to its high cream content. Being unsalted and containing up to 37 per cent fat, manouri is used for creamy desserts and sweet pies. In Athens and other parts of Greece, the word "manouri" refers to any creamy-type cheese.