Crafting Mediterranean Breakfasts

Mediterranean Breakfasts
A traditional Turkish breakfast buffet at Hotel Kalehan in Selçuk, Turkey. Photo from the 2015 Oldways Turkey Culinaria.

Like breakfasts in many parts of the world, breakfasts in the Mediterranean vary depending on the day of the week. On the weekend, breakfast (or brunch) is an opportunity to gather with friends and family, relax, and enjoy a traditional spread.

In parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, for example, you’d likely see flatbreads dipped in olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar (a Middle Eastern dried herb mix), a variety of soft and hard cheeses, hummus, fresh cucumber and tomato salad, olives, pickled vegetables, and ful medames (cooked fava beans) on the table.

When in Morocco, you might eat shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce) with semolina cakes and sweet mint tea. While in Greece and Cyprus, trahana (fermented cracked wheat or couscous made with milk), served with feta or halloumi and eggs is a popular treat.

Hearty breakfasts like these used to be eaten more regularly, back when people had to fuel up for jobs that required manual labor. These days, during the work week, breakfast in the Mediterranean is quick and light. Aside from the standard coffee or tea, there is still great diversity in everyday breakfast foods across the Mediterranean.

Here are a few examples:

  • Lebanon: leftover grains, usually bulgur or barley + milk + cinnamon + honey + fruit
  • Spain and Italy: toasted bread + soft cheese + fresh fruit or freshly squeezed fruit juice
  • Israel: flatbread + olive oil + labneh (strained yogurt) + chopped cucumber and tomatoes
  • Turkey: ayran (cold yogurt drink) + simit (sesame-encrusted bread rings) + fresh fruit
  • Greece: paximadia (biscuits made from whole wheat, chickpea, and barley flours) + olives + cheese
  • Syria: tahini yogurt with chickpeas + pickles + sliced radishes
  • Morocco: fried egg in olive oil + soft cheese + olives + flatbread

Generally, Most of these “breakfast foods” are really just a sampling of foods eaten regularly throughout the day. In Turkey, for example, people often eat a small bowl of savory soup for breakfast. Breakfast is not the main meal of the day in the Mediterranean, but it’s a way to start the day off on a good note.

The Oldways Breakfast 1-2-3 Plan, inspired by Mediterranean breakfasts, consolidates these foods into 3 categories:

  1. whole grains
  2. fresh fruit or vegetables
  3. a source of protein (eggs or yogurt, for example)

Eating something (even a small portion if you’re not feeling hungry in the morning) from each of these categories will energize you and fill you up until lunch. As you can see, the combinations are endless when you’re not limited to traditional breakfast foods from the Western diet, like cereal and toast.Try the recipes below to add variety to your breakfasts!

Click on a title below to go to the recipe:


Roasted Tomato & Asparagus Frittata

A frittata is an Italian egg dish, similar to a crustless quiche. It’s simple to make – everything cooks in the same skillet – and it’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables and cheese. This recipe features roasted tomatoes, leeks, asparagus, and two types of cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano and goat cheese. Leftovers pack well for lunch or breakfast on the go the next day.

Recipe and photo courtesy of FOODMatch.



Lazy Morning Muesli with Apple and Walnut Crumble

This easy-to-make muesli is packed with flavor and heart-healthy walnuts. Garnish with raisins, grated apple, and top with yogurt or kefir and a touch of honey if desired. It can also be mixed with milk. Make a batch on the weekend for delicious breakfast all week long.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Walnuts.



Overnight Apple Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Although apple peanut butter oatmeal is not a traditional breakfast in the Mediterranean, it’s made with whole grains, healthy fats, and fruit, all parts of the base of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. What better way to start your day? This recipe uses a slow cooker to make multiple servings that can be reheated in the microwave throughout the week.

Recipe and photo courtesy of The Peanut Institute.


This article was originally published as part of Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:   Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)