Trying the Mediterranean diet? Start with these great recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Tuesday night skillet chicken cutlets with artichokes and mushrooms. Med Dish 2022 Photography: Caitlin Bensel
Tuesday night skillet chicken cutlets with artichokes and mushrooms. Med Dish 2022 Photography: Caitlin Bensel

We've heard it for a long time now: The Mediterranean diet is the way to go, at least according to U.S. News & World Report's rankings of Best Diets that put the eating pattern at the top of the pile six years running.

The diet is characterized by eating primarily plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, while also fitting in beans, nuts, whole grains, seafood and lean poultry. There is a focus on unsaturated fat from sources like extra-virgin olive oil, too.

And it's a good option for anyone to try, according to dietitians.

But shifting how you eat can feel intimidating. We get it, we've been there, too, looking at our pantry like "where do we even start?"

Not to worry, USA TODAY rounded up some very tasty Mediterranean focused recipes from professionals for you to try at home.

"It's super easy to cook in the way or the style of Mediterranean diet because mostly, you're using ingredients that you can pretty much find anywhere," chef Diane Kochilas of "My Greek Table," tells USA TODAY.

"Most of this food is very simple," Kochilas says, noting that the biggest transition for some to try a diet like this is getting used to the idea of not eating meat multiple times a day.

Food for thought: Why do we eat foods that we know we shouldn't?

Kochilas shared her recipes for toasted orzo with carrots, raisins, and pine nuts and a kale caesar with Greek yogurt dressing.

And Kochilas isn't the only chef who shared Mediterranean cooking tips and ideas with us.

Suzy Karadsheh, CEO and founder of The Mediterranean Dish, shared recipes from her book "The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat", including spanakopita egg muffins and her Tuesday night skillet chicken cutlets with artichokes and mushrooms.

And "fast-fine" dining group Souvla, based in San Francisco, shared its recipes for tzatziki, a cucumber dip, and melitzanosalata, an eggplant dip.

Getting hungry? Scroll on down for the full recipes.

Spanakopita egg muffins

Med Dish 2022 Photography: Caitlin Bensel
Med Dish 2022 Photography: Caitlin Bensel

The egg muffins freeze well for an "on-the-go" breakfast.

Makes: 8 muffins


  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • 8 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika

  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 (6-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained (wring out any water)

  • ½ small yellow onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)

  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1 (4-ounce) block feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously brush the bottom and sides of 8 cups of a muffin tin with olive oil. (If your muffin tin has more than 8 cups, fill any remaining cups with water.)

  2. In a medium bowl with a spout, combine the eggs, oregano, black pepper, paprika, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. (Using a bowl with a spout makes pouring the mixture into the muffin tin so easy.) Whisk well, then add the spinach, onion, parsley, mint, garlic, and feta. Whisk until the mixture is well blended.

  3. Pour the egg and spinach mixture to fill each muffin cup about three-fourths of the way (make sure you leave enough room for rising). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the eggs are fully set. Let cool briefly, then run a butter knife around the edge of each muffin to loosen. Remove from the pan and serve, or store for later.

"The Mediterranean Dish” by Suzy Karadsheh. Photographs by Caitlin Bensel. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

Tuesday night skillet chicken cutlets with artichokes and mushrooms

Makes: 4 servings


  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4 large half-breasts)

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • ¹⁄³ cup all-purpose flour (or flour of your choice)

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)

  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 (15-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and quartered

  • ½ cup dry white wine

  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

  • Juice of 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)

  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

  • Your favorite plain grains, cooked according to package directions, for serving


  1. Pat the chicken dry. Place a chicken breast half on a cutting board and put one hand flat on top of it. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice horizontally through the breast starting at the thicker end and finishing at the thin point where the breast should remain attached (do not fully split the breast). Open the chicken breast so that it resembles a butterfly. Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts.

  2. Season both sides of the chicken breasts well with salt and black pepper and 1 teaspoon of the oregano. Put the flour on a wide plate and coat the chicken cutlets with the flour on both sides, dusting off excess.

  3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, flipping once, until each side is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a large plate.

  4. In the same skillet, add more olive oil if the skillet is dry and add the mushrooms. Cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and season with about ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and the remaining teaspoon oregano. Cook, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes begin to release some of their juices, about another 3 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and wine, and cook until the liquid reduces by half, 1 to 2 minutes, then add the chicken broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil.

  5. Return the chicken to the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked, another 5 to 6 minutes.

  6. Transfer the chicken and tomatoes to serving plates, top with the fresh basil, and serve with a side of grains.

"The Mediterranean Dish” by Suzy Karadsheh. Photographs by Caitlin Bensel. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

Toasted orzo with carrots, raisins, and pine nuts

Kochilas serves this recipe with a spiced roasted chicken, she says. And, the cooking method is unique — instead of boiling like pasta, the orzo toasted first so turns an amber shade, according to Kochilas.

Makes: 2 servings


  • ½ cup Aegina pistachios shelled and toasted or 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil

  • 1 large red or yellow onion chopped

  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced

  • 2 garlic cloves minced

  • 1 1/2 cups orzo divided

  • 1 pinch Greek Krokos saffron

  • 3 – 4 tablespoons Corinthian currants or seedless raisins plumped in warm water

  • Sea salt to taste

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint and/or parsley


  1. Toast the pine nuts or pistachios in a small dry skillet over medium heat and set aside.

  2. Have 6 cups of hot water or vegetable broth simmering on the stove.

  3. Heat half the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion and carrot until soft, lightly browned, and glistening.

  4. Stir in the garlic. Add half the orzo to the pan and continue to cook until the orzo starts to brown. Sprinkle the saffron into the toasting orzo and add 1 cup of hot water or broth. Stir. Add more water or broth in half-cup increments until the browned orzo is soft but al dente, about 7 minutes.

  5. While cooking the vegetables and orzo, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add salt and boil the other half of the orzo. Drain, reserving 1 cup of its boiling liquid.

  6. Add the boiled orzo to the toasted orzo mixture in the frying pan and stir together gently to combine. Stir in the nuts. Stir in raisins, adding some of their soaking liquid if desired. Stir in the mint and/or parsley and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Diane Kochilas.

Kale caesar with Greek yogurt dressing

Kale caesar
Kale caesar

"Kale is a newcomer to the Greek salad genre, but it’s taken root," Kochilas says in an emailed statement. "Since Greeks enjoy so many vegetables in the brassica (cabbage) family, kale fits right in. This Greek recipe for a Caesar Salad was born of the desire to combine new and ancient ingredients to create something that’s both Greek and contemporary."

Makes: 4 servings


  • 10 cups kale rinsed and coarsely chopped

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas drained

  • 2 anchovy fillets

  • 1 garlic clove minced

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil

  • Greek sea salt to taste

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt

  • 1 scant tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons fresh strained lemon juice

  • Grated zest of 1 lemon

  • ¼ to ½ cup Greek kefalograviera cheese coarsely grated

  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Combine the kale and chickpeas in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Mash the anchovy and garlic in a food processor to make a paste. Whisk together the olive oil to make a paste, and season with salt. Add yogurt, mustard, and lemon juice to the anchovy paste. Pour over salad and toss well. Sprinkle with lemon zest and grated cheese, and season with black pepper. Mix well and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Diane Kochilas.


Makes: 1 quart


  • 3 each English Cucumber

  • 1 ½ tablespoons &1/2 tbsp Kosher Salt

  • 1 bunch Dill

  • ½ bunch Mint

  • 2 cloves peeled Garlic

  • 3 cups Thick Greek Yogurt or Kefir cheese


  1. Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth and place the colander in a bowl to catch the cucumber water that will drain off. Wash, peel, and deseed the cucumbers and cut into a fine dice.

  2. Toss the cut cucumbers with the salt and place in the cheesecloth-lined colander to drain in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

  3. Squeeze off excess liquid by twisting the ends of the cheese cloth.

  4. Wash and dry the herbs. Pick the dill fronds and mint leaves then finely chop.

  5. Mince the garlic into a paste or grate on a Microplane.

  6. Combine all ingredients and season to taste.

  7. Serve cold garnished with dill fronds.

Recipe courtesy of Souvla chef and partner Tony Cervone.


Makes: 1 quart


  • 1 globe eggplant

  • 3-4 roma tomatoes

  • ½ bunch scallion

  • ½ bunch dill

  • ¼ bunch parsley

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt to taste


  1. Pick the dill and parsley and roughly chop. Thinly slice the scallions into small rounds and set aside both.

  2. Over an open flame, char the eggplant and tomatoes until the skin turns black and is cooked through. The eggplant flesh should smell and taste smokey. Place both the eggplant and tomatoes in a covered bowl until cool enough to handle. Peel the tomatoes and eggplant while still hot and remove most of the seeds. Cut both into small dice. Combine all the ingredients and season to taste with salt.

  3. Serve at room temperature garnished with dill fronds and parsley.

Recipe courtesy of Souvla chef and partner Tony Cervone.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mediterranean diet recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks