In Crete, pies are a favorite traditional dish. They are known for using lots of local ingredients, being easy to make, and having a unique combination of flavors. Utilizing local products and traditional methods, pies are widespread everywhere in Crete, in rural and urban areas. Some well-known types are the ‘hortopites’ (wild greens), marathopites (fennel-based pies), cheese pies (sour, sweet or savoury with mint), ‘nerates mizithropites’ (the dough is fried while still wet), ‘sarikopites’ and ‘agn(i)opites’ (cheese pies), ‘kreatotourtes’ (meat pies), the pies of Sfakia, etc. There’s also a second category, the baked pies, like tzoulamas with rice, a cheese pie called myzithrompoureko, and light pies that are a bit like cake, with raisin pie being a favorite. Each kind of pie shows a bit of Crete’s history and its gastronomic heritage.

In Crete, gastronomy is more than just recipes; it’s a rich expression of people’s social and cultural lives. Important life moments like births, weddings, and death, along with religious celebrations, all involve special dishes. Crete’s history of living alongside different cultures, especially the mix of Christian and Islamic traditions up until the early 20th century, has contributed to the formation of a common gastronomic heritage. A good example of this mix is tzoulamas, a pie that is traditionally made for Carnival in Crete.

The dish’s name, “tzoulamas,” comes from the Turkish word “yağlama” and it’s also known in Turkey. It’s a pie with rice that tastes both sweet and sour. It was originally made in Messara, Crete, an area famous for growing rice since the 16th century. What makes tzoulamas special, is its coexistence of sweet and savory tastes, with ingredients like meat, nuts, sugar, rice, and raisins being the main features.

Naturally, the recipe varies from place to place. Some places make it sweeter by adding more sugar, while others simply use raisins for a light sweetness. Tenderly enclosed in handmade dough, this traditional dish is a key part of family celebrations during Carnival, not just in Messara but all over Crete. It’s usually baked in an oven today, but in the past, women used to bake it in covered pans (gastra) on the fire.

Our recipe at Peskesi comes from the Zaros cultural association’s book. It combines ingredients like crispy dough, rice pilaf cooked in chicken broth, almonds, myzithra cheese, raisins, and cinnamon. It is served hot, with a scoop of cream ice cream and tahini on the side.



Tzoulamas – By Eleni Kalaitzaki


  • 2 kilos of chicken broth
  • 1 kilo of myzithra cheese
  • 1 kilo of sugar
  • 500g of rice
  • 200g of almonds
  • 10g of ground cinnamon
  • Country-style dough


Pour 1,500g of chicken broth into a pot and add the rice.

Just before the pilaf is ready, add half the amount of sugar and the cinnamon, mix and let it cool.

In a bowl, place the myzithra cheese, stir with a fork, and add the crushed almonds, the remaining sugar, and cinnamon.

Oil a baking tray and spread 4-5 sheets of dough, which we have prepared, brushing each with olive oil and half of the rice. We also add half of the myzithra, spreading it evenly over the surface of the tray.

Place 2-3 dough sheets in the tray and add the remaining rice and myzithra. Cover the tray with 5-6 sheets, brushing them with olive oil, and pour over 500g of chicken broth, so that the sheets do not get soaked. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake the Tzoulamas at 180 degrees for about half an hour.


Before putting the tray in the oven, score the dough, to make it easier to cut after baking.


  • Flavors of Zaros, Authentic Cretan Traditional Recipes
  • Folklore Museum of Zarou, 2026
  • Nutritional Cultural Heritage of Greece – The Pie, Directorate of Newer Cultural Inventory & Intangible Cultural Heritage Ministry of Culture and Sports
  • Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece