Kefalonia is a gorgeous, verdant island resting comfortably in the Ionian Sea. Unlike the Greek islands of the Aegean, the Ionian isles are generally lush, with calm seas, and iconic architecture. They are the stepping stone from Greece to Italy, and it shows in their history, their culture, and their food.
Of these islands, Kefalonia is the biggest, and boasts some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and vistas. Vibrant green foliage kisses the turquoise waters. Caves and craggy rockfaces give a touch of wild to the beauty of exotic beaches. Elegant buildings revive older eras. And then, there’s the food.
Kefalonia’s food is simply exquisite, and many authentic dishes can only be found on the island, if at all! Thanks to the fertile soil, opulence is balanced by tradition and history in every bite.
The dishes we list here are the most well known, popular ones, those guaranteed to fill you with happiness. But there are many more to explore, so see this list as simply your starting point!
Kefalonia’s rich cuisine of dual heritage
Like so many of the Greek islands, Kefalonia has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. Its name and origin is part of ancient Greek myths. Through the centuries, the Myceneans and later the Macedonian Greeks left their mark on the island, building on a culture that the Romans would further influence.
Its significance as a naval base and key point on a trade route made it a target for pirates, who plagued Kefalonia for several centuries, well into Byzantine times.
Later, the Normans then the Turks ruled over Kefalonia, until the Venetians took over all the Ionian islands. Struggles between the Venetians and the French and Greeks led to more strife, until finally, in the 20th century, and due to the devastating world wars, the Ionian islands and with them, Kefalonia, became part of Greece.
Like all the Ionians, it was Italy more than the Ottoman Empire that left its defining mark on how its culture and, very importantly, cuisine developed. Based on Greek Mediterranean cuisine, the solid Italian influences together with French and British elements have created a variation of Greek food that is like no other, balancing strong tastes with the innovation that comes with hardship, which the locals endured throughout their history.
Wild greens and wild garlic, pies, and meat are the staples of Kefalonia’s cuisine.
1. Meat Pie
Kefalonia’s meat pie is opulent and decadent. Hand-kneaded, laminated dough is filled with a rich mix of three different meats (usually pork, goat, and beef).
The filling is cooked slowly with herbs, olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, and the famous local Robola wine. The result is a crispy, lush pie with a rich, fragrant filling and an irresistible taste.
2. Artichoke Pie
Artichoke pie is a bit of a bone of contention among the different Kefalonia villages. It’s considered the epitome of Kefalonia’s pies, and each village claims theirs as the one, true, authentic version. Many a good-natured fight takes place between Kefalonians over who is right!
But that’s good news for you because you get to taste different variations of this unique, unusual pie, and trust us, they’re all amazing. What they all have in commo is that the dough is kneaded with olive oil and wine, and the filling is artichoke cooked with a variety of herbs, sometimes rice, and garlic, and olive oil.
3. Cod Pie
Another pie specific to Kefalonia is one filled with cod. The hand-kneaded dough is rolled out and coated with olive oil. The filling is made with skinned and pulled cod fillet cooked with tomato, garlic, parsley, marjoram, and olive oil.
Other versions also add leek and squash for extra richness. The result is a crispy pie with a succulent filling full of flavor!
4. Tsigaridia (Wild Greens)
Tsigaridia is a popular spring and summer dish in Kefalonia. It is almost unique every time it is cooked as the herbs and wild greens that go into it depend on what has been picked on the day!
Fennel, parsley, marjoram, and two types of onion are generally constants, but you will also find anything from cauliflower to lapata to spinach. Everything is cooked in olive oil, garlic, and tomato, and a dash of rice to pull it all together.
The dish is tasty, surprisingly rich, and full of flavors that have blended seamlessly together.
5. Beef Prokado
Beef prokado is a delicate dish, made with thin slices of the meat, layered with cheese and herbs, and made into rolls that are then fried in a pan. A tomato sauce with onion, wine, and beef stock completes the dish.
The taste is rich, the texture smooth, and the flavor full. This way of cooking, called prokado, means the meat is fused with a combination of garlic and herbs. Beef prokado is often served with buttered pasta.
6. Pork with Quince and Potatoes
This is a festive dish, usually reserved for celebrations or Sunday family dinners. Thin slices of pork are rolled around quince chunks and cooked in the oven with thickly sliced potatoes, orange juice, olive oil, and herbs. It makes for a lush, sweet taste that goes well with pork.
This is an iconic thick soup from Kefalonia. It’s made with beans, he mix of which can vary from household to household. The most common combination is lentils, beans, chickpeas, and split peas.
Cooked with chopped onion and olive oil, the soup is thickened by fluctuating the heat just before taking it off the stove. It is incredibly nutritious, quite filling, and tastes amazing, thanks to the variety of legumes!
8. Mandola and Mandolato
These sweets, specific to Kefalonia, are named from the Italian word “mandorla”, which means almond. Mandolas are roasted almonds with caramelized sugar and a crimson coating that traditionally comes from a seaweed used as food coloring.
It’s a crunchy treat that’s slightly perilous as it is almost impossible to have just have one!
Mandolato is another almond-based confection, which was originally made for the aristocracy. It is made with almonds, honey, sugar, and meringue. The result is a chewy, nutty sweet with a satisfying texture.
9. Komfeto (aka Pastokydono)
Komfeto is a Greek dessert made with boiled and crushed quinces, cooked with sugar and almonds and then mixed with honey. It can be eaten with a spoon on its own or added to other desserts for extra opulance.
10. Robola: Kefalonia’s Internationally Acclaimed Wine
Robola is Kefalonia’s most acclaimed product. This PDO amber wine is made with grapes grown solely on the slopes of the island’s mountain. It’s extremely fragrant, with a light, elegant, fruity flavor and aromas of orange blossom, peaches, and citrus fruits.
The locals drink it with pretty much every meal, though it is generally considered one of the best matches for fish, vinaigrette, and lemon sauces.
Kefalonia is a gorgeous island, with beautiful natural landscapes, great beaches, a long fascinating history, and a blend of cultural influences that make its local cuisine exquisite and unique. This list is only the gateway to a large variety of surprising combinations of ingredients and foods that make for amazing dishes and irresistible tastes.
When you’re on Kefalonia, make sure to enjoy the good food and good wine as much as the gorgeous beaches and the interesting sites!
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