Traditional Cretan sweets, Kalitsounia & Kserotigana

Traditional Cretan sweets, Kalitsounia & Kserotigana

Kalitsounia (left) are small cheese or herb pies. Crete is famous for its small cheese or herb pies! They resemble a common cheese or stuffed pie with the main difference of its filling and serving variations. This recipe is for the sweet version which is served with honey! You can also find them in other parts of Crete where the filling is salty, usually stuffed with herbs. “Xerotigana” on the other hand (right) are spiral or butterfly shaped pastries that are fried then dipped in honey and sprinkled with crushed almonds. These are Crete’s traditional wedding sweets that we serve at the table but also hand out to each guest as they leave. ( I had them at my wedding..simply delicious!) Below the Kalitsounia recipe you will find a recipe for these also!

Ingredients for Kalitsounia

  • 250g margarine (room temperature)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 ½ cups of brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 kg of self raising flour

For the Filling:

  • 2 ts grounded cinnamon
  • milk (as much needed to soften your filling. This depends on the softness of your cheese)
  • 2 kg mizithra (local Cretan cheese)
  • 2 Tbsp  finely choppedmint leaves 

Directions for Kalitsounia

  1. Prepare your dough. With a hand held mixer, mix your margarine with your sugar and gradually add your eggs. Once they have mixed in well, pour the milk and finally add your flour. When you have poured half a kilo of flour, leave the mixer and continue mixing by hand until a dough has formed. 
  2. Knead your dough on your counter for an extra 5 minutes then set aside to rest for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make your filling. Mix all the ingredients above well. The consistency of your mixture should not be runny or too solid. Place it in the fridge and start forming your dough. 
  3. Separate it in half and open flat approximately 1cm in height. Using a wide cup, form circles and remove remaining dough onto the other half that you’ve set aside. Place 2 tablespoons of filling inside and fold inwards only half way on top of filling. 
  4. You should leave an opening in the middle the size of a water cap bottle. Pinch with your hand perimetrically to form little mountain tops as I call them! 
  5. Crack an egg and whisk it well so you can egg wash your pastry before cooking in a preheated oven at 170 degrees C for 20 min or until golden brown on top. Make sure they are golden on the bottom by turning them over slightly. If the dough is still white, bake for an extra 5 minutes with the heat of the oven set to the bottom, at 200 degrees C.


Ingredients for Kserotigana

  • 1 kg all purpose flour 
  • 1 egg       
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/8 cup tsikoudia  
  • 1 cup of water
  • oil (for frying)
  • cinnamon
  • almonds (for garnish)


  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 water glass sugar
  • 1 glass of water

Directions for Kserotigana

  1. Place flour in a big bowl, add some water, the egg, milk and tsikoudia and knead until the dough becomes hard. Let it rest for 1 hour. Then roll out a very thin pastry sheet (you can use a dough roller/sheeter) and cut it in stripes (2-4 cm), roll it in a circle or instead of cutting strips, you can cut small rectangles about 10cm by 5cm and make a butterfly shape as shown in the picture above! 
  2. Fry the xerotigana in sizzling oil. Ensure that their colour turns golden and not brown. When they are ready, take them out and strain them. Then prepare the syrup.
  3. Mix the water and sugar in a saucepan stirring continuously, and let it boil for 10-15 minutes until the syrup becomes thick. Remove from the fire, add the honey and continue stirring in order for the syrup not to stick. 
  4. Then dip the kserotigana in it one by one, soak them for 1-2 minutes, take them out, put them in a large flat dish and sprinkle with some sugar, cinnamon and some crushed almonds.
  5. ***Use plenty of oil during frying because the kserotigana must be floating in it.