10 Delicious Traditional Dishes from Corfu You Simply Can’t Resist!
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, there’s few places better than a vacation to Corfu! The queen of the Ionian islands, and the getaway of Empress Sissi of Austria, has it all: gorgeous towns and villages with unique architecture, beautiful beaches and lush vegetation, picturesque tradition for those seeking to relax and cosmopolitan flair for those seeking to pamper themselves with extravagance.
In Corfu, the weather is perfect almost the whole year round and the sea is crystal clear and glistening. The sunsets are magical and the food… the local food in Corfu is simply divine.
Corfu’s history is rich and lost into the sands of time, as is the case in all of Greece. The island’s strategic location right on the borders of Greece and Italy imbued the locals with a perfect blend of both cultures in all arts, crafts, music, expression, and of course, food.
The added distinction is that Corfu is one of the few areas of Greece that was never conquered or occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which means the culture and traditions carried in the local dishes significantly diverge in approach and repertoire than that of the rest of Greece: the Greek flair mixes only with the influences of the West, rather than those of the East, bringing a colorful variety to your table that you won’t be able to resist or predict!
Several of Corfu’s iconic dishes and desserts are now staples of modern Greek cuisine but even more remain local to the island, ready for you to discover and enjoy. We have compiled both in a list of the most popular and beloved dishes to get you started on a journey of culinary discovery!
The distinct nature of Corfu’s cuisine
While the rest of Greece was under Ottoman occupation, Corfu was under the control of Venice for quite a few centuries. Venice was a hub of commerce and trade and so Corfu also operated as such under Venetian rule.
As a result, Corfu and its local Greeks were influenced a lot not only by Italian but also by British, French, and other Western countries. These cultural influences show up a lot in the local cuisine, where traditionally Greek dishes are given a more Westernized or Italian spin to them. It’s even evident from their various names as you will soon see below!
That said, Corfu wasn’t exempt from the old rule that islands need to be self-sufficient, at least as far as the locals and their sustenance went. Corfu’s land is fertile and similar to mainland Greece in produce and variety of vegetables and fruit, so Corfiot cuisine has a balanced range of iconic dishes with seafood and meat alike.
One particularity, though, is the cultivation of the cumquat, which is prevalent only on the island of Corfu, and was imported from Japan in 1846. Corfiotes cultivate it studiously all over the island! One would think it hard to incorporate cumquats in your cuisine, but Corfu has done it, and some of these dishes are fervently beloved by locals and tourists alike.
In general, Corfiot cuisine aims for lush, rich dishes that are balanced, with many flavors blending together to enhance a whole. This masterful combination has produced several extremely popular dishes and desserts, such as the ones below.
Also called manestra colopimpiri, bourou-bourou is a thick soup made of orzo or other small-cut pasta and cooked with various vegetables in tomato puree. Onions, carrots, and celery, as well as cinnamon and red pepper are also added to the soup.
Bourou-bourou is comfort food, meant to keep you warm on chilly winter and spring nights. It is also an excellent vegan choice for Lent (and throughout the year), giving a rich taste full of aromas and blended flavors without having added anything animal-sourced in it!
This iconic Corfian salad is made from no fewer than 15 different types of local wild greens, from chards and nettle to sowthistle, leeks, wild leeks, and fennel. They are mixed together and lightly fried in olive oil over medium heat with chopped up onion, garlic, tomato, salt, and red pepper.
This salad is especially popular during winter when all these greens are in abundance, but a summer version with cultivated greens is also available. But be advised that the taste is only a hint of the explosion of flavors that the original has! Either way, it’s great to have with chilled wine.
Wild green salads are hugely popular on most Greek islands from Crete to Rhodes, though the mix of wild greens might substantially differ from one island to the other.
Sofritto is easily one of the best known, if not the best known dishes the Corfiot cuisine has to offer.
It is a mouth-watering, tender beef fillet that has been fried in medium heat to capture all the juices and tastiness inside, then slowly cooked with vinegar, a special spice mix called ‘sofritto’, garlic, and parsley, and doused in white wine.
This way of cooking naturally produces a velvety, smooth sauce that goes perfectly with the tender meat in a stunningly perfect balance of flavor and texture. It is often served with fried potatoes drizzled with oregano.
This is another dish that Corfu is famous for! It deceivingly looks like a tomato-cooked meat stew sitting on a pile of thick pasta, but true pastitsada tastes nothing like that!
The authentic dish that has many fanatic devotees has six secrets that differentiate it from any other similar dish: the red tomato sauce is cooked with copious amounts of onion and a special spice mix called spetseriko.
The balance of the different spices within varies, on whether you want it extra spicy or mild, but there is always allspice, bukovo, and cinnamon.
There is also a dash of vinegar for balance and red wine for depth of flavor. The sauce is olive oil-based and within it the rooster is cooked slowly, to the point that the sauce is viscous and the meat so tender that it “collapses” when prodded. Once ready, really thick pasta is cooked and then mixed in with some of the sauce before serving.
This dish is rich in flavor and texture and gives an opulent, extravagant feel to the senses. One single bite will tell you why it has so many dedicated fans!
Bourdetoo completes the trifecta of Corfu’s most famous and most beloved dishes together with sofrito and pastitsada.
This one is a very spicy fish dish that fishermen used to have with fish they couldn’t sell. These fish were usually seabed fish like scorpion fish (an invasive fish species in the Mediterranean), painted combers, groupers, scabbardfish, and even stingrays and octopus.
The fish is slow-fried in olive oil with a lot of onion and pepper to release the flavor. Once that is done, more red sweet pepper is added with a little water to allow the fish to cook til tender. Once done, lemon is added and served. The result is a gorgeous red sauce that isn’t for the faint of heart (unless explicitly cooked without hot peppers) and succulent, extremely tasty fish!
Bianco is a traditional way of cooking fatty white fishes in Corfu, named after the white hues of the dish when it is served. The appropriate fishes for bianco are white groupers, golden groupers or dusky groupers but can also be done with cod, pipers, or John dories.
The fish is first cut into thick slices then cooked together with onions, potatoes, garlic, parsley, and white pepper until soft. The dish is accompanied by fresh bread, with which to sop up the incredibly tasty sauce, while enjoying the tender fish and the soft, succulent potatoes.
Stakofysi is traditionally cooked on Mach 25th. The dried salted cod is so hard that it needs to be cut with a saw! That’s why it’s named that way (stakofysi = stocked fish), because it uses fish that isn’t fresh, like all the other dishes. The salted cod is soaked and tied with string to keep it from dissolving during the slow cooking.
It is then cooked in water with salt, pepper, and a clove of chopped up garlic. After a couple of hours when it’s soft, sliced potatoes are placed at the bottom of the pot under the fish, with olive oil. It is then cooked until the water is completely evaporated and the potatoes are extremely soft.
By now, a natural sauce has been produced that has the consistency of mayonnaise and the full flavor of the fish with the garlic. The fish itself is soft and tender, making it a favorite with locals.
Savoro is yet another age-old beloved fish dish with an astounding history. It takes its name from the savoro sauce, in which sailors would preserve the fish.
Savoro sauce had such ingredients that it protected the sailors from the scourge of scurvy that affected other crews of the era. It is also extremely tasty and a tad spicy! It is olive oil based, with garlic, vinegar, laurels, raisins, rosemary, and onions.
Nowadays, fish savoro are floured, deep fried fish such as bogue, striped red mullet, or picarel. The sauce is cooked quickly in the pan and the fish then dropped in. The crunchiness of the fish and the rich flavor of the sauce make fish savoro a favorite.
This is an almond treat that is made in Corfu for Christmas. Whole cumquats and ground up almonds are kneaded together after boiling slowly in sugar, then covered in powder sugar and decorated with whole almonds.
You need to eat it to know the perfect tangy balance of the fruit with the rich sweetness of the almond, making this sweet a favorite of the winter holidays.
10. Pasta Flora
Pasta flora is a most beloved local dessert or coffee treat. It is a thick butter-and-egg base, which is not quite cake and not quite a tart, which is then covered with a thick layer of jam, preferably tangy like cumquat, orange, or even apple.
Thin ribbons of the same dough are then placed in a basket weave over the jam layer, in its iconic decoration and baked. The result is a succulent, balanced sweet where the fruit flavor meshes with the rich butteriness of the base. You can also find it with other jams all over Greece, but the authentic one is only found in Corfu!
These ten are the most well-known dishes and treats from Corfu, but there are many more to discover! Corfiot cuisine specializes in balancing clashing flavors and spicing things up. Spices and herbs are pivotal, making each dish a symphony for your tastebuds that you are unlikely to forget, but certain to fall in love with.
Related: Most Popular Desserts in Greece