Pilafi Kritis | Cretan Wedding Pilaf Recipe

Greek Food Photos - Cretan Pilafi
The best tasting Wedding Pilaf from Crete. Photo © Jim Stanfield
  • 75 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Yield: 10-12 (10-12 servings)
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In Greek: πιλάφι, pronounced pee-LAH-fee

The perfect Greek rice pilaf recipe. There are two kinds of rice dishes in Greece: rice (ryzi) and pilaf (pilafi). Rice is... well, rice, and pilaf is creamy and cooked in broth from freshly boiled chicken or beef. Pilaf is a traditional wedding dish on Crete, where it's made in enormous quantities to feed the often thousands of invited guests.

What You'll Need

  • For the Chicken Broth:
  • 4 1/2 pounds of stewing hen (cut in pieces)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 lemon (whole, well washed)
  • For the Pilaf:
  • 4 1/2 cups of chicken broth (strained, above)
  • 8 1/2 cups of water (hot)
  • 4 1/2 cups of rice (long-grain)
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons of butter
  • 6 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Garnish: pepper (freshly ground black)

How to Make It

Make the broth: In a pressure cooker, add the hen, the whole lemon, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and seal. Bring to pressure, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes until the chicken is very tender. Allow pressure to release naturally.

  • Note: To make the broth without a pressure cooker, see How to Make Chicken Broth.

Remove hen from the pot and set aside in a covered dish. When the broth in the pot cools sufficiently, strain into a bowl.

Make the pilaf: Measure out 4 1/2 cups of the broth and pour into a large pot. Add 8 cups of hot (tap) water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the rice and stir frequently to keep from sticking. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, and cover.

In a small skillet, heat the butter over high heat until it sizzles. Lift the cover of the pot and quickly pour in the hot butter and close the cover quickly (it will spatter). When the sizzling stops (a few seconds), remove the cover, stir briefly, and recover.

Allow to sit 5-10 minutes before serving. The pilaf is supposed to be smooth and creamy, and slightly mushy. Serve with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Serve the hen separately on a platter.