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Koulouri Thessalonikis – Street Food

Koulouri Thessalonikis (also called Simitiko), is a street food, round shaped bread product with a hole in the middle, covered with sesame seeds, crunchy outside and soft inside.

It is one of our healthiest snacks as it is low in fat but very nutritional and most dietitians / nutritionists will tell you to eat one for breakfast or as a snack. In addition, it is very cheap, as it costs around 0,50 – 0,60 cents.

The street vendors also sell some of those triangle cheese (not to mention the name) with the smiling cow to accompany it.

koulouri new

It dates back to the early years of ChristianityThis played an important role in their nutrition but it was widely made known during the Byzantine years when it first appeared in Constantinople and strange enough it became popular in Thessaloniki when the refugees brought it back in 1922.The word koulouri comes from the ancient Greek κολλίκιον”, kollikion, which means a round bread made with coarsely ground wheat and this is mentioned in many Byzantine scripts.

The profession of bread making or koulouri making was exercised mainly by Greeks from Heperus who immigrated to Constantinople and it is said that their heads were funny shaped because of the weight they had to carry every day, as they had to carry baskets or wooden planks with koulouria on their heads. This was a highly respectable (and may be prosperous) profession at the time because the mothers would bless their sons and wish them all the luck to become vendors of koulouria in Constantinople.

These craftsmen would begin heating their ovens burning wood just after midnight and then they would prepare the yeast, make the dough and before the crack of dawn everything was ready.The wonderful smell of baked bread and sesame seeds was a temptation no one could resist.The street vendors with the load of baskets or planks with koulouria on their heads, would scatter towards all directions and by 10-11 a.m. they were sold out.

In Constantinople the vendors would advertise their product by shouting out loud to attract people “Koulouria Thessalonikis”. Many years later, the refugee-vendors coming from Asia Minor to Athens, would sell the same product calling it with the same name and selling it in the same way they used to do this profession for hundreds of years. This is how this popular snack has taken its name.

(Source: Adapted and translated by me from The Union of Bread makers of Thessaloniki)

Koulouri was and still is wonderful as a snack for any time of the day, especially for breakfast.

You can eat it as it is or cut in the middle with butter and honey or jam, or with any filling you might choose.  My favourite (first picture above) is butter, halloumi, smoked turkey and citrus marmalade.

Koulouri cut

Nowadays koulouria are sold either in bakeries or by street vendors in the crowded streets with shops, nearly one at every corner selling thousands of them.

On Sundays you can find them outside churches, as people go to church without eating, so when the liturgy finishes it is a lovely treat until you get home for breakfast.

Koulouria Thessalonikis – Street Food

Preparation time: 1 hour
Baking time: 20 – 25 minutes
Makes: 10 – 12


  • 500 grams of bread flour(reserve ½ cup)
  • 1 sachet dried yeast (9grams)
  • 1 cup of lukewarm* water
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 250 grams of sesame seeds

Tip:  We can test the water by putting our little finger in the water.  If we can stand the heat then the water is fine.


  1. In a large bowl add the flour, dry yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil and mix together until the oil is absorbed by the flour. (You can do this in the mixer but the procedure is so easy that it is easier to make it without a mixer). Start adding water, gradually and mix until the dough is not sticking on the bowl and on your hands. If it is add some more of the flour you have reserved until the dough is ready.
  2. Cover with a clean towel and leave it to rise until it doubles in volume (about half an hour depending on the temperature).
  3. When the dough has risen, knead it again for five minutes. Divide the dough into ten or 12 pieces about the size of an egg and dust your working surface with flour and shape into a cord about 30 centimeters long.
  4. Dip it quickly into lukewarm water and then transfer it into the sesame. Press both ends and stick them together shaping them into circles.
  5. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and bake for about 20 minutes or until they have a golden colour outside.
  6. Serve them, preferably warm.


If they are too many for you to eat you can put them in zip lock bags before or after baking them and freeze them.

I am submitting this recipe to Susan, of Wild Yeast, who is hosting the event Yeastspotting.

koulouri baked

You can find many Greek recipes in my cookbook “More Than A Greek Salad”, and “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!” both available on all Amazon stores.

Other relevant recipes:




Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

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38 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you blogged about these Ivy…and we get a bonus history lesson too! These are a favourite and as you say, no one can resist them!

  2. Ivy

    Thanks Peter, I’m in the mood of writing a few traditional recipes now that I have some spare time.

  3. Wow! Those look delicious! They kind of remind me of bagels (shape wise and because of the sesame seeds). I am going to have to try these! 🙂

  4. Ivy

    Jenn,thanks. I never had bagels before so I can’t say if they are similar but they are quite simple to make.

  5. Ditto to Jenn. Your yummy pics make me feel that great bagle taste in my mouth right now! I will try your version Ivy because they do look scrumptious 🙂

  6. Ivy

    Hi Lore, after Jenn’s comment I google searched bagel and they do look alike. I think their only difference is that the bagels are boiled before baking. I am tempted to make some bagels now (lol)

  7. Nikolas

    Congrats on another great post, Ivy! I remember visiting Athens a few years back and buying some from a street vendor. It was very early in the morning when they were still warm… the we’re so good, I still remember the sesame smell!
    I would say that these are similar to a sesame bagel although bagels are somewhat more dense, with a texture that is slighty more chewy or elastic.

  8. Oh Ivy, it’s been too long since I’ve had one of these beauties! I’ve never tried making them myself, but I definitely think I need to give them a go!

  9. Ivy

    Nikolas, thanks. They are really, I mean really good when they are warm.

    Elly, thanks, it’s so easy to make them.

  10. wow! they are looking yummy! added u to my blog roll ivy! since u r new to my blog, u send in ur entries for the event (i accept it) bcoz am going to post the round up day after tomorrow only!

  11. This looks awesome, I have never tried 🙂 after seeing your recipe its tempting me 😉

    For the coconut chutney I have psoted, you can use dry coconut also. But fresh coconut will be more tasty.

  12. Ivy

    Thanks srilekha. Shall try and do my best to send you one tomorrow as today I have another recipe to post which I mentioned in my yesterday’s post.

  13. Ivy

    Thank you Vani as well as telling about the coconut. The reason I asked is that fresh coconut is something we cannot get easily, perhaps only in big supermarkets 🙂

  14. Hi Ivy,

    First time I saw this bread along the streets of Athens, I admired the shape and smell but I didn’t eat any because … it’s toooo big portion… LOL.

    I’m worried I can’t finish and I need to allocate some space in my stomach for other food later. I never seen such bread, well, ok accept Aunt Annie’s Pretzels 😛 My Greek friend even teased me that I can even play hoop games with it if I buy a stack of them.

    Next trip I’m in Greece, I’m going to buy some and use the bread to play hoops on him instead!

    Thanks for the recipe! I will keep it in file for my next adventure! :-*


  15. Ivy

    Pixen are you kidding? It seems that we eat too much in Greece because one is never enough 🙂

  16. Hi Ivy got here while blog hopping,this is my first visit to your blog,you have a wonderful blog with wonderful recipes.
    This bread looks delicious,I have never tried these or tasted them for that matter, but your post and picture are tempting me to try 🙂

  17. Ivy

    Hi Usha, it’s nice to see you here. Hope you’ll find something you can cook and I shall be visiting yours soon.

  18. That is so cool! I love it. I love this post, actually. I should try making these. But I’d rather visit Greece and taste one! Isn’t street food so cool?

  19. Ivy

    Surely it’s better to visit Emiline, I shall be waiting for you.

  20. I tried these near the Hotel Bretange when I was there sis. Our Hotel at the time was not far from there.I stayed at a number of hotels in Athens at different times.

  21. Ivy

    Those pictures of the street vendors are near Grande Bretagne and Hermou Street.

  22. I like these, Ivy.
    My cookie book has a recipe of 1 inch long twists with sesame sedds called Koularakia. Are these the same?

  23. Ivy

    No, Aparna, koulouraki is a general word and can be a cookie or a biscuit depending on the ingredients used.

  24. Absolutely gorgeous Ivy – wish i was tasty and eating one in Greece right now 😀

    Rosie x

  25. Beautiful, and interesting history! Thanks for submitting these to YeastSpotting.

  26. Ivy

    Thanks Susan, it was a pleasure participating.

  27. Nancy

    My college traveling friend and I discovered these in Athens during the last few days of our trip….they were just WONDERFUL for breakfast. I am SO happy to find this site and this recipe. I can’t wait to try them! They make a wonderful breakfast with nice, strong Greek coffee!

  28. Ivy

    Hi Nancy. I hope you will enjoy them.

  29. This is a wonderful post…very interesting about how the making and selling of these as street food has continued for so long. They sound and look delicious!

    Elle’s last blog post..Perfect for Easter Breakfast or Brunch

  30. Mary

    Thank you so much, Ivy! I have been visiting Greece for 20 years and I always look forward to eating koulouria… I never made them at home, first because I thought they were not going to taste the same (I think it’s the greek air… :)), and second because I never found a recipe that convinced me. I think I found it here!! They will probably not taste as good as the ones we use to have for breakfast with a Milko or a Nescafè, but at least they will help us face all the months that divide us from our next visit…..

  31. great recipe and post. we have a similar bread in Lebanon we call ka'ak b-sumsum

  32. Marie


    I've been looking for a recipe for these sesame rings forever! I was in Greece 25 odd years ago and I used to see the old ladies walking their donkies loaded with koulori and i never forgot how delicious they tasted early in the morning. Back then they cost only 5 or 10 cents. i also didn't have a camera but somethings you just never forget. thanks for a great memory.

    • Hi Marie. I am so glad that I helped bringing you some lovely memories.

  33. maria

    Just love them they are the best warm with milk in the morning.
    I have never made any kind of bread and you made is so easy.
    Thank you so much. We will be making them fresh every week end.

  34. Greek Girl

    After so long searching for the name of what my grandmother from Ioannina used to make for us when we were kids, at long last I think I've found it. Do you pronounce this as 'klooth ya' or 'klooth ee yah'? That's how she said it, phonetically. They look exactly like the cookies she used to make. I tried a recipe from a wonderful Sephardic food blog called 'The Boreka Diary' where these same tea biscuits are called 'biscotios de huevo.' The recipe you have here and the one I tried from that blog were almost identical. I tried out the recipe from that blog, and they came out really well. I think my nunna would have approved. So, then, my question is (sorry for being so long-winded!) are these the same cookies that I remember from my childhood? And do you pronounce them as 'klooth yah'? One day, I will visit her birthplace in Ioannina and sample the real thing.

  35. Ηβη μου ετσι τα φτιάχνω και εγώ.Με μια μόνη διαφορά.Βάζεις παραπάνω λάδι.Θα δοκιμάσω την δική σου εκδοχή!Φιλιά!

    • Ivy

      Μάρα μου μην περιμένεις να είναι και ακριβώς τα ίδια με τα έτοιμα. Εάν η διαφορά μας είναι το λάδι, δεν θα δεις και μεγάλη διαφορά. Στα έτοιμα ίσως να χρησιμοποιούν προζύμι, που ακόμη δεν έχω επιχειρήει να φτιάξω.

  36. Zoe Xristoulaki

    Hi I live in Crete and have been looking all over for a recipie like this so my little boys can have something 'homemade and healthy ' in their breakfast packed lunch box.Thankyou (fingers crossed I can make them as delicious as the bought ones !)