Gamopilafo - Cretan Weeding Rice - Why Chania Guides
Gamopilafo – Cretan Weeding Rice – Image Credits: © Nikos Karanikolas (Gastronomos)

Gamopilafo: Its Symbolism and a Secret Recipe


As the name hints (gamos means ‘wedding’ in Greek) gamopilafo is offered at traditional Cretan weddings. These days you will find it not only when the whole village is celebrating nuptials in the town square, but also in many tavernas and restaurants. Like a deluxe risotto, it is prepared in a rich meat broth that you make from a lengthy simmering of goat, lamb or rooster. Then you incorporate a dash of lemon juice and liberal amounts of stakovoutiro – this is a butter created from the creamy skin that forms on the top of boiled fresh goat’s milk and is turned into a roux.

The Rice and its Symbolism

Gamopilafo is a popular dish in Chania, Crete. Made with rice, meat broth and stakovoutiro it is the basic and most tasteful dish for Cretan weddings, where the rice in gamopilafo symbolizes settling down, fertility and well-being and joy for the newlyweds. Moreover, the use of rice in connection with weddings is a custom with roots in Greek antiquity, which persists up to today, since at every Greek wedding, rice is thrown at the bride and bridegroom in order for the couple to establish good roots.

It’s a tradition for family and friends to shower the newlyweds with good wishes as they walk into a new life together. It’s a demonstrative ritual performed by the guests and family to wish the new couple good fortune, a prosperous marriage, and a blessed, blossoming, thriving life together!

What is not very known, is that gamopilafo is not made by the women of the house, but by the men!  By tradition, the men of the village undertake the task of making this dish, and every family has its own gamopilafo experts. The men gather together in a large group, bringing with them large pots and lighting the fires to cook the rice. Afterwards, when the cooking is done, they assume this most onerous of tasks: the cleaning of the cooking pots without the help of the women!

Gamopilafo: The Cretan Traditional Pilafi

The main ingredients of gamopilafo (literally wedding rice) are rice, goat, rustic chicken, and stakovoutyro (butter created from the creamy skin of goat’s milk), but remember that all the taste comes from the way of cooking: large pot, slow cooking and a little patience until the rice gets all the flavours from the meat broth.

  • Ladle
  • Lemon Squeezer
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 cups chicken broth 2 14.5 oz cans plus 1.5 oz water
  • Add the butter to a medium pot, and melt it on medium heat.
  • At the same time, heat the chicken broth in a smaller pot on medium heat.
  • Add in the rice, and coat it in the butter. Lightly brown the rice, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Once the rice is well coated in the butter, add the lemon juice. Continue to stir.
  • Using a ladle, add the chicken broth a ladle at a time to the rice. Stir constantly. Add more broth once the rice has absorbed the broth that’s been added.
  • Once the rice has absorbed all of the broth, take it off the heat. Let it cool for 10 minutes.

Calories: 282kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 736mg | Potassium: 229mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 350IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 1mg

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