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Kohli me Stari: Cretan Snails with Cracked Wheat or Bulgur


Snails and Wheat - Greek Food

Cretan snails with Wheat

Photo © N. Gaifyllia, licensed to About.com, Inc.

In Greek: κοχλιοί με στάρι, pronounced kokh-lee-EE meh STAH-ree

In most of Greece, snails are called saligaria (say: sah-lee-GAH-reeyah) but on Crete, they're called kohli (meaning spiral, or screw). These snails are cooked in their shells, and this is one the specialty snail dishes for which Crete is well known.

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 48 large snails (12 per person)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of sea salt + 2 teaspoons
  • 1 medium onion, finely grated
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped in blender
  • 3/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of coarse cracked wheat (or bulgur)
  • freshly ground black pepper


Wipe the snails to clean, and discard those that aren't alive (the lip covering may be gone, it may be withdrawn into the shell, etc.). Heat several cups of water in a large pot over medium heat. When warm (don't wait until it boils), add the snails and 2-3 tablespoons of salt. When water starts to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Drain in colander under cold running water until water runs clean. With a sharp knife, remove the lip (operculi, a seal across the opening), and set aside to drain for 15 minutes.

In a soup pot, sauté the onion, garlic, and snails in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the snails and set aside in a covered dish.

Stir 4 1/2 cups of water into the pot and when steam begins to rise, add 1 1/2 cups of bulgur (or wheat) and 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir constantly for the first few minutes to prevent clumping. Cover and continue to cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes until the bulgur is soft, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the snails, cover, and let rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.

In the Cretan tradition, this pilaf will be slightly soupy.

Serve with freshly ground black pepper added to taste.

Additional tastes: In her book The Food and Wine of Greece, Diane Kochilas adds the tastes of parsley, oregano, and fresh mint. For this quantity, if you want to try these tastes, add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons of oregano, and 2 tablespoons of fresh mint (or 2 teaspoons of dried) with the tomatoes.

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