Koliva or Kolyva is a sweet wheat berry salad with nuts, seeds, pomegranate, raisins, and spices. This highly nutritious and filling salad is traditionally served after a Greek orthodox funeral.
Putting the funeral part aside this Greek wheat berry dessert is a real treat. It's not too sweet, with a nice crunch from the pomegranate seeds and the nuts, and a delicious earthy flavor.
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Koliva Greek Ortodox Tradition
This traditional Koliva recipe is served after a Greek funeral or on memorial days. Greeks perform a ceremony (Mnimosino) either at the church or at the cemetery in memory of the deceased 3 days after, 9 days after, 40 days after, 3 months after, 6 months after and a year after the day a person has passed away. On those memorial days, Koliva is served.
Kolyva is usually decorated with cross shapes on top or with lit candles when served in the church. Koliva decorations are made using walnuts, almonds, raisins, and icing sugar (the same ingredients used in the salad itself).
To make Koliva recipe you need whole wheat berries, pomegranate seeds, red raisins, golden raisins, raw walnuts, blanched almonds, sesame seeds, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, sugar, and icing sugar.
You can make Koliva recipe with honey if you want a healthier sugar-free version. Even though there isn't much sugar in this recipe just for teaspoons for 6-8 servings. Which equals ⅔ teaspoon or ½ teaspoon per serving.
Also, you can make Koliva recipe with barley instead of wheat. Barley is super nutritious although it also contains gluten. So don't swap just because you're looking for a gluten-free version. If that is the case, there are two gluten-free versions of grains you can use instead of wheat. One is buckwheat (toasted buckwheat is better) and the second option is brown rice.
How Long Does Koliva Last?
You can keep Koliva in the fridge in an airtight food container for up to 5 days.
Best Ways To Eat
It's great for breakfast, as a snack with coffee (especially if it's Greek coffee), or even as a festive dish during the holidays.
Also great to serve as a side dish on the Christmas table or on Thanksgiving. It's sweet but not too much. So it can easily stand as a side to a pork roast or turkey.
Koliva - Wheat Berry Memorial Food
- 200 grams (1 cup) wheat berries
- 60 grams (2.1 ounce) walnuts coarsely chopped
- 60 grams (2.1 ounce) blanched almonds here's how to blanch almonds at home
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 9 teaspoons red raisins
- 5 teaspoons golden raisins
- 300 grams (1 + ½ large) pomegranate seeds
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 1¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- icing sugar to serve with
- Prepare the wheat berries. Soak them in a pot with cold water overnight. The next day rinse the wheat thoroughly.
- Add 5 cups of water and the wheat berries to a small cooking pot and bring to a boil along with a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low.
- Simmer for about 20 to 40 minutes partly covered. Cooking time will vary depending on the wheat variety. Taste to see how soft they are.
- Drain the wheat in a strainer and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Then spread it on a clean tea towel to cool and drain thoroughly.
- Mix wheat with all of the remaining ingredients. Save 6 almonds to create a cross on the top.
- Serve with icing sugar dusted on top.