Koulouri Thessalonikis or Greek sesame bread rings is one of the most famous breakfasts or snacks in Greece and Turkey is koulouri (plural koulouria) or simit. Koulouri is a ring-shaped, sesame-coated bread.
You can find them in every bakery throughout Greece. And not only in bakeries. Vendors known as koulourtzides sell them in every large square/corner, in baskets called tavades, or in mobile glass displays, and many of them have their own secret recipes.
Koulouri is available in different variations. They can be made with different flours, plain or filled (e.g. with cheese, meat, tahini, chocolate, raisins), and topped with different seeds (e.g. sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, nigella, poppy).
What is the origin of koulouri?
Koulouri is traced back to antiquity. Some historians believe that it derives from an ancient type of circular bread eaten by the slaves, known as kollyra.
Its history as we know it today starts during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. The streets of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) were filled with vendors selling koulouri as street food.
Koulouri arrived in Greece with the Greek Orthodox refugees that migrated from Asia Minor in Thessaloniki and later became popular in the whole country.
Koulouri is also known as simiti in Greece, which derives from the Turkish word simit. It is very popular in both countries, but there are some differences in the ingredients.
There are similar products in many countries, especially in the Balkans and the Middle East.
Ingredients for koulouri Thessalonikis
Flour: Different types of flour provide different flavors, crispiness, and chewiness in koulouri.
Sweetener: Using honey in this recipe makes it refined sugar-free. Use 30g/3 tablespoon of coconut sugar, white sugar if you want to make a vegan recipe.
Sesame: Use raw, hulled sesame seeds. Replace sesame seeds with any other seed of choice.
Olive oil: It makes the koulouri extra chewy and crispy.
Yeast: Active dry yeast, dry yeast, or even fresh yeast can be used for making koulouria.
Tips & tricks
To make koulouria extra crunchy, spray some water in the oven right before baking them.
The higher the amount of gluten in the flour, the better the quality of koulouri will be.
For an extra nutty flavor use toasted sesame seeds.
If you want to use fresh yeast, multiply the amount by 3 and use this number (16x3=48 grams).
How to serve koulouri Thessalonikis
Serve koulouria while still warm for the ultimate experience. Eat them plain or serve them with:
- Cheese and olives
- Tahini or any other nut butter
How to store
Store koulouria at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days.
Freeze koulouria in a ziplock bag for up to 4 months.
Reheat in the oven or a panini/bread toaster until crispy.
Love bread recipes?
Try also this:
Greek Sesame Bread Rings(koulouri Thessalonikis)
- 30 g/1 ½ tbsp honey
- 16 g/2 tbsp dry yeast
- 300 ml/1 ¼ cup warm water
- 45 ml/3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 7 g/1 ½ tsp salt
- 200 g/1 ½ cups bread flour
- 300 g/1 ¾ cups + 2 tbsp spelt flour
- 21 g/1 tbsp honey
- 120 ml/½ cup warm water
- 100 g/⅓ cup sesame seeds raw
- Sift the flours into the mixer bowl, add the salt, and combine.
- Place the honey, dry yeast, ½ cup of warm water (120ml), and 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture in a liquid measuring bowl, and stir the ingredients until combined.
- Let it rest for 5 minutes until the yeast bubbles up. Measure and add the rest of the water.
- Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the yeast into the mixing bowl. Using the dough/hook attachment, mix them at medium/high speed (for ~ 7 minutes, or until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl).
- Remove the dough from the bowl, coat it lightly with olive oil, place the dough back, and use plastic/cling wrap to seal it. Let the dough rise for 30-90 minutes.
- Before you shape the dough, prepare the coating. Use two bowls. In one bowl, place the sesame seeds. In the other bowl, prepare the honey-water mixture (mix the warm water with the honey until it dissolves).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (425°F) fan and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Set them aside.
- Oil the working surface and place the dough. Cut the dough into 10 pieces (~ 85g/piece or 3oz/piece) or 20 pieces (~ 42g/piece or 1,48oz/piece).
- Shape the dough into a ring/bagel by making a long rope and attach the two endings, or for a braid form, make two ropes, put the one next to the other (in parallel) and twist them. Pitch the ends together to make a ring. Repeat for the remaining dough.
- Dip each piece in the honey water solution and directly into the sesame bowl.
- Place the bagels on the baking trays (5/tray) and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden.
- Serve them warm and enjoy 😉
Servings: 1 (89g) | Calories: 257kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 10.3g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 278mg | Potassium: 228mg | Fiber: 6.7g | Sugar: 2.71g | Vitamin B3: 3.589mg | Vitamin B1: 0.483mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 2.38mg | Manganese: 2.157mg | Selenium: 33.8μg
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This is an excellent recipe. It's the first time I have made koulouria (simitia) and they turned out beautifully. I really like the inclusion of the spelt flour as I like to use this often in baking. Thank you Georgia for guiding me in baking something that I've eaten in my families' country in the past.
I am so glad that you liked the recipe, Irene. Thank you for your feedback. Hope that you will find some other recipes here to enjoy.