Trahanas is a pebble-sized pasta, famous not only in Greece, but throughout the Balkan Peninsula and Middle East.
You could categorize it into two big categories, depending on whether it is sweet or sour.
Sour trahanas (in Greek, “ξυνός τραχανάς”) is made with milk that has been left out of the fridge to sour, while sweet trahanas (in Greek, “γλυκός τραχανάς”) uses fresh milk or yogurt.
The process for how to make trahanas is the same for both sour and sweet one. A tight dough is made, combining milk or yogurt along with wheat flour, semolina, or cracked wheat.
It is then rolled out into thin pieces of dough which are let to dry.
After the pieces of dough have been dried, they are grated through a special mesh, to the desired size (fine or chunky).
Then, trahanas is stored and is ready to be used on cold winter nights…
Why you should make it
At this point, you might be wondering if it’s worth the time and effort.
Well, definitely YES! It takes about 3 days to make.
We do know that 3 days is a lot, but, really, you are not doing anything in that time.
You just wait patiently for the trahanas to dry.
What you end up with is enough trahanas for at least an annual supply.
In our family of two, it lasts for about 2 years. It’s a meal that we have almost once a week.
It requires about 20 minutes to prepare and always makes you feel better after eating it.
Trahanas is the perfect food to store for winter, making it one of the best options for homesteaders to have in their pantry.
How do you use trahanas
Trahanas is mostly used as the main ingredient in soups, in the same way you would use rice or orzo.
Of course, trahanas is not limited to soups.
Amongst others, it is used in stuffed vegetables instead of rice or cracked wheat and in savory pies, in order to absorb any excess liquids.
Trahanas can, also, be a super healthy alternative for your breakfast.
It can substitute rolled oats or cereal, when served with fresh fruits, dried nuts and honey!
Different types of trahanas
We should start of by saying that there is not only one recipe for how to make trahanas, but rather hundreds of different variations according to the region it is made in.
Each region will add their local ingredients in the dough.
In Macedonia, they use a pulp of sweet red peppers, in Thrace they add sesame seeds and red pepper flakes, while in Chios island they use “trahanohortaro”, an amazing aromatic herb that grows exclusively in Chios island and the shores of Minor Asia.
It’s a recipe made to use anything you have in abundance at the exact time you are making it.
Talking about time, I think the only challenge making trahanas poses is WHEN you make it.
The dehydration of the trahanas has to be done in a well-ventilated room and ideally during the warmest months of the year (for us in Greece, is July and August, when we have winds, which are called “meltemia”), in order to significantly decrease the time of this process.
If possible, you should use fans to speed things up.
The dehydration phase is very crucial, so as trahanas does not rot when stored!
How to make trahanas
If you look at the ingredients for trahanas, you’ll notice that the quantities are HUGE.
People don’t freak out, you are making a BIG batch (it will keep you going all winter long…).
This being said, you will need a very (very) big mixing bowl.
We didn’t have a bowl that big, so we used a big laundry bucket, that we cleaned really well before using.
As I said before, it takes almost 3 days from start to finish.
We were three people, Vassilis, his mom and myself.
Vassilis’ mom was in charge and we were her helpers.
We started our homemade trahanas on the 29th of August, at 9pm.
At that night the only job we had to do, was to cook the vegetables.
The first half hour we boiled all our vegetables, except for the “trahanohortaro”.
Since we don’t use any water, it’s important that the tomatoes, onions and peppers start to release their own juices.
Trahanohortaro is a very intense-flavored herb, so we don’t add it from the beginning, but rather half way through the cooking time.
At this point, the idea is to boil all the vegetables and then allow them to completely cool down.
The following morning (8pm), we removed the “trahanohortaro” and strained the vegetables.
We kept the excess juices in a separate container, in case our dough turned out too tight and dense.
In small batches, we added the strained vegetables into our blender.
We blended them to a pulp.
In the meantime, while Vassilis’ mom was blending the vegetables, Vassilis and I were removing the flowers of the trahanohortaro, which we then added to the pulp.
After all the vegetables were blended, it was time to get our big mixing bowl (aka laundry bucket).
We measured the semolina, yellow flour, yogurt, half olive oil and added our pulped vegetables.
Time for kneading! We advise you place you mixing bowl on a sturdy chair.
This allows you to use your whole-body weight while kneading.
Kneading the dough in this way, will prevent any back injuries and generally make the process much easier and faster.
We didn’t add the olive oil all at once, but we added it gradually, as the dough became easier to work with.
We took turns alternating kneading.
We never used any of the juices we had reserved as our dough had the right consistency.
Right consistency means that the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl and is tight.
When the dough was ready, we started making small balls which we’d flatten.
We realized that this process (this is how it’s done according to tradition) was going to take TOO much time!
Vassilis had the idea to use our unused pasta machine that was collecting dust in our cupboard.
What a difference it made! In no time, we had finished the dough and we had all our flattened pieces of trahanas lying on dusted with flour clean sheets.
Our house at this stage looked like a pasta factory!
Every flat surface, from couch to bed and tables, was covered with pieces of trahanas.
It took 3 people a total of 2 hours to make the dough and cut it into thin strips of dough.
If you were to make it without the pasta machine it would take much longer (perhaps 3-4 hours).
The windows were kept open all day and night.
Our windows all have mosquito netting. If you don’t have mosquito nettings on your windows you should find a way to cover your trahanas pieces so you ensure that insects stay away.
Early next morning (8am), we turned all the trahanas’ pieces on the other side.
We let them dry until late that afternoon.
When the pieces were almost completely dehydrated (6pm), we grated them in the blender (the traditional way calls for rubbing all the pieces through a metal sieve).
Pieces must not be completely dry when you will blend them, because you risk getting a powder consistency, instead of a grain consistency.
We like our trahanas pebble-sized, so we blended accordingly.
As the trahanas was being grated, we placed small batches of our pebble-sized pieces in the oven for 5-10 minutes on very low temperature.
This made sure that any excess moisture was gone.
The completely dried trahanas was then returned again to the clean sheets.
We let the trahanas dry all night.
The following morning (8pm) we were ready to bag it.
Before bagging it, you must be absolutely sure that it has NO moisture!
You can allow it to dehydrate up to a week, in order to be completely sure.
Fans can really help distribute the air around.
Cloth bags are ideal for storing, as they allow air to flow.
We can, also, store them in glass jars!
Trahanas is always stored in a cool, dry place and can keep for several years.
Trahanohortaro is a very unique herb that you can find only if you go to Chios island in August or have someone send it to you.
We live in Athens, and still couldn’t find.
Vassilis’ mom brought some fresh trahanohortaro from her trip to Chios this summer, but by the time she brought to Athens, it had already rotten.
We ended up having someone send us a package of dried trahanohortaro, in order to make this recipe.
Even if you don’t use trahanohortaro, you will still end up with delicious traditional trahanas!
Before making traditional trahanas at home, you should try to find a delicatessen shop that sells ready-made trahanas and make a trahanas soup first.
You’ll have a better understanding of this wonderful kind of pasta, and you’ll be more likely to try to make it at home!
Let us know if you’ve ever heard of trahanas before and keep us posted if you decide to make it!
- 2kg. medium onions, peeled & quartered
- 4kg. medium tomatoes, quartered
- 2 chili peppers, seeded & sliced
- 2-3tbsp. salt
- 100-200gr. trahanohortaro
- 500ml. extra virgin olive oil
- 3kg. full-fat yoghurt
- 2.5kg. semolina
- 4kg. “Type-M” yellow flour (hard wheat)
(9pm): Get a REALLY big pot and add onions, tomatoes, chili peppers and salt.
On high heat, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and then reduce heat to a simmer.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the trahanohortaro into the pot and simmer for additional 30 minutes, until onions and tomatoes are soft.
Remove the pot from the heat and let to cool completely overnight.
(8am): Remove trahanohortaro from the pot and keep aside.
Strain vegetables and reserve their juices.
In small batches, puree the vegetables in a blender and keep in a bowl.
Remove the flowers of the trahanohortaro sprigs and add them to the pureed vegetables.
In a REALLY big bowl, add the semolina, yellow flour, yoghurt, vegetable puree and half the olive oil.
Knead the dough, adding gradually the rest of the olive oil, until you have a tight dough (kneading might take up to 45 minutes).
Cut small pieces of dough and pass them through your pasta machine, creating long thin strips.
Lay them on clean sheets and let them dry overnight.
(8am): Flip each strip of dough over and let dry.
(6pm): In small batches, add the trahanas’ strips in a blender and grate until pebble-sized.
Preheat oven to 50 degrees Celsius/fan mode.
In batches, cover the surface of a baking sheet with pebble-sized trahanas and bake for 10 minutes to remove excess humidity.
Repeat until all trahanas is over.
Return trahanas onto the clean sheets and let it cool overnight.
Next morning, store trahanas in cloth bags or glass jars and keep in dry and cool place.