Kefalograviera Cheese

Production, Uses, and Recipes

Pan-fried saganaki, featuring kefalograviera cheese

 Iremtastan / Getty Images

Kefalograviera (Κεφαλογραβιέρα), pronounced keh-fah-lo-grahv-YAIR-ah, is a popular Greek cheese made from sheep's and goat's milk. Kefalograviera is a good source of protein and calcium, and it's relatively low in fat. Its flavor is slightly salty, and it has a firm texture that grates well and holds up when grilled or fried.

What Is Kefalograviera Cheese?

Kefalograviera is one of the most popular Greek cheeses. It is a hard yellow cheese with a salty, nutty, piquant flavor. It should be firm but smooth to the touch, and it has a rich aroma and smooth mouthfeel. The rind is light brown and edible, and the cheese is marked with little air holes throughout its body. Kefalograviera falls somewhere between salty kefalotyri cheese and mellow graviera cheese, hence its name.

Kefalograviera is sold in wheels or wedges and can be found at Greek or Mediterranean specialty markets. It's also available in well-stocked supermarkets and is reasonably priced.

Fast Facts

• Source: Sheep's and goat's milk
• Origin: Greece
• Texture: Firm
• Color: Pale yellow

Kefalograviera vs. Kefalotyri

Kefalograviera is similar to kefalotyri, another hard sheep's and goat's milk cheese, but slightly softer and less salty. With a nod to its namesakes, kefalograviera is a happy medium between kefalotyri and milder, sweeter graviera, which is made from cow's, goat's, and sheep's milk. All three cheeses are popular table and grating cheeses.

How Kefalograviera Is Made

Since the 1960s, kefalograviera has been made in three areas designated as protected designations of origin (PDOs) in western mainland Greece: Western Macedonia, Epirus, and Aitoloakarnania. Despite its relative newness to the Greek table, it's rapidly become one of the most famous and popular Greek cheeses. Kefalograviera is made from either 100 percent sheep's milk or a combination of sheep's and goat's milk, and the milk is pasteurized. It's formed in small wheels and aged for three months. Kefalograviera is packaged in rounds, half-rounds, and wedges and vacuum-packed.

Substitutes

If you cannot find kefalograviera, you can substitute kefalotyri, graviera, or kasseri cheese for somewhat similar results. Other salty, nutty firm cheeses, such as pecorino Toscano, pecorino Romano, Parmesan, Asiago, and aged Gruyère may also be substituted, but the results will not be exactly the same.

Uses

Kefalograviera makes an exceptional side dish when grilled in slices or cubes. It's prized as a table cheese and as part of a meze (appetizer) platter, and pairs well with Greek spirits, such as ouzo, as well as white wine and red wine. It is the cheese commonly used in saganaki, a traditional Greek dish, where the cheese is coated with seasoned flour and lightly fried. Kefalograviera is also grated and sprinkled over pasta and added to baked dishes and gratins. It is also delicious with lamb.

Storage

Kefalograviera should be stored in the refrigerator. Remove about one hour before using so it can come to room temperature. If unopened, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months. Once opened, wrap the cheese in waxed or parchment paper and place it in a zip-close bag or a plastic container. This will allow a limited amount of airflow without permeating the refrigerator with cheese smell. If any mold forms, thoroughly cut around it, taking care not to touch the mold with your knife.

It can also be frozen for up to three months with minimal effect on flavor and texture. To freeze, tightly wrap hand-sized blocks in plastic or coarsely grate and store in zip-close bags, with all of the air compressed, for up to three months. Allow the cheese to defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using it and use within a few days.

Kefalograviera Recipes

Substitute kefalograviera for other firm, hard Greek cheeses, such as kefalotyri, kasseri, or graviera. It can also be used as an alternative to recipes specifying grated pecorino Romano cheese.
Pan-Seared Saganaki
Flaming Greek Cheese
Oven-Roasted Saganaki

Can You Eat the Rind?

The rind on kefalograviera cheese is edible and can be left on when eaten uncooked and cooked.