Fasting and Fava

Fava is a delicious spread that is made with yellow split peas, lemon juice, olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves and some salt. You can choose to top it with chopped chives and capers. It is delicious served with pita wedges or veggies and is a staple during Orthodox Lent and fasting periods.

Greek Fava dip or spread

In Greek kitchens, fava denotes two things.  It is a broad bean, which ironically is not used in this recipe.  It is also the name given to one of the loveliest Greek dips and spreads which is made with yellow split peas and which is a staple dish on the Island of Santorini where lovely Santorini fava beans (the local yellow split peas) grow.  

Santorini fava is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) food. This means that only yellow split peas that grow in Santorini are permitted to be labeled as such. Like the amazing Santorini tomatoes, they are special due to the rich volcanic soil of the island and that they have grown there for over 3,500 years. Santorini fava are sweeter and have a smoother texture than other split peas, and they are definitely worth sourcing if you can.

Why this recipe works

Quick and easy

Although it is true that fava is usually served as a meze, I think that with the right accompaniments it can be part of a great meal. When the day is already almost done and you are still wondering what to make for dinner, or what to pack for lunch tomorrow, consider fava.  This recipe is right up there with spaghetti with olive oil and mizithra, pasta topped with fried egg and shrimp and rice as a quick and satisfying way to feed your family.

Creamy and flavourful

It is surprising how much flavour is packed into this dish, given the simplicity of the ingredients. But you will notice that the texture can be described as luxurious and the flavour is amazing.

Perfect for everyone

If you have ever found yourself stuck cooking for someone with a dietary restriction, then fava is a great choice. It is egg and dairy (and meat) free, gluten-free, and has no refined sugar. This plant-based recipe is perfect as well for the lenten fasting period during Orthodox lent.

Greek Fava dip or spread

Key ingredients

Yellow split peas or Santorini fava are the star of this recipe.

Water Regular tap water will work fine here.

Lemon juice Freshly squeezed lemon juice is key here – the tart, bright citrus flavour can’t be beat.

Olive oil I use Greek olive oil because I love the fragrance and the flavour.

Onion Yellow onion is easy to find, and has a mild flavour that holds up well to cooking.

Garlic Whenever possible I try to find locally grown garlic; the flavour and aroma can’t be beat.

Bay leaf A lovely aromatic.

How to make

Here is a quick summary of how to make the fava dip.

Step 1
Finely chop the onion and sauté it in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes, using a medium size pot. Add the garlic, finely chopped, and sauté for a few more minutes being careful not to burn it.

Step 2
Rinse the yellow split peas and add them to the pot.  Add the water, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Cook, covered for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until tender.  Check on it frequently and if it appears to be too dry and risks burning, add a bit more boiling water, 1/4 cup at a time.

Step 3
Once the peas are done, remove the bay leaf and puree using an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor.  Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.

Greek Fava dip or spread

Step 4
Remove off the heat, and let sit to cool. It will thicken up as it sits.

Step 5
To serve, spread the fava on a shallow dish or bowl. Make a few indentations on the surface which will be perfect for holding the extra olive oil you will drizzle on the top.  Garnish with chopped chives and capers.

Greek Fava dip or spread

Cooking tips and helpful hints

Be sure to pick through your split peas before cooking them in order to remove any dried up peas or little rocks.

Keep your eyes on the split peas as they cook.  You may need to add a bit more water if the peas are not yet done but appear to be too thick.

Because everything is going to blended together, you don’t have to worry about chopping your onion and garlic perfectly, making fava making even easier than easy.

Greek Fava dip or spread

Recipe variations

Use different herbs. Instead of only using a bay leaf while the fava is cooking, consider adding some oregano or even thyme.

You can add more olive oil than what is described in the recipe. This will make your fava dip even more rich and delicious – and just the way many Greeks like it!

If you want a more rustic fava, do not puree it with a blender or food processor. Instead, grab a fork and mash it by hand. It will not be perfectly smooth, but you may appreciate the varied texture.

You can consider my recipe to be your canvas, one that you can experiment with.  If you like your fava more lemony, simply add more lemon juice. If you like it less lemony, add less.  You can add some sweet red onions to the top of your fava prior to serving to provide a nice crunch. Anything you enjoy, goes.

Frequently asked questions

What is the correct texture of fava?

There is much variation here regarding what one considers to be the correct texture. Traditionally, fava is creamy and you can easily scoop it up with a pita wedge or a cracker. This is the way that I prefer it. However, some people like their fava to be thicker, and that is just fine! If you prefer your fava on the thicker side, then use a little less water or olive oil.

What is the difference between yellow split peas and fava?

Yellow split peas are the main ingredient in the recipe which is called fava. If you use yellow split peas that are PDO from Santorini, then these yellow split peas are called Santorini fava.

Is fava the same thing as hummus?

Although both fava and hummus are legume based dips, hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas and fava is made with yellow split peas.

Making ahead and storing

You can make fava ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. When serving, you may need to mix it up again and possibly add more olive oil to get the consistency that you prefer. You can also freeze fava in freezer safe containers or bags for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator before serving.

Greek Fava dip or spread

How to serve

You can enjoy fava with pita bread, lagana or with veggies.  I like to have fava be part of a delicious Greek meze table alongside marinated olives, fried calamari, grilled octopus and zucchini fritters (kolokithokeftedes).

Greek Fava dip or spread

Fasting in the Orthodox Faith

Clean Monday (Καθαρά Δευτέρα), is the first day of Great Lent in East Orthodoxy. The date, like the date of Easter Sunday, varies from year to year but it is always the Monday seven weeks prior to Easter Sunday.  It is described as “clean” because this is the day we are meant to leave behind sins, sinful attitudes, and non-fasting foods.  In actual fact, lent begins the evening prior with the service of Forgiveness Vespers and the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a major part of lent, and the faithful are meant to embrace this period with clean consciousness (making confession an integral part of this week), clean hearts and even clean homes, as it is customary to clean the house thoroughly during this week.

The decision to fast, and the degree to which one undertakes the fast is, in my opinion, a deeply personal one.  It hinges upon many factors, including one’s health, life circumstances, and previous experience with fasting. People may choose to limit only meat, to cut out all animal products, to allow olive oil or not, or to fast only the week before Easter Sunday. I would never presume to tell you the right way to fast, but would instead suggest that you speak to your priest if you have any questions or concerns about your particular situation and the path you would like to follow.  Regardless of your decision, one of the best pieces of advice that our parents gave me and my siblings growing up in relation to fasting was the following: When you fast, you don’t look at anyone else’s plate (they said this in Greek of course).  By this they meant that you should never look beyond your own self when fasting, and you should never judge another based upon what they put into their mouths.  They also always maintained that fasting should go hand in hand with prayer, confession and goodness towards your fellow man (and of course, woman).

In honour of this period of fasting, Helen and I have devoted many posts to nistisima meals, such as vegan yemista, roasted cauliflower, fakes, and stewed peas.

Kali Sarakosti.

If you love this traditional Greek fava recipe, then you will also love these dips and spreads:

Skordalia (Σκορδαλιά) The classic garlic potato spread – you will love this authentic recipe.

Easy 4 ingredient taramosalata A lovely taramosalata! This light and fluffy recipe uses no bread and no potatoes

Tzatziki (Τζατζίκι) The classic Greek garlic yogourt dip! Strong flavoured, and perfect with almost everything!

Greek garlic mashed potatoes or potato spread
Easy 4 ingredient taramosalata made without potatoes or bread.
Greek Tzatziki
Greek Fava dip or spread

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Greek Fava dip or spread topped with capers, chives and drizzled with olive oil.

Greek Fava dip

Fasting and fava describes Greek Orthodox Lent traditions and get the recipe for fava, a split yellow pea spread/dip.
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Greek
Diet: Low Calorie, Low Lactose
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
Calories: 458kcal
Author: Mia Kouppa

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup Greek olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • chives, capers, pita chips, chopped red onion optional

Instructions

  • Finely chop the onion and sauté it in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes, using a medium size pot. Add the garlic, finely chopped, and sauté for a few more minutes being careful not to burn it.
    1 yellow onion, 3 whole cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup Greek olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Rinse the yellow split peas and add them to the pot.  Add the water, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Cook, covered for approximately 25-30 minutes.  Check on it frequently and if it appears to be too dry and risk burning, add some boiling water, 1/4 cup at a time.
    1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed, 2 ½ cups water, 1 bay leaf
  • Once the peas are done, remove the bay leaf and puree using an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor.  Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.
    1/2 teaspoon salt, 2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Remove off the heat, and let sit to cool. It will thicken up as it sits. Ideally, refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
  • To serve, spread the fava on a shallow dish or bowl. Make a few indentations on the surface which will be perfect for holding the extra olive oil you will drizzle on the top.  Garnish with chopped chives and capers, or chopped red onion.
  • Serve with pita wedges or veggies.
  • Enjoy!

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 458kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Sodium: 410mg | Potassium: 721mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 102IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 3mg

Thanks for sharing!

22 Comments

  1. gotmeghan says:

    Very cool and interesting! 🙂

      1. gotmeghan says:

        You’re welcome!

  2. Cooking For The Time Challenged says:

    This looks wonderful. I like the idea of split peas and sautéed onions.

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thank you! It is very simple to make. Hope you give it a try 😉

      1. Cooking For The Time Challenged says:

        I have to run it by the kitchen committee 😉

      2. miakouppa says:

        LOL…I get you!

      3. Cooking For The Time Challenged says:

        😂

  3. Bob (Frangos) Lesnick says:

    Had this in Santorini last week. Delicious!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Amazing Bob!!! We bet that fava tastes just perfect in Santorini 🙂 Hope you enjoyed your time there!

  4. Can this be made ahead and frozen?

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Penny. We’re not sure that fava would freeze really well…although to be honest, we have never tried to, so we can’t be certain.

  5. Just mad it now and leaving in the fridge to cool – looks and smells great! It is LOT of fava, though. I made it to have as a dip among other appetizers before Easter dinner – I might end up bringing it to the dinner table as a side, considering the amount!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Zach! Xristos Anesti! Hope you really love the fava! It does give a generous serving – no worries…it keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. Thank you for taking the time to comment xoxo Helen & Billie

  6. John Korologos says:

    Good afternoon, I have not tried your recipe yet, I will hopefully get to make it. Whenever I make fava it turns out too thick once it’s cooled. Taste is fine but consistency isn’t. I had it in a restaurant and hated sharing it is was so creamy and velvety. Can you give me pointers on what to do?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi John! In a way, it is normal for the fava to thicken when it cools – especially if you store it in the refrigerator; the olive oil and the split peas themselves contribute to this. You will find that our recipe, when freshly made is quite creamy and delicious. If you would like it even creamier, or if you want to thin it out after it has cooled, simply add more water, a touch of olive oil, and a touch more lemon juice (the quantities are not exact as it really depends on the consistency you are looking for, but you should not have to add too much….adding only water may dilute the flavour which is why we suggest a touch of the other ingredients too). Hope that helps, and let us know what you think if you try our recipe 🙂 xoxo Helen & Billie

  7. I can’t find yellow split peas. Will green split peas work just as well? Thank you!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Judy! In theory this should work, but the flavour (and colour) will be different. It will not be Greek fava…but it might be equally delicious! Might be worth a try 🙂 xoxo Helen & Billie

  8. I’m curious why it is called fava when it has yellow split peas. Are they the same? I made the recipe and it is delicious!!!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Colleen! In Greek the yellow split peas are referred to as fava (φάβα in Greek). This is not to be confused with what we call fava beans, which in Greek are referred to as Koukia (κουκιά). We are so happy that you gave this recipe a try and are happy you loved it 🙂 Hope you find much more to enjoy here with us! xoxo Helen & Billie

  9. I love this dish. I add a little extra water and chicken stock and eat as a soup with crusty bread.

    1. miakouppa says:

      That is a great idea! Thank you for taking the time to comment. xoxo Helen & Billie

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