Veal kokkinisto with rice (Μοσχαράκι κοκκινιστό με ρύζι)

Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce

Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce

Happy Tsiknopempti everyone! It is carnival season in many areas of Greece and Cyprus and this festive week is called Kreatini (sandwiched between Profoni week and  Tirofagou week).  Tsiknopempti (Τσικνοπέμπτη), comes from the Greek words τσίκνα, which refers to the smell of roasting meat and Πέμπτη, which means Thursday. This is the day when many Greeks enjoy meat, and one of the last days in which this is permitted before the fast which precedes Greek Orthodox Easter.  Typically it is roasted and grilled meats which are feasted upon, however we live in Canada, where it is snowstorm and freezing temperature season. Canadian winters make outdoor grilling and roasting a little uncomfortable and although we are all for tradition, we’re not crazy.  So today, we offer a meat recipe to celebrate Tsiknopempti which does not require the great outdoors. Instead, here is the recipe for a traditional, slow braised veal in tomato sauce dish (kokkinisto / κοκκινιστό) with rice.  Kokkinisto means reddened in Greek, and represents the fact that the veal is cooked in a tomato sauce.

Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce

Veal kokkinisto (Μοσχαράκι κοκκινιστό) is a dish that we have tried making on our own, several times.  Although always edible, it has lacked the depth of flavour and melt-in-your mouth tenderness of our parents version.  Totally ridiculous because as you will see, the recipe itself is very straight-forward.   We’re still unsure where exactly we went wrong in the past, but maybe it doesn’t matter too much anymore.  Because now we have our parents recipe…in fact, we ALL have our parents recipe.   Enjoy!


Helpful hints:

The veal front you will be using needs to be cut up into serving size portions.  That does not mean 1 inch cubes of meat; you are not making a stew.  The veal should be cut up into as many pieces as you want servings, with the understanding that not all pieces will be exactly the same size. As you are cutting your veal, remove any excess fat and discard.  If there is a bone, set it aside.  You can add it to your pot during the cooking process for additional flavour.

As with most of their recipes our parents use home-made tomato sauce.  If you have some, great.  If not, then you can easily substitute canned or bottled tomato juice or sauce.  According to our folks, either will work just fine.

Cooking rice used to stress us so much.  How does one know the exact ratio of rice to water?  Does the type of rice influence this ratio?  Should the rice be cooked covered, or uncovered?  At a simmer or a gentle boil?  For how long?  Is it worth it to buy a rice cooker?  Where the heck are we going to keep one more small appliance?  How could such a small grain cause such big anxiety?!  And then…we saw our parents cook rice and we thought…huh!?  What is wrong with us?  Why had we never thought to cook rice this way?  We’re smart people…usually.

Our parents cook rice the way you cook pasta.  They boil a pot of water, add the rice, cook it over a medium high heat, and then drain it when the rice is cooked.  We feel stupid.  In this recipe we suggest that you cook the rice as our parents do (of course, maybe you already do.  Smarty-pants).  We also suggest that you serve the rice the way our parents do, by moulding it in a cup which you then invert onto the plate.  This elevates plain rice and turns it into ρύζι στην κούπα or rice in a cup. Our parents actually use an old Tupperware Jell-O mould, but any cup will do.  Just be sure to lightly grease it, press the rice into it so that it is compacted and then invert.  Fancy!

Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce

We know that some people make kokkinisto using a slow cooker or a pressure cooker.  This sounds great, but we have never tried making this recipe with those appliances.  If you happen to make our parents recipe using either of these, let us know how it turns out!

Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce
Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce

Looking for some more meat-y recipes? Try these:

Grilled steak

Chicken kokkinisto with pasta

Veal roast with potatoes

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Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce
Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce

Veal kokkinisto with rice

Veal kokkinisto with rice stars stewed veal slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Greek
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Mia Kouppa


  • Frying pan
  • Saucepots, medium and large


  • 1.2 kilograms (2.5 lbs) veal front
  • 1/2 tbsp salt (for the meat)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) tomato sauce or passata
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 1/2 tbsp salt for the rice water
  • olive oil
  • mizithra (or combo parmesan/romano) cheese optional


  • Cut meat up into serving size pieces.  You don’t want small cubes of meat, but rather portion sizes.  So, for example, if you are going to be feeding 4 – 6 people with this dish, then cut the meat up into 4 – 6 pieces.
  • Pour the juice of one lemon over the meat, and sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of salt over the pieces.
  • Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a pot (this is the pot you will ultimately add the rest of your ingredients to, so make sure it is large enough) over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides, approximately 20 minutes total.
  • Remove the meat from the pot.  Remove all but one tablespoon oil / grease from the saucepan. Add the onion and sauté it until caramelized, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Return the meat to the saucepan and add 1 cup boiling water, 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and then lower to low-medium heat.  Keep covered, but allow for a vent for steam to escape.  Cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
  • Approximately 30 minutes before the meat is finished cooking, boil a pot of water.  Add 1/2 tablespoon salt.  Once the water is boiling, add the rice.  Cook, uncovered until the rice is cooked, approximately 20 minutes (or according to the package instructions). Once the rice is cooked to your liking, drain the rice using a colander.  Be amazed at how easy this was.
  • Once the rice has cooled slightly, grease a cup or mould lightly with olive oil. Press the rice into the cup and carefully invert it onto the serving plate.  Repeat for all the serving plates.
  • Serve meat alongside the rice.  Pour the sauce over the meat, and the rice if desired. The rice can be served with some mizithra cheese sprinkled on top.
  • Enjoy!


Check your sauce pot with the meat and tomato sauce periodically.  If you find it getting too dry, add an equal combination of boiling water and tomato sauce.

Thanks for sharing!


  1. elliebleu says:

    Happy Tsiknopempti 😉 I’m with you on the rice. I’ve had many kitchen disasters trying to make the “perfect” rice, only to find that parents know better. 🙂

    1. miakouppa says:

      They always do, don’t they 🙂

  2. Theodosia A Ragias says:

    I love this dish and I also make it with zucchini. I think it’s not as tasty because our parents used more oil and butter and, of course, the animals were raised different.

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Theodosia! Yes, the addition of zucchini is delicious. We have realized that our parents use quite a bit of olive oil in many of their recipes, and it does make a difference! They never (or rarely) use butter though. Hope you give our recipe a try. We think you’ll be quite happy with it 🙂

  3. I’m making this now. It’s on the stove cooking. Smells lovely.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Maria!! We hope that you really enjoyed this meal! Would love to hear how you and your family liked it.

      1. Since my last post in 2020 It’s become a staple in our house. I’m actually making it again today but instead of rice I’m making spaghettini. It’s delicious and we love it. Your website is my go-to website for Greek food. (Especially since I’m from Messini also). Thank you xx

      2. miakouppa says:

        Hi Maria!!! You have made us so happy. Love to know that other families have included our family recipes in their meal planning! Thank you for all your support and for taking the time to comment. We really appreciate it, and hope that you continue to find much to love here! xoxo Helen & Billie

    2. I’ve made this recipe MANY times over the last year+ and it’s always perfection! Today I made it with hilopites instead of rice. Equally delicious. Thank you.

      1. miakouppa says:

        Hi Maria!!! We are so thrilled to hear that! Thank you for letting us know and hope you continue to find more to love here with us. xoxo Helen & Billie

  4. Kathy McDaniel says:

    I want to knowhow you got your rice to look so beautiful. It’s almost as if each grain criss cross into a pattern! Wild!!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thank you so much Kathy 🙂 It is simply the mould that we used probably – it has definition to it so it allows each grain to show 🙂 Thanks for noticing!! xoxo Helen & Billie

  5. I’m making this today…I’m super excited. What role does the lemon play I have never read this in any other kokkinisto recipe.

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Helen. Hope that you loved your meal 🙂 As for the lemon, adding lemon juice to meat before cooking it helps to break down the connective tissue, leading to a more tender finished product. xoxo Helen & Billie

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