What to eat in Palermo: here are all the best Palermo food specialities!
palermo cucina tipica

Discover with Italia Delight all the secrets of Palermo’s typical cuisine


In the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Palermo is one of the cities that best represent Sicily’s multi-ethnic past. Rich in historical and artistic beauties, the regional capital is home to numerous UNESCO sites, ancient monuments protected as World Heritage. These include the works of Arab-Norman Palermo, such as the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Mary of the Assumption: a real must for your visit.

But another reason why Palermo is known worldwide is its rich food and wine: the cannoli and arancina are just the best known examples of this enormous heritage. But it doesn’t end there!

You have to know that Palermo’s typical cuisine is the result of all the influences of the various cultures that have passed through the city: every typical dish in Palermo is an expression of the history and traditions of different peoples that have met in this territory and have been united forever by this cuisine. Between land and sea dishes, eating in Palermo is the best way to get in touch with the true spirit of the city: it will allow you to get to know its sights, appreciate its scents and listen to its sounds.

By visiting Palermo’s historical markets, such as Vucciria, Capo or Ballarò, you can participate in ancient food and wine traditions together with the locals: for example, you can discover the enormous culture linked to Palermo’s street food. In the city, fryers, rotisseries and street vendors animate the markets and represent the true essence of typical Palermo cuisine. Their importance is such that they are even represented in the painting “Vucciria” by Renato Guttuso, a painter from Palermo’s province.

Don’t stay hungry! Follow me between trattorias and farms to discover what to eat in Palermo.


🧳 Travel and savour Palermo and its surroundings, with Italia Delight!


Traditional Palermo Food Specialities


Although restaurants that cook these recipes can be found all over Italy, my advice is to taste the typical dishes of Palermo directly in the city, to have an authentic and indelible experience in your heart and mind. Maybe you will also decide to take part in a fun cooking class, so that you can take the best of your Palermo holidays with you forever.

And now, for starters, some street food! 👇


1. Arancina

palermo food specialities
pixabay, ulleo


The queen of Palermo’s typical cuisine is, without a shadow of a doubt, the arancina. Consecrated by Commissioner Montalbano (an Italian fictional character), this classic recipe has adapted perfectly to modern times, going from being a typical product to an unmissable street food. Made of rice, the arancina is usually filled with meat sauce, mozzarella and ham, breaded and finally fried in hot oil. However, there is no lack of more imaginative fillings, based on other sauces, vegetables and even sweets.

In Palermo, arancine are strictly round – recalling in all respects the traditional Sicilian oranges – and, above all, feminine (arancina is a female noun in the Italian language). On the east coast of Sicily – and particularly in Catania – this same recipe changes shape and gender: here they are called arancini (a male noun in Italian) and have the classic cone shape, symbolising Mount Etna (the Sicilian volcano).



2. Bread, panelle and crocchè

palermo dishes
flickr, Federico Ticchi


Here is another typical dish from Palermo, served mainly as street food, that you absolutely cannot miss: bread, panelle and crocchè. This poor but tasty snack consists of two simple elements. The first are panelle, pancakes made from chickpea flour; while crocchè, also called cazzilli, are nothing more than potato croquettes. Both of these strictly fried components are used to fill the Mafalda, a type of bread dedicated to the homonymous Savoy princess and covered with sesame seeds.


3. Rascatura

Remaining in the city’s frying shops, you can’t miss rascatura: a recipe that is created by combining all the leftovers from the panelle and crocchè doughs. This dish takes its name from the “scraping” of the pans in these shops, intent on frying every last ingredient. Try this typical product against food waste!


4. Stigghiole

Prepared by the stigghiularu, stigghiole are another of Palermo’s street foods, recognisable from afar by the smoke of their embers. These are, in fact, lamb intestines -but also veal and kid– wrapped on spring onions and cooked on the grill. Alternatively, they can also be found on skewers and fixed with chives. Precisely because of their raw material they are not understood by everyone, but their strong, characteristic flavour is definitely worth a taste.


5. Pani ca’ meusa

palermo dishes
flickr, Martina Sgorlon


Another typical sandwich of Palermo is the pani ca’ meusa, or veal spleen sandwich. This particular meat is first boiled and then fried in plenty of hot lard, just before being used to stuff the vastedda: a large round bun, sprinkled with sesame seeds. There is no precise recipe for pani ca’ meusa: it can also be prepared using veal lung, cooked in the same way as spleen. It can also be served in two different ways: schiettu, with just the fried meat, or maritatu, enriched with salted ricotta and caciocavallo cheese.


6. Sfincione

The undisputed symbol of Palermo’s street food culture, sfincione is a delicious focaccia, with a dough similar to that of pizza, where tomato sauce must never be missing: the true Palermo trademark of the recipe. Enriched with a wide variety of ingredients, sfincione is one of Palermo’s must-try dishes.


7. Mussu quarume and frittola

These three Palermo specialities are all based on the same principle: using every part of the animal. Mussu consists of the cartilage of the pig’s snout and paws, boiled and seasoned; quarume is beef or veal offal, stewed with vegetables, and frittola is made by frying pork’s cracklings.


8. Pane cunzato

pane cunzato
flickr, Hotel Ravesi


The pane cunzato, also known in Sicily as “pane della disgrazia” (Disgrace bread), is probably the oldest sandwich in the world. This sandwich, filled with simple and easy-to-find ingredients, has been the lunch of many Sicilian farmers for centuries. With a highly customisable recipe, the ingredients that should never be missing are anchovy fillets, rubbed all over the bread, sliced tomatoes, unsalted cheese and plenty of oregano.


9. U coppo

This typical dish from Palermo best represents the tradition of serving mixed fried fish in a frying paper cone. Whether it is fish-only or enriched with panelle and crocchè, you absolutely must try this fried street food.


10. Boiled octopus

octupus dish
flickr, HEN-Magonza


Another typical Palermo sandwich is the one with boiled octopus, served with a squeeze of lemon. Strictly prepared in the markets, look for “u purparu” and try this speciality.
And after this tasty start, let’s move on to the first courses.


11. Pasta with sardines

pasta with sardines
flickr, Carmelo Mancuso


Widespread throughout Sicily and emblematic of Palermo’s typical cuisine is pasta with sardines. Simple and using the freshest ingredients, this recipe combines elements of the sea, such as anchovies, with earthy ingredients, such as wild fennel, raisins and pine nuts. A sprinkling of muddica atturrata, or toasted bread crumbs, is a must. Among the variants, it is also possible to add saffron, to give colour to the pasta used: bucatini.
In addition to this classic version, there is also pasta with sardines ‘ncasciata, i.e. repassed in the oven for an even crispier result.


12. Pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs

Pasta c’anciova e muddica is one of the typical Palermo dishes that best captures the spirit of the island. Precisely because it is made from preserved ingredients, it is thought to have been invented by Sicilian emigrants to the North of Italy; who brought with them the flavours of their homeland. Known, therefore, also as “pasta alla milanisa” – meaning the whole of Northern Italy by Milan -, this recipe recounts the difficulties of the inhabitants of Palermo, who were forced to leave the city in search of better working conditions.

It is prepared using sardines, tomato extract and the always present toasted breadcrumbs; much used by Sicilian cuisine to add crunch to its dishes. The pasta shapes that are best suited to this sauce are casarecce and reginette: the former are bodies of pasta rolled on themselves; the latter are more like wavy tagliatelle.


13. Baked Anelletti

Among the best-known first courses in Palermo are anelletti al forno (baked anelletti): a particular type of pasta, resembling a ring, topped with meat sauce. The sauce used can vary widely, given the home-made nature of the dish, and often includes peas, ham, mozzarella and hard-boiled eggs. Whatever ingredients are chosen, this baked pasta remains the queen of festivities: it is usually prepared to celebrate some of the most important anniversaries.


14. Pasta with broccoli arriminati

Pasta with broccoli arriminati owes its name to the continuous “stirring”, which makes the boiled broccoli creamy and more like a sauce. In addition to broccoli arriminati, there are also raisins, pine nuts and sardines: essential ingredients in the typical cuisine of Palermo. A very important aspect for the success of the dish is the cooking of the pasta: the bucatini must be cooked in the same water as the broccoli.


15. Pasta with glaze

Also called “pasta agglassata”, this recipe originated as a recicle dish, as it re-uses the cooking juices of any stew: usually potato stew.
But now, fancy a second?


16. Involtini alla palermitana

Also known as “spitini”, because of the wooden or metal spit on which they are threaded, these veal roulades contain a unique filling from Sicily. They are stuffed with toasted breadcrumbs, onion, sultanas, pine nuts and parsley and, once sealed, are rolled in breadcrumbs. Another of their characteristics is that they are separated, on the spit, by cloves of red onion and bay leaves. And now, how are they cooked? Strictly barbecued!


17. Cotoletta alla palermitana

If you thought breaded cutlet could only be Milanese, then this typical Palermo dish is right up your alley. The differences with its northern sister lie in the breadcrumbs and cooking technique used. In fact, the Palermo schnitzel has a richer breadcrumb coating, which includes pecorino cheese, garlic, chives and parsley, and a lighter cooking: it is grilled or baked and not fried, like its Milanese sister.


18. Sarde beccafico alla palermitana and sardine meatballs

what to eat in palermo
flickr, franzconde


Sardines are, without a doubt, an inevitable ingredient in Palermo’s typical cuisine, so much so that they are present in two of its most important recipes: sarde a beccafico and sardine meatballs.

The former originated from the Sicilian commoners’ desire to eat like the nobility, since beccafico was a type of bird considered a luxury good – inaccessible to the poorer classes -. The Sicilians came up with the idea of replacing game with sardines, which were available to all. Once the sardines have been cleaned and the bones removed, they are rolled on themselves with a filling of breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, pine nuts and raisins. They are normally baked in the oven, but in the Palermo version they are combined with a sauce of olive oil, lemon juice and bay leaves.

Sardine meatballs, on the other hand, are enriched with the excellent Ragusano PDO cheese and are first fried and then served in a sauce of olive oil, vinegar, parsley stalks and sliced onion.

Is there still room for some dessert? 😋


19. Cannoli



Despite being a typical carnival sweet, today it is possible to enjoy cannoli at any time of the year and in every corner of Sicily. Named after the river reeds on which the dough was tied, cannoli were invented by ingenious cloistered nuns, who perfected the recipe. Filled with sheep’s milk ricotta, it is usually garnished with chocolate chips, pistachios or candied fruit.


20. Cassata

flickr, Caroline


Cassata is perhaps the dessert that best represents Sicily’s multicultural tradition. Over the centuries, in fact, the recipe has been enriched and perfected thanks to the ingredients and techniques brought by new peoples. The Arabs introduced oranges, almonds and sugar cane, the Normans brought royal pasta (the covering) and the Spanish are credited with the use of sponge cake and chocolate. In Palermo, it is still possible to taste the original version, which still uses pie’s pastry and sheep’s milk ricotta.


21. Iris

Created by Palermo pastry chef Antonio Lo Verso, this doughnut-like dessert was created for the premiere of the play Iris, from which it takes its name. Strictly fried, this sweet pastry is usually filled with a cream of sheep’s ricotta cheese and melted chocolate, often replaced by chocolate chips.


22. Martorana fruit

frutta martorana
frutta martorana


Prepared on the occasion of the Celebration of the Dead, this cake made of almond flour and honey was created by the nuns of the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, also known as the Martorana. The nuns, according to tradition, made this fruit-shaped sweets on the occasion of the Pope’s visit. Since then they have continued to sell this typical product from Palermo, until it has become famous throughout Sicily.


Enjoy Palermo wines

In Palermo there are not only world-famous typical dishes, but also fine wines that are well known in Italy and abroad.

Excellent to pair with typical Palermo food are:

  • the Alcamo DOC, present both as a white wine, sparkling wine and red wine;
  • the Contea di Sclafani DOC, present as red, white and also as sweet wine;
  • Contessa Entellina DOC, produced in the homonymous municipality in the Palermo area.


And now that you know all about what to eat in Palermo and its typical dishes, book your next food trip! With Italia Delight you can create the holiday that suits you best, full of tastings, cooking courses and unique experiences. What are you waiting for? Set off now to discover Sicily! 😍


Cover photo: pixabay, nataliaaggiato

Featured photo: pixabay, 10634669

About Author

Marco Campana
Ciao! Sono Marco, un pasticcere un po’ pasticcione; attualmente laureando in Scienze e Cultura della Gastronomia a Padova. Da 21 anni cerco di portare a casa da ogni mio viaggio un piatto, un dolce o anche solo una tecnica nuova; di connettermi il più possibile con il paese in cui mi trovo. Il mondo è pieno di prodotti tipici, ricette ed ingredienti sconosciuti: non sarebbe un peccato farseli sfuggire?


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