There are so many reasons why you might want to visit the stunning island of Sicily: the picture perfect beaches, unbelievable cliffside towns, charming villages, lively cities…the list goes on. But in my opinion one of the best reasons to visit Sicily is all of the food.
Sicilian food is unreal. And while I think I would have fallen in love with Sicily with or without eating the best food in Sicily, I know for a fact that every single time I sat down to eat another absolutely perfect meal I fell a little harder and a little faster for this place.
Today I’m going to take you through the top 15 dishes that I think make up the best food in Sicily. Now obviously food is a personal preference, and Sicilian food is no exception, but I think this list has enough variety on it that even the pickiest eaters will find something they like, and it will offer a great sampling of the food culture in Sicily.
So get comfortable and let’s discover what to eat in Sicily! Then, once you’re good and hungry, check out my guide to 12 of the Best Places to Visit in Sicily.
Oh, and keep an eye out for a few local tips and fun facts about the featured dishes as well.
Everything you need to know about the best food in Sicily
What is the difference between Italian and Sicilian food?
While there’s a ton of crossover between Italian and Sicilian food, Sicilian dishes definitely have some unique elements that set them apart. Pistachios and saffron make appearances in some of Sicily’s most famous dishes, and seafood is heavily present on most menus.
Due to Sicily’s geographical location at the southernmost tip of Italy, it has historically seen a lot of Mediterranean, Arab and North African influences. Because of this, in Sicilian food you’ll find a lot of seafood, fresh produce and more spices than you might in mainland Italian food. That being said, Sicilian food is still quite similar to Italian food, so don’t feel like you’ll be out of your depth when looking at a menu. Think of it as similar, but different.
What food is Sicily famous for?
Sicily is a very rich and diverse culture, so there isn’t one particular food that is able to be identified as the most famous Sicilian food. However, there are a handful of Sicilian dishes that are probably the most commonly recommended. Granita, arancini, pasta alla Norma and cannoli are the four main Sicilian dishes that I think encapsulate the food that Sicily is famous for.
Granita is a cold, sweet treat made from water, sugar, and natural flavors that is nearly, but never completely, frozen. Stemming from the era of Arab rule over Sicily, granita is often eaten for breakfast with brioche and whipped cream.
Arancini are a pretty famous street food/appetizer option consisting of crispy, deep fried balls of rice. Most commonly they have a meat sauce and mozzarella cheese filling—though there are many other flavors too—and a crunchy breadcrumb coating.
Pasta alla Norma is the most famous pasta dish in Sicily, and with good reason: it’s delicious. It’s fairly simple—tomato sauce and fried eggplant—but so delicious.
And last but not least is the cannolo, which you may have tried before… but you’ve never truly tried it until you’ve tried it in Sicily.
What do Sicilians eat for breakfast?
Like the rest of Italy, Sicilians don’t really have a strong breakfast tradition. Luckily, Sicilians have granita and brioche, which is what we ate basically every single morning while we were there.
If you want something a bit more substantial you’ll have to visit a bakery or cafe to grab something. Pastries are another common breakfast option. Also, many accommodations in Sicily serve an “international” breakfast consisting of American and/or British breakfast staples such as eggs, meat, cheese, and fruit.
What time is dinner time in Sicily?
Obviously there’s no set time for dinner, but on average most people in Sicily will sit down for dinner somewhere around 8:30 to 9:30pm. This varies across the seasons as well, with dinners being a bit earlier in the winter. That being said, most restaurants on the more beaten path will open for dinner around 7:00 or 7:30pm—so if you’re not keen on eating late, you can usually snag an earlier reservation.
What to eat in Sicily: 15 Sicilian Foods You Need to Try
Pasta alla Norma
Probably the most famous Sicilian food of the Catania region, Pasta alla Norma is a Sicilian dish that, in my opinion, not only lives up to the hype, but exceeds it.
Pasta alla Norma a super simple pasta dish featuring a rich tomato sauce and fried eggplant, topped with grated ricotta salata. The beauty is in the simplicity, and the taste never gets old. It’s also an excellent option for vegetarians!
I swear I probably order Pasta alla Norma every time I see it on a menu (which is almost every time you sit down to eat, especially on the east coast). Don’t miss out on it!
If you’re going to be in Sicily, you really can’t miss out on one of the most iconic street foods: arancini. These delicious little balls date back to the 10th century when Sicily was under Arab rule, and get their name from their resemblance to orange slices (arancia means “orange” in Italian).
Arancini are made by rolling balls of beautiful yellow saffron risotto, stuffing them with delicious fillings, coating them in breadcrumbs, and then frying them to a crispy golden brown. The most typical arancini filling is meat ragù and mozzarella, but there are an abundance of fillings that will also vary widely by region. In a surprise to no one, my favorite is pistachio, but a close second is the ragu. There are also cheese arancini, mushroom arancini, and more!
Fun fact: The appearance of arancini varies across the island: in the west, they tend to be round (technically called “arancine”), while in the east, they’re more conical (“arancini”). Same dish, different gender of Italian noun and different shape!
Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Palermo or the picturesque towns of the east coast, trying arancini is an absolute must-do on any Sicilian food list.
If you’re a vegetarian or simply looking for a meat-free option, you can still enjoy the delicious flavors of Sicilian cuisine with caponata. This popular dish is a vegetarian’s delight and features an aubergine-based stew with a perfect balance of sweet and sour flavors. While the exact ingredients vary depending on the season, location, and chef, caponata usually features onion, celery, tomatoes, and courgette, along with a generous splash of vinegar. It’s typically served cold and with crostini.
Granita con Brioche
Sicily is a magical and beautiful place for a myriad of reasons, but the main one might just be the fact that you can have something that’s pretty damn similar to ice cream for breakfast. Granita is hard to describe because it is quite similar to gelato; it’s a bit slushier, but it’s not a slushy. It definitely requires a spoon, but it’s also so smooth. Honestly you just have to try it.
There are tons of flavors, a lot of fruit options, and then the famous pistachio and almond flavors (my personal favorites). To really round out the breakfast you need to get it with a fresh brioche on the side. It’s actually insane how fresh they are and they go together so well. Personally, I loved having my granita with whipped cream on the top (“con panna”), so definitely try that out as well.
Local tip: You can almost always order a bowl of granita “half and half” (“metà e metà”) if you can’t decide between two flavors! This won’t be advertised, but it’s a very typical thing to do.
Cannoli are probably the most well-known Sicilian dessert known outside of Sicily. The filling is a lightly sweetened ricotta cream, often embellished with chocolate or candied oranges, and dusted with pistachios or dipped in chocolate at the ends. I tried many a cannoli while in Sicily, and my favorite came from Ruvolo QuattroCanti in Palermo, because I liked the chocolate chips and orange slice, sweetness of the ricotta, texture of the shell and the fact that it was a bit smaller than many others I’d tried. That being said, I’m no cannoli expert, so you should definitely taste test as many as you can to draw your own conclusions ;).
Local tip: To identify a truly good cannoli place, look for stacks of freshly fried empty cannoli shells. If a shop is the real deal, then they’ll be filled to order which means the perfect balance of creamy filling and crunchy shell.
Okay, I didn’t personally try this while I was in Catania, but only because I didn’t have time. If you want a truly authentic Sicilian food experience though, or want to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain, you should give this a go. Horse meat (“carne di cavallo”) is a common street food/barbecue option in Sicily, and if you want to try it you should visit Achille—a casual and lively spot that comes highly recommended. You’ll usually find it served as small steaks or meatballs.
Pane con panelle
If you’re looking for a simple yet satisfying snack in Palermo, keep an eye out for pane con panelle. These crispy fritters made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt are a beloved street food in the Sicilian capital. Served hot off the frying pan with a sprinkle of lemon juice, black pepper, and Parmesan, they make for a perfect pre-dinner nibble or accompaniment to a main meal. If you want to enjoy them like a local, you can have them tucked into a crusty bread roll at the local markets, as is the traditional way! Personally, I tried them on their own and thought they were still delicious.
Pistachio Cornetti (Croissants)
Pistachio Cornetti are something I discovered my second time in Sicily, and I fell so in love with them that I now mourn all the wasted time from my first trip that I wasn’t eating these perfect delectable pastries. They’re pretty much exactly what they sound and look like, a croissant with pistachio cream (imagine the pistachio version of like, nutella basically) pumped into the middle. Not all pistachio cornetti are created equally, but even the worst ones we had were better than some of the pastries I eat regularly at home. That’s because the pistachio cream will always be top quality perfection, so your only changing variable is croissant quality. The best ones I had in Sicily (and I tried them in every single place we went) were from Pasticceria Artale in Ortigia, where the croissant quality (on days where they were freshly baked) topped the best croissants I’ve had in Paris. I dream of them daily now, they ruined me for all other pastries.
Obviously no trip to any region of Italy would be complete without a comprehensive sampling of the wines that that region has to offer.
Probably the two most well known and popular Sicilian wines are Marsala and Nero d’Avola – both of which are excellent. We also fell in love with Cerasuolo di Vittoria the last time we were in Sicily.
However, there’s actually a huge variety of Sicilian wines, including Frappato, Zibibbo, Cataratto Bianco, and even the very widely known (but not usually from Sicily!) Chardonnay.
Most restaurants will have a pretty solid selection available on their menus, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations or regional options!
Another great thing to do in Sicily is a wine tasting, so you can be sure to really get a wide sampling. The beauty of this is that almost all regions of Sicily produce wine, so you’ll find excellent tours whether you plan to visit the foothill vineyards of Mt. Etna, the stunning Val di Noto wineries (near Syracuse, Modica and Ragusa), the famed Marsala wine region, or the more off-the-beaten-track vineyards of the north coast and Madonie Park. Actually, you can even sample a range of Sicilian wines and cheeses without leaving Palermo!
You may have encountered parmigiana before, but it’s often called eggplant parmigiana, or “eggplant parm”. It’s kind of a crossover between a chicken parm and a lasagna: layers of yummy eggplant with rich red sauce and cheese. Unlike in the US, where you’ll often see this dish as a main course (usually with a side of pasta) parmigiana is often served as a starting course or side dish. I found this to be a bit more common on the east side of the island compared to the west, so do keep that in mind. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it as a starter if you see it on the menu!
Pasta con le sarde
For a taste of Sicilian food that’s pretty different from the pasta dishes you’ll find elsewhere in Italy, try pasta con le sarde. This is a staple of Sicilian cooking that uses bucatini, a thick and hollow type of pasta similar to spaghetti, and is served with a sauce made from sardines, anchovies, fennel, pine nuts, raisins, and saffron. Its unique blend of North African flavors gives this dish its distinctive taste that really encapsulates the uniqueness of Sicilian dishes, making it a must-try for anyone visiting Sicily. Daniel and his dad loved this when we tried it in Palermo, whereas I was not so much a fan, so you really have to give it a shot to know how you feel about it!
Now I’ll be honest and tell you that on my first visit to Sicily I didn’t bother trying to taste cassata. I really don’t love candied fruits or marzipan, so this wasn’t up my alley, but the second time we visited we pulled the trigger, and I’m so glad I did! Cassata is a glazed cake that’s made with sweetened ricotta and candied fruit. I’ll be honest with you, it looks kind of gross sometimes, and I really was hesitant to take a bite, but all my fears were for nothing. It’s really good! It’s sweet and kind of the perfect dessert note after a heavy Sicilian meal.
Yes, everyone’s favorite nut is one of Sicily’s best foods!
If you’re looking to really get the best pistachio experience, Bronte is the place to go. This tiny Sicilian town is renowned for its pistachios and even holds an annual festival to celebrate them. These pistachios have been grown in the countryside around Mount Etna since between the 9th and 11th centuries. Unlike what we’re used to in the US and other places, Sicilian pistachios do not get toasted or salted, and honestly, they don’t need to be, they’re perfect on their own.
You’ll find them in many Sicilian delicacies, including granita, arancini, pizza, pastries, and more. Seriously, you haven’t tried a pistachio until you’ve tried a Sicilian pistachio.
I’m not normally a chocolate bar type of girl, but Modica chocolate is a complete and utter exception to that rule. We bought a giant bag full of Modica chocolate bars that we meant to give our friends and family as gifts—and honestly, we ended up eating it all ourselves!
The chocolate-making method used in Modica was brought to Sicily by the Spanish when they ruled the island. As a result, it’s an Aztec recipe and is really unique because it has a robust, grainy texture that won’t easily melt in the heat—critical for those hot summers. It’s perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth even on the hottest days. Modica’s chocolate bars come in all sorts of flavors, from classic cinnamon to zesty citrus and nutty pistachio.
The classic cinnamon one was my favorite, but I loved trying all the flavors too. If you’re looking to pick up some Modica chocolate for yourself, I recommend going to Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. The workers in the shop were so friendly and were able to tell us so much interesting history about the chocolate and really helped us out in our selection!
If you’re a pizza lover, you won’t want to miss trying sfincione.
Sfincione is a thick and spongey deep-pan pizza with roots in Palermo that’s similar to focaccia. Traditionally you’ll find it topped with slow-cooked onions, caciocavallo (sheep’s milk cheese), and tomato sauce, as well as classic toppings such as anchovies, capers, or salami. It’s a perfect option for a light lunch or afternoon snack! I recommend trying this in one of the markets in Palermo if you’re going to be there, otherwise a quick google maps search should point you in the direction of sfincione if it’s available wherever you are.
Are you ready to eat all the best Sicilian food?
Eating your way through Sicily is one of the best, and most fun, ways to get a good feel for the energy and culture of the island. Whether you choose to work your way through the entirety of this list, or pick and choose a few favorites, I guarantee you’ll love the Sicilian dishes you try and you’ll be falling in love with this wonderful destination just like I did.
If you’re planning a trip to Sicily, be sure to check out the rest of my posts on Sicily: