This recipe for spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) is a lot easier than you think (just watch the video) and it’s made with 7 ingredients only! Plus, it can be made vegan.
Probably the two most famous Greek savory pies are Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie). Having these two pies as a base you can make countless variations by adding the ingredients you prefer or the ones that are in season. I still haven’t posted a classic tiropita here on this blog, only this four cheese pie with a scented bechamel sauce which deviates from the tradition but it’s definitely worth a try!
Many Greek cheese pies are made with a mix of different cheeses and bechamel sauce, while others contains only feta cheese and (maybe) some eggs. For example, these individual savory pies from My Little Expat Kitchen are truly delicious! Similarly, Spanakopita can be made in many different ways but it should always contain spinach as the main ingredient.
A close cousin to Spanakopita is Hortopita (a pie with greens) which contains a variety of leafy greens like white mustard greens, stinging nettle, chard, amaranth, dandelions and other wild stuff that nowadays only our grandmas know to how to find and harvest from the countryside
Most of the times I use store-bought phyllo for my pies. Not only because it saves me time, but also because the quality is fine (especially if you like it very thin). If you prefer to make your own homemade phyllo you can follow this recipe for Easy Greek Olive Oil Homemade Crust – Phyllo from Olive Tomato . If you use this crust you will probably need less oil for greasing because it gives you less (but thicker) layers which already contain some olive oil.
You only need 7 ingredients to make this Greek spinach pie:
- feta cheese
- olive oil
A lot of recipes also add eggs but I really don’t see a reason why. On the other hand, I strongly recommend using the leeks. They provide a certain sweetness which makes the taste a lot better than using spinach only. A good quality feta cheese is all it’s left to complete the flavor profile of a classic spanakopita.
However, it’s not uncommon for a lot of home cooks to add any other greens they happen to have on hand, especially herbs. There’s no right or wrong here, just go according to your taste. My preference is to keep my spanakopita very simple when I make it with feta, and use a lot of herbs when I make it without (vegan and suitable for Lent). The most common extra things you can add are:
- Mediterranean hartwort
- green onions
- sesame (on the surface)
How to make spanakopita
- Cook the spinach and the greens in a pot and then add the feta cheese
- Brush a pan with olive oil and cover with the phyllo
- Add the spinach and feta filling
- Cover with the rest of the phyllo and score the surface
- Bake until golden brown
How to arrange the phyllo sheets in the pan
Really, there’s no right or wrong way to arrange the phyllo sheets, but in case you’ve never made a Greek savory pie before, I’m going to give you some general instructions. Though there may be some variations between different brands, the typical phyllo packaging has approximately 12 sheets and weighs 1 pound (450 grams). The traditional phyllo has about 9 thicker sheets and weighs 1.4 pounds (650 grams). You can use either of them.
Both types of phyllo are around 14.5 x 19.6 inches (37 x 50 cm) in dimensions, but again, this can vary depending on the brand. Your baking pan can be rectangular or round (the Greek traditional pan for spanakopita is round and shallow). All you have to remember is to create a nest with half or more of the phyllo sheets which you will fill with the filling. Then, cover with the remaining phyllo sheets.
For the quantities given in the recipe card below, it’s best to use a 14inch x 10inch (36cm x 25cm) rectangular pan or a round one 12-14 inches (30-35 cm) in diameter. For a pan like that:
- Use about two thirds of the phyllo for the bottom
- Cover half of the pan with one sheet and the other half with a second sheet (make sure the phyllo sheets overlap each other). Grease with oil and repeat until you have used two thirds (or a little more) of the sheets.
- The phyllo should be ruffled/wrinkled because you want some air trapped between the layers. Brush with oil very gently without compacting the sheets of phyllo. The trapped air and the oil will cook the phyllo better and will make it crispier.
- Fill with the filling and cover with the rest of the phyllo.
- Sprinkle some water over the last 2 phyllo sheets. This will make the surface more crispy.
- Tuck the phyllo between the pie and the edges of the pan or fold the rim inwards and crimp to secure.
*If you have any leftover phyllo you can make half the recipe of this easy Greek sweet milk pie (Bougatsa)
*This recipe will also work with puff pastry. If you use puff pastry you will not need to brush it with oil, you will only need to grease the pan or line it with parchment paper.
Can you make spanakopita vegan?
This recipe contains no eggs, and uses olive oil as fat so the only thing you should omit if you want to make it vegan is the feta cheese. However, because feta makes about half (or more) of the filling you should keep in mind to double the quantity of the spinach and the leeks. It may seem a lot but once cooked, all the greens lose their moisture and reduce a lot in volume.
Also, because feta provides a lot of flavor, I recommend using some of the herbs mentioned in the ingredients above, like parsley, dill, chervil, Mediterranean hartwort, and green onions.
How do you keep spanakopita crispy?
- cook the filling until all the liquids are evaporated (you can also drain the filling if you’re in a hurry)
- keep the filling thin (opt for a larger pan rather than a smaller one)
- leave air between the layers of phyllo (wrinkled or ruffled sheets will trap air between them which will help them bake better ad become crispier)
- Brush the phyllo with enough olive oil and don’t press it down (compress it) with the brush. The more oil, the crispier the phyllo
- score before baking.
- sprinkle the top with a bit of water before baking. Some people also use carbonated water instead.
- After the first day, reheat uncovered it in the oven (175 °C / 350 °F) for 15-20 minutes.
Can you freeze spanakopita before baking?
Yes you can! You can freeze a spanakopita and keep it in the freezer for up to six months. This is a great way to reduce some of the preparations before a big dinner. You can also divide this recipe between two smaller pans and freeze the one for later.
How do you cook frozen spanakopita? Thaw in the fridge from the previous day and bake as normal.
Can you eat spanakopita cold?
Spanakopita can be eaten warm or cold. Once you take it out of the oven, it’s best to let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes for the filling to set and to be able to cut it more easily and serve it without risking it falling apart. Once it gets cold you can store it at room temperature for 1 day or inside the fridge for 3-4 days. After the first day the crust will probably be a bit less crispy, but the taste will all be there!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound (450 grams) leeks, chopped
- 2 pounds (900 grams) fresh spinach, chopped (you can also use frozen spinach)
- 1 pound (450 grams) feta cheese, crumbled
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 package phyllo (or filo)
- 0.5 -1 cup olive oil (or a mix of half olive oil and half vegetable oil)
- 14inch x 10inch (36cm x 25cm) rectangular pan or a round one 12-14 inches (30-35 cm) in diameter.
Cook the spinach: Transfer the olive oil and the leeks to a large pot and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are glossy and translucent. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts down and reduced in volume. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until all the liquids are evaporated (if you're in a hurry: after cooking the spinach for 10 minutes, drain all the liquids from the pot and continue with the recipe).
Make the filling: Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool down for a few minutes. Add the crumbled feta cheese, freshly grated black pepper and a pinch of salt. Mix to combine. Taste and adjust the salt and the pepper.
Preheat your oven to 375 °F (190 °C)
Layer the phyllo: Grease your pan with oil and cover the half with one phyllo sheet and the other half with a second phyllo sheet, making sure the sheets overlap each other (if the sheets are a little ruffled they will trap air between them and they will bake better and become crispier). Brush with oil very gently without pressing the phyllo, and repeat until you have used about 2/3 of the phyllo.
Fill and cover: Fill with the filling and cover with the rest of the phyllo, brushing with oil each sheet. Tuck the phyllo between the pie and the edges of the pan or fold the rim inwards and crimp to secure.
Score and bake: Sprinkle the surface with some water and score into 12 pieces. Bake in the middle/low rack of your oven for 60 minutes or until golden brown on top . Let it cool down for 30 minutes and serve warm or cold.
- This recipe will also work with puff pastry. If you use puff pastry you will not need to brush it with oil, you will only need to grease the pan or line it with parchment paper.
- Horiatiko (rustic) phyllo is thicker than the common phyllo and is used in many savory Greek pie recipes. You can use regular phyllo instead.
- Half a cup of oil is the minimum amount for the spanakopita to become crispy. Use up to 1 cup for even crispier phyllo. If where you live olive oil is expensive, you can use half olive oil and half another neutral tasting vegetable oil like sunflower or corn oil.
- If your pies are baked with their bottom not very crispy you can try baking this spanakopita at the lowest rack of your oven after the first 30 minutes.
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