Is there anything tastier than the combination of spinach, sweet onions, and salty cheese? I’ll take that combo any day of the week! In cannelloni, as a spread, in börek, in anything! You can find so many different types of börek in Turkey, their shapes or fillings differ, but my favorite one has got to be the spinach borek! It’s just so good! Combine that delicious filling with the soggy melt-in-your-mouth pastry and the crunchy layer of yufka on top, and you hit the jackpot!
If you don’t have a Turkish grocer in your town, I’ve got you covered with substitutes so you can enjoy this classic savory pastry anywhere, anytime! The filling comes together in no time and after spending 10 min assembling your spinach borek, you can sit back and wait for your kitchen to be filled with the loveliest aroma.
Spinach borek can resemble vegetarian lasagna but they taste pretty different. Spinach borek is flatter (there is less filling), ‘drier’ (there is no béchamel), sharper (because of the cheeses), crunchier (yufka acts differently than pasta dough). All of these make for a more memorable experience, plus the filling can really shine. So many people have asked me for this spinach borek recipe (even my Turkish in-laws)!
Fresh spinach is traditionally used, but I am not patient and if I can avoid spending 10min cleaning and stemming spinach, I will! Frozen spinach is so handy y’all! If you want to use fresh leaves, you’ll need to double the amount of spinach. I’ve also added more filling than you would commonly find in a traditional börek. In Turkey, böreks fillings can be sparse, especially in bakeries where they cut-back at lot. So you end up mostly tasting the pastry. But if I’m eating a spinach borek, I want to taste the spinach! I could have added even more spinach (I freaking love spinach) but I tried to stay as faithful to traditional böreks as possible.
BÖREK ON MY MIND
In Turkey, börek is considered as a ‘snack’ eaten in the morning or in the afternoon with a glass of çay (Turkish tea). However, I’m more than happy to serve a big platter of börek for dinner! You can find böreks all over Turkey, sold in bakeries, or made at home from fresh yufka (Turkish ‘filo’ pastry). If spinach isn’t your thing, don’t worry they come with lots of different fillings; ground beef, potatoes, eggplants, cheese, nettle,…
You’ll always find böreks as part of a spread on a communal table during family gatherings where everyone helps themselves, next to lots of mezes, salty pastries, ‘olive oil dishes’, salads… One of the reasons I find spinach borek so comforting is that they remind me of joyous days spent with my extended family, or when I used to stop by my favorite bakery in the morning with my then-boyfriend, now-husband before our lessons started.
Well, you guessed it, börek is a big part of Turkish food culture. Because the Ottoman Empire was pretty much into invading all its neighboring countries, you can find börek from Greece to the Balkans. And each country adapted böreks to their local culture and ingredients. I could take an international food tour of böreks and I still wouldn’t get tired of them, I swear. I’ve named a few different types of fillings, but you can also find su böreği (water börek, you boil the pastry sheets like pasta sheets), çig börek or paçanga (you fry them), talaş böreği (made with puff pastry) there is no end to böreks and there all equally delicious!
READY-MADE YUFKA IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
And with packaged yufka being readily available in the refrigerated section of Turkish grocery stores, spinach borek is super easy to make at home! Who has time to make yufka/filo pastry anyway? Individual böreks can be easily shaped as cigars with triangular sheets of yufka, or a big börek can have that distinctive snail shape. However, it doesn’t get any easier than layering sheets of pastry, cut into the size of your baking pan. You’ll have your spinach borek ready in no time.
The famous snail shape looks great, but getting a good result with packaged yufka can be a challenge. The yufka sheets bought in shops are drier than the fresh yufka found in Turkey, so the pastry tends to break while being rolled, causing leakage. Not a big deal, but enough to drive me, a perfectionist, up the wall, so beware. Böreks come in so many different shapes or with so many different filling, you can totally get creative and make them your own.
Yufka is the Turkish version of the filo pastry. It’s slightly thicker than filo pastry and less brittle. The unleavened flour dough is rolled out with flour at home and with starch in bakeries. It takes a while to get the hang of making homemade yufka. Rolling out the disk of doughs with an oklava (long rolling pin) until they are only a few mm thick so you can see through them (and without piercing the dough) takes a lot of practice. Frankly, I wouldn’t bother when you can get some from a Turkish grocer. Sure, it won’t be as springy as günlük yufka (made fresh daily) but it’ll come pretty close, without any efforts.
If you don’t live near a Turkish grocer you can use filo pastry, bought from a supermarket. Your spinach borek will be a bit more on the crispy side, but brushing each layer with oil and milk will help to get the pastry softer. If you want to make baklava, pick a package of yufka with the word ‘baklava’ written on it, to make sure the pastry will be as thin and crisp as needed.Print
There is nothing more delicious than the combination of spinach, sweet onions, salty cheeses, and melt-in-your-mouth pastry with a crunchy topping. No wonder why spinach borek is such an essential part of the Turkish mezze culture!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400g frozen spinach (14 oz)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 150g lor or çökelek cheese (you can use cottage cheese) (2/3 cup)
- 50g beyaz peynir (you can use feta) (1/3 cup)
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ kirmizi biber (you can use mild chili powder)
- 35ml vegetable oil (3 tbsp)
- 50ml milk (1/4 cup)
- 6 sheets of yufka cut into the size of your baking pan (you can use filo pastry)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp nigella seeds
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- Heat half of the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the frozen spinach and break the blocks into smaller chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6 min, stirring from time to time.
- When the spinach is cooked (wilted and warm), drain through a colander and squeeze out the excess water using the back of the spoon. Set aside to cool.
- Swipe the pan clean with a paper towel and pour the rest of the olive oil. Heat over low-medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook until it wilts and turns translucent, about 5 to 7 min.
- Add the cooked spinach, onion and salt to a mixing bowl. Mix until combined. Crumble the cheeses on top and add the rest of the seasoning. Mix with your hands (it’ll be easier).
- Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. The filling should be slightly saltier than you think because it will be stuffed between 6 sheets of yufka (or filo pastry).
- Take the yufka (or filo pastry) out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 5 min before opening the package. In a small bowl, whisk the vegetable oil and milk together.
- Line a 29*22cm (11*8in) rectangular baking pan with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Place one sheet of yufka (or filo pastry) at the bottom of your baking dish. You might need to cut it, so it can properly fit the pan. Brush liberally with the oil and milk mixture.
- Place 1/5 of the filling over the yufka. The filling won’t cover the pastry entirely and it’s totally normal.
- Repeat the layers (1 sheet of yuka, 1/5 of the filling), not forgetting to liberally brush the pastry before placing the filling, finishing off with the 6th layer of yufka. In total, your spinach borek should have 5 layers of filling and 6 layers of yufka.
- Beat the egg yolk and what is left of the oil and milk mixture together. Pour on top of the spinach borek and brush liberally. Sprinkle the seeds on top and cut the spinach borek into 8 equal pieces with a sharp knife.
- Bake for 30 to 35 min, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, cover with a kitchen towel and allow the spinach borek to rest for 30 min (but the longer, the better). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- Serving Size: 4 slices of spinach borek
- Calories: 886
- Fat: 48.3g
Keywords: mezze, vegetarian dinner, turkish ingredients