Spanakopita is a savory spinach pie that is of Greek origin. Usually, this deliciously tasty dish has a recipe that features feta cheese and spinach as the two key ingredients necessary to make what northern Greek residents call Spanakopita. Among southern Greeks, spanakopita is a term that’s commonly used for different versions of cheese.
There are spanakopita recipes that don’t include cheese and eggs, which are used when there is a religious fast that demands those ingredients are kept out of the equation. Among the Greeks, as well as other cultures who consume the vegan version of spanakopita, this is usually done during the time of the Catholic practice called Lent. This is also exercised during other religious fasts where the consumption of meat and dairy are not allowed.
Throughout Greece, spanakopita is prepared according to region. Region for region, as well as the vegan version, we’ll cover different spanakopita recipes that are known for their traditionally tasty qualities. Of all the recipes shared in this article, they’ve been mostly designed with eight servings in mind. Each of them has been designed with a casserole dish in mind for easy serving.
Authentic Spanakopita Recipe
According to the recipe shared on My Greek Dish, crumbled feta cheese is mixed with herbs and spinach. This mixture is then layered in phyllo pastry that’s brushed with either melted butter or oil. From there, this is baked until it’s gold in color and crispy in texture. Phyllo (also known as filo) pastry dough can be either store-bought or made from scratch. If you want to make the phyllo pastry dough from scratch, the recipe for it is located immediately after this one.
- 2 halved and sliced red onions
- 2 crushed cloves of garlic
- 500g (18 ounces) washed and roughly chopped spinach
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1 finely chopped green onion
- 200g (7 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Phyllo Pastry Dough
- Olive oil for brushing
Make sure your phyllo dough is ready for action first. Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, make sure it’s in place as you need it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius)
Saute the red onions in a large dollop of butter in a saucepan until they’re soft and golden.
Add the garlic and cook for about two or three minutes.
Add the spinach in batches and cook until they’re wilted.
Remove this mixture from the heat and gently tip it into a bowl, leaving behind any excess liquid from the spinach.
Mix in the green onion, nutmeg, feta cheese, eggs, and dill.
Add salt and pepper according to taste, if desired.
Using either a non-stick baking pan or one that’s lined with parchment paper, put the first sheet of phyllo dough and sprinkle it with olive oil. It’s okay if the excess hangs over the sides.
Continue this procedure with another two or three phyllo sheets. Remember, sprinkle oil between each sheet for best results.
Tip the filling of the spanakopita and fold over the excess pastry to cover.
If you don’t have any excess pastry to cover the filling, or it’s not enough, add another two to three layers of phyllo dough on top. Be sure each layer is sprinkled with olive oil, though.
Once layered, brush the top of the spanakopita with olive oil, then scar it with a sharp knife.
Bake in the preheated oven for sixty minutes. The idea here is to have the phyllo become crisp and golden brown. Don’t simply rely on the clock. Check on the oven to make sure the spanakopita’s pastry crust has reached the color and consistency you need.
Once baked, remove the spanakopita from the oven and let it cool down for about ten to fifteen minutes before cutting into it and serving.
Homemade Phyllo Pastry Dough
The beauty of this recipe, which is an easy one to follow, is that it’s also vegan-friendly. Pair this up with the vegan-friendly Spanakopita recipe and you’ve got it made as a 100% vegan dish.
- 300g (10.5 ounces) bread flour
- 5 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 1/2 Cup to 3/4 Cup of lukewarm water
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt together and form a well in the center.
Gently pour in the olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Combine the ingredients together, slowly adding half a cup’s worth of water into the mix.
The idea is to form the flour into an elastic ball. If you need to add up to another quarter cup’s worth of flour, do so. The flour should be soft, malleable, and smooth. You don’t want it crumbly but you also don’t want it watery. It should be a sticky ball.
Break down the ball into smaller balls, preferably golf ball size. Lay these out on either a lightly greased tray or one lined with parchment paper.
Gently brush each ball with a hint of olive oil before covering the balls with either plastic wrap or a towel.
Let the dough rest for at least an hour. You want this dough soft enough to work with when it’s time to roll it.
Starting with the first ball, place it on a floured surface. Using a flour-coated rolling pin, roll it out until it becomes a very thin round sheet. The best approach to do this is to roll it out a few times on one side, then turn the dough over and continue. You’ll likely have to do this a few times until it’s thin enough according to preference. In all honesty, the thinner the better. That’s how the Greeks do it.
Keep doing this until all the balls have been rolled out and are ready for action to finish preparing spanakopita.
Gluten-Free Phyllo Pastry Dough
For diets that need to keep the gluten out of it, this means either purchasing gluten-free phyllo pastry or making your own. There are several recipes on the internet on how to make it from simple to complex. The bottom line, you want the perfect pastry to go with the spinach and feta combo that’s supposed to serve as the filling. The tried and true recipe for good phyllo dough that comes as close to the flavor and texture as regular phyllo pastry without sounding so complicated with weird ingredients is easy enough to pull off. Normally, xantham gum is used as a replacement to act as the binding agent that’s found in gluten-based products, such as wheat. If such an ingredient isn’t so easy to come by, the recipe shared here works just as well.
- 1 Tsp dry yeast
- 1 1/3 Cup lukewarm water
- 1 Tsp honey
- 2 Eggs (at room temperature)
- 3 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour (Bob Red Mill’s is the best bet)
- Pinches of cornstarch (for rolling)
- Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, 1/3 cup of water, and honey. Set this aside and wait for it to become bubbly.
In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt together before forming a well in the center.
Add the yeast mixture, plus the rest of the water, and the eggs.
Mix everything together until the dough can be easily formed into a ball.
Cover the dough while it’s still inside the bowl with either plastic wrap or a towel.
Set the bowl aside and keep it in a warm place until it doubles in size. This usually takes about an hour.
On a flat surface area large enough to roll out the dough, sprinkle a few pinches of cornstarch.
Roll out the dough on the cornstarch until it becomes very thin.
Cut the dough into square sheets so you can use these as layers when you put together the spanakopita.
Alternative Spanakopita Recipe
One of the most common spanakopita recipes traditionally uses a mix of herbs into the dish as staple ingredients. Many Greek-themed restaurants have been known to go with a traditional recipe that’s been a family favorite from one generation to another.
- 1 pound (500g) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 1 finely chopped medium onion
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 Tbsp chopped dill
- 2 Tbsp chopped mint
- 1/4 Tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3 eggs
- 12 Phyllo Sheets
- Olive oil for brushing
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).
Heat a medium pan with one tablespoon of olive oil.
Saute the onion until it’s soft in texture.
Add the drained spinach and saute it with the onion for a few short minutes.
Add the parsley, dill, mint, nutmeg, and sugar and saute for about another two to three minutes.
Set aside and let this mixture cool down.
In a small, separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the feta cheese.
Add the egg mixture to the spinach.
Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and mix the ingredients together until they’re well blended.
Brush a baking pan that’s about 10×15 inches with olive oil.
Place a phyllo sheet in the pan and brush it with olive oil. Continue doing this with five more phyllo sheets.
Evenly spread the mixture on top.
Cover the mixture with six more phyllo sheets, making sure each one is brushed with olive oil.
Should there be any phyllo sheets hanging over the pan, gently roll them in.
Scar the top of the layered spanakopita just enough to pierce the top six phyllo sheets.
Bake this for forty minutes in the oven until the phyllo has turned golden brown.
Remove this from the oven and allow it to cool for about fifteen minutes before cutting them into pieces.
As a religious practice, vegan-based spanakopita is usually a dish that’s served during occasions where it’s necessary to fast from meat and dairy products. As a lifestyle choice, this alternative is just as tasty as the authentic version.
- 6-7 scallions, chopped
- 1/2 Tsp olive oil
- 1/4 Tsp sea salt
- 12 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/4 Cup dill
- 1/4 Cup parsley
- 1/4 Tsp ground black pepper
- 10-12 phyllo sheets
- Olive oil for brushing
- 1 cup feta cheese substitute
- Ingredients List (for feta cheese substitute)
- 1 Cup boiled cashews (takes 25 minutes on high heat) (if there is a nut allergy, replace the cashews with a firm to extra firm tofu and have them cut into small cubes. Make sure it’s 100% dry, though.)
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp water
- 3/4 Tsp salt
Directions for feta cheese substitute: place these ingredients into a food processor and mince them down until it resembles crumbled feta cheese.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).
In a skillet, brown the scallions in olive oil until they’re soft. This usually takes about two minutes.
Add the spinach, salt, and pepper and saute until wilted. This takes about five minutes.
Remove from heat.
Add the dill, parsley, pepper, and feta cheese substitute to the spinach mixture and combine thoroughly.
Using a baking dish, lightly brush it with olive oil.
Place the first phyllo sheet inside and brush with olive oil. Continue this procedure for the next four sheets.
Evenly spread the spinach mixture on top.
Fold over any excess phyllo sheets hanging over the baking dish on top of the spinach mixture. Gently brush the pastry with olive oil.
Apply the next five phyllo sheets, brushing oil on top of each one as you go.
Once all layered and brushed, cut into square pieces.
Bake the spanakopita in the oven for sixty minutes. However, oven temperatures vary, so check on it at the forty-five-minute mark and keep checking until the dough has become golden brown on top. It’s been known to take as long as seventy minutes.
Once ready, take the spanakopita out of the oven and let cool for about ten to fifteen minutes before serving.
The cashews used in place of the feta cheese also serve as a protein equivalent. One of the main challenges for vegan diets is keeping up with the needed protein in order to maintain optimal health. However, what if you’re not only vegan but allergic to nuts? An alternative vegan-friendly recipe is also available.
Nut-Free Vegan Spanakopita
Replacing the cashews in order to keep the spanakopita vegan-friendly, yet still tasty is possible. However, the ingredients list will be a bit more extensive if you want a great-tasting spanakopita recipe that has the potential to become a personal favorite.
- 1 Block (14 oz) medium firm to firm tofu
- 4 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp white miso
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 diced white or yellow onion
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 2 cups finely chopped spinach
- 2 minced scallions
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
- 10 sheets of thawed phyllo pastry dough
You need to squeeze out as much water as possible from the tofu. Start by draining the tofu the best you can before placing it on a plate.
Cover the tofu with another plate or at least something heavy enough to keep it pressed down.
About every 2-3 minutes, check on the tofu and continue draining out the excess water. The whole process usually takes about ten minutes. Of course, if you have your own tofu presser, then this isn’t an issue for you.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, miso, and mustard together. If you care to add a pinch of salt and some pepper to the mix according to personal preference, this would be the time to do so.
Crumble the tofu into small bits, then add them to the liquid mix and toss until everything is well coated before setting the bowl aside.
Heat up the oil in a skillet pan over medium heat before adding the onion.
Cook the onion until it becomes translucent and has a light gold appearance. This usually takes about five to seven minutes.
Stir in the garlic cloves and cook for about another thirty seconds longer before removing the skillet away from the heat.
Going back to the bowl with the tofu, gently mix in the spinach.
Pour the cooked onion into the bowl and mix the ingredients together again.
Add the scallions and the dill to the mix and gently mix until all the ingredients are combined.
Preferably using a 9×13 casserole dish, brush the bottom and sides with oil before placing the first sheet of phyllo pastry inside. Brush the top of it before placing another sheet on top. Continue with this procedure until the first five of your phyllo dough are in place.
Pour in the spinach mix and spread this out evenly.
Place the next phyllo pastry on top of the spinach mix and brush with oil. Continue with this procedure until the final sheet is in its place.
If there are any excess phyllo pastry sheets hanging out of the casserole dish, gently fold them over to rest on top of the top sheet. You did remember to brush this with oil too, right?
Scar the first five sheets of the phyllo dough. Make sure you don’t cut to the bottom. Doing so will make the bottom part of this recipe soggy.
Place the casserole dish in the oven and let it bake for about forty to fifty minutes. Ideally, you want the phyllo pastry dough on top to become golden brown.
Once ready, take the spanakopita out of the oven and let it rest for about ten minutes before serving.