While international travel isn’t possible, I’ve been playing around in my home kitchen and recreating some of my favourite foods from around the world. I thought my take on Spanakopita, a Greek spinach and feta pie, would make a great second summery serving of my Round the World Recipes.
What is spanakopita?
A real Greek classic, spanakopita is a delicious savoury pie found in every bakery in Greece and features on the menu in most tavernas. Made with earthy-tasting spinach leaves, sweet sautéed onion, and salty-sharp feta cheese sandwiched in crispy-crunchy filo pastry, it’s actually really simple to cook but looks like you’ve made a great deal of effort in the kitchen.
Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, there’s plenty of opportunity to get creative, and play around with different flavours and techniques. Try other green leafy vegetables, using leeks rather than onions, or adding other cheeses like ricotta or halloumi. Or try using different herbs depending on your taste.
How to eat spanakopita
In Greece, spanakopita is often served in small pieces as a side dish for a big celebration meal of slow-roasted lamb or lemon chicken, but it also makes a fine meal on its own. Serve a helping with a big Greek salad and a garlicky tzatziki dip for a summer dinner or a light supper.
Spanakopita is delicious hot or cold, so individual pies are perfect for picnics and packed lunches too. I lived close to an amazing 24-hour bakery in Athens, and would drop by on the way home after a night out for spanakopita and some croissants for a restorative breakfast (usually brunch, sometimes a late lunch in reality).
A classic Greek spanakopita
This easy recipe makes a classic Greek spinach and feta pie, perfect for summer dinners, light lunches, and picnics. Suitable for vegetarians.
- Servings 6 individual pies, or one large serving 6 – 8
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cooking time 30 minutes
- 1kg spinach
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 300g feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tsp dill, chopped
- 3 sprigs oregano, chopped
- Zest from one lemon
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 250g filo pastry
- Olive oil to brush on the pastry
- Wash, then roughly chop the spinach. Put in a colander and sprinkle with salt to wilt while getting on with the rest of the preparation. If using frozen or tinned spinach, this step isn’t necessary.
- Finely dice the onion, and fry in a little oil until softened. Preheat the oven to Gas 6 / 200°C.
- Remove the frying pan from the heat, then crumble the feta into the onions. Squeeze the moisture from the spinach, and add to the pan, mixing thoroughly. Add the herbs, lemon zest and juice, and a good glug of olive oil. Stir the egg through the mix and season lightly, as feta is already quite salty.
- To make one large pie, brush the pie dish or baking tin with oil and line with half of the filo sheets. Brush each sheet with oil as you layer them, and take care not to squash them down. Leave the excess hanging over the sides.
- Spoon the spinach and feta mixture into the pie dish, levelling off the top gently. Layer the remaining filo sheets over the top, brushing with oil as you go. Fold the overhanging edges in, cut into the desired number of portions, drizzle with oilve oil, and bake for around 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden.
- For individual pies, brush a sheet of filo with oil, and fold in half lengthways. From here, there’s endless options for shaping the pies, depending on how creative you feel. I usually make triangle-shapes filled with the mixture, but you can try simple folded-over squares, cigar shapes, or form filo-wrapped rolls into coils.
This recipe works just as well with tinned or frozen spinach, so long as it’s been well drained. Dried herbs can be substituted for fresh if they’re hard to come by, and if you can’t find filo pastry anywhere, then puff pastry will do just fine. If you have the inclination (which, honestly I really don’t), you can try making filo pastry from scratch using this recipe.
Filo pastry is usually suitable for vegans, just check the ingredients as some makes may contain butter. The feta cheese can be swapped with vegan cheese or seasoned tofu or tempeh, and the egg omitted, to make the spanakopita completely vegan friendly.
Printable Recipe Card
If I was in Greece right now, sitting at a harbourside taverna, I’d have a chilled glass of summery white wine, most likely an assyrtiko, with my meal. Or if I’d picked up a takeaway lunch, then I’d grab a frappé coffee to go too.