My spanakopita comes straight from my own Greek mamma, and her secret makes it the very best! Spanakopita is a popular Greek spinach and feta pie that makes a great vegetarian meal option. I get requests for this classic dish over and over again
I use my spinach and feta pie filling to make my small appetizer-sized spinach pies. It is also the same filling in my spinach quiche. It’s juicy, fresh tasting and a definite crowd-pleaser. It freezes perfectly so make an extra batch for those busy days. I love to eat this with tzatziki on the side or with a nice salad. However you make it, just give it a try.
What’s the secret?
Spanakopita in Greek translates to spinach and feta pie. Layers of flaky phyllo pastry hold a creamy spinach and feta filling. The cheese makes it creamy and the herbs add so much freshness. The secret is… to never cook the spinach leaves before adding them to the pie. Just like my Greek mamma taught me! Her recipe creates the juiciest and most fresh-tasting spinach pie that you’ve ever tasted.
Now, this is not the appetizer version. It makes enough to fill a half sheet baking pan for full entree size portions. You can also make it in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan as well It will create thicker slices in the 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Round pies are also common in Greece. Get creative and have fun!
Let’s go over the ingredients:
- A pound of spinach or baby spinach
- olive oil
- high-quality whole milk ricotta cheese
- a pound of phyllo dough
Type of spinach for spanakopita
Baby spinach is very easy to find over here where I live. It comes in all different amounts. You can buy regular spinach that is sold in bunches. Just make sure to wash it very well. Baby spinach is really convenient since it is already washed and ready to use. That said, use what you can find, and give it a coarse chop.
The best cheese for spanakopita
Please don’t use low fat or fat-free cheese in your spanakopita. You must use high-quality whole milk ricotta and your favorite feta cheese. A sheep’s milk feta is much milder than regular feta, but you can use the less expensive cow’s milk feta that’s found at the supermarket. Try to buy the blocks and crumble it up yourself. It’s really so simple. If you want to get rid of some of that excess salt taste, you could rinse it with warm water and dry it before using it.
A few other important tips before you get started
- Wash the scallions properly and chop them up really finely.
- If you cannot find fresh dill, you may use the dried form, but less. So for this recipe, if using dried dill, use about 2 tablespoons or enough to suit your taste.
- Start with ½ teaspoon of salt and taste. How much salt you add will depend on how salty your feta is.
You’re just going to put everything in a bowl, except the eggs, to mix it up. The best way to mix it is with your hands. Make sure your hands are nice and clean. I don’t add the eggs yet at this point because once it’s all combined you’re going to taste the mix to see if it needs more salt. I don’t know if you use high-quality eggs but just to be safe, taste it before you add the eggs. Adjust for salt, then add the eggs. It just comes together after 2 to 3 minutes of mixing with your hands. Trust me! There’s no better way to do it. I’ve tried it so many different ways.
How to work with phyllo
I can’t stress enough how important it is that the phyllo stays in its packaging until it is at room temperature! The best way to do this is by thawing it overnight in your refrigerator (since it’s usually sold in the freezer section). Take it out in the morning or at least 2 hours before you use it and leave it in its packaging while it comes to room temperature. Do not take it out of the airtight plastic packaging that comes in!!! It will be completely useless if it sits out for a long time, it will crumble and nothing will save it. So, these steps are very important:
- Thaw the phyllo in the refrigerator overnight in its packaging.
- 1-2 hours before you will work with the phyllo allow it to sit at room temperature. Keep it packaged.
- Remove the phyllo from its packaging and work with it on a clean, dry surface.
- Keep a large dry kitchen towel along with a damp towel handy. When phyllo is exposed to air for extended amounts of time, it dries out and begins to crumble. Any phyllo that is not being handled, cover it first with the dry towel then with the damp towel.
How to build your spanakopita spinach and feta pie
You’ll need a half sheet baking tray, your olive oil, phyllo dough, and spinach mixture. You’re going to be using your hands here, but you can use a brush to apply the olive oil. Watch the video to see exactly how I layer the spanakopita. Yes, it’s phyllo on the bottom, spinach mix in the middle and phyllo on the top. But I have a special way to layer and tuck the phyllo that helps it to bake up nice and crisp. The top comes out golden, crispy and beautiful.
I also take a really sharp knife and cut the spanakopita into squares or triangles before I put it in the oven. You can use a ruler to make them even, but it’s not necessary. This is a rustic beautiful dish. Just try to make it as even as possible and cut all the way down to the pan. I like to cut 12 beautiful big pieces, but if you want to cut this into smaller pieces go right ahead. Just cut it into as big or small of a serving size as you want because once it’s baked, these are going to be serving sizes. So, keep that in mind. It’s going to be very easy to take the pieces out of the pan later on, and because it’s pre-cut, you won’t crumble the crispy airy topping.
You’ll have a juicy spanakopita on the inside that’s not at all dried or black from overcooking the spinach. The top will be so airy and crispy that you’ll be able to hear the crisp as you cut into it. It’s a filling, healthy, delicious main entree that you can serve with a nice salad, cucumber salad, fruit salad, or marinated olives. You could even serve it with tzatziki or hummus.
Make-Ahead Tips for spanakopita spinach and feta pie
- Assemble the pie and do not bake it.
- Place in the freezer for 1-2 hours then cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- The spinach pie will stay fresh for 1 month.
- when ready to bake, remove the plastic and cover loosely with foil. You may brush some melted butter or cooking spray on the side of the foil that will contact the pie. This will keep the top layer from sticking to the foil. Bake covered at 350 °F for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until golden.
Here are some more spinach and feta creations worth trying
- Spinach and feta rolls
- spinach and feta muffins
- Spanakopita Christmas Tree
- Spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast
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- 1 pack phyllo pastry, at room temperature
- 1 pound baby spinach, chopped
- 2 bunches fresh dill, finely chopped or 3 heaping teaspoons dried dill
- about 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese, full fat and at room temperature
- 1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
- about 2 cups olive oil, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- Baking tray dimensions used for this recipe: 18" x 13" x 1"
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Combine the chopped spinach, dill, scallions, ricotta, and feta cheese in a large bowl and using your very clean hands, mix very well. Knead it, crush it and keep mixing until everything is combined well.
- Taste the mixture and add as much salt and pepper as you like.
- Add the beaten eggs and about 1 cup of olive oil and mix well.
- Rub some oil with your hands all over a half sheet baking pan.
- Lay 3 sheets on the bottom of pan and drizzle with a little olive oil.
- Place 2 sheets half in the pan and half hanging outside of the pan on all four sides of the pan. See the video above.
- Spread all of the filling inside of the phyllo sheets. All of the sheets that are hanging outside of the pan should go over the filling. See video.
- Drizzle some olive oil all over the phyllo. Cover half of the pie with 2 sheets of phyllo, tucking them under and repeat the same with the other side of the pie. This is demonstrated in the video tutorial.
- Take the remaining phyllo sheets one at a time and crumble them in rows on top of the pie. Drizzling all the remaining olive oil on top of them. This will create a crisp, light crust.
- Using a very sharp knife cut the pie into 12 equal slices.
- Place in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. The pie will be crisp and golden brown.
- Allow to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving. This will allow the filling to set.