baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

go go greens

Recipe: spanakopita

March has not forsaken us! Four inches of snow preserved by overnight lows to -10°F made for some solid spring skiing this weekend in Crested Butte. Aaaand there’s more to come – yippee!!! But the season is definitely on the move. Despite the appearance of winter on the ground here, the sun and skies tell a different story. Clouds and weather are more dynamic with the increased warming of the atmosphere thanks to our sun that wants to hang out more and more each day. In the backcountry, you can smell streams and plants even though you may not see them under all of that snow. And flying insects! We’ve seen several lazily buzzing through the air as if they were trying to recover from the drunken stupor that was winter. It’s all good. It really is.

skiing toward an approaching storm

tracking up the fresh stuff

sunset on mount whetstone

Spring cleaning applies to everything for me – from closets to pantries to hard-to-recycle items to gear to computer files… I’ve been in a slow motion spring cleaning mode since October and I finally got around to culling and sorting my gabillion computer files (mostly photos) last week. I am not even close to being done as it takes a while to sift through terabytes of data. But I did unearth a recipe for spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) I have been meaning to post since I shot it a few years ago. It seems rather fitting for this time of year. Or maybe I’m just really hungry after all that skiing.

feta, spinach, eggs, farina, butter, more butter, parsley, dill, green onions (not pictured: phyllo dough, salt)

The hardest part of making spanakopita is handling the phyllo dough, but it’s not that hard. I’ve been using it since fourth grade (we learned to make baklava in 4-H) and have dealt with a lot of store-bought phyllo dough. The tricks are to: 1) thaw the frozen dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours 2) keep a damp (not wet!) towel over the sheets of dough to prevent drying out and 3) buy a reliable brand. I tried using an organic phyllo dough from Whole Foods and it made me cuss like a sailor. It stuck together, tore, and was really difficult to work with, despite following all of the instructions to thaw it properly. I’ve had mixed results with some national brands like Athens. The main thing is that you don’t want the sheets to stick together. The best one I’ve dealt with? Safeway’s brand. The point is that you’ll need to determine what works best for you.

beat the eggs, chop the green onions, mince the herbs

adding sautéed green onions to the feta, spinach, herbs, and farina

pour in the beaten eggs

mix it all together

I’ve made spanakopita with frozen spinach and with cooked fresh spinach. The fresh spinach tastes a little better, but it’s a bit more work than frozen spinach and you need to buy a lot of it to get the same yield. The filling itself takes little time to prepare aside from some chopping and a quick sauté of the green onions. The assembly can go relatively quickly too if you clear out the space needed to work with the phyllo dough sheets. I like to use a marble board or a large cutting board for brushing each sheet with melted butter.

nice individual sheets that aren’t sticking together

brushing a sheet with butter

layering the sheets in the pan

Layer half of the sheets with butter on the bottom of the baking pan. If a sheet tears, it’s okay. Just set it on top of the stack like a puzzle piece, more or less completing the layer. If they stick together while you are trying to separate a sheet of dough, it helps to slowly and carefully pull them apart. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a train wreck. Pour the filling over the bottom stack of phyllo sheets. Then top off the pie with the rest of the phyllo sheets, brushed with butter and stacked like the first half.

pour the filling onto the bottom stack of phyllo sheets

layer the second half of the phyllo dough on top of the spinach

bake for 75 minutes

Spanakopita is an utterly delightful dish – a creamy spinach and cheese filling sandwiched between layers of flaky, delicate phyllo dough. What’s not to love? It’s a nice vegetarian option for entertaining (not a vegan option, though). If you want it to be an appetizer rather than a main dish, you can make them into phyllo triangles. Just swap the spinach filling for the crawfish filling. Triangles require more manhandling than the pie, but have a much shorter bake time. Prepared either way, spanakopita is a favorite in our house and a great way to get your greens on.

pairs nicely with a greek salad

just a bite…

[print recipe]
nabbed this off 20+ years ago

2 tbsps butter
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
40 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of liquid
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsps farina
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Sauté the green onions in the butter until they are wilted. Remove from heat and empty the green onions into a large mixing bowl. Add the spinach, eggs, feta, farina, parsley, dill, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Brush the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with melted butter. Unfold the phyllo dough so the sheets lay flat and cover with a damp (not wet!) kitchen towel (or damp paper towels).

Carefully lift off the top sheet of phyllo and set it flat on your work surface. If using 9×13-inch sheets, brush the top of the sheet with butter, then layer a second sheet on top and brush that sheet with butter. If using 13×18-inch sheets (double the size), brush half of the sheet (9×13 inches) with butter, fold the unbrushed part over the brushed half, and brush the top with butter. Lay the double layered buttered phyllo sheet on the bottom of the baking pan. Repeat until you have half of the phyllo dough stacked in the pan. Spread the spinach filling evenly over the layers of phyllo in the pan. Layer the remaining phyllo sheets on top of the spinach the same way you layered the bottom half (with butter). Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serves 8.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

sigara boregi crawfish phyllo triangles spinach cheese empanadas boursin chicken

16 nibbles at “go go greens”

  1. Lisa says:

    I love this. I have bought the frozen ones for entertaining before and folks like it very much. This home made spanakopita will be a hit since most of the people like to eat more vegetable today, and this is an easy way to have it and enjoy it.

  2. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    This is one of my all time favorite meals! Lovely!

  3. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    We love ordering spanakopita at our local Greek restaurants (and at our annual Greek festival). I never thought to make it myself, but it looks easy. And of course yours is gorgeous, as always! :)

  4. Phyllis says:

    Thanks for the info on the phyllo dough! I’m trying this recipe tomorrow. It will be my 2nd try at the phyllo dough, the first was an absolute disaster. Wish me luck!

  5. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    There’s a great Greek place across the street from my office. I have spanakopita about once a week for lunch…

    Now I can make it at home also…

  6. Hannah says:

    Mm, spanakopita is always so delicious. Is there a substitute that could be recommended for farina?

  7. Samantha says:

    lovely posts as usual, thanks! so much better than buying, now we have your recipe to own – I just love your photos showing us how in stages, thanks again.

  8. jill says:

    The skiing pics and sunsets are beautiful as always. I worry about avalanches…and I am sure the areas you enjoy have been mitigated.?!

    The spanakopita looks yummy. I’d just need a feta alternative.

  9. Pey-Lih says:

    I love reading about your enthusiasm about snow….here I am bummed out about the rain and itching to go out and ride my bike after the last two weeks of studying and exams. Your recipe looks so good….and I love spinach! I need to invite some friends over for some dinner and serve this. You given me a great idea today-thank you always!

  10. Marissa says:

    Fwiw farina is cream of wheat. But I have never seen a recipe that calls for it and I love spanakopita… Oranything in phyllo … Yum.

  11. Raluca says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    First time posting (although long time follower)! I live in Romania so we have a typical Balkan cuisine. So, we make spanakopita (well, since it’s traditional, we don’t call it that way, which is the Greek word, but “spinach an cheese pie” – by “pie” I (we) mean a fillo dough pie) also. Your recipe is great (and also accurate). There are also variations, as with all recipes. If you want it to be more “compact”, you can make an additional layer of sheets in between – which will be in the end pretty much soaked by the spinach-cheese-egg mixture (or you can mince the sheets that are anyway torn and use them instead of the farina, in the end they’ll absorb the liquid as well. Also, we use sometimes full fat thick yoghurt, if we want to go light on the eggs. The sheets can also be brushed generously with oil (olive oil is best). Another option is to use yufka sheets (Turkish), which are a bit thicker than fillo, don’t need to be brushed with oil/butter, but you’ll have to make a more liquid filling (oil/butter included), and then you’ll get something between a pita and a lasagna (sort of). But I’m not sure if you can find yufka where you are. Maybe in some bigger cities, where there are Eastern groceries. Hope you don’t mind my blabbering! Best wishes!

  12. Raluca says:

    Also (I don’t know what’s gotten into me today! I’m in a chatty mood!) you can use grated and strained zucchinis instead of spinach, or leeks (which you’ll have to chop finely and simmer a little in a pan with oil/butter and a few drops of water, until they’re half-cooked and translucent). But then you’ll have another tipe of pita (in Greek, kolokithopita, respectively prasopita).

  13. jeri says:

    I used to make spanakopita as the little appetizer triangles. You can make them ahead and freeze and just bake them the night of a party. I haven’t made them in a while, but it would be the perfect appetizer for Easter dinner. Thank you so much for reminding me of an old favorite. What did we all do before blogs?

  14. Melanie says:

    Hi there!! I’m glad you’re getting a nice long ski/snow season whether at Crested Butte or Ned!

    I LOVE Spanakopita!! and have even made it once but a long time ago. This inspires me to try it again. Your directions are so easy to follow and I love your photos whether they are of ingredients or nature or whatever. Very soul-fulfilling.

    Smooches and hugs to little Kaweah!!

  15. jenyu says:

    Hannah – apparently you can crumble a sheet of phyllo (or use the broken pieces) and mix it in and that will also absorb any liquid.

    jill – avalanche is always a risk. Ski patrol mitigates for the mountain, but the backcountry is not maintained – which is why it is so important to be trained, prepared, and aware.

    Marissa – I often wonder if it would be okay to leave it out. I think it’s added to absorb any additional liquid.

    Raluca – thank you for all of the fantastic tips. I’ve learned so much! I really appreciate all of the great variations you have shared here for me and everyone else! xxoo

    Melanie – :)

  16. Syntages says:

    This looks fantastic. Try adding a very salty greek feta and combining with the sweet flavor of the spinach, the result is really yummy! :)

leave a reply