What is Borek?
Crisp and rich, borek is a savory Turkish pastry often served at breakfast and brunch. It’s made by layering ultra-thin dough, an egg mixture, and various fillings. Borek also comes in many shapes and sizes, ranging from cigarette-shaped rolls to large trays.
Traditionally, chefs prepare borek with Turkish yufka dough, an ultra-thin, unleavened dough made from flour, water, and salt. Yufka pastry leaves recipes—like borek—often use layers of a yogurt or milk mixture to keep the dough equally moist and flakey.
Although feta and spinach borek is a quintessential Turkish dish, you can find Turkish borek recipes across the former Ottoman Empire. The Balkans, Eastern Europe, and even Northern Africa are just a few places. Perhaps because of the pastry’s geographic range, its name has many alternate spellings. “Bourek,” “burek,” “börek,” and even “bòrek” are all popular variations.
Who knew authentic Turkish cuisine could be so easy to make? This spinach borek recipe only uses simple ingredients that you can find at your local grocery store.
- Phyllo Dough: You’ll need one package of phyllo dough to make this recipe, which you can find in the grocery store’s frozen section. Though chefs traditionally make Turkish borek dough from layers of yufka, phyllo dough (this is the brand I used) is easier to find here in the U.S. so that’s what I am using. Be sure to thaw it in the fridge overnight.
- Yogurt Wash to Keep Layers Moist: For the yogurt wash, gather olive oil, whole milk, egg, plain unsweetened yogurt, salt, and black pepper.
- Borek Filling: In this spinach burek recipe, your filling will consist of olive oil, chopped onion, baby spinach, kosher salt, black pepper, crumbled feta cheese, sesame seeds, and egg yolks. You may also add poppy seeds or Nigella seeds if desired.
How to Make Borek with Spinach
Sheet pan borek is one of my recipe book’s tastiest and most effortless Turkish side dishes. You can learn how to make borek like an expert in just a few simple steps.
Cook the Vegetables & Make the Filling
- Sauté the veggies: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, frequently stirring, until translucent (4-5 minutes). Then, add the baby spinach, salt, and pepper to the pan. Toss the mixture every few minutes using kitchen tongs. Let it cook until the spinach loses most of its volume (approx. 5 minutes). Turn off the heat and let the veggies cool for 15-20 minutes.
PRO TIP: If your veggie filling has too much liquid, I recommend straining the juices using a colander. Straining will keep your borek from turning soggy when fully assembled.
- Prepare the yogurt milk mixture: While your vegetables cool, whisk your olive oil, milk, egg, whole-milk yogurt, salt, and black pepper in a measuring cup.
- Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Layer the Phyllo Dough
- Layer the bottom borek sheets: Line your sheet pan with parchment paper. Then, layer sheets of phyllo dough onto the parchment paper until the whole pan is covered, using as many sheets as necessary. Let any excess dough hang over the sides.
- Brush the phyllo: Lay a second layer of phyllo on top of the first, covering every part of the sheet pan. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of the milk mixture over the sheets, and use a pastry brush to spread it evenly over the dough.
- Add layers: Add another two layers of phyllo sheets on top of the first. Brush the top layer again with yogurt wash. Then, place one more layer of phyllo dough on the washed layer. Don’t brush this top layer with the milk mixture.
- Layer the filling: Distribute your cooled sautéed veggies over the top sheet of phyllo in one even layer. Then, sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese evenly over the spinach.
- Layer the top borek sheets: Place another two layers of phyllo dough over the spinach filling, covering it completely. Brush the top layer with the milk and yogurt wash. Then, place two more layers of phyllo dough on top of the washed layer. Brush the top of the assembled pastry with an even layer of the yogurt mixture.
- Fold excess dough: If any sheets are hanging over the side of the pan, fold them in toward the pastry’s center. Be sure to brush this extra dough with the milk mixture. At this point, your borek should look moist and tightly packed.
- Cut the pastry: Cut your borek into 12 equal pieces using a knife.
- Add toppings: Mix the egg yolks in a bowl. Brush the top layer of the borek with a generous layer of egg wash. If desired, sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and nigella seeds.
- Bake: Bake the borek in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Serve: Remove the pastry from the oven and let it cool for 15-20 minutes on a wire rack. Then, slice it along the pre-cut lines, and serve while still warm.
How to Make Ahead, Store, and Freeze
Make meal prep stress a thing of the past with this Turkish cheese borek recipe. Whether you make this dish a day or an entire month in advance, these storage tips have you covered.
- Make ahead: To make your pastry ahead of time, cook the burek spinach and onions one day in advance. Store the veggies in an airtight container in the fridge, removing it when you’re ready to assemble your borek. Another option is to assemble the entire pastry, cover it with plastic wrap, and store it in the fridge overnight. Then, cook your burek as usual when ready to eat.
- Store: Leftover borek will stay fresh for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container. Just be sure to let it reach room temperature before storing.
- Freeze: You can freeze your spinach burek recipe for up to one month before baking it. Just be sure to cover the pastry tightly with plastic wrap and cover it with aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.
- Thaw: Transfer your burek from the freezer to the fridge one full day before you plan to bake it. Then, bake the pastry according to the standard cooking directions (350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes).
The sky’s the limit when it comes to filling this Turkish cheese pastry. Whether you want a borek recipe with meat or a cheese burek for feta fans, these popular fillings are just what you need.
- Meat borek: Make your pastry extra satisfying by adding a savory protein. Any meat will work, but ground beef borek, borek with minced meat, and ground lamb borek are some of my favorite savory fillings.
- Cheese & herbs: Don’t want to add veggies? No problem! Borek with cheese and fresh herbs is a common filling you’ll adore. Simply fill your Turkish filo pastry with feta cheese and fresh parsley.
- Try it with different vegetables: When you make burek, spinach is only one of the countless delicious veggies you can use. Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms and Baked Portobello Mushrooms are two of my favorite alternatives.
You don’t have to be Turkish to be a borek buff. This handy FAQ will answer all your questions about my recipe for Turkish borek, from the dish’s national origins to its nutritional content.
Turkish borek and Greek spanakopita come from the same family of pastry. However, the two often differ in preparation and texture, with Greek spanakopita often having a flakier, puffier crust.
Both spellings of this pastry are technically correct, depending on the country. Turkish people tend to spell the name as “borek,” while “burek” is more common in the Balkans.
Many may think of borek as Turkish food. However, you can find this iconic dish in numerous countries across the former Ottoman Empire. This area includes countries in the Balkans, Middle East, and Northern Africa.
This recipe for burek with cheese isn’t the healthiest, with many calories coming from fats and carbs. However, borek can provide essential nutrients from its vitamin-rich spinach and calcium-rich feta when enjoyed in moderation.
Traditionally, people have Turkish cheese borek for breakfast or brunch during family gatherings. However, you can eat borek alongside any meal in place of bread.
Other Turkish Recipes You Might Like:
- Cheesy Parsley Phyllo Dough Rolls
- Bulgur Pilaf
- Tahini Yoghurt Dressing
- Mediterranean Green Beans
- Mediterranean Hummus Dip
- Want to see more? Check out all our Turkish recipes on the site
If you try this Turkish Borek recipe or any other recipe on Foolproof Living, please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It is a great help to others who are thinking of making the recipe. And if you took some pictures, be sure to share them on Instagram using #foolproofeats so I can share them on my stories.
Spinach and Feta Cheese Börek – Turkish Borek Recipe
For the Spinach and Feta filling:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or any vegetable oil such as avocado oil
- 1 medium-size onion peeled and chopped
- 16 oz. baby spinach leaves washed and dried
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt*
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
For The Milk Yogurt Mixture:
- 3 tablespoon olive oil or any vegetable oil such as avocado oil
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For The Layers:
- 1 package of Phyllo Dough* thawed overnight in the fridge
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon Nigella seeds optional
- Cook the filling: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan at medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper. Cook it, tossing it every few minutes using kitchen tongs, until the spinach loses most of its volume, around 5 minutes. Give it a stir and turn the heat off. Let it cool for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make the yogurt milk mixture: Whisk olive oil, milk, egg, yogurt, salt, and black pepper in a bowl until combined.
- To assemble: Line a baking sheet (mine is 12X17) with parchment paper. In a single layer, place sheets of phyllo dough onto the parchment paper. Use as many sheets as you need to make sure that the pan’s whole surface is covered. It is okay if some filo is overhanging on the sides.
- Place another layer of phyllo on top of the first, again making sure that the bottom of the pan is covered. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of the milk mixture on the top layer of dough and brush it over the filo sheets, making sure that it is evenly spread.
- Stack another two layers of phyllo dough on top of the first two. Again, brush the milk mixture over the top phyllo sheet. Then, cover the top sheet with one more layer of phyllo dough—not two. Do not brush the top sheet with the milk mixture again.
- Spread the now-cooled spinach and crumbled feta cheese evenly over the top layer of phyllo sheets.
- Place another two layers of phyllo sheets over the filling, covering it completely. Brush another 3-4 teaspoons of the milk mixture over the topmost sheet. Then, place two final layers of phyllo dough on top of the washed layer, and brush the top with the milk mixture. You should have 9 layers of dough in total.
- If there are sheets overhanging on the side, fold them in towards the pastry’s center and make sure that they are brushed with the milk mixture. At this point, the borek should look nicely moist and tightly packed.
- Using a sharp knife, pre-slice borek into 12 equal pieces (please refer to the video for a visual).
- Mix egg yolks in a bowl.
- Brush each slice with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds and nigella seeds if using.
- Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until it turns golden brown.
- Let it cool for a few minutes, slice, and serve while it is still warm.
- Prior to adding salt to the filling, it is good to taste your feta cheese and determine if you need more salt or not.
- If you have time, I recommend letting your borek rest before baking it. Simply cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. Let the pastry rest for a few hours or up to overnight. Then, bake as usual.
- Depending on the size of the sheet pan you are using, you may not need to use the whole package of phyllo dough.
- Strain your veggie mixture: If your sauteed veggie mixture has any liquid, I suggest straining it in a colander before using it as a filling. Too much liquid will turn your pastry soggy.
- Don’t worry about torn phyllo dough: Phyllo dough is so delicate that it may tear while you work with it. Don’t worry! You can easily pinch phyllo dough back together, and a few tears won’t ruin the dish.
This recipe was originally published in November 2013. It has been updated in June 2022 with new text, photos, and a how-to video with very minor edits (mostly for clarification) to the originally published recipe.