Spinach Borek (Ispanakli Borek) is a delicious Turkish pastry made of thin flaky dough called "yufka" filled with spinach and onions. Anyone who has visited Turkey probably came across with some kind of a borek. They are the most popular breakfast item or a snack on the go!
In the old days, our grandmothers used to make yufka sheets at home to make borek, but luckily you can easily find yufka sheets in food stores or online. In Turkey, there are still some small yufka shops that only make fresh yufka sheets.
Like Pogaca (Turkish Buns), borek is also widely available in pastry shops and they come with different shapes and fillings. Cheese, spinach, potatoes, or meat are the most popular fillings for boreks, but spinach borek is probably my favourite among them. You can add cheese (Spinach and Feta Borek) or mince (Borek with Meat and Spinach) to spinach filling for extra flavour and make it even more exciting!
Why This Recipe Works?
- You can make it up to 3 days ahead and bake when you need it.
- These delicious pastries can be frozen before or after baking and kept for up to 3 months in the freezer. No need to defrest before baking or reheating!
- It's the best way to get your kids to eat spinach, your kids will love these healthy snacks as much as the rest of the family.
- You can use different borek fillings and make your own homemade version of these savoury Turkish pies.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- Yufka - These round shape thin dough parcels are easy to find online or from Turkish or Middle Eastern food shops. You can use filo pastries instead which is similar but thinner than yufka, and they come in rectangular shapes. Filo (or phyllo) pastries are available in most supermarkets and shops, and you can buy them fresh or frozen.
- Spinach - I use baby spinach leaves. Always wash the spinach thoroughly before using it for cooking or salads. Dry them using a salad spinner or leave them on a colander until the leaves are dry. You can also use frozen spinach, just make sure you squeeze the water out of it before using it.
- Onions - You can use yellow or brown onions. They add umami flavour and sweetness to the spinach filling.
- Butter - Use good quality butter and apply it with a pastry brush on top of the pastries before baking them. Butter makes the boreks extra crispy and delicious!
- Eggs - They give colour as well as flavour to the borek. You can substitute it with yoghurt.
- Vegetable oil - you can substitute it with melted butter, olive oil, sunflower oil or rapeseed oil. It adds an extra crispness to the borek.
- Milk - I use semi-skimmed or full-fat milk. You can substitute it with yoghurt.
- Garlic - Fresh garlic is a great flavouring that adds sweetness and nuttiness to dishes. You can use garlic powder or granules instead although I strongly suggest using fresh ones.
- Sesame or nigella seeds - They provide extra crunch to borek or pastries. They are commonly used in sweet or savoury Turkish bakeries.
How to Make Rolled Spinach Borek?
Making Spinach Borek is easy but it requires some time and patience. To achieve the best results, you need to follow a few simple steps:
- Prepare the Spinach Filling - Put a large heavy-based pan on medium heat and add olive oil then sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add chilli, tomato paste, salt, pepper and paprika, saute for another minute, stirring continuously. Add the spinach and cook until the water from spinach totally evaporates. Let the filling cool down totally before using it for borek.
- Prepare the Sauce - Put 2 eggs + 1 egg white in a bowl and whisk lightly. Pour in the milk and vegetable oil and whisk to combine. Set aside to use when required
- Assemble the Borek - Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan oven). Line a rectangular baking tray size of 35cm x 25cm or a round tray size of 28cm dia with a baking sheet. Lay on a piece of yufka on a work surface and scatter 2-3 tablespoon of the sauce on it, spread the sauce evenly using a pastry brush. Divide the filling into 3 and scatter ⅓ of it on yufka evenly.
Cut the yufka into quarters. You will have 4 large triangles. Take one of the triangles and roll it starting from the large side into a long sausage shape. Swirl the long sausage into a rose shape, tuck the loose end piece underneath the rose.
Repeat the same for the rest of the yufka pieces. Place the boreks on a baking tray and brush with melted butter and egg yolk. Sprinkle on sesame seeds or nigella seeds.
Place the tray in the oven and cook boreks for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Yes, You can freeze these delicious pastries before or after baking and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. You don't need to defrost them before reheating. Simply place them in preheated oven and cook them until golden brown or reheat them until piping hot.
The most common way to serve borek is with a cup of Turkish tea. You can also serve these crispy Turkish pastries with a bowl of soup such as Ezogelin Soup or Turkish Lentil Soup and some healthy salad such as Tomato and Walnut Salad (Gavurdagi Salatasi) or colourful Summer Chickpea Salad.
Tepsi Boregi (Trayed borek) - Tepsi boregi is one of the most common ones. Simply layer yufka sheets and filling on a tray and scatter the sauce between the layers. Brush the top layer with butter for crispiness and egg-wash for lovely golden brown colour. Then bake it in the oven until nice and crispy outside and soft inside.
Kol boregi (Arm borek) - Kol boregi is shaped in long rolls and named after their arm-shaped appearance. It is filled and rolled in a similar way to rose borek but shaped like an arm instead of a rose.
Turkish Cheese Rolls (Sigara boregi)– Sigara borek is shaped like a cigarette and is usually filled with cheese or mince filling. Sigara böreği is deep fried and served as an appetiser or meze.
The quality of yufka is the key to a good borek. You can easily find them in Turkish or Middle Eastern shops as well as online. Make sure they are not vacuum-packed, buy the ones that say " fresh yufka" which can usually be found where they sell dairy products.
For other delicious Turkish pastry recipes, why not try:
Top Tip From the Chef
Make sure the oven is heated to 180°C (fan oven) before you put the borek in. A cold oven would cause a longer cooking time and less crispy pastries.
I hope you enjoy the process of making this delicious Turkish Borek with Spinach as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Spinach Borek (Ispanakli Borek)
For the Spinach Filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium onion (finely diced)
- 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
- ½ finely chopped red chilli (optional) or ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
- ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 750 g spinach (washed, dried and chopped)
For the Sauce
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg whites (the yolks to use for egg wash)
- ⅓ cup full fat milk
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
For Rose Shaped Borek
- 3 sheets fresh yufka (they usually are sold round shape) (Turkish filo pastry)
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 2 egg yolks
- sesame seeds or nigella seeds (to sprinkle on top)
Cooking the Spinach Filling
- Heat a large pan or wok on medium heat.
- Add olive oil and gently saute the onions and garlic until translucent.
- Stir in the tomato paste, chili, salt, pepper, and paprika, saute for another minute.
- Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes on high heat until the water from the spinach totally evaporates.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool down before using for borek.
Preparing the Sauce
- Put 2 egg whites+ 1 whole egg in a bowl and whisk lightly.
- Pour in the milk and vegetable oil and whisk to combine. Set aside to use when required.
Shaping the Rose Shaped Borek
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan oven).
- Line a rectangular baking tray size of 35cm x 25 cm or a round tray size of 28cm dia with a baking sheet.
- Lay a piece of yufka on a work surface and scatter 2-3 tablespoon of the sauce on it, spread the sauce evenly using a pastry brush.
- Divide the filling into 3 and scatter ⅓ of it on yufka evenly. Then cut the yufka in quarters. You will have 4 large triangles.
- Take one of the triangles and roll it starting from the large side into a long sausage shape.
- Swirl the long sausage into a rose shape, tuck the loose end piece underneath the rose.
- Repeat the same for the rest of the yufka pieces, you should have 12 roses out of 3 yufka sheets.
- Place them on a baking tray and brush with melted butter and then egg yolk.
- Sprinkle on sesame seeds or nigella seeds.
- Place the tray in the oven and cook the boreks for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
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