This Authentic Spanakopita Recipe is such a delicious classic Greek appetizer! Hearty spinach, feta, onion, and just a touch of nutmeg are stuffed into delicate sheets of phyllo dough and baked until the phyllo is irresistibly crispy and golden brown.
Authentic Spanakopita Recipe
Much like Oprah, I have a lot of favorite things. Especially when it comes to food. Creamy pastas, simple soups, and cheese boards are in the broad category of favorites. But I think my favorite single item on the planet just may be Spanakopita. And our Authentic Spanakopita Recipe is truly the BEST spanakopita recipe ever.
If you’re not familiar with spanakopita, it’s a traditional savory Greek pastry made of spinach, feta, and phyllo dough. It typically comes in two different forms – layered in a casserole dish (pie form) and wrapped up into an adorable little phyllo dough package. My favorite, is the latter.
Not only is a tidy little triangle the way I grew up eating it, but when I was in Greece this is how it was always showcased. Also, when layers upon layers of phyllo dough are brushed with butter, wrapped around a hearty filling of nutmeg-laced spinach, feta cheese, and finely minced onion and baked individually, the entire exterior, not just the top of the phyllo dough gets so irresistibly crispy, it shatters like glass with each bite.
It’s pretty much the best thing ever.
Our version of authentic spanakopita is about as traditional as you get, so let’s get started.
Ingredients in Authentic Spanakopita Recipe
Spinach. Frozen spinach works best here. Make sure it’s completely defrosting and squeezed of any excess water or moisture. For a small batch of spanakopita (makes about 6-7), you need one 8oz package, for a larger batch, you’ll need 1lb.
Feta. Personally, I like to splurge on a good-quality feta cheese here, however, anything you find will work. If you can’t find it already crumbled, just buy the block and crumble it yourself.
Egg. Much like any filling, you need an egg to bind everything together.
Onion. Onion adds flavor, but you don’t want big chunks of onion in the filling, so mince it as finely as you can.
Nutmeg. Ground nutmeg adds just a hint of warmth to the spanakopita filling. A little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it.
Phyllo dough. A absolute must for this authentic spanakopita recipe is phyllo dough. If you’ve never worked with phyllo dough, don’t fret, I’ll go into detail on tips to work with it below. But first, what is Phyllo dough?
Phyllo dough is a paper-thin unleavened dough that’s used in several middle eastern and Greek pastries, both savory (this phyllo wrapped feta is another favorite) and sweet. Most people are familiar with it in baklava, or as a vessel for cute little appetizers like these.
Butter. To get the phyllo dough to crisp up nicely, you need butter, a lot of it. Seriously don’t be shy. The recipe, as stated uses a whole stick, but if you want to make a large batch, you’ll need two.
How to work with Phyllo Dough
Phyllo dough is notoriously tricky to work with. It dries out and breaks easily and if you get the sheets wet, they will stick together rendering them useless. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned in my years of working with phyllo dough.
Also, for this authentic spanakopita recipe, you are only going to need one roll of phyllo dough. Keep the other roll in the freezer for a later use.
- Don’t get the phyllo dough out of the package until you’re ready to use it.
- Make sure the dough is completely defrosted before rolling it out. I like to leave it out at room temperature for about 3-4 hours in the package before unpacking and unrolling.
- Roll out the dough completely, prep as instructed and then cover with kitchen towel. Some people say to use a damp towel, but I find it wets the dough too much.
- Work with one sheet at a time. Pull the first sheet off of the top and place it on your work space. Cover the remaining sheets with the dish towel again. Immediately brush the sheet you’re working with butter. You want the sheets to be covered in butter from top to bottom.
- Work quickly!
- Once the spanakopita are prepped, cook as quickly as possible.
- Because we’re working with multiple layers, if one of the sheets breaks or isn’t perfect DO NOT SWEAT IT. I repeat, IT’S FINE. Just brush a little bit of butter on it, and lay it on top fo the next layer. They will all cook up together. Plus, you are folding the dough, so it will get tucked in anyways.
How to make Spanakopita
Make the filling
Defrost the spinach. It’s important to make sure every piece of the spinach is defrosting, as you don’t want any extra moisture in the spanakopitas. I like to use my hands to squeeze out all of the water and moisture from the spinach and then transfer them to a bowl.
You can also put the spinach in a dish towel or cheese cloth and squeeze out all of the extra moisture that way, I just prefer to dirty one less item.
Mix everything together. Add the spinach, feta, egg, onion, nutmeg, and salt to a small bowl. Mix until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Done! Now you’re ready to make the spanakopitas!
Form the spanakopita
This is where the tricky part comes in, but with a little patience, you’re going to make the most perfect spanakopita! Just remember to read my tips above on working with phyllo dough and you’ll do great. Also, make sure everything is ready to go before you start to make them.
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Prep the butter. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Have it ready to go.
Cut the phyllo dough. Start by cutting the phyllo dough sheets in half vertically from top to bottom. You should now have two sets of sheets that are 4 1/2″ x 17.” If you have a different brand than Athens Foods, your measurements may be off a little bit. Cover with a dish towel.
Brush with butter. Take one 4 1/2″ x 17″ piece of phyllo and lay it on a flat surface. Brush with butter. Make sure to brush the ENTIRE surface. Take another sheet of phyllo dough and place it on top. Brush with butter again. Place on last piece of phyllo on top and brush again with butter.
Fill the spanakopita. Take two heaping tablespoon of the filing and place it on the bottom of the phyllo sheet. Take the bottom right corner and fold it up into a triangle. Try to spread the filling evenly through the triangle. Brush with a little bit of butter.
Fold over again to form another triangle. Brush with a little bit of butter. Keep folding back and forth until there is no dough left. If there’s a little tail, cut it off. You should have one neat triangle with no filling exposed.
Repeat with remaining phyllo dough and filling.
Bake. Line all the spanakopita up on a large baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little bit more butter. Place in the oven and bake until crispy and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let them cool for about 3-4 minutes before serving.
Can I make these in advance?
Yes! This Authentic Spanakopita recipe CAN be make in advance. Because phyllo dough does tend to dry up, it’s a little harder to make them ahead of time and not bake them. I would actually recommend making them from start to finish, including baking, and then just reheat them in the oven until you’re ready to serve.
Can you freeze spanakopita?
Yes! These are GREAT frozen. They will keep for about a month in the freezer.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Before assembling the spanakopita, have everything ready to go. Make sure your butter is melted, the filling is made, and the oven is preheated.
- If you really love feta, you can double the amount called for in the recipe.
- Even though feta is salty, you still need to remember to season the filling with salt and pepper.
What to serve with Spanakopita
- For me, this Authentic Spanakopita recipe isn’t complete without being served with my favorite Greek comfort dish, pastitsio. Basically, it’s a Greek lasagna made with ground beef, tomato, pasta, and rich béchamel sauce. It’s layered together and baked until bubbly and brown. This authentic version is labor of love, but so worth it.
- If you want a quicker way to get pastitsio, then you will LOVE our Skillet Pastitsio that cuts the time and work in half.
- If you want something a little bit lighter, try our Greek Chicken Pita with Feta. Chicken meatballs are nestled into pita bread, dressed with cucumber, red onion, and whipped feta cheese. So filling and delicious!
- 8 oz frozen spinach, defrosted
- 4 oz crumbed feta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp minced onion
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 roll phyllo dough, defrosted MAKE SURE PHYLLO IS DEFROSTED BEFORE PREPPING
- Mixing bowl
- baking sheet
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Use hands or a dish towel to squeeze out any excess moisture in the frozen spinach. Add to a small bowl. Add in the feta, egg, salt, nutmeg, and onion. Stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Melt butter in a small saupan or microwave safe bowl. (You will need a pastry brush, make sure to have that handy.)
- Take the phyllo dough out of the package. Roll it out. Use a sharp knife to cut all of the sheets in half vertically so you have two sets of 4 1/2" x 17" rectangles of phyllos sheets. Cover with a dish towel. You will only use one set of the phyllo dough.
- Take the top sheet of phyllo and place on a flat surface. Make sure to keep the unused phyllo dough covered with the dish towel. Brush with butter. Make sure every area of surface is coated. Place another phyllo sheet on top. Again, brush with butter. Place one more phyllo sheet on top. Brush with butter.
- Spoon two heaping tablespoons of the filling on the bottom corner of the dough. Take the bottom right corner and fold it over into a triangle, over the filling. Press to evenly spread the filling through the triangle. Brush the top with a little bit of butter. Fold the triangle over to make another triangle. Continue to fold the dough over until you have one small triangle package. If there is any excess dough hanging over, just cut it off. Place on a baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining filling and phyllo sheets.
- Brush all the tops of the spanakopita with butter. Place in the oven and bake until golden brow and crispy, about 18-20 minutes.