Börek (also known as Burek, Byrek or Boureki) covers a range of pastry dishes made by layering thin phyllo dough, with fillings such as cheese, minced meat, spinach and seasonings, along with a creamy egg yogurt mixture which is baked into a crispy and flaky pie-like dish.
Börek is commonly associated with Turkey but it is also popular across the Balkan countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. It is also eaten throughout Greece, Moldova, Algeria, Armenia, Tunisia, Libya, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is often eaten for breakfast or as a midday snack.
This dish has undergone centuries of migration and evolution, leading to many regional variations and claims to its origin. It is internationally popular for its affordability and addictive flavor, the oiled flakes of phyllo dough mixing well with the savory filling. The exact ingredients can be tweaked according to preference and available ingredients.
It is also common for this dish to be vegetarian. If you would like to add meat, minced beef or lamb are popular meats to go with this pastry, and popular cheeses are either Turkish white cheese or a feta and mozzarella mixture. You can choose to buy plain greek yogurt from the store or make your own.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Börek shares the name with an entire class of pastries. Other pastries falling under this classification, such as sigara böreği or su böreği, consist of mostly the same ingredients but are made via different cooking methods and into different shapes. For example, sigara böreği is rolled into a cigar-like shape, making it a perfect finger food. The defining characteristic of all Börek is its use of phyllo dough.
Delicate but full of flavor, Börek has long been regarded as a pure example of Ottoman cuisine. However, new research indicates that it more likely originated with Turkish nomads on the steppes of Central Asia sometime in the seventh century, and could even be influenced by the old Roman placenta, a dish made with two sheets of pastries stuffed with nuts, meats, cheeses, or fruits.
The method of layering thin dough originated from the nomadic lifestyle of the Central Asian steppes. Without an oven, the fluffy and air-filled layers of most types of bread are impossible to achieve. Long-ago nomads created a solution to this problem by stacking thin layer upon thin layer of dough, creating the delicate and flaky layers the world has come to know and love Börek for.
Traditional Börek/Burek Recipe
- Eggs - 3
- Plain yogurt - 2 cups
- Olive oil - ¼ cup
- Ground chuck (pork, beef, lamb) - 1 ½ lb
- Garlic - 2 cloves
- Spinach, chopped - 2 cups
- Fresh dill, chopped - ¼ cup
- Parsley, chopped - ½ cup
- Onion, finely chopped - 1
- Grated mozzarella - ½ cup
- Feta cheese, crumbled - ½ cup
- Olive oil - 2 tbsp
- Salt - 1 tsp
- Black pepper - ½ tsp
- Phyllo sheets - 1 1lb. package
- Nigella seeds/sesame seeds) - 2 tsp
- To make the yogurt mix: Whisk together eggs, yogurt, and olive oil in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large skillet on medium-high heat, sauté the onion, garlic, and ground meat until the meat is cooked and the onions are translucent.
- In a separate bowl, combine spinach, dill, parsley, cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Mix in meat and onion mixture with spinach and dill mixture. This is your filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C. Brush the bottom and edges of a 9x13-inch pan with oil.
- Separate the phyllo dough into 2 sets (12-14 pieces each) and keep them covered so they don't dry out. Half will go on the bottom of the pie and half will go on the top.
- Place 2 sheets in the prepared pan and brush lightly with oil. Fold any hanging edges into the center.
- Set a third phyllo sheet into the greased pan. Using a brush, spread 2-3 tablespoons of the yogurt mix. Fold any hanging edges into the center.
- Repeat this pattern of 2 phyllo sheets, light oil, 1 phyllo sheet, and yogurt mix until one set of phyllo sheets is used.
- Once one set is used, spread the filling evenly across the topmost layer.
- Repeat the earlier pattern until all phyllo sheets are used up. In the top half, you can use less yogurt mix between layers, as you want to save about ½ cup.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the Börek into 12 even squares.
- After using all of your phyllo sheets, take the remaining ½ cup of yogurt mixture and pour evenly across the top of the burek.
- Sprinkle 2 tbsp of sesame or nigella seeds on top.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.
- Let the borek cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 412Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 583mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 25g