Sigara böreği is a crispy Turkish pastry made with a fried phyllo dough crust and stuffed with crumbled Turkish white cheese and parsley. It is often enjoyed as an appetizer or party food and has a wide range of regional variations to its recipe, such as using feta and mozzarella or adding chives or minced meat to the creamy filling.
While the recipe is Turkish in origin and often seen as a point of pride in Turkish cuisine, Sigara böreği’s simple ingredients open it up to an array of new takes on its form. Its defining characteristics lie in its cigar-like shape and its use of phyllo dough, known as yufka in Turkish. While yufka can be hard to get if you do not have access to a nearby Mediterranean grocer, some people have taken to using spring roll sheets.
It is also possible to exchange the staple Turkish white cheese (called beyaz peynir) for feta, although feta’s lower melting point requires more attention when frying. If you would like to make a more filling version, some regions add meat such as minced sausage, as well as potato to their pastries.
Sigara böreği belongs to a larger category of pastries popular in many former Ottoman Empire regions (including parts of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and the Balkans) known as bӧrek. Amongst the many pastries known as bӧrek, Sigara böreği is a staple Turkish variation known for its crunch and easy-to-hold shape.
Origin & Cultural Significance
The name ‘Sigara böreği‘ literally means cigarette bӧrek in Turkish, after its rolled shape. Bӧrek refers both to an individual dish called Bӧrek (which is separate from sigara böreği) as well as any fried or baked pastries using phyllo dough.
There is no surefire way to tell the age of this dish, but the tradition of börek pastries can be followed back centuries. Records show phyllo dough was used to create crispy and flaky pastries as far back as the late Middle Ages. However, none of these records specifically mention the cylindrical shape or rolling method essential in sigara böreği, so it is possible that this pastry is a more recent development and a result of cultural fusion.
No matter the pastry’s true origin, it remains a popular starter to any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine.
Turkish Sigara Böreği
- Turkish white cheese crumbled - 350g
- Parsley, finely chopped - ¼ cup
- Chives finely chopped - 1.5 tbsp
- Phyllo dough - 3 pieces
- Flour - 1 tbsp
- Water- 1 tbsp
- Oil for frying (sunflower, vegetable, canola) - ⅓ cup
- If the phyllo dough is frozen, thaw them according to the instructions on the package or for one hour at room temperature.
- Use a spoon to mix flour and water to create the glue for the pastries.
- To make the filling, mix together the crumbled cheese, chives, and parsley.
- Take out pastry streets and cover the ones you are not folding to preserve their moisture.
- Cut your phyllo dough sheet you are about to use into 8 pieces.
- Lay out the softened dough in a diamond formation. In the center of the bottom half, in a horizontal line parallel to you, set a heaping tablespoon of the filling, making sure to leave room on all sides for folding.
- Fold the bottom corner of the pastry over the filling, making sure it is tucked in.
- Now, tuck that folded edge under the filling and roll the stuffed pastry about halfway up. It should now look like a triangle, with the bottom of the triangle rolled up pastry filled with stuffing.
- Fold the side angles into the center to create a pentagon shape. Ensure there is a significant fold, about 1-1.5 inches on either side to keep the filling from falling out when frying.
- Dab the glue along the remaining exposed edges with a finger before pulling the final piece of pastry sheet over the roll, creating a cylinder shape.
- Heat cooking oil to 375F, pouring 1-2 inches of depth– do not place in oil before it has reached this temperature. The outside must fry before the inner cheese becomes too melted and escapes the pastry.
- Fry the rolled pastries on each side, for about 30 seconds each side until golden brown.
- Place on a paper towel to absorb residual oil and serve hot.
About freezing: If you choose to make the rolls and freeze them, simply store them in your freezer after you have rolled the filling and sealed it. You can then fry the rolls from frozen using steps 10-12.
About alternates: If you do not have Turkish white cheese, you can use a mixture of 250 grams of feta and 100 grams of mozzarella. This is a delicious alternative but be aware that the melting temperatures for these cheeses are lower than that of Turkish white cheese. Make sure to pay attention when frying and not leave them in the oil for more than 1-2 minutes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 120mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g