All Things Borek…

Last week, when I posted the recipe for lamb pockets and called it “borek”, Lana from Bibberche raised the question of what makes a pastry borek and mentioned their borek in Serbia. So I wanted to go ahead and share a little bit more about borek as well as a recipe with you this weekend.

A borek is a dough (handmade or store bought phyllo dough) filled with cheese, meat or vegetables, either baked or fried.  Generally, if dough is made from scratch, it is made without yeast, and it contains butter. So it has a tenderness and flakiness when cooked. When the recipe calls for this type of dough and I am short on time, I substitute frozen puff pastry, roll it out a bit thinner than it comes in the box. When baked, this shortcut gives me close enough results and lets me keep my sanity during the cooking rush.

Store bought phyllo dough is another story, however. Each layer of Turkish phyllo dough is thicker than the phyllo dough I can buy at the supermarket here.  When I have to use the ones from a regular supermarket, I have to pay great attention not to break it, not to over dry it and have to work quickly. I let it thaw completely before I open the package and flatten it and also cover with damp towel while I am working to keep the breakage to a minimum.

I do use my Turkish phyllo dough more often since that is the one I am comfortable and familiar with. If you want to make baklava though, the fragile sheets you can find at the supermarket is perfect for it.

We have lots of variations on the filling: Cheese/parsley mix, leeks, eggplants, potatoes and meat – ground beef or minced meat. If you are using meat, you have to cook it before you fill the dough. While making borek, the key is to bake the phyllo dough soaked in some variation of butter, oil, yogurt, milk and eggs. Not necessarily all of them but keeping the trio of fat, dairy and eggs in some proportion.

I also found that cheese plays a great role in the taste of borek if you are making a cheese version. I have tried with different feta cheese brands from the grocery store. I buy in a big chunk from Costco time to time and full fat Turkish brands at the Middle Eastern stores. I have found that I can only achieve the “it melts in your mouth” effect with full fat feta cheese. I noticed the feta cheese I buy at Costco has 5% total fat. Though it is better for you, it tends to be dry and the sharp taste sticks out in borek when everything else melts together and combines during baking. If I can not go to the Middle Eastern store, I try to combine the supermarket feta with a bit of creamcheese and cottage cheese to give it creaminess and extra fat. When I have time to go to the Middle Eastern store, I buy Turkish brand full fat feta cheese whether it is made from sheep’s or cow’s milk. Full fat ones tend to be over 20% total fat. And while you can still tell that there is a cheese layer, it melts just right to give the borek enough cohesiveness.

Another thing about borek: If it will be fried, it is normally not soaked with yogurt, milk and eggs. The layers are brushed with vegetable oil or melted butter and when it is fried, it gives borek a nice crunch.

I made this borek with the Turkish phyllo dough, already cut into triangles in the package. We use this one for the fried version of this borek, called Cigarette Borek. The name comes from the very thin wrapping and rolling of borek to look like thin, long cigarettes. I go for baked versions normally, so I loosely wrapped and rolled the borek pieces, about 1.5 inches wide. However, if you would like to try the fried version, put less filling and try to wrap and roll it tight to be 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide the most.

If I am having borek for dinner or lunch instead of around tea time, I tend to make salads to go with it. After all that butter, eggs and filling, I need something fresh and crunchy to lighten it up a bit. Here are some of my favorite salads that I have tried or would like to try soon:

Goat Cheese Salad

Healthy Spinach Salad from Snippets of Thyme

Orange-Avocado Salad from Scissors&Spatulas

Watermelon Radish Salad from Tarte Du Jour (if I can find those radishes)

Shaved Fennel Salad from Orangette

Wrapped Cheese Borek

  • 1 package of triangle phyllo dough pastry (28 triangles)
  • 250 gr full fat feta cheese (about 9 oz)
  • 1 cup of finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (keep the oil bottle near in case you run out)
  • 2 cups of plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • Nigella or sesame seeds

1. Break feta cheese into small pieces with the help of a fork in a bowl. Add parsley and egg white, combine.

2. Brush one 10″ by 12″ Pyrex baking dish with vegetable oil. (I have one bigger size Pyrex but if you dont have this larger one, you can make it in two smaller baking dishes)

3. Put one triangle phyllo on a cutting board. Brush with oil. Put a second layer and brush that one with little oil as well.

4. Divide the filling into 14. Put 1/14th of the filling 1/2 inch from the edge on the wider side. Fold the sides towards the middle, covering a bit of the filling, not the whole thing. Roll the triangle towards the pointed end. Should be about 3/4 inch wide.

5. Place it in the baking dish. Continue with the rest of the triangle phyllo dough layers.

6. Whisk yogurt, milk and eggs in a bowl. It should be a pudding consistency. Add more milk if you need to bring it to that consistency since it will depend on how thick your yogurt is.

7. Top boreks with the yogurt mixture, brushing it on all boreks, make sure everything is covered.

8. Cover and put in the fridge for an hour or two for yogurt mixture to soak the borek.

9. Sprinkle nigella seeds or sesame seeds over it. Put it in the oven.

10. Turn the oven to 350-degrees and bake for 40 min to 50 min or until it is golden brown on the bottom and on top.

Variation: So far many people liked this borek. However, if you like it to be a little softer, you can brush a little bit yogurt mixture between the layers before you put the filling on.







  1. by rebecca
    11:23 pm
    Dec 18, 2011

    oh la la fun for holiday parties, merry christmas, hugs

  2. by Gokhan
    1:39 am
    Dec 19, 2011

    Have you tried using sour cream in place of yoghurt or a combination? I used it couple times and I think it is not too bad.

  3. by Ilke
    7:05 am
    Dec 19, 2011

    No I have not but a good thing to keep in mind if i run out of yogurt. I tend to do the opposite, when a cake or muffin recipe calls for sour cream, I use yogurt. Will try sour cream next time around. I still need lahmacun recipe of yours:)

  4. by All That I'm Eating
    4:13 pm
    Dec 19, 2011

    These sound and look lovely! Crispy pastry and gooey cheese, what more could you want?

  5. by Shelley
    5:51 pm
    Dec 19, 2011

    I’m so glad you brought up full fat versus supermarket feta. I often don’t care for feta when I purchase it or am served it in restaurants. I think it’s exactly the problem you mentioned- I find it dry and too sharp. I’m going to look for a feta with >20% fat next time- thanks for giving that frame of reference. Also, the borek look and sound terrific! Happy Holidays!

  6. by Ilke
    5:55 pm
    Dec 19, 2011

    Hi Shelley, I have yet to find the full fat one at a regular supermarket. If you have a Middle Eastern store in your area that sells variety of cheese, I say, try them first. And if you find it at the supermarket, let me know what brand you purchased! :)

  7. by Monet
    11:46 pm
    Dec 20, 2011

    Now can you please come over and make this? I don’t know if I’ve seen anything as tempting as this in the past month. Wow! I’m drooling. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.

  8. by Angie@Angiesrecipes
    2:05 am
    Dec 21, 2011

    We love borek too! I made some nuts borek before. But I love yours more with fullfat feta. Must be heavenly!

  9. by Lia
    9:30 pm
    Jul 8, 2013

    What a wonderful recipe! Made it for my Turkish husband and he loved it! Thank you for sharing the secret to making great borek…..

  10. by Ilke
    9:48 pm
    Jul 8, 2013

    Hi Lia, thanks for letting me know about the result! Glad you guys liked it:)


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