Spanakopita or spinach pie is probably one of the best-known of all traditional Greek dishes and hands down one of the most delicious. Its traditionally made without cheese so, bonus, authentically vegan too!
A handful of simple ingredients – fresh dill, mint, peppery chopped scallions, gorgeous green leafy spinach and you’re good to go. Wrap it all up in flaky fillo dough and you’ve got one of the easiest and most delightful foods in all of Greek cooking. This recipe will have spanakopita on your table in under an hour. Give it a try, you’ll love it, I promise!
There’s a little prep involved, its quick though, and the few extra minutes make a big difference in your finished pies. First, clean your spinach. Trim the ends and rinse spinach really well. And I wait to chop spinach AFTER its wilted down, makes the job much more manageable!
You certainly can use frozen spinach in this recipe and many people do. I just find when I use frozen the spanakopita is a little less flavorful and the color of the spinach is darker. If you do decide to try frozen spinach, remember to thaw it completely before using.
Clean your scallions before chopping them. This may seem silly to mention but I’ve found that many people leave out this step. Peel off at least one and maybe even two of the outer most layers as you would an onion. I like to leave the root end on while peeling so that the entire scallion doesn’t fall apart in the process. Once the outer layer is removed, trim off the very top, green ends and the root ends. Then chop scallions from white bulb up to the trimmed ends of the green leaves. I love scallions in this recipe because they add a peppery bite that you just don’t get with onions and they’re so pretty!
Fresh herbs really are a huge part of this dish so be generous with them! Chop both the fresh dill and fresh mint finely and when its time to add them to the pan, you just want to lightly heat them enough to get their oils out. Don’t be tempted to cook them, you want to preserve as much of the beautiful, bright, fresh flavors as possible!
And wilt your spinach in batches. A tablespoon of olive oil to each batch of spinach in this recipe is quite sufficient. Again, don’t cook the life out of your spinach. For right now, just wilt it over low heat. It should still be a nice bright green color. You’ve over cooked if you start seeing it turn so dark green its almost black.
So important, can’t stress this enough – once all the spinach is wilted, drop it into a strainer and let the extra liquid seep out. Gently use the back of a wooden spoon to press and get as much out as you can. There will still be some left and thats fine. Just remember that limiting the amount of liquid in your spinach is the best way to avoid soggy pies!
I’ve probably mentioned this in other posts but it bears another mention – I love Fillo Factory fillo dough. If you can’t get it in your local area, you can easily order it online here. Its always fresh, organic, vegan and is an all around quality product – worth looking around for, I promise. I like to use the 14×18 sheets. That’s the traditional size but feel free to try the smaller sheets 12×17. They’re slightly easier to handle, especially if its your first time working with fillo.
A good top and bottom number of filo sheets for a pita like this is 6 sheets on the bottom and 8-12 sheets on the top. I like to use a baking pan (9×13″ with 2″ sides) to make a pita to serve 12 snack or appetizer sized pieces and 6-9 large or meal size pieces. Use a light touch when brushing your fillo with olive oil. You want enough oil between layers to keep fillo light and crispy. Too much and you’ll get soggy, unpleasantly greasy layers. And remember to score the top of the pie before cooking. Makes cutting and serving SO much easier!
- 3 lbs fresh spinach 0r 3 cups thawed frozen spinach
- 1 1/2 cups chopped scallions (approx 12 whole)
- 1/4 cup olive oil + 3 tbsp
- 1 cup fresh dill chopped fine
- 1/2 cup fresh mint chopped fine
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Using fresh spinach
Clean and rinse spinach leaves well. In large bottomed pan, wilt spinach in 3 separate 1 lb batches in 1 tbsp of oil per batch. Important: transfer wilted spinach batches into strainer to allow juices to strain off. Should take not more than a few minutes per batch in med hot pan
Using frozen spinach
Thaw frozen spinach completely before using.
For both fresh and frozen spinach, drain spinach in a strainer (preferably over the sink) to get out most of liquid. Chop well and set aside. You should end up with 3 cups of chopped spinach.
In 1/4 cup olive oil, sauté chopped scallions and garlic on low heat until soft, careful not to burn. Add herbs and spices, stir to combine well and cook on very low heat for less 5 minutes just to combine flavors. Add chopped spinach to pan and mix well to combine completely. Take your time with this step to make sure ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the spinach mixture. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes, making sure to stir often. Remove from heat and set aside.
At this stage, you can cover and refrigerate your spinach filling for up to 3 days before using. Warning: you’ll be tempted to enjoy this as a side dish on its own without it ever getting to the pie stage – I’ve certainly done it a time or two 🙂
When ready to bake, carefully separate and layer fillo sheets in baking pan and brush each sheet lightly with olive oil. An average of 6-8 sheets both under and on top of spinach filling is a good guide.
Add the spinach filling and distribute evenly over the entire pan. Add top layers of fillo as above.
Brush top of pie liberally with olive oil and score fillo sheets carefully cutting through all of the top layers of fillo. I use a box cutter and it works very well.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until a beautiful golden brown. Allow pie to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. To reheat, wrap in aluminum foil in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Do not microwave or you’ll get soggy spinach pie!