Spanakopita – spinach, onion, and herbed Feta cheese in between layers of Phyllo dough create an easy and delicious Greek dinner that you’ll love to serve everyone.
When we lived in Rhode Island, we became extremely close friends with a family across the street. It’s not often that each family member gets along with every member of another family. But this is the way it was with my and Mary’s family. We all had an extraordinary bond, so much so that we became family.
One day, with a three-year-old by my side and a one-year-old on my hip, I answered the door and saw a woman standing on our front steps with a beautiful three-year-old boy. She introduced herself and her son and said they had purchased the home across the street. They hadn’t moved in yet and were living about 40 minutes away.
I invited her in, and we talked at length while the kids played quite nicely together. She said she wasn’t feeling well, had recently found out she was pregnant, and wanted to lie down before driving back home. I decided I’d take the three kids to the playground down the street to give her some peace and quiet.
Now, if you’ve ever had a “gut feeling” about someone, or feel like you’ve known a person forever even though you’ve already met them, then you know what I’m talking about. There was an instantaneous connection between our families, and Mary and I felt completely comfortable with each other.
So comfortable with each other, in fact, that I allowed a stranger to rest in my home without me being there, and she allowed a stranger to take her son to the park! I know it seems a little bizarre, but neither of us had any concerns. There are some things in life you “just know.” And this was one of them. Our first meeting always reminds me of a Bible verse:
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”Hebrews 13:2 (NIV 1984 ed.)
Yes, Mary was, and still is, an angel. Her family came into our lives at exactly the perfect time. Throughout the years, we shared many tears, an endless amount of laughter, and countless hours playing cards after we had put the kids to bed. We will all cherish many memories for the rest of our lives
Both of our families moved away from the old neighborhood, our kids have grown up, married and moved away, and we don’t see each other every day as we did when the kids were little.
But there’s one thing that’s always certain, whenever we do speak of get together, it’s as though no time has passed. We can always pick up where we left off.
Mary made this recipe often and our family loved it immediately. I think yours will, too.
To my “sister”, thank you not only for your Spanakopita but for being you. I am blessed to have you in my life, and will cherish our relationship always.
SAVE THIS GREEK SPINACH PIE RECIPE TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD!
Where did Spanakopita come from?
Spanakopita, also known as Greek spinach pie, is a savory pie that has been part of Greek cuisine for a very long time. It is also closely related to a similar Turkish dish called ispanakli. While the actual origins are difficult to trace, most spanakopita recipes are derived from the northwest region of Greece. It is a very popular dish in Greece and can be found throughout the world today!
Is Spanakopita served warm or cold?
There are really no rules as to how to eat this delicious main dish! You can serve it warm out of the oven, at room temperature, or even out of the refrigerator for leftovers!
What ingredients do I need for this easy Spanakopita recipe?
Save yourself a lot of time and a big headache by purchasing pre-made phyllo sheet dough. In addition to that, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 2 16 oz packages of frozen spinach
- One very large red onion
- Three 6-ounce packages of tomato and basil spiced feta cheese – if I can’t find it, I use the Mediterranean blend which is just as delicious.
- 1 cup plus two tablespoons olive oil
- 5 eggs
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cold (8 tablespoons)
How to make authentic Spanakopita
Preparation: Before making this recipe, you need to thaw your phyllo pastry dough and your spinach. Then, remove any excess moisture from your spinach. Either put it into a clean, damp towel and squeeze the water out, or if you have a potato ricer, you can place it in there and squeeze the excess water out that way. Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F!
Make the Spinach Filling: Heat a large pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add minced onion and sauté until soft. Add the spinach and mix before removing it from the heat to cool.
Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add the remaining cup of olive oil and the crumbled feta cheese. Combine the cooled, cooked spinach mixture with the egg mixture.
Assemble: Use a pastry brush to spread a small amount of melted butter on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place three Phyllo sheets into the bottom of the baking dish. Brush the top of the dough generously but gently with melted butter. Repeat this process until half of the phyllo dough is in the baking dish.
Spread the spanakopita filling over the Phyllo dough. Place three sheets of Phyllo dough over the spinach mixture and brush with melted butter. Continue this process until all the dough is in the baking dish.
Bake: Butter the top layers of dough and sprinkle a small amount of cold water on top. Tuck in the edges of the phyllo dough, then place in preheated oven and bake for one hour or until the top layer of dough is golden brown, and the filling is heated throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut the spanakopita into triangles to serve.
Gently roll out the phyllo dough and place it onto a cookie sheet. Cover with a damp tea towel to keep it moist while you assemble the Spanakopita.
If pieces should tear or break apart, jut put them together as best you can. It may be frustrating while assembling, but it’s
like making a lasagna. It may not look perfect while you’re putting everything together, but once baked, it will come out perfecty and no one will ever know.
Can I use fresh spinach in this recipe?
You can use fresh spinach! However, it must be cooked and any excess liquid removed. 32 ounces of frozen spinach equals about 4 ½ pounds of fresh spinach.
Can I substitute puff pastry for phyllo dough?
No, you need to use the phyllo dough for this recipe.
Puff pastry dough and phyllo dough (or filo pastry dough) are not interchangeable. Puff pastry is laminated, which means butter is folded into the dough to create thin, airy layers. Phyllo dough is very thin, mostly flour, water, and sometimes oil.
Why is my Spanakopita soggy?
The downside of phyllo dough is that it gets soggy quickly. Leftovers are only good for a day or so, even when kept in an airtight container in the fridge. The best way to reheat leftovers is in the oven since the microwave makes them soggy.
If you find your spanakopita is soggy when baking it, you have too much liquid left in your spinach. Make sure you eliminate as much excess moisture as possible before baking!
Can Spanakopita be made ahead of time and frozen?
Yes, this spinach pie freezes very well! The key is to freeze it before baking. After layering the phyllo sheets and spinach filling, wrap the dish tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
Place it in the freezer, labeled, and freeze it for up to two months. When you’re ready to bake it, uncover the dish and bake it for about an hour and 15 minutes. Check and bake additional ten minutes if not cooked through.
If you like this, you’ll love these recipes:
Try one of these other delicious Greek-inspired recipes!
- 1 package of phyllo dough thawed
- 32 ounces frozen spinach thawed. If using fresh you'll need about 4 ½ lbs. – *See Note below about both!
- 1 very large sweet onion minced
- 3 packages of tomato & basil spiced feta cheese
- 1 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons
- 5 eggs
- 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat large pot on stove top on medium high heat. Put in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add minced onion and sauté until soft. Add spinach and mix together. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add remaining cup of olive oil and crumbled feta cheese. Combine cooled, cooked spinach mixture with egg mixture.
- Gently unroll the thawed phyllo dough and place it on a cookie sheet. Cover with a damp tea towel to keep it moist. If the pieces should break while making, no biggie, just put together as best you can. Once it's baked, no one will be able to tell that it wasn't completely perfect.
- Brush a small amount of melted butter on bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place three pieces of Phyllo dough into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Brush gently with melted butter (don’t be shy, but don’t overdo). Continue with process until half of the Phyllo dough is on the bottom.
- Pour spinach mixture over Phyllo dough.
- Place three pieces of Phyllo dough over mixture and brush with butter. Continue with Phyllo dough and butter. Butter top layer and sprinkle a small amount of cold water on top. Tuck in edges.
- Bake for 1 hour.
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*this is an updated post in both format and with pictures. The previous post was published as Day 48 as my original 365 Days of Baking. It was republished on 11/3/15, and again on 2/8/23.
Comments & Reviews
Charlene Agurkis says
Does this freeze well?
I honestly don’t know because we’ve eaten a good portion of it the nights that I’ve made it and it was gone within a few days with the extras being eaten for lunch and dinners.
I found this about freezing phyllo pastry: http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/can-refreeze-phyllo-dough-filling-43131.html
Hope it helps!
Your spanakopita looks so delicious…..cannot wait to give it a go. Any chance you can give me a rough idea of the total weight measure of the fetta…since I am in Australia and not sure of the packages of fetta you are using.
Thank you so much, Helen! Also, I appreciate you bringing it to my attention that I’d omitted that from the recipe – kind of important! haha
Each package of Feta was a 6-ounce package, so you’ll need a total of 18 ounces.
I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear what you think!
Awesome, thank you so much Lynne. Can’t wait to give it a try soon!!!
Trina Hutchings says
These look so delicious and I plan on making them for a catering order. How many squares would you say this recipe makes ? And approximately what size are said squares? Thanks in advance!
With warm regards,
Trina, sorry for my delay in responding. Since I use a 9 X 13-inch baking dish for this recipe, the squares can be made into any size you prefer. If you want them bite size, you can make them smaller, but we always have a large portion because I serve it for dinner. So, I think it’s completely up to you as to how you want to serve them. 🙂
Lynn this looks so good I can’t wait to try it…
Thank you so much, Diana. I hope you like it!
Why so much oil? Is any needed? I add raw chopped onion and it cooks up fine when baking.
I’m confused at all the added fat.
Joan, it’s just what was called for in her recipe, and the way we’ve always made it.
E. PAPPAS says
I strain as much water as possible, but spinach holds water. So my grandmother aka YiaYia told me to throw in a tablespoon of raw rice. During cooking the rice acts like a sponge and absorbs excess water. I do not heat up my spinach/mixture (Greek Feta plain, small curd cottage cheese, dill, scallions), but it is delicious either way.
Thanks for the tip! Yours sounds delicious, too and I’ll have to try the rice next time.
We add some chicken!
Grandmom, great idea! I’ll have to try that next time. Thank you!
I don’t often read the stories because… time but this was a nice story. Thank you for sharing with us. I look forward to making this recipe SOON!
Shelly, thank you so much for reading and for your comment! I know most people don’t like to read the stories any more and want to get right to the recipe, but when I updated this post I just couldn’t delete it.
I hope you enjoy Mary’s recipe.
What can you use instead of spinach
You should always put what can be substituted
Plz help I want to make this but not with spinach
Betty, spinach is the main ingredient in this dish and Spanakopita literally translates into “spinach pie”, SO I wouldn’t suggest replacing it with another ingredient. If you don’t want the spinach, i wouldn’t suggest making it. Or maybe use kale. I’ve never made it with anything BUT spinach.
And no, I’m not always going to put what can be substituted in my recipes because some times, as in this particular recipe, you won’t enjoy “spinach pie” if you make it with something other than spinach.
Besides, not all recipes will work with substitutions.
Barbara Ford says
I just made this and have yet to try it , it’s in the oven but it is starting to smell really good. I put some fresh parsley in also. I am sure it will be excellent.
Thank you so much, Barbara! I hope you enjoyed it!