How to make Banitsa - A delicious traditional feta cheese pie

How to Make Banitsa - a traditional Bulgarian pastry dish

Banitsa is a traditional Bulgarian food staple and eastern European comfort food. It is a flaky pastry made with phyllo (filo) dough, eggs, yogurt, and feta cheese. It is absolutely delicious. It is also known as Banitza, Feta pie, or Bulgarian Cheese pie. I grew up eating it and I make it now very often for my kids and they love it too.


It is not possible to celebrate any family holiday in Bulgaria without having Banitsa on the table. It is rarely eaten as a main dish but might often be a replacement for bread. Banitsa is also often eaten for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

There are different variations of the way Banitsa is prepared depending on the region of Bulgaria. It is prepared by layering different types of filling ranging from eggs and cheese to pumpkin, spinach, leeks, and even chicken between phyllo pastry. Traditionally, the phyllo pastry should be home-made, but using store-bought phyllo sheets, makes the preparation much simpler and faster.
 


I am sharing my favorite way of making Banitsa. It is easy and quick, and I promise, you and your family will love it! I am also going to share with you a variation of it that I make with leeks that my kids do not love (for obvious reasons LOL), but I love it!

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs

  • 1 lb. feta cheese

  • 1 package phyllo (filo) dough sheets (these can be found in every major grocery store)

  • 1 lb. (half container) yogurt

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 8 ounces unsalted melted butter

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • ½ tsp salt


Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a round baking pan or a rectangular baking pan.

  2. Melt the butter and set aside. 

  3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the yogurt, baking soda, and crumble the feta. Mix in the flour, oil, and salt. This is your filling.


     

  4. Enroll the phyllo sheets and lay down 3 sheets on your working surface with the long end facing you. Gently brush over with the melted butter. You can also put down one sheet at a time and butter separately if you prefer. Be careful and gentle with the phyllo sheets as they could be very fragile. Keep a damp towel over the ones you are not using to keep them from drying out.


     

  5. Add a couple of tablespoons of the feta, egg, and yogurt mixture all spread out on top of the butter.

  6. Tightly roll up the phyllo sheet to the other long side to form a long roll. Place seam side down with one end in the center and spiral around in a circle.


     

  7. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, continuing to wrap them around the center until you reach the edge of the pie pan.

  8. Brush the remaining butter on top of the Banitsa.

  9. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.


Once the Banitsa is done cooking, cover it with a towel and let it sit and cool before cutting it or serving. Covering it lets the steam soften the phyllo dough sheets.

Note: The Banitsa could be baked in a round pan (arranged in a spiral) or it could be baked in a rectangular pan (arranging the filled-up rolls lengthwise in the pan). The best part is cutting through the warm Banitsa revealing the layers of phyllo and filling. Enjoy it for breakfast or for an afternoon treat!

As I mentioned earlier, the Banitsa could also be made with spinach or leeks. I personally love it with leeks. The recipe is the same with the only adjustment being adding leeks to the eggs, feta, and yogurt mixture. I use 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped into small pieces, and rinsed well.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add leeks and season them with a pinch of salt. Cook covered, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook until the leeks are golden brown and caramelized. It should take between 5 and 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let them cool down a bit before adding them to the egg, feta, and yogurt mixture.
 


Add a couple of tablespoons of the feta, egg, leeks, and yogurt mixture all spread out on top of the butter.


Roll up the phyllo dough sheets lengthwise and arrange them either in the spiral or lengthwise, and bake. 
 


In less than an hour, the delicious aroma of the baked Banitsa will fill your house. 
 

Give this delicious Bulgarian Banitsa a try. It is easy and quick to make and I promise it will become a favorite in your household too!

Enjoy!

Eve

Eve from Emmandilife

Communication is key, questions/comments are welcome

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