(Much!) Easier Spanakopita

Spanakopita is traditionally made by buttering layer after layer of phyllo. No more! Try my (much!) easier Spanakopita using my super simple hack.

This is a recipe my Sitto learned at her Greek Orthodox Church and shared with me. The original includes the best of everything, and my original post went to the heart of a grandmother who never had children of her own yet amassed an unbelievable number of children and grandchildren. A woman I take after in a whole bunch of ways.

Spanakopita, or spinach pie, is traditionally made as phyllo dishes always are: separating the delicate sheets of phyllo and buttering each layer. It takes some doing to keep the phyllo from drying out while all of that buttering is taking place!

No more!

But now, with my fabulously simplified method, spanakopita can be pulled together in a fraction of the time. The secret here, my hack, is to pour the butter over the whole assembled and cut pie, allowing the butter to absorb before baking. Game changer!

Ingredients on the counter for spinach pie

Why you’ll love my Spanakopita Hack:

Time Saver. Move over traditional Spanakopita. No more carefully brushing butter on every single sheet of phyllo dough! This recipe stacks the phyllo dough on the bottom and on top of the filling. You’ll cut the dough into sections before baking and pour the clarified butter all over the top of the Spanakopita. It takes longer to bake it than it does to make it. Tastes just as fabulous as the original method in half the time.

Loaded with Flavor. This crisp, rich, cheesy favorite uses fresh crumbled feta cheese, fresh chopped dill, yummy spinach and buttery baked phyllo for a WOW in every mouthful!

Spinach. It’s no wonder this green leafy vegetable is considered a super food. It’s packed with nutrients, low in calories, and high in fiber. A win win ingredient.

Phyllo Dough. If you’ve never baked with phyllo dough, fear not! You won’t have to separate the individual sheets of delicate dough. This recipe makes it easy to create spanakopita without any fuss.

Perfect for any Occasion. This spanakopita shines as a main course and is “company worthy”. It can compliment any buffet as a side dish, perk up a brunch/ lunch, or even be cut smaller for appetizers.

Filling in a bowl for spinach pie
Filling in a pan for spinach pie

Ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

Frozen Spinach. I prefer the ease and convenience of frozen spinach because I usually have it on hand and it tastes as good as fresh spinach when it’s all baked in. Of course, you can use fresh spinach after you wilt it and just like the frozen, you’ll need to drain and squeeze out any excess moisture.

Feta Cheese. For the best and most robust flavor get the feta cheese in a block and crumble it yourself. Precrumbled feta cheese will work too so no worries if that’s what you have.

Cottage Cheese. Cottage cheese offers a mild flavor and creaminess to the cheese mixture.

Cream Cheese. I like cream cheese because of its smooth texture and it adds a nice tang to the taste.

Eggs. To bind the cheeses and the spinach together.

Scallions. Scallions are young onions, the cousin of garlic, leeks, shallots and chives. Scallions add the perfect amount of onion flavor without being as strong as red or yellow onions.

Fresh Dill. This awesome herb is what gives the filling its pop. It’s a game changer in Spanakopita. I love fresh chopped dill but you can use dried dill in a pinch.

Clarified Butter. Clarified butter, also called ghee, is simply butter with the solids removed. I use this kind of butter exclusively with any of my phyllo dough recipes because it gives the crispy texture and golden brown color to the dough. Regular butter has solids that turn to liquid when baked which can cause soggy phyllo dough. You can easily make your own clarified butter or you can purchase ghee at my market or at your local grocery store. Be sure to use butter ghee and not oil-based ghee.

Phyllo Dough. Use the 9 x 14 package of one pound of phyllo dough, which contains 2 packages of 20 sheets each. If you use the larger box of phyllo also available, simply cut that in half crosswise to make two stacks that fit in your 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan.

Butter ghee in a jar
Phyllo dough for Lebanese baklawa, Maureen Abood
buttered phyllo for spanakopita in a pan

How to make my Spanakopita Hack:

For the Filling:

  1. Squeeze the spinach in the sink to remove as much liquid as possible.
  2. Stir the feta, cottage cheese and cream cheese until well incorporated.
  3. Add eggs and stir to combine. Stir in the scallions, spinach, dill, salt and pepper.

For the Phyllo Crust:

  • Brush the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with clarified butter.
  • Unwrap one of the packs of phyllo dough and unfold it on the counter. Trim the long edge to fit in the pan. Place the whole pack (20 sheets) in the bottom of the pan.
  • Spread the filling over the phyllo dough.
  • Unwrap the remaining pack of dough and unfold it on the counter. Trim to fit in the pan. Place the whole stack on top of the filling.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the phyllo dough into even sections, cutting all the way through to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the melted Clarified butter over the entire top of the phyllo dough. It may look like it’s resting on top but give it a minute, it’ll seep down into the cuts. You can tilt the pan to move the butter, so it covers the dough completely.
  • Bake the Spanikopita for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Cool for 10 minutes.
Baked golden spanikopita spinach pie in a pan

Tips for making Spanakopita this easier way:

Be sure your knife to cut is sharp. Precutting the phyllo dough before baking is the key to having the clarified butter soak into all the layers from the top to the bottom of the pan. A freshly sharpened knife will make easy work of cutting through all the layers of dough.

Make this ahead of time and bake later. The Spanikopita can be made ahead and left in the refrigerator for a day, then baked when you’re ready. Or you can make ahead and fully bake it, let it cool completely and refrigerate. Then when you’re ready to serve just reheat in the oven at 350 degrees until warmed through.

Substitutions and Additions:

Substitute dried dill if you don’t have fresh dill. Use two teaspoons of dried dill for this recipe if you can’t get fresh.

Use fresh parsley if you don’t have dill. Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley is another great herb commonly used in Spanikopita.

Ricotta Cheese can be substituted for cottage cheese. It’s a classic that works well in this recipe too.

What to serve with Spanakopita:

Barley Picnic Salad

Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Mint

Tabbouleh

Quinoa Protein Salad

Lebanese Village Salad

Garlicky Lentil Soup w/Swiss Chard and Lemon

Green Beans with Red Onion and Pomegranate

How to store Spanakopita:

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Reheat slices on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 -13 minutes, or until heated through.

Freeze baked Spanikopita in a freezer safe dish for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating in oven.

Other Similar Recipes:

My (Much!) Easier Lebanese Baklava Hack

(Much!) Easier Spanakopita

Maureen Abood
My simplified method for spanakopita is to pour the clarified butter over the assembled filled phyllo. So much faster! And the results are just as crisp, flaky and delicious as if you buttered every layer individually. Cut the pie into however many pieces you'd like, larger for a main dish, medium for a side dish, and small for appetizers for a crowd.
Servings 8 main dish pieces

Ingredients
  

  • 8-10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 7 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup small curd cottage cheese
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced (both white and green parts)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • A Few grinds black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup clarified butter, melted
  • 1 pound package frozen phyllo dough, 9”x14”, thawed to room temperature, unopened until just before using

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Squeeze the spinach in the sink to remove as much liquid as possible.
  • In a large bowl, stir the feta cheese, cottage cheese, and cream cheese until well incorporated (it helps to stir the room-temp cream cheese in a small bowl first to loosen it and smooth it out).
  • Add the eggs and stir to combine. Stir in the scallions, spinach, salt, pepper, and dill.
  • Brush the bottom of a 3” x 9” x 2”-inch glass or metal (not dark) pan with a bit of the clarified butter.
  • Remove one sleeve of the phyllo from its wrapping and gently unfold it. Trim the long side by an inch so it will fit into the pan. Lay the entire stack in the bottom of the pan and smooth to fit.
  • Spoon the filling over the phyllo and spread evenly.
  • Remove the other sleeve of the phyllo from its wrapping and do the same as with the first: trim the long side by an inch so it will fit into the pan. Lay the entire stack over the filling layer and smooth to fit.
  • Use the tip of a sharp chef's knife to mark where your cuts will be around the edge of the pan. Then cut the length of the phyllo down the middle, making sure to cut all the way through to the bottom of the pan. Make three cuts crosswise to get 8 large pieces, again cutting all the way through to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the melted clarified butter evenly over the assembled and cut pie. Use the tip of the knife to again cut through where the cuts were made previously to ensure the butter gets absorbed.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the spanakopita rest for a few minutes, then cut and serve.
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10 Comments

  1. Linda Little on May 11, 2022 at 3:55 PM

    I made this recipe for Mother’s Day and it was delicious and so easy. We served it as a side with grilled lamb chops. Your recipes are so good. Thank you Maureen.

    • Maureen Abood on May 12, 2022 at 1:34 PM

      Your lamb with the spanakopita sounds SO GOOD!!!! Thank you Linda!

  2. Susan anderson on May 25, 2022 at 8:52 AM

    I have a greek. Husband, an has”e been making greek food, f[r 40 years.. I do spinach pie in 2 parts, filling ,takes 1 hour, goes in fridge… Next day, fix, 2 buttered pans, 13 x 15, butter every 2 layers, divide filling in both an bake. I come out, with plenty of pie an some to freeze

    • Maureen Abood on June 5, 2022 at 6:46 AM

      Fantastic Susan, love the make-ahead plan.

  3. Joan Rossy on May 30, 2022 at 10:48 AM

    Made it this weekend and we loved it! Thanks

    • Maureen Abood on June 5, 2022 at 6:44 AM

      So happy! Thank you!

  4. gail k. on June 4, 2022 at 11:23 PM

    Made this for late Mother’s Day. My son had emergency surgery Mother’s Day Monday, he’s fine now but we had to delay… He’s vegetarian, so worked hard to find something he and my other son would both be happy to eat is always a challange.And this is perfect.Thank you.

    • Maureen Abood on June 5, 2022 at 6:44 AM

      Well that’s just wonderful to hear Gail, thank you and what lucky sons you have.

  5. Karen Golden on July 25, 2022 at 2:02 PM

    Thanks so much another great recipe! It has been a life saver this summer with entertaining. I have a crowd coming for Coast Guard Festival and I feed them breakfast before they head out for the Parade. Folks will be taking plates of food outdoors to eat, and your Spanakopita works really well with my morning buffet spread. Do you think I could adapt this to a large Nordic half sheet pan by simply doubling the recipe? Or am I better off just making (2) 9 x 13 pans?

    • Maureen Abood on July 27, 2022 at 10:53 AM

      Karen I think it’s easiest to manage in two 9×13 pans, but you could absolutely make this in the half-sheet pan using the larger sized phyllo available in some groceries.

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Maureen Abood in the kitchen

I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!

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