Traditional Spanakopita Recipe

If you're a fan of Mediterranean cuisine, chances are you've already encountered the tasty Greek spinach and cheese pie known as spanakopita. Spanakopita might seem like a complicated dish to prepare, but the use of frozen phyllo dough takes a lot of the work out of it. In this recipe, the spanakopita, rather than being formed into squares or circles, is instead folded into little two-bite triangle shapes.

Recipe developer Miriam Hahn says she likes this spanakopita recipe because it makes "such a pretty appetizer," although she does admit that the folded dough triangles "are a little time consuming" to make. Nevertheless, she says the process is a pretty easy one. While the cheesy filling is central to spanakopita, and all the butter used to coat the dough adds flavor as well, Hahn does say that if you can find plant-based feta and butter substitutes that you like, you could easily veganize this dish. As she assures us, "The phyllo dough doesn't contain dairy." Of course, you could stick with dairy cheese and either way, this dish is vegetarian through and through.

Gather the ingredients to make traditional spanakopita

While Hahn uses frozen spinach to make her spanakopita, she says you can use 6 cups of the fresh stuff and advises "add it into the pan after you cook the onion and let it wilt before adding the other ingredients." You'll also need the aforementioned phyllo dough, which you'll need to thaw — overnight in the fridge ought to do it, or else 3 hours at room temperature. Other ingredients include feta cheese, butter, oil (Hahn favors avocado, but says olive is fine), a red onion, garlic, parsley, dill, scallions, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.

Make the spinach filling

Preheat the oven to 375 F, then plop that thawed spinach (you did remember to thaw it, didn't you?) in a colander to let it drain in the sink. As it drains, fry the onions in the oil for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes are up, squish the spinach against the sides of the colander (Hahn uses a wooden spoon), then add the drained green stuff to the onions in the pan. Toss in the garlic, parsley, dill, scallions, lemon zest and feta as well. Stir everything in and cook the mixture for 2 minutes.

Fill and fold the spanakopita

Turn your attention to the thawed phyllo dough, first cutting it into five strips about 3 inches wide and 12 inches long (or as long as the sheets are when they come out of the box). Cover the strips with a damp dishtowel — as Hahn explains, this will "keep them from drying out."

Now take three of the strips (just a single layer) and brush them with butter, then top them each with another strip and brush those with butter, too. Put a tablespoonful of spinach filling at the bottom of each pile of strips, then fold until it's encased in a triangle. Continue folding the strip, keeping the triangle shape intact, until you've reached the top of the dough and the spinach is wrapped in multiple layers. As you finish each spanakopita, put it on a baking sheet and cover it with a damp towel. Keep buttering, filling, and folding the phyllo strips until you've used up all of the dough and/or filling (with luck, both will run out at the same time).

Bake the spanakopita

The oven should definitely be hot enough now, so put the spanakopita in and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes or until they look golden brown on top. If you like, you can garnish them with additional dill and/or scallions once they're done.

Hahn notes that these spanakopita can be prepared in advance. She says if you want to freeze them, do so before baking, then tack on an additional 10 minutes to the cooking time in lieu of thawing. She also says the spinach filling can be made up to five days in advance of stuffing the spanakopita.

Traditional Spanakopita Recipe
5 from 57 ratings
This traditional spanakopita is loaded with spinach and feta cheese, and it makes for the perfect appetizer.
Prep Time
Cook Time
spanakopita on wooden board
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
  • 1 cup red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 3 scallions, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 8 ounces phyllo sheets, thawed
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Remove the thawed spinach from the package and put in a colander in the sink. Let it drain while you prepare the rest of the items.
  3. Add the oil to a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, press the spinach against the side of the colander to press out any remaining water.
  5. Now add the drained spinach, garlic, parsley, dill, scallions, lemon zest, and feta cheese to the pan. Stir for 2 minutes to combine, then remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Lay out the thawed phyllo dough stack and place it horizontally on a large cutting board. With a pizza cutter, cut the sheets into five 3-inch wide strips. The length should be around 12 inches. Once cut, place a damp tea towel over them to keep them from drying out.
  7. On another board, pull out 3 phyllo strips and place them side by side. Brush them with butter, then top with another phyllo strip and butter them again.
  8. Now add 1 tablespoon of the spinach mixture to the bottom of each strip. Fold over the corner to form a triangle. Fold again, keeping the triangle shape, and fold all the way up until you reach the top of the phyllo strip. Place the filled dough triangle on a baking sheet and keep this covered as you work with another damp tea towel.
  9. Repeat this process until you have used up all of the filling.
  10. Once the triangles are all laid out on the baking sheet, coat them with a little more butter on top.
  11. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Top with fresh dill and scallions if desired.
Calories per Serving 213
Total Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 7.6 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 35.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 17.4 g
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g
Total Sugars 2.1 g
Sodium 355.9 mg
Protein 6.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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