Traditional Turkish Borek Recipe

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Börek is found all over Turkey, and, in fact, it might be the Turkish food that has migrated to the most  places that the Ottoman Empire used to be, which we were surprised to find out in our trips to Croatia, Hungary, Albania, and even Bulgaria.

Each place within or outside of Turkey puts their own twist on it, but basically its a flaky dough-filled pastry. Most often the pastry filling is savory and will usually be cheese, ground beef, or spinach. Sometimes you can find potato or other vegetables or even sausage borek fillings as well.

Turkish Borek is a must-try food while traveling in Turkey, or you can make one of my three recipes and try it right at home.

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Turkish traditional homemade börek! I have been eating this delectable dish all my life. Boy, was I surprised to find out that many European countries have their own version called a myriad of names like burek, byorek, and byrek.

Traditional layered borek, a famous Turkish pastry recipe, fresh out of the oven.
Traditional layered borek fresh out of the oven. Let’s eat!

Turkish Snack Food Extraordinaire

Borek is one of those versatile dishes that can be eaten at any time of day and anywhere. Many bakeries, all over the world, will have it ready for breakfast! It really doesn’t matter which kind of Turkish börek you try, what time of day you eat it, or where you get it from; they’re all delicious, so that’s one reason we took a cooking lesson from our good friend Füsun and included her Turkish Borek recipe here. Take it from me, it’s çok güzel! (Totally delicious!)

Quick Steps for Making Borek

Step 1: Make sure your yufka dough is kept moist, so take it out of the packaging and keep it between two damp dish towels.

Step 2: Make the fillings for your borek.

Step 3: Cut your yufka, and separate the layers. Decide which shape or layering technique to use. Make sure to brush each layer with generous amounts of egg wash or melted butter.

Step 4: Cook your borek. Most, like ours is baked, but some called sigara börek (a Turkish cheese borek), are rolled and deep fried providing a completely different flavor. They are often served as appetizers to a meal.

Step 5: Serve, make sure to have a glass of Turkish çay (tea) ready!

What is Yufka? A traditional Turkish dough used in borek, like in these three borek recipes.
Yufka is the traditional pastry used to make borek, and while you are in Turkey, you can buy some at the store. In the U.S. or other western countries, a good substitute would be phyllo dough.

What is Yufka?

Yufka is an extremely thin dough. It can be used in borek and gozleme. You will often see Turkish women making Yufka in some Istanbul restaurants, using a long wooden rolling pin on a short table.

You can’t make traditional borek without using the thin pastry called yufka. It used to be that you had to go to the yufka-maker’s to buy the dough, unless he had a stall at your local market, but nowadays there is plenty of plastic-wrapped yufka available in the supermarkets.

As you might expect, supermarket yufka is not as desirable, because it often feels stale and hard. Many international supermarkets will sell yufka, but if you can’t find it, phyllo dough can be found frozen in most grocery stores and will work just as well.

There are many types of börek, with many kinds of fillings. It doesn’t really matter what you put inside, it’s all tasty. The way the börek is layered or built with the layers of yufka determines what it’s called. We used two different styles of börek, one a spiral method that looks like a rose called gül, and then a regular layered one, called saray börek, which of course is more commonly made in the home since it takes much less time.

Kiyma or Ground beef filling for Turkish borek
Kiyma Borek
Spinach filling for borek
Spinach Borek

The Fillings in our Turkish Börek Recipe

There are many fillings for Turkish borek including lamb mince, ground beef, feta cheese and herbs, and spinach. 

In this article we’ve included two traditional borek recipes, one with spinach (Ispanak) and the other with ground beef (kiyma). It’s difficult to find exactly the right ingredients in the US sometimes, so we’ve also included a way to make a close facsimile to the traditional borek with our American borek recipe.

Other than yufka, both the types of borek you will need to make the egg mixture which allows the dough to stay soft and helps make it a golden brown when baked.

Kiyma or Ground Beef Borek
Yield: 6-8 servings

Kiyma or Ground Beef Borek

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Kiyma or ground beef borek is very popular in Turkey for a quick snack on the run.

Ingredients

  • Yufka or Puffed Pastry dough (1 box)
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 7 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (sunflower is best) Note: 4 for cooking meat, 3 for egg wash
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare meat filling by combining beef, onion, oil, parsley. Brown together.
  2. Prepare egg wash by combining eggs, 3 Tablespoons oil, and milk.
  3. Decide on layering technique and begin layering dough, egg wash, and meat. Repeat until filling is gone.
  4. On the last layer brush the remaining egg wash on top and sides, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
  5. Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  6. Let stand 15 minutes and serve warm.
Ispanak or Spinach Borek
Yield: 6-8 servings

Ispanak or Spinach Borek

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Turkish borek is an amazing food that you must try while visiting. It's pastry filled with things like spinach, cheese, meat, or potatoes. You'll love it.

Ingredients

  • Yufka or Puff pastry (frozen)
  • Spinach, 1 box frozen
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of Plain Yogurt
  • sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make spinach filling. Combine the spinach, onion, spices, and herbs in sauce pan and cook for 5 minutes, just long enough to warm and combine ingredients.
  2. Make egg wash for pastry. Beat eggs and add in sunflower oil and yougurt. Set aside.
  3. Decide on layering technique, and start layering your yufka or pastry dough, brushed with egg mxture, then spinach.
  4. Brush the remainder of egg wash on top and sides of borek, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
  5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until browned.
  6. Remove from oven, cover with damp cloth for about 20 minutes and serve warm.
Preparing the borek pastry. Dripping egg wash on the yufka before the filling is put on the borek layer.
The egg wash is an important component to making sure the borek is moist and golden brown.

Börek Layering Techniques

There are two ways to layer the yufka for börek. One way is the swirl method, and the other is the fold-over method. It’s important that you try both to determine what your preference is. My preference is the fold-over method, because I feel the ration of filling to dough tastes better to me.

For both methods, you will need three sheets of yufka. If bought fresh, one kilo of yufka is about six sheets.

The Turkish Pastry Spiral Method (the Rose)

It’s just what it sounds like. You lay the yufka out on the table. Spread some of the egg mixture over the dough. Lay a long line of the filling of choice , starting about one-fourth of the way from the top edge. Then roll into a snake shape. Take the börek snake and wrap it in a coil to lay in your round pan. Spoon the leftover egg mixture on top and bake in a 350 degree (180 degrees Centigrade) oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Borek spiral method (rose-shaped).
Spiral layering method of preparing borek.

The Turkish Pastry Fold-over Method (Common Layering Technique)

This method is a bit easier than the spiral method, and it doesn’t matter which you choose. Lay one sheet of yufka over the pan with the edges over lapping. Spoon in filling. You will make three to four layers, so portion the filling appropriately. Fold over the yufka, keeping it as flat as possible. Alternate layers of dough with the filling. For each layer of dough, spoon some egg mixture in between to keep the dough moist, especially where yufka touches yufka. Repeat until the dish or pan is full. Spoon the remaining egg mixture on top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Taking the finished borek from the oven.
This borek was made with the layering method.

Finishing the Turkish Börek

With both methods, sprinkle a few drops of water on the börek, place a damp towel over the pan and let cool for 20 minutes. Cut and serve. I like my börek hot, but the cheese and other veggie varieties taste really good cold as well. That makes it a great dish to take to work or on the road with you.

This Turkish Börek recipe might seem a bit intimidating, but it really isn’t too bad. Don’t worry about the look of the folds or spiral. When it’s all baked, it always comes out looking wonderful. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

My American Börek Recipe

Because it’s difficult to get the correct ingredients for a traditional borek, I’ve developed this recipe. It’s much quicker, and it’s definitely easier to find the right foods.

Americanized Cheese and Spinach Borek
Yield: 10 - 12 servings

Americanized Cheese and Spinach Borek

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

This Americanized cheese and spinach borek recipe is easy to make and even though it's a little different than a traditional borek, you will love it.

Ingredients

  • 1 roll of puff pastry, unfrozen
  • 1 box spinach, unfrozen
  • 1 package Havarti Cheese
  • 1 package Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Instructions

  1. Grease 9-1/2 inch X 13 " pan.
  2. Layer puff pastry, spinach, cheeses, and repeat. Make sure to brush with melted butter on each layer. Note: With this pastry, the layers are very thin, so use 2-3 layers of dough between fillings.
  3. Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle on sesame seeds if you desire. Cut into squares or diamond shapes.
  4. Bake in preheated 50 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Pin Borek Recipes

Turkish Borek Recipe

43 thoughts on “Traditional Turkish Borek Recipe

  1. Tina M. Lick says:

    Going to do this weekend. We have no one around here that offers. When we lived in Izmir our favorite was Cheese Borek. Gonna do the triangles. Bit more of a challenge but will be worth it. Wish me luck ❤

  2. Vitaly says:

    I’m confused a little bit… Do I have to use egg mixture or melted butter when layering the phyllo pastry?

  3. Wendy S says:

    Hi, Corinne,

    I just made borek for the first time – a feta and spinach version. I used another recipe before finding your website, but it was very similar to yours. I used Turkish yufka and made it in a rectangular baking dish. I let it rest in the refrigerator for 3 hours before baking. It turned out looking great and the taste was good, but the texture seemed rather tough to me. I’ve never eaten or made borek before, so I’m not sure what I’m aiming at. Any advice? Thanks!

      • Wendy S says:

        Thanks, Corinne, good to know. Do you think that the 3 hours in the refrigerator is what caused the toughness or is that just the nature of borek? I would have thought that the extra time in the fridge would have had the opposite effect of soaking into the yufta and making it softer.

        • Corinne Vail says:

          Wendy, Yufka when old can be tough, but it’s hard to get fresh yufka depending on where you are. I do think letting it set might have contributed to the toughness, though, too.

  4. Evelyn Farrell says:

    I simply love böret. I visit the beautiful country of Turkey and I have to express that the food was absolutely amazing. I go every other year. Turkish food is delicious.

  5. Karen Smith says:

    My mother and aunt used to make a cheese beoreg – we spell it a little differently, but the same principal. They also used phyllo as that was always available. I’d love to try a meat beoreg with lamb as that sounds yummy. Are you able to buy the yufka anywhere here? I’d love to try that too!

  6. Different Shores says:

    Oh I love börek – it’s just about the perfect snack. I had it in Croatia (or a version of it) and I couldn’t think of the name at all until I saw this post. I’ll be printing this off and adding to my recipe collection. I think the ground meat one is my fave but I’ll make the spinach one when I’m feeling like being healthier. Thanks for the lovely clear guide.

  7. Nina says:

    We know burek in Slovenia as Bosnian snack which was probably influenced by Turkey centuries ago. My faovourite burek is with meat but it is hard to get a good burek in fast food stands as you dont know the quaility of meat, so i usually stick to cottage chsese filling. Great hang over snack though:)

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  9. Baki says:

    Something fun to do with the family indeed. I show the kids, give them all a certain job, they do it, and they love to eat what they had just prepped ! Id say it is much lighter than a lasagna. Enjoy !

    Great pics and layout of instructions ! When it smells like it’s cooked, take it out !

  10. The Educational Tourist says:

    We were just in Turkey this summer but we did not get a chance to try this! I need to go back now!! It looks delicious AND like a lot of work – definitely a labor of love. Thanks for the inspiration. Now I’m hungry!

  11. Kim says:

    love borek!! My favourite filling is potato but it is not found like this usually in bakeries so I make it at home. My method is same using milk or yogurt as they both work well and my Turkish sister-in-laws all have their own favourites 🙂 They taught me a slightly different way to layer the yufka. First sheet is laid into pan with it’s edges outside then the other sheets of yufka are torn into large pieces and kind of laid slightly wrinkly (actually they only do one layer of filling then build up the pie with just yufka and egg but I want to try your 3 layers). Keep layering and adding egg till pastry sheets used up then the outside edges of the first sheet is pulled up and over and kind of rumpled onto the top. I usually save a roundish piece of yufka to place on the top to make it look neater. Then the remaining egg mixture is beaten with a little more oil and brushed over the top before going into the oven. Never sprinkled water on though – must have missed that part so eager to try as mine is usually crispy on top. Off to make some right now 🙂 Do you have a recipe for the potato filling please? I usually make it up as I go along but wondered if there were any authentic mixes? I usually just boil potatoes and add mint, pul biber, a little tomato puree and seasoning. Thanks

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  15. Yunus Emre says:

    I was searching for some food made from dough and met your website by chance! I would like to thank you for the recipe, everything is clearly explained like anyone could do it easily! Please find an additional note from a Turkish man, it tastes better if you add some sessame or black cumin on top before you put it in the owen.

    • Corinne Vail says:

      Erin, The amount of spinach is up to you. You need to have enough to spread a layer between the sheets of phyllo. I’ve used both fresh or frozen and it works fine.

  16. Jason says:

    This recipe is perfect, I have tried others and this one is a winner!!!! I will use no other recipe just this one. Thank you for sharing your recipe & technique. Easy to follow, great job!

  17. Aisha Suleiman says:

    I LOOOOVE borek. I ate tons of it when I was visiting Turkey. Two words: So Good! I’ve always wanted to try making it at home but it has turned out…less than perfect :p lol anyways, I’m going to try again and this time it’ll hopefully work.

  18. Tony says:

    This is something I’m definitely going to try. I’ve eaten borek bought from Turkish shops here in London, really enjoyed them,
    so I’m determined to add this to my recipe collection.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe and techniques, your instructions are crystal clear.

    Tony

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