This Greek spinach pie is a combination of layers of buttery, flaky, and crispy phyllo (filo) dough with a tart spinach and feta cheese filling!
Spanakopita is such a versatile dish. You can serve it as a side to some lamb, turkey, or chicken OR you can also serve it as a main dish for dinner!
I’m perfectly fine with eating this year round, but it fits in especially well around the holidays thanks to the green in the spinach (annnd because it’s super rich!)
The spanakopita filling is outrageously easy to make! The only time consuming part is actually layering the phyllo dough and spinach/feta filling.
But what’s especially great is spanakopita keeps really well in the freezer. So it’s a great make ahead dinner or side!
Just a little note about the filling: my favorite part about this savory pie is the phyllo dough! If you ask me, not much beats those crispy, buttery, and rich layers of pastry! So I do add a generous amount of dough. If you like it more heavy on the spinach filling, feel free to scale down the amount of dough you use! (More on how you can scale this in the recipe notes below)
What is spanakopita?
Spanakopita is a Greek savory pie made up of layers of phyllo dough with a spinach and feta cheese filling. You can shape it into triangles or (my favorite) layer it like a giant pie!
How to make spanakopita:
Start by making the spinach and feta cheese filling:
1. Add olive oil, onions, and garlic to a large skillet. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
2. Add spinach. If using fresh spinach, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until wilted and the water is cooked out. If using frozen, cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the water is cooked out.
3. Add lemon juice. Mix to combine, and set aside to cool slightly.
5. Add crumbled feta cheese. Mix again to combine.
Next, is the layering process:
1. Spread butter onto the bottom of your baking dish. About 1 tablespoon is enough.
2. Add on 2 layers of phyllo dough. Phyllo dough is typically sold in packages with sheets that are about 12 x 18 inches large (which is the size I had). So you may need to fold or trim them in half to fit into the baking dish.
3. Butter the top of the phyllo dough. Spread a thin layer just enough to cover the surface (about 1 teaspoon).
4. Repeat. Layer 2 more sheets of phyllo dough, with another thin layer of melted butter. Continue layering until you have a total of 16 layers of phyllo dough (but don’t butter the layer before the spinach).
5. Top with half of spinach mixture.
6. Layer on top phyllo. 2 more layers of phyllo, followed by a butter layer, and another 2 layers of phyllo.
7. Top with the remaining half of the spinach mixture.
8. Repeat the layering process from step 4. Top the spinach mix with 2 layers of phyllo, followed by a layer of butter. Repeat until all of the phyllo dough is used up. Finish off with a layer of butter on top.
9. Cut the phyllo dough. Phyllo dough is a lot easier to cut neatly when it’s still raw!
10. Bake. Cool slightly before serving!
Spanakopita with fresh or frozen spinach:
You can make spanakopita with either fresh or frozen spinach. There’s just a slight tweak with the method.
I had a lot of fresh spinach around after making some spinach soup, so I went with that! If you’re using fresh spinach, you’ll need to wash and cook it. Add the spinach along with the onion and garlic, and cook until it wilts down and all of the water evaporates.
If using frozen spinach, you don’t need to cook it, but you’ll need to thaw it and drain it super well! I recommend giving the spinach a squeeze with your hands to get out as much liquid as possible.
Whichever one you choose, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the less water there is in the filling, the better. Water causes the phyllo to come out gummy and … disappointing!
How to store spanakopita:
You can store spanakopita baked or raw. It makes a really great make ahead meal or side (more reasons to love it around the holidays!)
Both baked and raw spanakopita will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. Unbaked spanakopita also freezes really well!
To freeze, make the filling and assemble the spanakopita in your baking dish as normal. Wrap tightly with a layer of plastic wrap, then wrap with another layer of aluminum foil (to avoid freezer burn). Freeze for up to 3 months.
To bake frozen spanakopita, you don’t need to let it defrost if you assembled it in a shock proof baking dish. If you did store it in a baking dish that doesn’t handle sudden shifts in temperature (like glass) then you’ll need to let it defrost and come to room temperature for a few hours on your counter!
If baking frozen spanakopita, bake normally, but tag on an additional 5 to 10 minutes to account for defrosting time. If baking defrosted spanakopita, the bake time should be the same as listed below!
What to serve with spanakopita:
Check out some of these related recipes!
Greek Spanakopita Recipe
For the spanakopita filling:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds fresh spinach (or 16 ounces thawed, frozen spinach) * see notes
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
For the crust assembly:
- 1 pound phyllo dough (about 18 sheets large), thawed ** see notes
- 3/4 cup (1 & 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Make the spinach filling: In a large skillet, combine olive oil, onion, garlic, and salt. Place over medium heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion turns translucent and softens.
- If using frozen spinach: Move your skillet off the heat. Drain the frozen spinach very well and squeeze out any excess water, then add the spinach to the skillet along with the lemon juice and feta cheese. Toss to combine, and set aside to prepare the crust.If using fresh spinach: Wash and drain the spinach well. Add the spinach leaves to the skillet, and continue to cook over medium heat until the spinach is wilted and all of the liquid evaporates (about 5 to 10 minutes). Cool the spinach mixture slightly (for about 10 minutes), then add the lemon juice and feta cheese. Toss to combine, and set aside to prepare the crust.
- Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Start layering: Spread some of the melted butter (about 1 tablespoon) along the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Place 2 layers of phyllo dough on top. The standard size for phyllo dough is about 12 x 18 inches (which is how large my sheets were). So you may need to fold or cut each sheet in half to fit into the baking dish.
- Spread another layer of butter over the phyllo. Top with 2 more layers of phyllo dough. Repeat the layering process, alternating between a layer of butter and 2 layers of phyllo dough, until you have about 16 layers of dough (or 8 large sheets folded). Do not top the last layer of phyllo with butter.
- Evenly spread half of the spinach mixture over the last layer of phyllo dough. Top the spinach layer with 2 layers of phyllo dough, followed by a butter layer, and 2 more sheets of phyllo. Top with the remaining half of the spinach mixture.
- Repeat the layering process again with 2 sheets of phyllo, followed by a brushing of melted butter, until all of the phyllo dough is used up. Top the assembled spanakopita with a final layer of butter.
- Cut the spanakopita into your desired piece sizes (it's much, MUCH easier to cut before baking!) I like to go with 12 portions, but you can cut them smaller or larger if you like.
- Bake in the center of your preheated 325°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cool slightly before serving!