Borek is a Turkish savory crunchy pastry filled with different fillings such as cheese or potatoes. Learn how to make Turkish borek recipe by watching our step-by-step video and tutorial. They are perfect as a midday snack or for breakfast and you can make them in advance and freeze them for later.
Since we lived in Istanbul for years, Turkish recipes became part of our routine. Today I'm showing you one of the Turkish classics called borek aka crispy cheese rolls made with phyllo. You can serve it as an appetizer and mezze alongside Turkish lentil meatballs, white bean salad and Kisir (Turkish bulgur salad).
What is borek?
Börek is a family of stuffed pastries made of thin dough such as yufka or phyllo. It's of Anatolian origins and is also common in the cuisines of Balkans and Mediterranean. Turkish borek can be prepared in a large pan and cut into pieces or prepared as individual pastries. It's believed that borek is originated in Turkey, however nowadays it can be found in many countries from Armenia to Bulgaria and Albania.
Borek is one of the most popular dishes in Turkish cuisine and it was a staple in Ottoman cuisine as well. Turkish borek can be made with different fillings such as spices lamb, spinach, potato or cheese. You can find borek shops called Börekci in every corner in Istanbul. Turks have borek for breakfast, midday snack or as part of a mezze platter. If visiting Turkish resorts on the Mediterranean, you might find boreks with the name cruchy cheese rolls in their English menu.
As mentioned above, borek can be made in different shapes with different fillings and techniques. The Turkish borek recipe we are working with today is called sigara boregi which literally translates to Cigar Borek. This type of borek is very common among Turkish households and everyone loves it.
Ingredients to make Turkish borek recipe
Turkish borek is basically made of yufka dough and a filling. This filling can be anything from ground lamb and onion to sauteed spinach and many more. Here we have three fillings for our borek recipe: Potato, spinach and cheese. The fillings are somehow similar to the ones used in Gozleme (Turkish stuffed flatbread).
To make spinach borek, you need:
- White cheese
- Salt and pepper
If you're making potato borek, you need:
- Aleppo pepper
- Salt and pepper
And finally, for the simple cheese borek, you need:
- White cheese
- Black pepper
The traditional cheese used in borek is called lor peyniri. It's a high protein, low-fat and low-salt cheese taht is soft and easy to mix with other ingredients. If you have a Turkish store near where you leave and you can get your hands on some lor cheese, that would be perfect. However, since many of us don't have access to a Turkish shop easily, I've found a great substitute and that is Queso Fresco. I know that's new, but trust me, this is the closest I've gotten to Turkish lor peyniri when making borek at home. If queso fresco is not available, feta cheese would do just as fine.
How to make Turkish borek
Making Turkish borek is easy but a bit time consuming. Once you make the fillings, it's time to roll the borek and cook them. Please make sure to watch the how-to video for the complete tutorial.
Make the fillings
For spinach filling, saute onion in some olive oil until golden, add in chopped spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and cooked. Mix spinach with white cheese, salt and pepper.
To make potato filling, boil the potatoes until cooked and fork tender. Mash them in a bowl and add salt, black pepper and Aleppo pepper.
Classic cheese filling is the easiest filling since there is no cooking involved. Simply mix the cheese with chopped parsley, salt and black pepper.
Roll and cook
Place a triangle shaped yufka dough on a surface, with the wide side facing you. With a wet finger, moisten the edges of the triangle. Then place about one to two tablespoon of filling one inch away from the wide edge and shape it like a thin log. Fold the outer corners over the filling and roll the borek. Dip your index finger in water and wet the edges again and roll tightly. Set aside and continue with the remaining yufka and filling.
Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non stick pan over medium heat. Once hot, place the boreks in the oil and fry on all sides until crispy and golden. Don't over crowd the pan. Place the boreks on a kitchen paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
What to serve Turkish borek with
Borek is more than just a simple Turkish dish. It's a way of life, it's meant to be eaten any time of the day when you want to take a break and enjoy a snack or meal. Borek can be served with tea as breakfast or a midday snack. You can also serve borek as a main meal with a light side dish such as gavurdagi or cacik.
More Turkish recipes for you to try:
- Mercimek corbasi (red lentil soup)
- Menemen (Turkish eggs and tomatoes)
- Patates salatasi (Potato salad)
- Mucver (zucchini fritters)
- Karniyarik (Stuffed eggplants)
- Bulgur pilaf
- Lahmacun (Turkish pizza)
- Yayla Corbasi (Turkish yogurt soup)
Can I use phyllo dough?
Even though Turkish people usually use yufka to make borek recipe, it's also possible to make borek using phyllo (filo) dough. To do so, place a sheet of phyllo dough on a clean surface and cut it into 4 wide strips. Then add the filling and fold in the edges on both sides over the filling. Roll them into cigar shapes and cook as instructed.
You can also follow the steps in our spanakopita recipe and replace the spinach filling with one of the borek fillings. The cooking time will be the same as it is to make spanakopita.
Yufka vs filo vs puff pastry
Classic borek is made with yufka dough which is an extra thin dough. Filo or phyllo is even thinner than yufka but still can be used to make borek. Puff pastry on the other hand, is a completely different type of dough since it has several layers.
Traditionally, puff pastry isn't used to make borek or sigara borek (rolled borek). But that doesn't mean you can't make it using puff pastry, it just wouldn't have the exact flavor and texture as the traditional borek. If using puff pastry, you need to bake the sigara borek in the oven instead of frying them.
How to freeze borek
Since borek making can be a time consuming task, I suggest you put the time and make a large batch. You can easily freeze borek. To do so, follow the recipe and make the fillings and assemble the borek rolls. Don't fry the boreks. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for one hour. Then place them in freezer safe bags and freeze for up to three months. To cook, thaw them in the fridge overnight and once they're completely thawed, fry them in vegetable oil as instructed n the recipe.
Notes and tips to make this Turkish delicacy
- You can make Turkish borek with one or more fillings. This vegetarian Turkish pastry is very versatile.
- If your cheese filling is not sticky enough, you can add one egg to the mixture and mix it well so your mixture is sticky enough.
- Borek makes the perfect appetizer for parties and gatherings. You can prepare them in advance and just fry them right before the party.
- Sigara borek is only one variation of this Turkish pastry. To learn more about different types of borek and where to eat them in Istanbul, check out this article on Daily Sabah.
- If you're making borek using phyllo dough, make sure you work with one sheet at a time and keep the remaining sheets under a damp towel to prevent them from drying.
Turkish Borek Recipe (Sigara Borek)
- 1 package Yufka Dough See note #1
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 4 cups spinach
- ½ cup white cheese See note #2
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 Russet potato
- ½ tsp Aleppo pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ cup White cheese
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
To assemble and fry
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- First, know that yufka, like phyllo dough, is delicate and might break. That's completely okay.
- To make the spinach filling: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until golden, add spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, mix it with cheese, salt and pepper.
- To make potato filling: Wash and peel the potato. Cut it into large chunks and boil until fork tender. Mash the potato completely and add Aleppo pepper, salt and black pepper.
- To make the cheese filling: Mix cheese with parsley, salt and pepper.
- Place a triangle shaped yufka dough on a clean surface, with the wide side facing you. Wet your finger with water and moisten the edges. This will help the edges to stick while rolling.
- Add one to two tablespoon of filling one inch away from the wide edge and form it into a thin log.
- Fold the outer corners over the filling and roll the borek. Dip your index finger in water and wet the edges again and roll tightly. Set aside and continue with the remaining yufka and filling.
- Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non stick pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place the boreks in the oil and fry on all sides until crispy and golden. Don't over crowd the pan. Place the boreks on a kitchen paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Continue with the remaining boreks and add more oil if needed.
- You can find triangle yufka dough in Turkish shops. If you cannot find it, phyllo dough can work as well. Place a sheet of phyllo dough on a clean surface and cover the remaining dough with a damp towel. Cut the phyllo dough into 4 stripes and fill and roll them as instructed.
- I have found that Queso Fresco works well for this borek recipe. However, you can also use feta cheese to make borek.
- These measurements are to make about 24-30 boreks using all the fillings. You can store the leftover fillings in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Double or triple one of the fillings if you would like to make only one of them instead of all three.
- Please watch the video to learn how to make Turkish borek at home.