Vegan spanakopita spiral
There are a lot of recipes that are close to my heart but there is one that takes the lead. Spanakopita! Fun fact; Every time I visit my family in Greece my dad always drives to our local bakery to get fresh spanakopita regardless of whether my mum has made breakfast or not. Traditionally spanakopita is filled with spinach, leeks, herbs and of course salty feta. After months of tweaking my original Spanakopita triangles recipe, I managed to get a perfectly delicious vegan alternative. Covid might have other plans for you this year but this recipe will certainly make you feel like you are in Greece!
Spanakopita spiral tips
-Defrost your spinach the night before: I love using frozen spinach for any pie fillings as it is much cheaper than fresh. If you want to save time (as well as money) you can leave the spinach in a bowl to thaw overnight at room temperature. Make sure you really squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the spinach to prevent the pie from being soggy. When you think that you’ve got all of the water out, squeeze it some more just in case.
-Season your filling at the end: When it comes to fillings I don’t normally specify how much salt and pepper to use as it really depends on how salty your cream cheese is. I add 1/4 tsp of salt to start with, taste, and then add more if needed.
-Keep the phyllo covered at all times: Make sure while you are working with your phyllo to keep the rest of the pastry covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out.
-Do not overfill your spirals: As delicious as the filling is, be careful not to overfill your spirals as the filling will ”explode” in the oven while baking. There are also more chances to tear your sheets if you overfill them. I used a total of 10 sheets of pastry- two sheets per ”sausage” making 5 ”sausages in total.
-Don’t worry if you tear the pastry: When you shape the spiral, don’t panic if you get a couple of tears in the pastry. Simple tear off a scrap of unused phyllo, brush it with olive oil and use it to cover the tear; repeat with another layer if needed. No one will be able to tell!
Spanakopita spiral ingredients
- Frozen spinach: Yes you can use fresh if you want to! But frozen spinach is a fraction of the price of fresh and frankly it doesn’t make much difference as the spinach will be sautéed and flavoured with all the herbs. I find that it’s best to defrost the spinach the night before, place it in a clean cloth to get rid of any excess water and, then add it to the pan.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Use the best quality you can and preferably Greek (it is the best after all!). Olive oil is used for sautéing the vegetables and brushing the phyllo layers while building the spiral.
- Phyllo pastry: Let’s talk phyllo or filo! Phyllo is one of these ingredients that are equally wonderful and fiddly. Try and get your hands on some Greek or Turkish phyllo if you can as the flavour and texture are better. Make sure to keep it covered with a damp cloth at all times otherwise the sheets will dry out!
- 1 medium leek: Leeks are not always added to spanakopita but I love the sweetness of the leeks with the contrast of the salty filling.
- Spring onions: Spring onions are so much more fragrant than white onions and they are very widely used in Greek cuisine.
- Fresh dill: Dill is a must addition to any traditionally made spanakopita.
- Fresh mint leaves: Mint leaves are not a classic addition but it gives the spanakopita a wonderful aromatic flavour.
- Zest from 1 lemon: Lemon zest gives a very fragrant and fresh flavour to the spanakopita.
- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is a great addition to any vegan meal as it gives a salty and ”cheesy” taste.
- Vegan cream cheese: I used violife for my spanakopita, but you can use any vegan cream cheese you can get your hands on.
- Vegan butter: Vegan butter (together with olive oil) will be used for brushing between the layers of phyllo.
- Salt and pepper: I don’t specify how much salt to add to the filling as it depends on how salty the yeast and the cream cheese you are using will be.
- Nutmeg: Nutmeg is not normally used in spanakopita, but spinach and nutmeg are truly a match made in heaven.
For the spanakopita trial (makes one 8 inches spiral/serves 4-6 people)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 leek diced (white part only)
- 3 spring onions sliced
- 500g frozen spinach (thawed)
- 200g vegan cream cheese
- 15g finely chopped dill
- 15g finely chopped mint leaves
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Big pinch of grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 50g vegan butter (for brushing)
- 50g extra virgin olive oil (for brushing)
- 10 sheets filo pastry (thawed if frozen)
How to make the vegan spanakopita spiral
- Start by preparing the spinach first. Place the frozen spinach in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Skip this step if you are using fresh spinach.
- The next day place the spinach on a clean cloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. Place in a clean bowl and set aside.
- For the filling, in a pan over medium heat place 2tbsp of olive oil, and once it is hot add the spring onions and leeks. Sauté until the mixture is soft and golden.
- Add 1 more tbsp of olive oil, add the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted.
- Turn the heat off and add the chopped dill, mint, and lemon zest.
- Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and let cool completely before adding the rest of the ingredients(*see Notes).
- Mix in the cream cheese, nutritional yeast, and nutmeg. Taste and add the desired amount of salt and pepper, taste it again to adjust.
- Once you have adjusted the seasoning, set it aside until needed.
How to assemble the spanakopita spiral
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a 10 inch/22cm round cake tin OR line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
- Melt the vegan butter in the microwave and add 50g of olive oil.
- To assemble the pie, lay a sheet of filo pastry on a work surface with the long side facing you (keep the rest of the pastry covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out). Brush all over with the butter/olive oil mix and place another sheet on top.
- Take 1/5 of the spinach cheese mixture and form it into a long snake along the long edge of the pastry, leaving a 5cm gap at the bottom. Try and make sure that the filling is evenly spread. You can also use a pastry piping bag to pipe the filling.
- Roll the pastry up from the bottom into a long sausage. Coil the sausage, seam side down and place it onto a baking tray or into a greased cake tin.
- Repeat the steps above 4 more times, tucking the beginning of each coil into the end of the previous one to form one long spiral.
- Brush the pastry all over with the leftover butter/olive oil mixture and sprinkle with some sesame seeds. Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Allow cooling slightly before serving.
- The spanakopita is best served on the same day but can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.
- Enjoy 🙂
- If you do choose to use fresh spinach you can simply blanch it for 30 seconds, let it cool completely before squeezing the water out.
- Make sure that the mixture is completely cool as if added when still warm, the cream cheese could melt slightly and make the filling watery.
- I used 10 phyllo sheets (50cmx40cm) but you can use any size. It just means that your spiral might be slightly bigger or smaller.
- You can freeze the assembled spanakopita for up to a month. Simply take it out to thaw for 10 minutes and bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.