Healthy Spinach Pastries – Spanakopita

by | Appetizers & Tapas, Salads and Veggies

Olive oil instead of butter makes these fresh spinach, lemon and feta pastries healthier than the butter ladened spanakopita traditionally made. 

large dinner size spanakopita
Large Dinner-size Spanakopita

Spinach

Spinach is one of my absolute favorite and most versatile leafy vegetables. Growing spinach in pots was surprisingly easy. Who knew!

As an after thought early one autumn, while my grandsons were hanging out with me, they put spinach seeds in a bunch of hanging baskets for me. I planned to bring them in for the winter if I saw any sign of growth from the seeds. 

planding grandma's spinach in September
Planting Grandma’s Spinach In September

By winter, these baskets, sitting in my little greenhouse (average winter temperature is 50 degrees inside the greenhous), was bursting with spinach leaves. 

Mediterranean style Spanakopita was going to be the best way I knew of to showcase my exciting harvest of spinach while In The Dead Of Winter!

Healthy Healthier Spanakopita

Spanaki, is the Greek word for spinach and pita is the word used for dough based recipes, anything from bread, as in pita bread, to a refined pastry such as phyllo. 

In my Mediterranean home, we grew up making spinach pies called Fatayer, with a bread-like pastry dough we made ourselves out of flour, yeast, olive oil and water, no butter. 

Then I learned to make Spanakopita from Greek families we became close to. What I didn’t like was the large amount of melted butter that was brushed on the phyllo dough before placing the filling inside. It tasted fabulous, but just seemed like too much unnecessary fat to be healthy. 

working with phyllo dough with butter
Working With Phyllo Dough With Butter

Pastries

olive oil brushed spanakopita
Olive Oil Brushed Spanakopita

Working with pastry dough, particularly phyllo dough, is not as difficult as it may seem. The trick, is finding a brand of phyllo dough that isn’t torn, dried or broken when you thaw and open to work with it. 

I have tried many brands, and have found a few that are reliable. On this day, I tried a new one. Figures, the day I wanted to video a ‘how to’ fold spanakopita, the brand was the worst! 

crisp and baked
Crisp and Baked

Torn in several places when I opened it, but I figured, if I can show you how to work with a low quality phyllo dough, how much easier it will be when you find one that is of good quality. 

Something I discovered after years of working with phyllo dough was the importance of keeping a dish towel over the stack of dough while working with a few at a time. It can dry out fast. 

Working with olive oil instead of melted butter was also an easier step because it flows and brushes on easily and doesn’t have to keep going back on the burner to keep it melted, like is done with butter. 

crisp phyllo pastries with olive oil
Crisp Phyllo Pastries With Olive Oil

Healthy Spinach Pastries

If phyllo dough is made with flour, water and olive oil, and fatayer (Arabic pita dough), is made with flour, water and olive oil, why not simply brush the phyllo dough with only olive oil!

Luscious, healthy spinach, eggs, fresh herbs, lemon juice and goat or sheep milk cheese, wrapped in a thin pastry is all I was wanting from my spanakopita. 

All the ingredients were already healthy. I wanted to keep my spanakopita as ‘back to basics’ as possible so the spinach is what I would enjoy in each bite, loosely wilted, fresh spinach leaves. 

wilted spinach
Slightly Wilted Spinach

Spinach In My Spanakopita

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I only knew spinach in a can or ground in a frozen square with not one leaf recognizable. Yuk! But it was all I knew. 

Fresh spinach ‘raw’ salad had not yet become popular. Imagine that! We did not know that so many fresh vegetables could be, should be, eaten raw. How ignorant!

Now, when I make spanakopita, I want my spinach leaves as green, whole and only slightly, quickly wilted before placing it in with the rest of my ingredients. 

Growing Spinach

While I am still a rookie gardener, I am passionately in love with being able to grow things I can cook with. Even my grandchildren have come to enjoy gardening, something I didn’t grow up doing. 

I have a small greenhouse I only use in the winter months, to bring plants in that I can cook with during the cold months.

My winter greenhouse
My Winter Greenhouse

I was thrilled to see that the spinach seeds my grandsons planted in September grew abundantly enough for me to make spanakopita in January!

Easy Spanakopita Tarts

If after reading all of this story and detailed video instructions, you are still shy of working with phyllo dough, no worries! 

Small phyllo tart shells are in most freezer sections of a grocery store, smiling at you right next to the package of phyllo dough. 

Mix the filling, same as you would for the recipe here, place small dollops of the filling inside the tart shells, no need for oil brushed on the pastry, bake at 325 for about 7-minutes. 

Spanakopita tarts cook faster than the rolled triangle phyllo dough bundles because they are open; so keep an eye on them. 

Spanakopita tarts
Spanakopita Tarts

Healthiest Spanakopita Muffins

Yes, they are a thing! At least in my kitchen. While I love every aspect about eating spanakopita, whether in large or small triangles, or open-faced in tart shells, sometimes I just want the ingredients without the phyllo pastry. 

For the healthiest Spanakopita bite, these Spanakopita Muffins are totally MY creation and are fabulous for a healthy to-go lunch or snack, or a quick lunch at home. 

spanakopita muffins and spanakopita tarts
Spanakopita Muffins and Spanakopita Tarts

Steps To Making Spanakopita Triangles

  • Quickly wilt the spinach in a wide pan with a lid and about a half inch of water on the bottom. 
  • As soon as the spinach looks bright green, remove it to a strainer, run under cold water and allow to drain. Gently squeeze out the liquid or blot with a towel. 
  • In a bowl, place all the ingredients, gently mix and set aside. 
  • Have the phyllo dough opened with a cloth over it, a basting brush and a small cup of olive oil ready. 
  • Take one large piece of phyllo and lay it out, dab and brush lightly with a very little olive oil. It doesn’t all need to be brushed, just here and there. Fold it in half so it is narrow and long. 
  • Place a dollop of filling in the bottom corner. Begin to fold quickly flag-style, triangles while brushing a little oil as you fold. 
  • Set on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and repeat until all the filling is used. Bake and enjoy. 

Ingredients Needed

  • Fresh spinach
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Feta
  • Coarse salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Phyllo dough
spanakopita ingredients
Spanakopita Ingredients

Equipment Needed

  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet pans
  • Basting brush
  • Small cup
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mixing fork
  • Stovetop or burner for melting butter
  • Oven

Healthy Spinach Pastries – Spanakopita

Recipe by Robin DaumitCourse: Appetizers u0026amp; Tapas, Salads and VeggiesCuisine: Mediterranean
Servings

12

servings

Olive oil instead of butter makes these fresh spinach, lemon and feta pastries healthier than the butter ladened spanakopita traditionally made. 

Ingredients

  • Fresh leaf spinach – 1 lb

  • Eggs – 2

  • Garlic – 1 clove, crushed

  • Lemon juice – 1 tbsp

  • Feta – 4 oz

  • Fresh pepper – to taste (I did use pink peppercorn)

  • Olive oil – 2 oz or as needed

  • Phyllo dough – 12, or as needed

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment paper on one or two baking sheets.
  • On top of the stove, quickly wilt the spinach in a wide pan with a lid and about a half inch of water on the bottom (about a minute). As soon as the spinach looks bright green, remove it to a strainer. Run it under cold water and allow to drain. Gently squeeze out the liquid or blot with a towel.
  • In a bowl, place all the ingredients, gently mix and set aside.
  • Have the phyllo dough opened with a cloth over it, a basting brush and a small cup of olive oil ready. Take one large piece of phyllo and lay it out, dab and brush lightly with a very little olive oil. It doesn’t all need to be brushed, just here and there. Fold it in half so it is narrow and long.
  • Place a dollop of filling in the bottom corner. Begin to fold quickly flag-style, triangles while brushing a little oil as you fold. Set on the parchment paper lined baking sheet and repeat until all the filling is used.
  • Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, until crust is golden but do keep an eye on it not to brown too quickly.

Recipe Video

health spinach pastries - Spanakopita
Healthy Spinach Pastries – Spanakopita
 

My Muffin Madness

 

In my family, I’ve always been known as the ‘Muffin Queen’. Out of necessity, I created muffins for breakfast, lunch, on the go snacks, sometimes dinner and a sweet yet healthyish treat for dessert!

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