Cheese Bourekas

Bourekas are delicious Middle Eastern hand pies. These baked, stuffed pastries are popular in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Different versions of this turnover pastry exist all over the world—knishes, calzones, samosas, bridies, and strudel are all regional variations on the same concept. Bourekas originated in Asia as a deep-fried filled dumpling known as a burga. When the Turks of central Asia moved to what is now the country of Turkey, they brought their stuffed burga dumplings with them. Over time, the dumpling evolved into a variety of stuffed, layered pastries known as börek. Sephardic Jews who settled in Turkey adopted the pastry, merging it with their version of the same dish (empanada) and adapting it to make it kosher. Börek + empanada = boureka. The boureka was born!

Bourekas are made with a variety of savory fillings, including cheese, meat, spinach, and eggplant. They are generally made with either puff pastry or filo (phyllo) dough, and served as appetizers, alongside a meal, or as a portable snack. I like to serve them with homemade soup for a light and tasty winter meal. Of the many boureka varieties out there, cheese bourekas are my favorite. They are super easy to make, especially if you use store-bought puff pastry or filo dough. They also freeze well, which means you can make them ahead and pop them in the oven just before your meal. I keep a stash in the freezer for unexpected company; they’re such a treat with tea or coffee. Be sure to use a quality feta cheese. I like Israeli feta, it’s creamy and slightly sweet with the perfect texture for bourekas. A good quality Greek feta will work well, too. Don’t buy the pre-crumbled variety—a block is better, and it’s easy enough to crumble yourself. If you can’t find kashkaval cheese, substitute another ¼ cup of feta cheese. They’ll still taste great.

Some people like making bourekas with puff pastry (store bought or homemade), while others swear by filo (phyllo) dough. Puff pastry bourekas are softer and thicker, while filo bourekas are lighter, crisper, and more delicate. I like them both ways. For this particular blog, I used puff pastry. They can just as easily be made using filo dough – click here to learn how. The cheese filling recipe would remain the same for either style of boureka, so feel free to experiment to figure out which style you like best.

These Cheese Bourekas are also a fun recipe option for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim is sometimes celebrated with a meatless menu in honor of Queen Esther, who became a vegetarian to keep kosher in the palace of her non-Jewish husband King Ahasuerus. Stuffed foods are traditional for Purim, as are triangle-shaped foods. These Cheese Bourekas are both triangular and meatless, making them a great choice for your Purim menu!

This recipe creates lightly stuffed bourekas that should not overflow or leak out with cheese. If you’d like to stuff it with more cheese, you can double the filling– just know that the filling may leak out a bit when baking.

I have shared this recipe with my friends at Zabar’s.com. Click here to check out their amazing site.

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Cheese Bourekas

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets puff pastry (you can also use filo dough, click here for directions using filo)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated kashkaval cheese (or substitute another 1/3 cup feta)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp sesame or poppy seeds for topping (optional)
  • Nonstick cooking oil spray

You will also need

  • 2 large baking sheets, rolling pin, 2 small mixing bowls
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: 18 bourekas
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine feta, kashkaval, ricotta, egg, a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper (if using all feta cheese, you may not need to add any salt). Use a fork to mix ingredients together till well blended. Make sure to break up any large crumbles of feta with the fork. Reserve mixture.
  • On a smooth, clean, lightly floured surface, unfold one of your puff pastry sheets. Use a rolling pin to roll out the sheet to a 12x12 inch square. If using homemade puff pastry, roll your dough out to the same size - a 12”x12” square. Cut the sheet of puff pastry dough into 9 equal-sized squares, each about 4”x4” large.
  • Place 1 scant tablespoon of the cheese filling in the center of each dough square.
  • Fold the dough squares by grasping one corner and folding it over to the opposite corner to make triangles. Pinch firmly along the outer open edge of the triangles to seal. If you're having trouble sealing the dough and getting it to stick together, wet your finger with a bit of water and run it around the edge of the square before folding-- this will help it stick together.
  • You can also crimp the edges with the tines of a fork, if you wish.
  • Repeat this process for the second sheet of puff pastry—roll out the pastry, cut into squares, add filling, and seal the triangles.
  • Spray your baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Place 9 bourekas on each sheet, evenly spaced, giving them some room to expand during baking.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tsp of cool water. Use a pastry brush to brush a light layer of the egg wash onto the surface of each boureka.
  • Sprinkle the bourekas with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.
  • Bake the bourekas for about 30 minutes, switching the baking sheets between the upper and lower racks halfway through cooking. Bake till golden brown and cooked through.
  • Serve warm. Store in a sealed container or plastic zipper bag.
  • To freeze bourekas: prepare, fill, and seal the pastries. Do not coat with egg wash or bake. Place the unbaked pastries in a Tupperware or plastic bag in single layers, separating each layer of bourekas with a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to keep them from freezing together. Freeze.
  • When ready to bake, take the bourekas out of the freezer (no need to defrost) and arrange them on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Coat with thin layer of egg wash and sesame or poppy seeds, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes till golden brown.
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Category: Appetizers, Baked Goods and Brunch Fare, Breakfast, Dairy, Finger Foods and Dips, In the Kitchen, Nut Free, Purim, Recipes, Salads and Mezze, Shavuot, Side Dishes, Slide Show, Snacks, Tomato Free, Vegetarian, Yom Kippur Break Fast

Comments (35)Post a Comment

  1. These sound so yummy! lovely idea!

  2. drmikej says:

    This is a savory pastry. You could make it a sweet one by using a sweetened cheese filling, and drizzle some honey over them when baked.

    • Tair says:

      Definitely! I tried a few with sweet ricotta cheese, sugar and a little vanilla. The only thing I would recommend is straining the cheese before putting them on the puff pastry, otherwise the mixture is a little too wet. (: thanks for the tip!

  3. Carmen says:

    These look SO good! I had never used puff pastry until about two weeks ago. I had always assumed it would be difficult to use. It was ridiculously easy! I’m going to have to try these. :)

  4. Darina says:

    I just made these this morning and they are amazing! So so yummy and incredibly easy and quick to make!! Thank you for sharing! xx

  5. Candace says:

    I have wanted to make bourekas since I first saw them featured on another blog and haven’t attempted them yet. I love that you’ve filled yours with cheese. Your instructions are so clearly shared that I feel confident enough to give them a try. Thank you so much!

  6. Mia says:

    these were so delicious and easy to make. Thanks so much for the recipe! I absolutely love bourekas. I’m wondering if you have made potato bourekas?

  7. Marianne DeLano says:

    Any suggestions on how to make them gluten free? Would rice wrappers work?

  8. Tair says:

    LOVED these! Just finished feeding these to my family. I diced some mushrooms and sauteed them with a little non-stick spray before adding them into the cheese. I also served these with your awesome Israeli salad! My family loved them! Thanks.

  9. Yael says:

    Hi Tory,

    One of my favorite things is Bourekas, and it was one of the things I had to give up when I moved abroad. But no more! I’m so happy and thankful that you posted this, and they really are delicious so thank you thank you thank you!
    One question: I used the frozen pastry dough, and it says to not refreeze after it’s thawed. Can I still make them ahead like you suggested, or do they have to be baked on the day they’re prepared?
    Thanks again!

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Yael, I’m not a food safety expert, but I’ve never had any trouble refreezing the assembled bourekas prior to baking. When you thaw the pastry the first time, do it the proper way in the refrigerator, rather than the “quick thaw” method on the countertop. Bacteria can grow quickly, so it’s best to be safe and take the time to thaw it the correct way, even though it takes longer. I usually let the dough thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Make the filling first, then assemble the bourekas quickly and freeze them immediately. I’m so happy you like the recipe! :)

  10. Yael says:

    I LOVE the recipe (and so does my husband, and the many others who tried it at parties…).
    Thanks for the reply!

  11. Debra Kapellakis says:

    Here in Greece we would call this one tyropita (cheese pie). Thank you for sharing the history.

    • Mousti Turk says:

      If you fry bourekas interspersed with kasseri cheese , mashed boiled spinach or chard it will be delicious too .

    • Mousti Turk says:

      Bourekas’ sauce is prepared from mashed leaves of spinach , kasseri cheese , olive oil , a pinch of black pepper and thin slices of onion . Spinach’s borekas with kasseri cheese must be served hot !

  12. Nancy Greenblatt says:

    Hi,

    I love your website and recipes!!!

    Do you have a recipe for strudel? My late Mother made the best strudel in the world, but I never watched or helped her make it….my loss. I always thought my Mother was immortal so there was no reason to learn her wonderful baking and cooking skills….she would always be here to make it all for me. Sadly, I learned how foolish I was. She made the usual strudel filling (dried fruits, nuts, jam, coconut shreds, etc.) and also a marvelous apple strudel. I would love a recipe for either one, or both!

    • Bev says:

      here is my grandmas strudel recipe.. its a bit of work but worth it. we freeze them when done and share… it makes alot!

      GG’s Strudel
      • 4 c. flour
      • ½ c. oil
      • 4 egg yolks (2 whole eggs and 2 yolks)
      • ½ c. sugar
      • Pinch of salt
      • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
      • Warm water as needed

      Let stand 1 hour

      Or simply buy Phyllo dough

      Filling:
      2lb. jar apricot preserves
      2lb jar orange marmalade
      1 -small jar of pineapple preserves
      2 c. nuts – chopped pecans
      1 whole lemon grated
      Shredded coconut to taste
      Dried apricots to taste

      Cornflake crumbs as needed: add cinnamon and sugar
      Mix all the above well. Set aside. Take 4 inches of dough; roll on floured cloth until thin.
      OR follow the directions on the Phyllo dough instructions
      Brush with oil and sprinkle cinnamon, sugar and cornflake crumbs. Place filling on edge of dough, roll and cut. Place on well oiled pan and brush with oil. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Make slits in dough (about an 1 to 1 1-2inches apart) before baking. Repeat until the dough is gone. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

      Helpful hints.. work quickly when filling and rolling the dough. Do one roll at a time we always do with a friend it helps the work go faster.
      You can wrap well and freeze for a snack or a simcha!

    • Tori Avey says:

      Thanks for sharing Bev! Sounds delightful :)

  13. Rhona Steinfeld says:

    What exactly is kashkaval cheese, and where would I most likely find it?

  14. Pippa says:

    thanks for the recipe. I substituted the cheese for mashed potato and was also yummy.

  15. Mousti Turk says:

    It’s great to see that we like similar tastes of bourekas .

  16. Sarah Hibbard says:

    Dear Shiksa,
    I was just in Israel and love these. I also had something similar that was round with an olive inside. Do you know what that was? Because it was heaven.

  17. naomi says:

    does burka pastry dough a special kind of pastry or any pastry dough will work and come out flaky?

  18. Lori says:

    I just want to tell you that this recipe makes the best Borekas ever! My in-laws that are Israeli are amazed. No matter how many I make, 10,20,30 + they disappear within minutes. Thank you!

  19. Daniella says:

    This just in…never heard anything so ridiculous in my life!

  20. Yaron says:

    As with some of the other comments on here, I’ve not had Bourekas since leaving Israel either, and this recipe tasted exactly as I remembered them – so thanks!

    A couple of probably stupid questions:

    a) Why is there an egg in the cheese mixture? Would the cheese not bind as well on it’s own?

    b) What’s the egg yolk on the surface for other than for the sesame seeds to stick to?

    I just want to understand exactly what it is I’m doing with every process.

    Thanks again!

    • Tori Avey says:

      Yaron- the egg in the filling helps the filling to stay moist during baking. The egg on the surface helps the seeds stick, and it also gives the bourekas a more golden color and a lovely sheen. They would look a bit dry without it.

    • Yaron says:

      Brilliant, thanks for that.

  21. Bev Hoffman-Rush says:

    What is Kashkaval cheese?

  22. Bev Hoffman-Rush says:

    Thanks Tori, I din’t know of any kosher markets around Toledo anymore. I’m not sure of Middle Eastern ones either

    • Tori Avey says:

      If you can find a nice quality feta it will make a great sub, just make sure you don’t oversalt the filling– feta can be pretty salty. :)

  23. Bev Hoffman-Rush says:

    Thanks I will. Love feta

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