Vegan spanakopita – Greek spinach pie

Vegan spanakopita – Greek spinach pie

vegan spanakopita baked

Greece had us at ‘hello’! Both Duncan and myself had been to Greece a few times before we met, but I never visited any of the islands until we decided to do some low-key island hopping in the summer of 2012. We loved it so much that by the time we boarded the plane back we were plotting to sell up and move there. A year and a half later we did just that. We lived on the Greek island of Paros for four years. Although we decided to move back to the UK for a whole host of reasons, Greece still has a special place in our hearts. It gave us (especially me!) a completely new lease of life (Paros was where this blog was born) and provided a much needed reset and clarity on what we both want from life.

As it’s such a popular holiday destination, I bet heaps of you have been to Greece and, as it’s impossible not to, loved it! So I figured it’s time I veganised Greece’s national dish (no, not gyros or moussaka although I’ve tackled them both already 🙂 ). I am talking about an all round crowd pleaser – Greek spinach pie, to the initiated (i.e. the Greeks and Greek aficionados like myself) known as spanakopita!

Vegan spanakopita is delicious and quite easy to put together if you are lazy like me and use shop-bought phyllo pastry 😛 . I may attempt a homemade phyllo at some point, but now is not that time. Plus the instructions are already on the long side as I really want you to get it right and love it, so shop-bought pastry it is.

The filling is very easy to make, but one thing that is key is to make sure that your spinach is as dry as humanly possible. It may sound trivial, but spinach is a cunning beast. For starters, it’s well versed in the act of disappearance. You know that mountain of spinach you’ve got ready to go into a pan? It will melt to a meagre handful by the time it’s cooked. It always amazes me how much the rascal shrinks! It used to be even more heart-breaking when I used to live in Greece. The best spinach was to be found in bunches plucked straight out of the earth, complete with roots and soil, so if you wanted to make a spanakopita from scratch, you had to put half a day aside for spinach prep alone. Secondly, spinach is apt at retaining moisture so when you’ve thought to yourself ‘okay, that’s done. I’ve wrung it all out as much as I can…’ Give it another pass. I promise you some more water WILL come out.

But other than grappling with spinach, this recipe is easy as pie (coincidentally) so please do not think twice about trying it. For the filling you can either use tofu or almond feta. If you use tofu, a mixture of silken and pressed cotton (the difference between silken and cotton tofu is explained here) works best at mimicking feta. If you don’t want to use soya for whatever reason, no problem – you can use a simplified version of my almond feta by using the ingredients listed below and following the method explained in this recipe.

vegan spanakopita filling ingredients

vegan spanakopita filling pastry

vegan spanakopita nesting in tin

vegan spanakopita close up

vegan spanakopita cut up

vegan spanakopita cross section

makes
26 cm / 10"
PREP
45 min
COOKING
45 min
makes
26 cm / 10"
PREPARATION
45 min
COOKING
45 min
INGREDIENTS
OPTION 1 – TOFU ‘CHEESE’

  • 300 g / 10 oz firm or extra firm cotton tofu*, pressed
  • 100 g / 3 oz firm silken tofu (I use Clearspring), drained
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice

OPTION 2 – ALMOND ‘CHEESE’ (needs to be made a day ahead!)

  • 200 g / 2 cups flaked almonds
  • 6-7 tbsp lemon juice
  • 5-6 tbsp unsweetened almond (or soya) milk
  • 1 tsp salt

REMAINING INGREDIENTS

  • 600 g / 21 oz fresh spinach, rinsed well
  • 7 spring onions / scallions, sliced finely
  • 4 small garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • zest of 1-2 unwaxed lemons (I like 2)
  • 15 g / 0.5 oz fresh mint, leaves only – finely chopped
  • 15 g / 0.5 oz fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 15 g / 0.5 oz fresh flat leaf parsely, finely chopped
  • scant ½ tsp ground nutmeg, adjust to taste
  • scant ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste
  • 4 tbsp / ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 x 270 g / 9.5 oz vegan (a lot of them are!) phyllo pastry**, thawed in the fridge
  • quality olive oil
  • nigella or sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)

METHOD
‘CHEESE’

  1. If using the tofu option, crumble the cotton tofu into a large mixing bowl with a fork. Mix in the silken tofu. Season with a bit of salt and lemon juice – you can always add more later when you mix in the spinach.
  2. If using almond feta, it needs to be made a day ahead. I simplified the ingredients for this recipe as there are a lot of other flavours going on, but the method remains the same – please follow the method in this recipe. You will need to blend the feta mixture the day before and drain it overnight. You can bake it on the day you assemble the pie, but make sure you allow it to cool down before adding it to the filling mixture. Bake for about 75 minutes as it is a double portion.

FILLING

  1. Cook the spinach by either blanching it in batches for about 40 seconds and then plunging it into a bowl of ice-cold water (to stop it from cooking any further) or by sautéing it in a frying pan in a good splash of water.
  2. Once the spinach is cooked, allow it to cool down completely and then wring it dry (that’s very important as otherwise the pie will be soggy). I simply used my hands to squeeze all the water out of the spinach in small, palm-size batches. I am very diligent about it as spinach retains moisture like nothing else. Chop the spinach finely after it’s been wrung dry.
  3. Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan, gently stir-fry the spring onions and garlic until softened and fragrant. Cool them down before adding them to the filling.
  4. Mix the ‘cheese’ mixture, chopped dry spinach, lemon zest, mint, dill, parsley, nutmeg, black pepper, nutritional yeast, softened garlic and spring onions together in a large bowl. Mix them all really well with your hands. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as required.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Preheat the oven to 160° C fan / 320° F fan (or 180° C / 355° F without a fan, although I recommend using a fan if your oven has one – it helps to crisp the pastry up) and grease a round tin or a baking tray with a bit of olive oil. If you don’t have a tin the right size, do not worry, use a large baking tray – this pie is pretty self-contained.
  2. To assemble the pie, clear a large area of your work bench to make room for a long row of pastry sheets joined together. Keep the thawed pastry sheets protected by a damp kitchen towel so that they do not dry out and become brittle.
  3. Place a rectangle of pastry in front of you, making sure the longer side is parallel to you. Then place another rectangle to its right overlapping the ends by 5 cm / 2 “. Follow up with the third sheet arranged in the same manner. You should end up with a very long rectangle of pastry.
  4. Using a pastry brush, quickly grease the entire area with a bit (not too much) olive oil and double all the pastry sheets overlapping them in the same manner.
  5. Follow up with another layer of pastry (if you want and have enough pastry sheets, it’s not necessary).
  6. Brush the entire area with a little bit of oil again before arranging the filling on top.
  7. Put a long snake of filling along the longer edge of the pastry leaving a 5 cm / 2″ margin at the bottom. Try to make the filling amount the same everywhere. I weighed my entire filling (710 g / 25 oz) and then divided it into 5 (this recipe spans a total of 5 sheets wide of phyllo pastry to fill a 26 cm / 10″ diameter pie dish) 142 g / 5 oz portions.
  8. Starting from the bottom, gently roll the pastry into a long snake. Gently coil the snake, seam down, and place in the greased baking tin.
  9. Repeat steps 8-10 with the remaining pastry, but the second time round simply overlap two (not three) sheets of pastry side by side.
  10. Nest this new coil in the tin tucking its beginning onto the end of the first coil.
  11. Brush the pastry with some more olive oil and sprinkle with seeds for garnish.
  12. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until golden brown. Allow the pie to ‘set’ after baking before cutting into it. Store the leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days.

NOTES
*The difference between silken and cotton tofu is explained neatly here.

**I used Jus Roll Phyllo pastry. Each packet has 7 sheets of the following dimensions: 25 cm (10″) by 45 cm (18″). The sizes of pastry sheets vary depending on the brand, but you’ll still be able to use this recipe as guidance.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
361
18%
sugars
2 g
3%
fats
17 g
25%
saturates
2 g
11%
proteins
15 g
31%
carbs
39 g
15%
*per serving
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5.0
9 reviews, 31 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
Saloni:
I am so confused about the assembly. How many snakes do you make?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Saloni,
    I make one long snake (which is why the instructions say: clear a large area of your work bench to make room for a long row of pastry sheets joined together.), BUT if you don't have enough space to do that, you can always make 2-3 separate ones and join them together. Hope this helps! Ania
Sophie:
Can I use store bought vegan feta? I have the Follow your Heart brand and thought that might work, but don’t want to ruin it!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Sophie,
    If it's nut/seed-based as opposed to coconut-oil based, sure. If it's oil-based it will likely turn into a liquid mess after baking. Hope this helps! Ania
Viktoria:
I grew up in a traditional Bulgarian house where we grow up eating something similar to spanakopita but with feta cheese. When I made it my entire family and Bulgarian friends were very skeptical, however EVERYONE loved it! Highly recommend!
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm soooo happy to hear that Victoria! Delighted that my vegan spanakopita approximated your childhood food memories and even more so that it has won over your sceptical family and friends - thanks so much for taking the time to let me know, I really appreciate it. x Ania
Catherine:
I’ve wanted to cook this for sometime and I finally gave it a try today. We had this for dinner and it was so good!! I did the almond feta version and next time, I will do the tofu version… there will be a next time for sure! Absolutely love your recipes.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you so much, Catherine! I am so pleased to hear that you and your family enjoyed this recipe so much. And thank you for your kind words about my work in general - that really warms the cockles of my heart :) x Ania
    PS: I have since launched a simpler / less time consuming spanakopita recipe (link here) that you may enjoy also.
Andrea:
an awesome recipe which is a part of our regular meal planning . Love it
We have a very good vegan „ sheep“ cheese here which i use for filling
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Andrea! I'm delighted to hear that and so jealous of that 'cheese' - sounds great. x Ania
Tessa:
Noooooo, don't second guess yourself or this recipe! I've made it countless times by now and every time I do it brings me so much joy. I was just looking up the herbs I needed to pick up again (I don't make it during winter so I forgot) when I saw that reply and even though I never leave a comment, I felt like I had to. This recipe is so good I can only get 3 portions out of it and I eat the whole thing by myself.
I have to admit I'm too lazy to mash the tofu with a fork so I tend to put all the ingredients in my magimix and get the filling that way, and it is delicious.
Thank you for bringing spanakopita into my life, I'm pretty sure it will always be a favorite!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Aw, thanks so much for your kind words and reassurance, Tessa! I was pretty sure they got something wrong, but there was a little voice inside my head saying 'what if they are right and you suck at this'. I'm sure many people (women especially as we've been brought up in the culture of toxic patriarchy) can unfortunately relate. Thank you for taking the time to leave this lovely review - I appreciate it massively! x Ania
Adriana:
This is the best vegan spanakopita recipe that I have found! I have made other recipes that I thought were pretty good but my kids were not as enthused to thwe point where I stopped bothering altogether because it is unmotivating to make a dinner that does not cause your family joy. Then recently I decided to try again because I was really in the mood for spanakopita and I found this recipe. The flavour was perfection and the lovely spiral structure made for very satisfying texture for every bite. EVERYONE HAD THIRDS!!! I did not make a great effort to squeeze the water out of the spinach and it was still perfect. Excited to make it again tonight !
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm so delighted to hear that, Adriana! Especially that I recently got a very horrible message from someone who was hell bent on telling me how wrong this recipe is (the joys of the Internet!) and even though I knew better I started double guessing myself for a bit...So happy to hear that it was a hit with your entire family and that you plan to make again! And thank you so much for taking the time to leave this lovely review - really appreciated. Ania
Cece:
Beautiful recipe.
I haven't had spanakopita in years and this was so much better than I remember it being. The tofu filling is so good I made extra to have leftovers. Will definitely be making again.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you so much, Cece! I'm so chuffed to hear that you enjoyed my vegan take on spanakopita so much! And thanks so much for taking the time to review - much appreciated! x Ania
Sara:
Thank you so much for this recipe! Can't wait to try it? I see that in the list of ingredients there is nutritional yeast but this is not mentioned in the instructions - at what point is this added to the recipe?
Thanks, Sara
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Sara,
    It goes directly into the 'cheese mixture'. I will make it clearer in the instructions. Ania
Catherine:
The only tofu available to me are extra firm, firm, and silken. What do I use in place of cotton tofu?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Catherine,
    Tofu comes in two key varieties: cotton and silken, both of these could be extra firm, firm, medium...etc. - you get the gist. The difference is that cotton tofu is porous and can be pressed (it's sturdier than silken) and silken is silky smooth (of course), custardy and breaks up super easily. Silken tofu usually comes in a tetra pak. I hope this helps you choose the right one. Ania
Natalija:
Do you need to press the hard tofu before using be t in this recipe?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi,
    No, there is no need to press the tofu for this application. Hope that helps! Ania
Annie:
What do you use the yeast for in this recipe?
    Ania
    Ania:
    There is no need for yeast in this recipe. I am using shop-bought phyllo. Unless you are talking about nutritional yeast, which is just a type of seasoning - it gives the filling cheese-like flavour. Hope that helps! Ania
Jim Agals:
The dough part of the recipe seems tricky or complicated. Do you have a YouTube of you making this recipe. I think it might be easier to follow when I see you making it.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Jim,
    I've included some photos of the pastry work, which I was hoping may help with following the instructions. We do have a few YouTube videos (link here), but we don't have a video for this particular recipe, I am afraid. Ania
Amalia:
Wow this looks amazing!! Do you think I would need to change the baking time if I were to make the spanakopita flat instead of spiral? Thank you! :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Amalia,
    Possibly a touch, but not much. As the filling is essentially already cooked, just keep on checking up on the pastry. Once it's nice and browned, you are good to take it out, I think! Ania
Amy:
If I wanted to make this ahead by a day so I could bring it to my family, would you suggest I cook it through and just reheat it in the oven? Or should I chill/freeze it raw and then cook it when we're ready to eat? Thanks!!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Amy,
    Phyllo pastry is generally best baked fresh, but if you cannot do that I would say that probably the 1st option would be safer - I have never tried freezing it raw if it won't become too soggy for example. Hope you and your family will enjoy it! Ania
Cara:
What are the nutrition facts for this? Also how many servings does it yeild?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Cara,
    We don't provide nutrition info, I'm afraid. As for the servings, I would say about 8. Ania
Aliyah Sumar:
This looks amazing! Would you usually enjoy this on it's own? Or do you recommend this more as a side dish/with a side dish?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you. You could do either, have it on its own for lunch instead of a sandwich or serve it as one of many mezze plates to share!
Jenna:
Does using the tofu option give it a soft texture like tofu? I've never really been a fan of the texture of tofu and was wondering if I'll notice that texture or if it'll have more of a feta texture? Would you recommend the almond option for someone who dislikes tofu or no?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Jenna,
    It's hard for me to know what you mean as I used two different types of tofu here (mostly firm and fairly crumbly and a little bit if soft and creamy), but if you are not a fan of tofu, almond version would be safer to try for sure. Ania
Sarah:
This is absolutely beautiful and looks delicious. I am wondering, though, would it be worth trying to make this without the tofu or is it totally necessary for the filling to be spanakopita-y? Asking as a vegan who can't eat soy but desperately misses spanakopita :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Sarah,
    I totally understand and that is why I included homemade almond feta in the recipe too, it may seem like a lot of faff, but it's really not that time consuming to make - it just needs a lot of passive time to drain and bake. I think you do need some creaminess in the filling so if neither of these options works for you, perhaps cream some leeks with some blended cashews instead? Haven't tried, but I reckon it will be nice too! Hope that helps! Ania
Aibreàn:
What the Greeks call Spanakopita we the Macedonians call Zelnik (Zel - neek) and we have many different variations of ours. Ania you have done it again and have veganised my most favourite lunch, dinner and snack recipe from my childhood. My Baba (grandmother) would assemble all of her sisters, daughters, nieces, and granddaughters once a month at 5 a.m. to start making the phyllo pastry from scratch. I had the most important job she would always tell me because I had the melted butter that had to be sprinkled around on ever single layer before she would fold it all back together and stretch it again and again. It was the most buttery, delicate pastry she ever made. There were many different kinds of Zelnik pies made and about 4 or 5 per household for coming together. This was a family get together and at the end of the day the kitchen was filled with Zelnik goodness and a few pans of Baklava for our dessert, besides we have the phyllo pastry already made so why not? I still do this but seeing as I'm one person I have resorted to the vegan phyllo pastry from the store. Thank you for doing this dish for the people of the Baltic region. <3
    Ania
    Ania:
    OMG! That sounds divine! I would love to be a part of a gathering like that! My gran (babcia in Polish) was a similar type of committed to quality cook and I spent hours at her kitchen table watching her make all kinds of things with dough (mostly pierogi = Polish dumplings) and kołacz, which is something she grew up with in Lviv - your comment brought lots of nice food memories back to the surface. Thank you :) x Ania
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