Albanian Byrek Recipe - Delicious Vegetarian Dish

Albanian Byrek

Albanian Byrek Recipe - Delicious Vegetarian Dish
Region / culture: Albania | Preparation time: 1 hour | Cooking time: 30 minutes | Servings: 6 | Vegetarian diet


Albanian Byrek
Albanian Byrek

Albanian Byrek is a traditional savory pie that has been a staple in Albanian cuisine for centuries. This delicious dish is versatile and can be made with a variety of fillings, including spinach, meat, and cheese. The recipe provided here focuses on a spinach and feta cheese filling, encased in layers of thin, flaky dough. Byrek is not only a beloved comfort food but also a symbol of Albanian hospitality and family gatherings. Whether you're an experienced cook or trying your hand at Albanian cuisine for the first time, this recipe will guide you through making a perfect Byrek that's sure to impress.


The origins of Byrek can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, making it a dish with a rich history that spans several centuries and cultures. It is believed that the concept of layering dough with various fillings was an innovative way to create a hearty meal that could be easily shared and enjoyed by many. Over time, Byrek spread across the Balkans and evolved into different variations, reflecting the local ingredients and tastes of each region. In Albania, Byrek became a beloved national dish, with each family passing down their own version of the recipe from generation to generation.


How to prepare

  1. Prepare the dough by combining flour, 1 and a half cups of cold water, 1 spoon of oil, and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix well until the dough reaches a medium consistency.
  2. Press and mix the dough thoroughly, then divide it into two equal-sized pieces. Divide each piece into 10-12 ball-shaped pieces.
  3. Roll out the dough balls into well-shaped circles, similar in size to a plate. Layer the circle-shaped dough on top of each other to form two large pies.
  4. Brush each pie with melted butter and let it rest for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, wash a bowl of spinach, thinly slice it, and add salt. Let it sit in the salt for about 15-20 minutes, then squeeze out any excess liquid.
  6. Combine the spinach, dock or sorrel, half to 1 cup of yogurt, and 2-3 eggs.
  7. Crumble feta cheese and add it to the spinach mixture. Grease a baking pan with melted butter.
  8. Take one of the dough pies and spread it evenly to cover the entire pan. Gently pull up the edges and brush with melted butter. Spread the spinach mixture evenly on top.
  9. Place the second dough pie on top of the spinach mixture.
  10. If using ready-made phyllo dough, sprinkle butter and separate it into 3 parts.
  11. After laying down the first part, add the spinach mixture.
  12. Add the second part of the phyllo dough and add the spinach mixture.
  13. Finally, add the remaining phyllo dough in layers, brushing melted butter in between each layer.
  14. Cut the byrek into square slices, sprinkle with melted butter, and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (191°C) until cooked.
  15. Serve the byrek hot, accompanied by yogurt.


  • 1. Meat Byrek: Replace the spinach with ground beef or lamb, cooked with onions and spices.
  • 2. Cheese Byrek: Use a mixture of different cheeses, such as ricotta and mozzarella, for a different flavor profile.
  • 3. Potato Byrek: Fill the Byrek with a mixture of mashed potatoes, onions, and herbs for a hearty vegetarian option.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

1. When making the dough from scratch, ensure the water is lukewarm to activate the gluten, making the dough easier to work with.

2. Resting the dough is crucial for developing the texture and making it more pliable.

3. Squeezing the excess liquid from the spinach will prevent the Byrek from becoming soggy.

4. Brushing each layer of dough with melted butter helps create flaky layers in the final dish.

5. Cutting the Byrek before baking allows steam to escape, preventing the layers from becoming too moist.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the Byrek hot, accompanied by a side of plain yogurt or a fresh salad. For a complete meal, consider adding a protein source such as grilled chicken or fish for those who desire a bit more substance.

Cooking Techniques

The traditional technique involves layering homemade dough with the filling, but using ready-made phyllo dough is a convenient alternative that saves time without compromising on taste.

Ingredient Substitutions

1. Gluten-free flour can be used for a gluten-free version of the dough.

2. Vegan cheese and plant-based yogurt can replace dairy products for a vegan Byrek.

3. Swiss chard or kale can be used instead of spinach for a variation in greens.

Make Ahead Tips

The Byrek can be assembled a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to bake. This allows the flavors to meld together and can save time on busy days.

Presentation Ideas

Serve the Byrek cut into neat squares or triangles on a platter, garnished with fresh herbs or a sprinkle of paprika for color and flavor.

Pairing Recommendations

A light, crisp white wine or a cold beer pairs beautifully with the rich flavors of the Byrek. For a non-alcoholic option, try a sparkling water with lemon to refresh the palate.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store leftover Byrek in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until warm throughout, to maintain the crispiness of the dough.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A typical serving of Albanian Byrek contains approximately 300-400 calories. The exact number depends on the size of the portion and the specific ingredients used, such as the type of cheese and dough.


A serving of Albanian Byrek primarily provides carbohydrates from the flour used in the dough. Each serving contains approximately 30-40 grams of carbohydrates, making it a good source of energy. The exact amount may vary depending on the type of flour used and the size of the serving.


The fats in this Byrek recipe come from the oil, butter, and feta cheese. A single serving contains roughly 15-20 grams of fat, with a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats. Using low-fat yogurt and feta cheese can help reduce the total fat content.


Proteins in this Byrek are provided by the eggs, yogurt, and feta cheese. Each serving offers about 10-15 grams of protein, essential for muscle repair and growth. The quality of protein is high, thanks to the presence of all essential amino acids.

Vitamins and minerals

Spinach, the main vegetable ingredient, is a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like iron and magnesium. Feta cheese adds calcium, and eggs contribute vitamins D and B12, making Byrek a nutritious meal option.


Common allergens in this Byrek recipe include gluten (from the flour), dairy (from the yogurt and feta cheese), and eggs. Individuals with allergies to these ingredients should exercise caution or seek alternative recipes.


Albanian Byrek is a balanced meal that provides carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals. It's a hearty dish that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, with attention to portion sizes and potential allergens.


Albanian Byrek is a versatile and delicious dish that embodies the rich culinary traditions of Albania. With its flaky dough, savory filling, and nutritious ingredients, it's a satisfying meal that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Whether you stick to the traditional spinach and feta filling or experiment with your own variations, Byrek is sure to become a favorite in your recipe collection.

How did I get this recipe?

The memory of finding this recipe for the first time brings a smile to my face. It was many years ago, during a trip to Albania with my dear friend Sofia. We were wandering through the bustling markets of Tirana when we stumbled upon a small, unassuming bakery tucked away in a corner. The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted through the air, drawing us in like a siren's call.

As we approached the bakery, we were greeted by the warm smile of an elderly woman who introduced herself as Mama Maria. She had a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous grin that instantly endeared her to us. Mama Maria was a master baker, renowned throughout the city for her delicious Byrek. She invited us into her kitchen, where she showed us how to make the traditional Albanian dish from scratch.

The process was labor-intensive, but Mama Maria's passion and expertise made it seem effortless. She started by making the dough, a simple mixture of flour, water, and salt. As she kneaded the dough with practiced hands, she regaled us with stories of her youth and the history of Byrek in Albania. I listened intently, soaking up every word like a sponge.

Once the dough was ready, Mama Maria rolled it out into a thin, delicate sheet. She then filled it with a savory mixture of spinach, feta cheese, and herbs, before folding it into a neat parcel. The final touch was a generous brushing of olive oil, which added a golden sheen to the pastry.

As the Byrek baked in the oven, filling the kitchen with its tantalizing scent, Mama Maria shared her secret ingredient - love. She explained that the key to a truly delicious Byrek was to infuse it with love and care, just as she had done for generations.

When the Byrek emerged from the oven, golden and bubbling, Mama Maria sliced it into generous portions and served it to us on a platter. The first bite was a revelation - the crispy, flaky pastry melted in my mouth, giving way to a rich, savory filling that danced on my taste buds. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted before, a perfect blend of flavors and textures that left me craving more.

Sofia and I spent the rest of the afternoon in Mama Maria's kitchen, learning the intricacies of making Byrek. We took copious notes, asking questions and soaking up every detail like eager students. By the time we left, our heads were spinning with new knowledge and our hearts full of gratitude for Mama Maria's generosity.

Back home, I couldn't wait to recreate Mama Maria's Byrek in my own kitchen. I gathered the ingredients, rolled up my sleeves, and set to work. As I kneaded the dough and filled it with spinach and feta, I felt Mama Maria's spirit guiding me every step of the way. When the Byrek emerged from the oven, golden and fragrant, I knew I had succeeded.

Since that fateful day in Albania, Byrek has become a staple in my household. I make it for special occasions, family gatherings, and lazy Sunday mornings. Each time I take a bite, I am transported back to Mama Maria's kitchen, surrounded by the warmth and love of that magical day.

As I write this recipe down for future generations, I can't help but feel a sense of pride and nostalgia. The journey to learning how to make Albanian Byrek has been filled with laughter, friendship, and culinary delight. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Mama Maria's Byrek will always hold a special place in my heart, a reminder of the power of food to bring people together and create lasting memories.


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