What Is Spanakopita And What Does It Taste Like?

If you're not overly familiar with spanakopita, chances are you've had brushes with it at the grocery store or at parties. It tends to be a scrumptious appetizer that's easily served as bite-sized pockets. It's popular enough that you may be able to find pre-made versions, both as party foods and just as a frozen meal or snack, at your local grocery store. Simply put, this dish is a savory Greek pastry that is made with a delicious spinach filling and was popularized in the country under Byzantine rule (via Near Say).

Spanakopita is made with a crisp, paper-thin buttery flaked pastry called phyllo (also spelled "filo") dough, which is different from puff pastry. This dough is unleavened and hails from the Middle East. The savory pie is then filled with spinach. Traditional recipes include feta cheese, onions, and egg in the spinach filling, too (via Jo Cooks). Other Greek "pitas" like tiropita, patatopita, and kreatopita are all phyllo pies with other fillings like cheese and egg, potatoes, or meat, respectively (via The Kitchn).

There are other very similar-sounding pastries in places near Greece that were once under the rule of the Ottoman Turks (via Rakija Lounge). Found in Balkan countries like Croatia (via Chasing the Donkey), for instance, these alternate spanakopita-like pastries are known as burek. They are filled with anything number of things ranging from spinach and cheese to meat to sweet fillings.

The flavor of spanakopita is influenced by herbs

Spanakopita has something of a buttery, earthy, and wholesome-tasting flavor thanks to its flaky pastry and thick spinach filling. The salty feta can add a briny complexity to the taste, too, according to The Kitchn. It frequently contains fresh oregano and dill among other herbs, lemon, and scallions. But just as the specifics of the dish can vary by nation, spanakopita can be adjusted to suit the tastes of an individual cook. Instead of the scallions, someone might incorporate leeks or maybe tinker with various Greek cheeses (via Near Say). 

Any ingredient substitutions or herbs or that are added can also strongly impact the flavor of the simple feta and spinach mixture held together by egg. That means if you find a mild onion flavor or herbal flavors off-putting, you might want to stick to more traditional recipes. Otherwise, you can always read the ingredient list to see what is included in pre-made spanakopita.