Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vegan Spinach Pie (Spanakopita)

We love the cheese and spinach version (see it here) almost as much as this one without cheese. The crisp crunch of the phyllo contrasts perfectly with the softer cooked spinach and onions all set off with a hint of lemon and dill for a punch of fresh. These are even better rolled into individual-sized pies so they so they can be eaten by hand, which is just about the best way to eat phyllo.

Serve spanakopita warm, but not hot out of the oven, since the spinach is more flavorful closer to room temperature. It is terrific cold too but the phyllo loses its crunch once stored in the refrigerator. However, leftovers will crisp up in just 5-10 minutes in a 400-degree oven, and since the spinach is better if it isn't too hot, no need to cook it through again. At our house spanakopita is impossible to resist directly from the refrigerator and since this version has less fat than the cheese version, it is a terrific way to start the day.

This recipe makes twelve spinach rolls which are a healthy serving size, both in quantity and nutritious value. If the full recipe is too many, don't worry spanakopita freezes well, so make these ahead and prior to the final baking freeze them on a cookie sheet and place in freezer bags for individual servings that can be devoured later.

Fresh spinach can be cost prohibitive, nearly double what we pay for frozen, so use what works for your budget. The reason that I prefer fresh is that squeezing out cold wet spinach to get that excess moisture removed is yucky and frigid, but I now have a new technique. I purchase un-chopped or whole leaf frozen spinach and run it under cold water in a strainer to thaw it in minutes. Once it is no longer hand numbing-ly cold I simply let the water run off and then press it against the sides of the colander to remove the water, since the leaves are uncut, they don't escape through the holes. I run the water (put the colander in a bowl and run the water very low, it needs only the energy of the moving water to thaw) while I prepare all the rest of the ingredients so it takes far less planning ahead than what is needed if the spinach thaws in the refrigerator. I always use the food processor for this recipe so once everything else is prepared I throw the spinach in too just to break it up a bit.


2 lbs frozen spinach or 3 lbs fresh spinach
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, rough cut
8 green onions
2 medium-sized leeks
1 bunch Italian leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried dill
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lemon juice (approximately one lemon's worth)
black pepper to taste
1 lb phyllo dough
1/4 cup margarine (or butter)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup club soda

Spinach orientation
  1. Heat oven to 400-degrees.
  2. If using fresh spinach, sprinkle with salt and allow to sit while preparing other ingredients. When ready to use, squeeze out any moisture drawn out by the salt. Frozen spinach should be thawed and all the excess moisture pressed/squeezed out (see note above, pressing against the sides of a colander works great to remove the water.)
  3. In a large skillet heat 1/3 cup olive oil over medium heat, saute onions just until transparent, toss with the leeks and turn off heat and allow to cool a few minutes.
  4. In the bowl of the food processor combine onions, leeks, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice and dill, pulse to mince.  Add spinach and pulse until the spinach is chopped and the mixture is evenly combined.  Taste and salt as needed.
  5. Heat the oil and margarine in a sauce pan to melt. Brush the bottom of a cookie sheet. 
  6. Using a pastry brush, brush one sheet of phyllo with a thin layer of oil. Layer two more sheets on top, brushing each with oil in the same manner. Place 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture in the middle bottom portion. Fold the outside edges over the spinach and roll up. Place each roll on the cookie sheet seam side down. 
  7. Continue rolling spinach pies until all spinach is used. Use the remaining oil to brush the rolls before placing in the oven. 
  8. Bake for 15 minutes at 400-degrees, remove from the oven and pour the club soda over the rolls. Return to the oven and bake another 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. 
  9. Allow to cool 15-20 minutes before serving or eat cold. 


  1. How it is vegan with butter?

  2. It wouldn't be, but I'm not really vegan, I just cook that way sometimes. I prefer butter over margarine to be honest, so if you don't follow a special diet I suggest using butter. If however you eat a strict vegan diet, well then I suspect you know that butter does not fit within those limitations. Since I have a tab at the top dedicated to bacon, I think it is pretty clear that I'm not in that camp (but I cook that way about half the year.)

  3. there are vegan butters.