All Kinds of Greek Pies: The Variety of Delicious Pitas
Aug 30, 2020
When you think of pie, you probably picture a pie crust with a dense fruit filling and a lattice crust pattern glistening with egg wash. And, let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a delicious fruit pie. But Greek pies take an entirely different approach. It’s almost a misnomer to use the word pie to describe them, but it’s the most convenient.
Much like they are in the US, pies in Greece are a cultural statement, and different parts of the country are proudly represented in the prevalent varieties of pie available in the area. In this article, we’re taking you on a tour of Greece with pies as your guide. You’ll learn about the history of pies in Greece and some of the many kinds of pies in Greece.
Greek Pie – A Brief History
Wheat has been one of the primary sources of nutrition in Greece for as long as it has existed and pies are one of the main applications of wheat. It’s interesting to imagine an ancient Hellenic senator sitting down to eat a pie after a symposium. The same sort of pie that’s still eaten across Greece today.
However, Greek pies are a little different than those typical dessert pies you may be used to. In Greece, pies (known as pitas in Greek) are both savory and sweet, and they’re made with delicate phyllo dough rather than a thick crust. Usually, a pita consists of phyllo dough either wrapped around a filling or layered around it.
Depending on how it’s made, phyllo in Greece can be either airy, crispy, and light or dense and chewy. And the filling for the pies can be just about anything.
Along with wheat, Greece is replete with dairy production. Cheese and various milk products form a large part of the daily consumption. As a result, some form of cheese or dairy often makes its way into pitas accompanied by herbs.
Eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, pitas rise to the occasion in almost any circumstance. They can be appetizers, main courses, or desserts. The main appeal of pitas is that they’re filling, delicious, and easy to make.
A-List of Greek Pastries That Will Make Your Mouth Water
With that brief introduction out of the way, let’s take a look at some traditional pitas. And we’re starting with the most basic one of all, the cheese pita, or tiropita.
The queen of Greek pies, tiropita, is the most popular type of pita in Greece and one of our bestsellers at Lemon and Vine. If you ever visit the Grecian peninsula, don’t even think about leaving without trying a traditional tiropita. It’s often eaten for breakfast, but it’s not uncommon to have it any time of day.
With few exceptions, tiropita is made with feta cheese. However, it’s also common to mix in other types of cheese, such as ricotta or a kind of cottage cheese. Feta is extremely rich and quite salty, so a milder cheese serves to balance it out.
You can find the flaky goodness of tiropita in triangle form or layered in a pie baking dish and served as squares.
Almost as popular as tiropita, spanakopita is only slightly different in that it includes spinach. Feta with spinach is a match made in heaven. While the pita bakes, the spinach wilts and loses its earthy bite. As a result, it only adds to the creaminess and moisture of the filling.
Spanakopita is, arguably, one of the most popular Greek foods outside of Greece. You can routinely find it in supermarket freezer aisles across the country and even buy spanakopita on-line.
That popularity is well deserved. It’s a fantastic side dish for most meals and a great way to start your day if you’re on the run.
Sfakianopita is a Cretan specialty and a sharp departure from the phyllo-based pies that are common around the rest of Greece. An unleavened dough, briefly cooked in a hot pan, serves as a base.
In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of Middle-eastern flatbread. Unlike flatbread, cheese is mixed into the dough to make sfakianopita. Once the dough is prepared, bakers add feta cheese and knead it evenly into the pita. After it’s cooked, they top it with pine nuts, cinnamon, and honey.
There are also versions without the honey and cinnamon, and sfakianompita can be either a savory side dish or a light dessert.
This delicious treat originates from Cephalonia, one of the islands in the Ionian Sea. It’s a meat pie and one of the heartiest meals you’ll have in Greece. Traditionally, Hellenes use ground or cubed beef to make Kreatopita. But ground pork is not unheard of and lamb is also common.
Be warned, this pita is serious business. The filling is rich and luscious. Even a single slice is filling and gratifying to a degree you won’t get with a cheese pita. If you ever want to make a Kreatopita yourself, it’s not all that difficult, but don’t skimp on the spices. A variety of herbs and spices is crucial to achieving the nuanced flavor of a kreatopita.
In the interest of fairness, we should highlight a few of the sweet pitas available in Greece as well. And one of the most scrumptious is the bougatsa.
Bougatsa is a custard pie made with layered phyllo. The custard is light and creamy, rather than dense, to make the pie an ideal dessert after a full meal.
Making a bougatsa is simplicity itself. You start with a standard custard made with a small amount of flour, typically semolina. Then just layer a few sheets of phyllo, a layer of custard, and top with more phyllo. After it’s baked, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon, and serve.
Galatopita is a milk pie, and in fact, the word means “milk pie” in Greek. It’s the most similar to a typical pie we’re familiar with stateside. The big difference here is that instead of a crust, the bottom layer is made of ground walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar.
Of course, there’s still room for phyllo. For the crust, single sheets of phyllo with thin layers of the walnut mixture give it the structure to serve the pie in slices.
A milk custard is the filling and once it’s baked, creates something that resembles a cheesecake. But you’ll have trouble finding a cheesecake this delectable and appetizing.
A Pita By Any Other Name
Let’s be clear. This is just a small sample of the hundreds of pie varieties in Greece. If you want to experience the breadth and wealth of pies in the area, nothing short of a trip to the land of the endless summer will do.
Nothing short of that, except… you can get the next best thing with one of our delectable Greek appetizers and entrees. You can order online from our site right now and be enjoying your Lemon & Vine authentic favorites before you know it.
We’re passionate about Greek food. But we’re even more passionate about sharing it. We’d love to hear about your favorite Greek pies, and if you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer them. Use the contact form on this site right now to get in touch!
Until next time,