Filo or phyllo pastry is a delicate, thin pastry that is common in Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Balkan cuisine, with its most popular application being the baklava and börek.
Like most filo-based pastries, they’re prepared by layering many sheets of filo (brushed with oil or butter) before being baked.
The origin of the practice of stretching the raw dough into paper-thin sheets is murky, and thus you have many cultures attempting to claim the credit, but the truth seems to lie between the Greeks and the Turks, at least based on ancient historical records.
How Is Filo Pastry Made?
Filo dough is made with flour, water, and a small amount of oil. Attempting to make this type of dough at home takes skill and it’s certainly time-intensive because it requires progressive rolling and stretching until you’re left with a single thin and very large sheet.
Usually, a large table is used, preferably one made out of marble and with a flat surface. If you’re stretching the dough by hand, it will require a long, thin rolling pin, and the dough needs continuous flouring to prevent it from sticking to the surface.
Another alternative would be to use a mechanical roller, but since most people won’t have one ready at home, the most convenient option is the rolling pin. A good way to test whether the dough is thin enough is to try reading a newspaper through the pastry.
If you’re planning to use the filo dough to make a pastry, there’s the additional step of brushing it with oil or sometimes melted butter for some desserts, and stacking each layer on top of one another.
Is Filo Pastry Vegan?
Fortunately, filo pastry is generally suitable for vegans as it’s usually made with flour, water, and brushed with oil, however, some recipes might call for ingredients such as egg, butter, or ghee, which are not vegan, so it’s worth checking the ingredients before buying any commercial filo pastry.
Most filo-based dishes I’ve researched, however, usually contain some kind of animal ingredient, for instance, the most popular ones like baklava (not always) and börek typically contain ingredients such as honey, meat, and cheese. In other words, the dough might not have any animal ingredients, but the filling will have some.
Homemade Vegan Filo Pastry Recipes
If you’re vegan and want to create a homemade vegan filo pastry recipe, there are a few recipes I would love to recommend:
Vegan Spinach Filo Pie
This recipe by BBC food is relatively easy and quick to make, in fact, according to the author, it can take from 30 minutes to 1 hour to make.
It’s crispy spinach pie (akin to a Spanakopita) and It will require ingredients such as tofu, pine nuts, spinach, breadcrumbs, lemon, and a few condiments that you’re able to find in any grocery store.
This recipe by Veggies Don’t Bite attempts to create the authentic Green recipe (spanakopita) by using spinach, scallions, and a vegan alternative to feta cheese.
According to the author, this recipe takes 30 minutes to prepare and 1h10mins of cooking time, so it takes a while longer than the previous recipe.
Vegan Crispy Mushroom Bites
This recipe by Food by Maria was also inspired by the authentic Greek recipe (Spanakopita), but the author gave it a tweak by using mushrooms instead of spinach.
Unlike the previous recipes, this one takes 15 minutes to prepare and 35 minutes to cook, so it’s definitely one that you ought to try if you have a bit of time on your hands.
Filo pastry is typically suitable for vegans because it’s only made of dough, water, and a bit of oil, but some recipes may call for animal-based ingredients such as egg, butter, or ghee.
So, whilst most commercially sold filo pastries don’t have any animal ingredients, you should still check their label just to make sure.