Lebanese Spinach Pie: (Fatayer) Recipe
Mar 22, 2012, Updated May 09, 2023
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Lebanese spinach pies, or fatayer, are savory little pockets of dough stuffed with a flavorful spinach filling. Fatayer are shaped into adorable triangles and baked to golden brown.
Lebanese spinach pies, or fatayer, are among those special foods that send us into total reverie, perhaps one of the finest bites in the Middle East! The Greeks give us their Spanakopita spinach pie that includes feta and phyllo dough, while Lebanese spinach pies are made with thin, tender bread dough that is stuffed with spinach and onion and shaped into small hand pies.
What is Lebanese Spinach Pie (Fatayer)?
Most every cuisine has their own version of a savory hand pie. For the Lebanese and many throughout the Middle East, our spinach pie is called fatayer (pronounced fuh-tie-uh). The dough is easy to work with, and the filling is a mouthwatering blend of spinach, onion and lemon. These golden little triangle-shaped pies are about 3 inches in size. Fatayer are a delicious part of Lebanese Mezze, small bites to enjoy before a meal or as their own little meal with a drink. It’s amazing if any of the fatayer last from just out of the oven to wherever the baker’s destination for them might be. They are that delicious! You want to eat them ALL and fight over who gets the last warm fatayer, from the moment they are pulled from the oven.
The shapes and sizes of fatayer may vary with every cook. The smallest fatayer I have seen were teeny, tiny little bites as part of a passed appetizer cocktail hour at my brother’s wedding. Knowing how challenging it can be to shape fatayer, this was an amazing feat, these tiny bite-sized triangles! The largest fatayer my cousin Jim makes, the size of a man’s hand, beautiful and wow, so easy to eat the whole big fatayer in one fell swoop….
My fatayer successes and failures (oh yes) all inform my best recipe for Lebanese Spinach Pie success. The dough recipe here takes just one rise (rather than the typical double-rise of the dough ball), rolls with ease, and results in a tender envelope for the filling. Follow my tips and methods for the most beautiful, delicious spinach pies, soon to come out of your oven too!
How to make Spinach Fatayer
Step 1: Make the dough. The dough needs about 90 minutes to rise, so start this first. Make the basic dough mixture in a stand mixer with the hook attachment or by hand. Kneading the dough by hand takes longer because the dough is sticky.
Step 2. Make the spinach filling. Our goal in mixing the filling is to remove as much juice as possible, creating a dry mixture that won’t release the juices that can cause fatayer seams to split.
Step 3. Roll out the dough. Once the dough is doubled in size, roll half of the dough ball out on the counter. Carefully lift the dough off the counter to allow the dough to contract. Roll again and lift again, then a final roll will do it to keep the dough nice and thin.
Step 4. Cut the dough in circles. Use a 3- to 4-inch round cutter. Cutting the dough circles is similar to making cut-out cookies.
Step 5. Fill the fatayer. Fill each circle with a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each round. Be careful not to let the filling touch the edges of the dough where it will be gathered and pinched closed.
Step 6: Shape the triangles. Bring three sides of the dough circle together in the center, up over the filling, and pinch into a triangle. Pinch the dough firmly, shaping as you go. Place the fatayer on a baking sheet (you’ll need two, lined with parchment paper or foil) as you finish each one. When they are all shaped, go back and pinch the seams on each fatayer again!
Step 7: Bake the fatayer in a 375° F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
What You’ll Need to Make This Lebanese Spinach Pie – (Spinach Fatayer) – Recipe
What You’ll Need for the Dough
Active dry yeast
Sugar, just a touch to encourage the yeast
Neutral oil, such as canola, avocado, or safflower oil. Look for expeller-pressed when purchasing seed oils like these, which means chemicals are not used to extract the oil
Extra virgin olive oil, to coat the pies before baking
How to Fold the Dough
To shape the dough for fatayer, be sure that the filling placed in the center of each flat round of dough does not touch the edges. That juice can keep the seams from staying closed.
Pull the dough up from the edge in three places at once, bringing those three points together above the filling. Stretch the dough to get there as needed.
Pinch the three points together very firmly. Then pinch the three seams from the center, firmly, to form the triangle.
Once all of the fatayer are shaped, go back and pinch the seams one more time. This is your insurance policy to get the seams to stay closed!
What You’ll Need for the Filling
Spinach. Fresh or frozen chopped spinach (my preference is frozen chopped)
Yellow onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice or lemon crystals
Cinnamon or allspice
Toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts
If using fresh spinach, sprinkle with salt in a bowl. Set aside to macerate (get the juices flowing) for 10 minutes, then squeeze the spinach to release as much juice as possible. Discard the juice.
If using frozen spinach, thaw and squeeze out as much juice as possible, and discard juice.
Tips for Making the best Lebanese Spinach Pies
Don’t overproof the dough. We are working to keep the dough thin and tender rather than puffy and bready. This is why the dough rises just one time, taking care not to let the dough rise more than double in size.
Work swiftly when rolling and filling the pies. We do this for two reasons: the longer the dough sits, the more it will continue to rise. And, the longer the dough is exposed to air, the dryer it becomes. The dough seals better and stays closed when it is sticky during the process, not dry.
Substitute sumac for lemon juice. Some fatayer recipes call for Middle Eastern ground sumac in place of lemon juice in the spinach mixture. Sumac has a citrus-y flavor and doesn’t introduce more liquid to the filling; this reduces the juices that can cause the fatayer seams to open during baking.
Cook the spinach in a dry skillet. This is another way to evaporate the moisture in the spinach, by “cooking” it. Add the spinach to a dry skillet over medium heat and sauté until dry. Cool completely, about 30 minutes, before proceeding.
Fold the dough rather than pinching three seams. This is an alternative to the traditional fatayer triangle shape. Simply fold up the sides of the dough round (that has filling atop) three ways, laying the dough up over the filling and over each of the prior folds, to create a closed pocket.
Use frozen bread dough as a substitute for homemade. Many a baker substitutes the homemade dough with frozen dough balls. Thaw the dough, allow it to rise to double in size, then roll each ball into a flat round and proceed. Frozen dough yields more bread-like fatayer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fatayer freezes really well. Bake and cool completely, then freeze the pies in zip top freezer bags or airtight containers for up to six months. Reheat in a low oven until warmed through.
These little pies taste so good all on their own, but do include them as an appetizer with yogurt dipping sauce, hummus, or Lebanese baba gannouj. They make a great lunch with a side salad. The pies are also right at home with any Lebanese or Middle Eastern spread, such as grilled chicken shawarma, Lebanese grilled kafta, Lebanese baked kibbeh and so many other dishes. Fatayer is especially popular and delicious at brunch.
Greek spinach pie is spanakopita, a savory phyllo pastry with spinach and feta cheese filling. Lebanese spinach pie is fatayer, a yeast dough stuffed with lemony spinach and onion filling.
Fatayer is Arabic and pronounced: fuh-TIE-uh. The “r” at the end of the word is essentially silent.
The Arabic for bread is khubz (cubz), also transliterated to khubez, khoubz, khubooz.
There are many wonderful versions of fatayer that are traditional: spinach, seasoned lamb or beef, and cheese. Experiment on your own too, to enjoy lots of fatayer flavors! Try Feta and Kale fatayer, for example.
Lebanese Spinach Pies (Fatayer)
For the dough:
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the spinach filling:
- 8 cups fresh spinach, OR 2 lbs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
- 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts, toasted
Make the dough:
- Proof the yeast by dissolving it in ¼ cup of the warm water with the sugar and letting it activate for about 10 minutes.
- Whisk together the flour and salt in a mixer bowl or medium bowl. Create a well in the center and add the oil and proofed yeast mixture. Using a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment or by hand, slowly work the wet ingredients into the dry, adding 1/2 cup of water slowly. Add more of the water only as necessary to create a sticky dough.
- Knead by hand or with the dough hook in the mixer until the dough is very soft, smooth, and tacky/sticky to the touch (but it should not leave dough on your fingers when touched). The kneading by hand can be awkward at first because it’s such a wet mess, but as you knead, the dough will firm up a bit and absorb all of the water.
- In a clean bowl at least twice the size of the dough, lightly coat the dough and the sides of the bowl with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 90 minutes. Take care not to overproof the dough.
Make the fatayer:
- If using fresh spinach, sprinkle with the salt in a medium bowl. Set aside to macerate for 10 minutes, then squeeze the spinach of as much juice as possible. Discard juice. If using frozen spinach, squeeze as much juice as possible, and discard juice.
- Combine the spinach and onion. Just before filling the pastry, add cinnamon or allspice, pepper, and lemon juice. If using frozen spinach, add salt (fresh has already been salted to remove the juice). Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
- Roll half of the dough out on a dry work surface to 1/8-inch thickness (see how here). Gently lift the dough from the edges to allow for contraction. Cut dough into 4-inch rounds. Cover with plastic wrap. Knead together the scraps, cover with plastic, and set aside.
- Fill the rounds of dough by placing a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each round. Be careful not to let the filling touch the edges of the dough where it will be gathered together and closed. A good way to keep the filling in the center is to lower the spoon with the filling over the center of the dough (parallel to it) and use your fingers to slide the filling off the spoon and into the center of the dough circle. Place three nuts on top of the filling; this method works better than adding the nuts to the filling because it’s easier to be sure each fatayar has enough nuts.
- Bring three sides of the dough together in the center over the filling and pinch into a triangle. Close the dough firmly.
- Place the fatayer on the baking sheets, pinch the seams again, and generously brush or spray the dough with olive oil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Set the oven on convection bake for the last 5 minutes of baking to encourage browning.
- Repeat the process with the other half of the dough, then with the scraps that have been kneaded together and left to rest for a few minutes before rolling out.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.