From syrupy sweet baklava to rich and cheesy spanakopita, thin, flaky, and crisp phyllo layers are the star element in some of our favorite pastries and savory bakes.
Flavor and Appearance
Filo or phyllo is subtle and buttery in flavor, consisting of delicate sheets of dough, layered and baked to crispy, flaky, golden-brown perfection. Due to their papery thinness, the phyllo layers typically have a gently wrinkled appearance reminiscent of leaves. Unsurprisingly, the name filo translates to “leaf” in Greek.
How is Phyllo Made?
Phyllo dough is typically made with flour, water, and oil. To create the crispy thin layers we love, the dough is rolled and stretched into tissue-thin sheets that are then stacked, usually with a bit of oil or butter brushed between each layer, to make a crunchy and flaky pastry dough.
Uses for Phyllo
Greek, Balkan, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines all use phyllo for both savory and sweet dishes. Some of the most popular uses for phyllo are in baklava, a sweet Turkish dessert made with phyllo, chopped nuts, and sugar syrup or honey; spanakopita, an herbaceous and cheesy spinach pie from Greece; and Indian samosa, a savory phyllo triangle stuffed with spiced vegetable or meat filling.
Look to the different flavor and texture components of these dishes when experimenting with phyllo. Crisp phyllo can add a wonderful textural contrast to soft and hearty fillings or create vibrant layers of crunch when paired with nuts and seeds.
Phyllo vs. Puff Pastry
Puff pastry and phyllo are often confused for one another due to their similar textures. However, though the two are both used to create crisp and flaky layers in baking, they can’t be used interchangeably. Phyllo is made from multiple layers of paper-thin dough brushed with a little melted butter for a crackling crispness that stays light. Puff pastry, meanwhile, is dough that’s rolled with solid butter and folded over itself repeatedly to create a buttery crunch. Which of the two you use is dependent on the taste and mouthfeel you’re trying to develop. Phyllo’s mild flavor and elegant texture balance out rich or hearty fillings while buttery puff pastry pairs well with tangy flavors and light desserts.