These delicious layers of crispy phyllo dough and the soft fragrant sauerkraut flavor of this sauerkraut börek are a perfect side dish or a meal on their own.
Today, I’m sharing a dish we’ve been making a lot this Winter. And it’s honoring the deliciousness of sauerkraut, which we have on the menu at least once a week during the cold months.
What is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, that is usually cut finely, but you can also get the whole cabbage heads. I’m not sure if these can be purchased everywhere, but they are quite common in the Balkans.
The name sauerkraut comes form German and means sour cabbage.
While sauerkraut is not a traditional filling for börek, we can’t stop making it after tasting the sauerkraut börek. It is created with very simple ingredients, and the process is straightforward.
This recipe also includes the recipe for homemade phyllo dough, although the storebought is just as fine. Whenever I use the storebought, I prefer finding phyllo dough that’s very thin. It creates a very crispy and flaky skin on the börek.
How do you make the homemade phyllo dough?
Although it might sound intimidating to make your own phyllo dough, it’s actually not that difficult. Take it from me, I’m by no means an expert. If you ever stop by YouTube and check the professionals, you might easily be discouraged, but it really only takes a gentle hand while stretching the dough.
The dough is basically just flour, water, and salt. Optionally you can a little oil for flavor. I used olive oil for this sauerkraut börek, however, I don’t even put oil every time I make phyllo dough. The dough is very soft and is very easy to knead by hand. It might stick a bit at first, but once you get the gluten going you’re good!
Then all it takes is to rest the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with some foil, so it doesn’t dry out. After you’ve left the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes, you roll the dough just a little bit, oil the surface, and let it rest covered for about 20 minutes. This lets the gluten relax. After that, the dough is ready to be stretched. Gently slide your fingers under the dough, right to the center, and gently stretch towards yourself. Move around the dough and stretch. Always make sure you stretch the thicker parts and not the parts that are already very thin.
Some people also use the rolling method, however, I don’t own a long thin rolling pin, so I use this method, which is very common for the Balkans anyway. Here’s a nice video to show you how this method works.
While you can stretch the entire dough in one go and get one huge piece of dough, I find it easier to divide my dough into smaller doughs right before resting and then stretch each one separately.
Time to fill the börek
After you’ve stretched the dough you can fill it with the most delicious sauerkraut filling. I have to be honest with you. The person who actually created the filling recipe for this sauerkraut börek is my husband with a bit of help of my son. I’m usually responsible for making the dough and they get to do the fillings when we make any kind of börek.
I know, you’re probably waiting anxiously for the recipe, so let’s just dive in! If you’re interested in making another similar dish with phyllo dough, I also have a recipe for Chicken Spanakopita.
- homemade phyllo dough (recipe below) or 500g store bought phyllo dough
- 1 kg thinly cut sauerkraut
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 TBSP paprika
- 1 TBSP turmeric
- crushed black pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp anis seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground carraway seeds
- 1 shallot
- 2 red onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- cooking oil for frying the filling, brushing the pan and top the börek
- 1 small egg + 1 tsp water for egg wash (optional)
Finely slice shallots and red onions and fry them on a tablespoon of cooking oil for a few minutes until translucent.
Finely slice or crush the garlic. Add to the pan and fry for an extra two to three minutes.
Add all the spices and fry for another minute.
Drain the sauerkraut. Taste the sauerkraut to see how sour it is. If you find it too sour for your liking, you can wash it quickly under running water and then leave it to drain.
Add drained sauerkraut to the pan and fry on medium heat for about 20 minutes. It should become a bit dryer and softer.
Divide the filling phyllo dough into the same amount of parts as you have phyllo dough sheets.
Spread one part of the filling onto one sheet of phyllo dough, but cover only one third starting from the edge. Start rolling from the side, where he filling is, then roll it.
Shape it into a snail shape and continue filling another sheet of phyllo pastry. You can either add it to the snail, to ultimately create a large börek or create small separate böreks. If you create separate böreks, reduce baking time for 5-10 minutes.
Generously oil the pan you'll be using to bake and place the börek onto the pan.
Brush some oil on top of the börek. If you're doing an egg-wash, brush it over oiled börek.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for 30 minutes.
Homemade Phyllo Dough
- 500 g high protein white flour (all-purpose flour works as well)
- 300 g water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 TBSP olive oil (omit if you're using all-purpose flour)
Sift flour into a large bowl.
Make a well and pour in the water. Add salt and oil to the water.
Start mixing from the center with your fingers. It will be sticky, but once it all comes together it will go off your hands easily.
Mix until you can see the dough coming together a bit, then you can start kneading to incorporate the flour in. Every flour needs a different amount of water, so you might end up adding more flour or leaving some flour in the bowl at the end.
When the dough starts to become uniform transfer (this will usually take somewhere from 3-4 minutes) it to the bench and continue kneading for another 8 minutes. The dough should be soft and uniform. It will stick to your hands just a little bit, that's okay. If it sticks too much add a little more flour and knead it in.
You can either leave the dough whole and end up creating a large piece of phyllo. I prefer dividing it into three parts, to make it easier when I'm stretching.
Whatever method you use. Place the dough into an oiled bowl (or three oiled bowls) brush a little oil over the dough and cover with plastic wrap right on the dough. Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes. You can prepare the dough a day before, and store it in the fridge, then take it out and leave it at room temperature for at least an hour before proceeding.
After resting, place a large sheet onto the table and generously sprinkle it with flour. Place the dough onto the floured sheet and roll it out a little bit. If I'm making one large dough I like to roll it out to about 40 cm (15 inches) or 20 cm (8 inches) if I divide the dough into three parts. The precise measurements don't really matter, just to give you a rough idea. Generously pour oil over the rolled dough and brush all over the surface. Be sure to cover the edges too. This will prevent the dough from drying out. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes so the gluten relaxes.
After that, you can start stretching. Make sure you cover a large area of the sheet with flour, so the dough will not stick.
Place your hands under the dough and gently pull towards yourself. You will immediately see stretching happening. Move around the dough and to the same. Make sure, that you don't stretch the parts that are already very thin and continue stretching the thicker parts. In the end, you will end with edges that are a little bit thicker. You can continue stretching them for as long as the dough can handle it.
Leave the dough to dry for a minute or two then you can start adding the filling.