Phyllo dough can seem intimidating. If you’re not an experienced cook, you might pick up up a box and feel nervous at reading the directions, wondering how you’ll deal with the layers of delicate, whisper-thin sheets of dough.
But I assure you: phyllo dough, which has its roots in Greek and Mediterranean cooking, is actually easy—and fun—to use. Once you get a handle (and this will come quickly) on how they work, you can create snacks, meals and desserts that show off fresh, seasonal ingredients. While baklava and spanakopita are likely the most popular recipes using phyllo dough, the dough really lends itself to experimentation. Look at it as a canvas to use ingredients you like.
Here are three ideas to get you started using phyllo dough.
Use these ideas as a basis to create your own.
Phyllo Napoleons (or Mille-Feuille in French)
Napoleons or Mille-Feuille are both layered deserts using pastry dough. With phyllo dough you can make a deconstructed version, as I did with berries and key lime filling. To learn how to make phyllo layers for this dessert, watch this video from Athens Foods, my go-to for phyllo. You can them layer them with custard, pudding, whipped cream, along with berries and crushed nuts for an impressive dessert.
If you want to make key lime filling, all you need to do is:
Add the juice of 1 pound of key limes to 1 can of condensed milk and mix until combined. Also, add in the zest of 3 of the limes. Refrigerate until you’re ready to layer onto the phyllo sheets.
I added a dollop of the key lime cream in between each layer, a few berries, and crushed pistachios and marcona almonds. Then I sprinkled powdered sugar over the entire dessert.
Caramelized Vidalia Onion Goat Cheese Tart with Fig Jam
Caramelized onions, goat cheese and fig jam are a classic combination that I just love. I used a tart pan for this but you can make this freeform phyllo pizza crust and add in the ingredients.
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cups of sliced Vidalia onions
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of sugar
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons of fig jam
2 teaspoons of fresh (or dried) thyme
First, make the caramelized onions. Warm butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir until they start to become translucent. Lower heat to medium and continue to stir every few minutes. Add a pinch of salt and sugar. Continue to stir. This process will take about 45 minutes. Set the onions aside. You can make this a day in advance if you like. When you’re ready to make the tart, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Watch this video from Athens Foods to make the phyllo dough pizza crust, but skip adding the parmesan to the crust. Leave it as is for now and in the middle of the phyllo dough (leave room on the sides), add the crumbled goat cheese, spreading it around so it’s even, then add the onions, then dollops of the fig jam. Sprinkle with pepper and thyme. Now, fold the layers over so they look as they do in the photo. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let sit for 5 minutes then serve.
Stewed Tomato Tart with Burrata
This is akin to a pizza but lighter and flakier. Feel free to top with other ingredients, perhaps mushrooms, pepperoni, or peppers.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly-ground pepper
3/4 cup of freshly-grated Parmesan, some for the crust, some to add on top of the tomatoes
1 tablespoon of fresh basil
1 piece of burrata
First, make the stewed tomatoes. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the tomatoes, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, make the phyllo pizza dough according to this video from Athens Foods (same as the one shown in the onion tart). This time you’ll want to add parmesan to the crust. Add the tomato mixture to the dough. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with fresh basil (I use whole pieces or I cut the basil with scissors right over the tart). Add a piece of burrata to the middle. Slice and serve.
Keep phyllo dough in the freezer. When you know you’re going to use it take it out of the freezer and keep it out for about 3 hours or refrigerate it the night before you’re going to need it. Once you’re ready to use the dough, place it on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. The dough is very forgiving so while you’re layering it, if a piece breaks off, don’t worry, just add another layer. All those layers are going to bake together and you won’t notice if a piece is torn.
I’ve compiled things I use in my kitchen over on my Amazon Influencer page.