Borekas are delicious pastry packets with assorted fillings. They’re like little packets of heaven. These borekas contain a savory mix of ground beef, onions, and pine nuts.
These flaky pastries are also called bourekas or burekas. Potato and cheese bourekas are especially common, as are other veggie-and-cheese versions, but these contain a beef and onion filling studded with toasted pine nuts.
When they’re filled with meat, they’re also called pastelicos or pastelle. Whatever you call them, they are savory and satisfying as a meal or snack.
What are Borekas?
Borekas are pastry triangles—usually made using phyllo dough, and sometimes using puff pastry or short pastry—filled with savory fillings from potatoes and cheese to meat, eggplant, spinach, and more.
The origins of bourekas aren’t easy to pinpoint. They may have been brought to the Ottoman Empire by Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the Alhambra Decree. Or maybe they came to Turkey via nomads of Western Asia.
Wherever they came from, they’ve become a popular feature of Sephardic Jewish cuisines throughout the Middle East. They have flaky outer pastry shells—often phyllo dough, but in this case, puff pastry—and a variety of savory fillings.
Borekas are the Sephardic Jews’ answer to other filled savory pastries—empanadas, calzones, samosas, pasties, bridies, knishes, and more. They’re all so similar: Bread or pastry filled with flavorful combinations of vegetables, meats, and seasongings.
I love these beef-filled borekas studded with pinenuts and diced onion. The flaky dough is a perfect wrapper for the savory filling ingredients.
This version uses store-bought puff pastry, which makes it super easy, but you can substitute homemade puff pastry, my easy Olive Oil Pie Crust, or phyllo dough.
They’re great on their own as a snack or small meal. Or serve them as part of a larger meal paired with salads, vegetables, and other dishes.
They can be eaten hot out of the oven or at room temperature, so they’re a great make-ahead option. I love to take them on a picnic or to pack them in a lunch box.
The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook
This recipe comes from The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook by Beth A. Lee. The book was released earlier this month and is full of delicious sweet and savory Jewish baked goods.
Lee offers all the Jewish baking recipes you need, from breads like rye, challah, and bialys to flourless chocolate cake, New York cheesecake bars, and poppyseed coffee cake.
This borekas or pastelicos recipe uses store-bought puff pastry dough, but Lee’s book includes a homemade boreka dough that you can substitute if you are up for making your own homemade pastry dough.
What ingredients do you need?
I like to keep a box of puff pastry in my freezer so I can make dishes like this without having to make a special trip to the store!
- Olive oil
- Ground beef
- Lemon juice
- Pine nuts
- Salt & black pepper
- Puff pastry
- Sesame seeds
How do you make it?
- Saute the onion in olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add the ground beef and cook through.
- Stir in the paprika, lemon juice, parsley, pinenuts, and salt and pepper and let cool.
- When the meat mixture cools to room temperature, stir in a large beaten egg.
- Lay the thawed sheet of dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry and cut it into squares (I like to use a pizza cutter).
- Spoon some of the filling onto one corner of each square, then fold the pastry over and seal the edges shut. Use a for crimp the edges.
- Arrange the borekas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Use a pastry brush to coat the pastries with an egg wash made from a large egg and a splash of water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using.
- Place the cookie sheet place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to chill the pastry.
- Bake until golden brown.
Tips for Success
- If you are using 2 sheets of pastry dough, make sure to cover one with a lightly damp dishtowel while you work with the other to keep it from drying out.
- To keep the dish kosher, use a dairy-free puff pastry like Pepperidge Farms since the filling contains meat. Otherwise, I love the Dufour butter puff pastry.
- For visual effect, you can use a combination of white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds, or use white sesame seeds and poppy seeds, or substitute everything bagel seasoning.
- You can make large borekas that are practically a whole meal in and of themselves, or you can make small borekas that are perfect to serve as appetizers.
What do you serve with borekas?
I like to serve these Borekas or Pastelicos with Israeli Salad (minus the cheese if kosher), Moroccan Beet Salad with Harissa Dressing, or with roasted vegetables or a bowl Beetroot Soup, Beefy Russian Borscht, or other soup.
Because of their triangle shape, they make a great appetizer for a Purim party. I like to serve them on other Jewish holidays too, like Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.
Can you make them ahead of time?
Borekas keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days. You can reheat them in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes or so to heat them through and crisp up the pastry.
You can also freeze Borekas, either before or after baking. If you freeze them after baking, you can thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and reheat as above. You can also put them straight into a 350ºF oven straight from the freezer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
You can also freeze Borekas before baking them. Freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet and then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag.
You can keep them frozen for up to 3 months. You can pop the frozen Borekas into a 350ºF oven and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
More jewish holiday recipes you’ll love
Jewish holidays are often centered around food. Beef Brisket is one of my favorite holiday main dishes, and Latkes are the side, especially for Hanukkah. This Ground Beef and Cabbage is great old-school comfort food that works great as an economical main dish for your festive holiday meal.
For the filling
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup finely chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the pastry
- 1 (17.3-ounce) package store-bought puff pastry, thawed but kept cold
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I like to use 1 tablespoon each of white and black sesame seeds)
- In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, until it begins to brown. Push the onion to one side of the pan and add the ground beef. Brown the meat, breaking it up into smaller pieces and mixing it around as it continues to cook, another 5 to 7 minutes. When the beef is almost cooked, add the paprika, lemon juice, parsley, pine nuts, salt, and pepper and continue cooking until it is cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you can cook in two batches or use two baking sheets).
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to a 12-by-12-inch square. Use a pizza cutter to cut the pastry into 9 equal-size squares 9 (about 4-inch squares). Cover with a towel and refrigerate while you roll and cut the second sheet of pastry if necessary.
- Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling onto each pastry square, near one corner. Fold the pastry over the top of the filling diagonally to make a triangle. Using the tines of a fork, crimp the edges closed. Place each filled pastry on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry squares and filling.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water and brush it onto the pastries with a pastry brush. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Place the baking sheet(s), uncovered, in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through if baking two pans at once, until they are puffed and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Amount Per Serving Calories 124Total Fat 9gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 43mgSodium 106mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 8g
Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.