Fatayer are classic middle eastern savoury pastries that are stuffed with either spinach, cheese, or meat. Fatayer are a staple and often served for breakfast or as a snack with tea. This recipe is so easy to make with an easy homemade dough.
What are Fatayer?
Fatayer are savoury pies, typically stuffed with either a meat filling, spinach, or cheese. The meat filling resembles that of Lahm Bi Ajeen but its shaped into small hand pies. This recipe is for the spinach and cheese, and they're both really easy to make. You may also know of a related dish called Manakish, which are also savoury pies but are presented in a flat shape similar to a pizza.
The spinach fatayer, also known as fatayer bi sabanekh in Arabic, are really tangy and flavourful with a wonderful depth from the caramelized onions. The cheese ones, which are known as fatayer bi jibneh, have a delicious mixture of creaminess, stretchy-ness and the flavour from the nigella seeds makes them extra special!
Fatayer are typically served at breakfast, or as part of an appetizer spread, or a light dinner with a cup of tea. They are so delicious, and a great snack for kids too. I typically make a big batch of both types and freeze them. They're handy to just pull out whenever I need them.
To make them you need a homemade dough, similar to a pizza dough. Although it may seem intimidating to make dough from scratch, it's easy if you use the steps in this recipe! But if you're not up for it, feel free to use store bought pizza dough or even puff pastry.
Ingredients you'll need for cheese and spinach fatayer
For the homemade dough, you'll need the usual suspects: all-purpose flour, sugar, instant yeast, water, olive oil and salt. This dough will make roughly 16-18 fatayer and you can make them all cheese or all spinach or a mix.
For the spinach filling, I use frozen spinach because I usually have it in my freezer but you're welcome to use fresh spinach as well (follow the recipe card notes for preparation, but generally you would need 2.5x the amount of frozen spinach). You'll also need onions, sumac, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.
For the cheese filling, you need feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parsley and nigella seeds, which are optional but a favourite of mine! You can add dried mint instead of the nigella seeds if you prefer.
How to make fatayer, step by step
First, decide which fatayer filling you'd like to make. This recipe gives you the filling quantities enough for 1 batch of dough, so if you want to do a mix of cheese and spinach, make sure you halve each of those filling ingredients.
If you're making the spinach filling, take your frozen spinach out of the freezer to thaw. If you're making it last minute, feel free to thaw it in the microwave in 30 second increments.
Making the fatayer dough
To make the dough, which is based on the 10 minute dough I use in my honeycomb bread, start by mixing together the warm water and yeast, mix until well dissolved and set aside for 5 minutes. Next, mix together 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, and the water and yeast mixture. Using a spoon, stir it around until its all well combined. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, add the remaining flour, the salt, and the olive oil. Mix with your spoon until the dough starts coming together, then place it on a floured surface and knead it for 5-7 minutes until smooth. If you find that it is sticky, feel free to add another 1-2 tablespoons of flour on top as you knead.
You can also do this process in a stand up mixer with a dough hook attached. Simply follow the exact same steps but instead of kneading by hand, allow the dough hook to knead it until smooth.
Place it back in an oiled bowl and cover the dough to allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and shape it into equal sized dough balls. I do this by measuring out the dough to roughly 40g for each ball using a kitchen scale (this is optional if you want them all to look even!).
Once shaped into balls, set them aside covered with a towel to proof one last time for roughly 10-15 minutes. This will make the dough really easy to work with and easy to shape.
How to make spinach fatayer (or fatayer bi sabanekh)
To make the spinach filling, start by dicing the onions finely and cook them on medium heat for 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent. Next, its time to get rid of as much moisture as you can from the spinach since it retains so much water. This step is really important to avoid a watery filling that will impact the dough and make the fatayer open up in the oven.
You can also use fresh spinach here, and to prepare it, chop it up and sprinkle a bit of salt on top and leave it for 10 minutes. This will draw out its liquids, then you can squeeze it all out. Remember though that using fresh spinach means you will need 2.5x the quantity specified in the recipe for frozen spinach.
To do this, place the thawed spinach in a sieve and press down using a spoon to release the moisture into a bowl. You can also squeeze it by hand. Do this as much as you can, then place the spinach in the skillet once the onions are cooked.
To the skillet, add the sumac, salt and pepper. Cooking the spinach in the skillet with the onions for 5-7 minutes will further evaporate any moisture left over in the spinach as well as help the flavours to blend together. Taste and adjust the filling - I usually like to add a squeeze of lemon at the end to make it extra tangy and tart.
Once the filling has cooled down, now its time to shape the fatayer! Start by taking one of the dough balls and spreading it out to a thin circle on a floured surface. Ensure you spread it out to a thin layer to avoid a thick dough and an uneven filling to dough ratio.
How to fold fatayer
Place about 1.5 tablespoons of the filling in the middle of the circle, then bring up two sides of the circle to meet at the top, slightly off centre (check the photos below!). Pinch the dough together to close off. Next, bring up the other side to form a triangle, and pinch all sides really well to ensure it is secure.
How to make cheese fatayer
Making the cheese filling is really easy, just grate up the mozzarella and crumble the feta, then mix them with the nigella seeds and finely chopped parsley. Another filling option here is to replace the nigella seeds with mint.
To shape the cheese fatayer, roll out the dough balls into long ovals. Ensure that you roll them out to a thin layer. Then, add roughly 1.5 tablespoons of the filling to the middle and shape it to cover the length of the dough, leaving the edges empty. You can press down on the filling to make it stay in place.
Next, fold over the edges of the oval to form a "boat" looking shape, and pinch the two ends to secure them in place. Pick up the fatayer using the two pinched ends and place on a floured sheet pan. And repeat!
Baking the Fatayer
Preheat the oven to 375F. Arrange the fatayer on a sheet pan that is lightly floured. If you want a shiny finish, you can brush them with an egg, but this is optional and I don't do it.
Place the sheet pan in the oven on the bottom rack for roughly 10-15 minutes, until you check the bottom and it is golden brown. Then move the pan up to the middle rack and switch the oven to broil for 1-2 minutes, but stay right beside it. Once the top of the fatayer turn a light gold, remove them from the oven.
As you're baking in batches, ensure you place the baked fatayer in a platter or tray and cover them with a towel to ensure they don't dry out and stay nice and soft. And that's it - you're ready to serve!
Watch me make them!
FAQs and Tips for Fatayer
Q: How do you eat fatayer? You can serve fatayer for breakfast alongside fresh cut vegetables and a hot cup of tea. They also make a great snack at any time of the day, or a delicious light dinner.
Q: Can you freeze fatayer? Yes, absolutely! They are perfect for freezing. Simply bake the fatayer and allow them to cool, then place them in a freezer bag and freeze for as long as a month.
Q: Can you freeze the fatayer filling? Yes, you can freeze the filling, but I wouldn't recommend it because it would add moisture. I recommend you make the filling as early as 1-2 days in advance and refrigerate if you want to save time.
How to store and re-heat fatayer
I have a few tips for you here. Firstly, after baking, make sure you cover them with a towel to keep them soft. Then, if you've made a large batch, remove the amount that you will eat over the next 1-2 days and freeze the rest.
Freeze them by placing them into freezer bags and laying them flat in one layer. When you'd like to have them, remove them from the freezer and heat them in the oven on a sheet pan at 375F until warm. I don't suggest using the microwave because it'll change the texture of the dough and make it more chewy.
For the fatayer that you want to eat over a few days, place any leftovers in an air tight container and into the fridge. You can also re-heat them in the oven to serve.
More middle eastern pastry recipes you will love:
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Authentic Homemade Fatayer (Spinach and Cheese)
- 1 Oven
- 1 Stand Mixer Optional
- 1 Stove top
For 1 batch of the dough
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons divided into 1 cup and 1.5 cups, measured using a spoon and levelled off flat
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
For the spinach filling (for 1 batch of dough)
- 300 g frozen spinach thawed
- 2 small onions diced
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 squeeze of lemon juice
For the cheese filling (for 1 batch of dough)
- 100 g shredded mozzarella
- 100 g feta cheese crumbled
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds optional
To make the dough
- Start by preheating your oven to 375F
- Mix together the warm water and yeast in a bowl and set aside for 2 minutes to proof
- In a bowl, add 1 cup of the flour (not all of it), the sugar, and the water and yeast mixture. Mix together well, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes (you can move on to the filling at this point)
- After 10 minutes, the mixture will look a bit bubbly. Add to it the rest of the flour (1.5 cups), the olive oil, and the salt and mix well using your spoon to bring the dough together
- Then use your hands to knead the dough for 5-7 minutes and bring it together. It will be a soft dough and slightly sticky (which will give us that fluffy texture) so you can add the extra 2 tablespoons of flour as you knead it. Feel free to do this step in a stand mixer and a dough hook as well.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough and shape into equal sized balls. I weighed out roughly 40g per dough ball using a kitchen scale, but you can eye this if you like. Cover the balls and allow them to proof for another 10-15 minutes before shaping
To make the spinach fatayer
- Thaw out the frozen spinach in advance. If you're working last minute, feel free to use the microwave; place in a microwave safe bowl and thaw in 1 minute intervals. See notes if you're using fresh spinach.
- Meanwhile, cook the diced onions on a skillet using the olive oil on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until they're soft and translucent
- Place the thawed spinach in a sieve over a bowl and squeeze out as much water as possible using a spoon or your hands. This step is really important to avoid a soggy fatayer that will open up in the oven!
- Place the squeezed spinach in the skillet with the onions and add the sumac, salt and pepper. Continue to cook the mixture for another 5 minutes to further dry it up from any moisture. Taste and adjust; if you like it more tart, add a squeeze of lemon
- Roll out the dough balls into a very thin circle. Place 1.5 tablespoons of the filling in the middle and fold together two sides, then bring up the third to form a triangle. Be sure to reference the photos in the post. Pinch the sides together really tightly and make sure the filling doesn't touch the edges to ensure a secure seal
To make the cheese fatayer
- Mix together the grated mozzarella, crumbled feta, chopped parsley and nigella seeds well
- Roll out the dough balls into a long and thin oval. Place 1.5 tablespoons of the filling in the middle and fold over the top and bottom tips of the oval to form a "boat" shape. Be sure to reference the photos in the post.
Baking the fatayer
- Place the fatayer gently on a floured baking sheet. You may choose to brush them with eggwash, but this is optional if you want a shinier surface. I personally skip this step
- Place the sheet pan in the oven on the bottom rack for 10-15 minutes, until you check the bottom and it is golden brown
- Move the pan to the middle rack and switch the oven to broil for 1-2 minutes but stay right beside it! The tops will brown to a light golden very quickly and that's when you can remove them
- Place them on a platter or a tray and immediately cover them with a towel to ensure they don't dry out and stay soft. Serve warm and enjoy!
- When measuring your flour, make sure you use a spoon to spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off (as opposed to scooping it out using the measuring cup). This will ensure you have an accurate measurement.
- If you're using fresh spinach, be sure to use 2.5x the amount called for in the recipe. To prepare it, chop it up then sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt on top and set it aside for 10 minutes. This will draw out its moisture. Squeeze it dry after the 10 minutes as best as you can and continue with the recipe steps.
- Make sure you roll out the dough to a thin layer because the dough will thicken slightly in the oven. You want to ensure you have a proper dough to filling ratio.
- Ensure you pinch the dough closed very well and that no filling touches the edges where the seal will be. This will help ensure they don't open up in the oven.
- When the fatayer come out of the oven, cover them with a towel to ensure they don't dry out and stay soft.