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A traditional meat borek from Belgrade, Serbia
Alternative namesBurek, börek, bourekas, boreg, byrek
TypeSavoury pie
CourseTea pastry
Main ingredientsFlaky pastry (usually filo), various fillings
VariationsMeat, potatoes, leafy greens, cheese, eggplant, mushrooms

Börek[1][2] or burek is a family of pastries or pies found in the Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia. The pastry is made of a thin flaky dough such as filo with a variety of fillings, such as meat, cheese, spinach, or potatoes. Boreks are mainly associated with the Middle East, Armenia, and also with the former Ottoman Empire, including the Balkans and the South Caucasus, Eastern European and Central European countries, Northern Africa and Central Asia. A borek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. They are usually baked but some varieties can be fried. Borek is sometimes sprinkled with sesame or nigella seeds, and it can be served hot or cold.

It is a custom of Sephardic Jews to have bourekas for their Shabbat breakfast meal on Saturday mornings.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it has become commonplace to have borek as a breakfast food with coffee. It is also commonly served with afternoon tea in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is commonly served with a yogurt drink in Serbia and North Macedonia.

Origin and names[edit]

The English name borek[1][2] comes from Turkish börek (Turkish pronunciation: [bœˈɾec]), while burek is the form used in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Other variants include byrek, in Albania; boureki in Greece; byurek (Bulgarian: Бюрек) in Bulgaria; bourek and brick Annabi in Algeria; brik in Tunisia.

According to lexicographer Sevan Nişanyan, the Turkish word börek is ultimately originated from Turkic bögrek, from böğür (meaning 'kidney').[3] Nişanyan noted that the word is also used in Siberian Turkic languages such as Saqa as börüök.[3] According to another theory, it may have come from the Persian burak (بورک), the diminutive form of būra or buġra or (بوره/بغره), meaning "stew", and refers to any dish made with yufka (filo).[citation needed] The Persian word bureh goes back to the Middle Persian *bōrak. This word ultimately goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *bher- which meant "to carve, cut, split".[4] The name of another pastry, shekarbura, is also borrowed from the same Persian word.[4] Nişanyan noted the possibility of Turkic origin for the Persian word.[5]

Borek may have its origins Turkish cuisine and may be one of its most significant and, in fact, ancient elements of the Turkish cuisine, having been developed in Central Asia before some westward migration to Anatolia in the late Middle Ages,[6][7] or by nomadic Turks of central Asia some time before the seventh century.[8] Another popular theory posits that it may be a descendant of the pre-existing Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Anatolian dish en tyritas plakountas (Byzantine Greek: εν τυρίτας πλακούντας) "cheesy placenta", itself a descendant of placenta, the classical baked layered dough and cheese dish of Ancient Roman cuisine.[9][10][11]

The dish was a popular element of Ottoman cuisine, and may have been invented at the Ottoman court,[12][6] though there are also indications it was made among Central Asian Turks;[7] other versions may date to the Classical era of the eastern Mediterranean.[9][10][11]

One alternative etymological origin that has been suggested is that the word comes from the Turkic root bur- 'to twist',[13][14] but the sound harmony for this proposal would dictate the suffix "-aq",[15] and Turkic languages in Arabic orthography invariably write börek with an ك not an ق, which weighs against this origin.

Regional variants[edit]

Even though borek is very popular in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire,[16] especially in North Africa and throughout the Balkans,[17] it originated in Anatolia. Borek is also part of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish traditions.[18] They have been enthusiastically adopted by the Ottoman Jewish communities, and have been described—along with boyos de pan and bulemas—as forming "the trio of preeminent Ottoman Jewish pastries".[19]

Turkish variants[edit]

A tray of su böreği from Turkish cuisine

The word "börek" in Turkish can be modified by a descriptive word referring to the shape, ingredients of the pastry, or a specific region where it is typically prepared, as in the above kol böreği, su böreği, talaş böreği or Sarıyer böreği. There are many variations of börek in Turkish cuisine:

Name English name Description Notes
Su böreği Boiled börek; lit. water börek Sheets of dough are boiled briefly in large pans, then a mixture of feta cheese and greens, or other börek filling. The whole thing is brushed with butter and baked in a masonry oven. [20]
Sigara böreği Filo rolls, lit. 'cigarette börek' Feta cheese, wiener, potato or other filling wrapped in yufka filo and deep-fried [21]
Paçanga böreği Pachanga pastry Yufka is filled with pastırma or kaşar, finely diced tomato and green peppers then rolled and fried in oil, may be eaten as a meze.
Talaş böreği or Nemse böreği Lit. sawdust pastry Small square börek mostly filled with lamb cubes and green peas, that has starchier yufka sheets, making it puffy and crispy. [22]
Kol böreği Lit. 'arm börek' prepared in long rolls, either rounded or lined, and filled with either minced meat, feta cheese, spinach or potato and baked at a low temperature. [23]
Sarıyer böreği A smaller and a little fattier version of the "Kol böreği", named after Sarıyer, a district of Istanbul. [24]
Gül böreği Rose börek, round börek, spiral börek rolled into small spirals
Çiğ börek Chebureki Half-moon shaped börek, filled with a very thin layer of raw minced meat and onion filling and fried in oil, very popular in places with a thriving Tatar community, such as Eskişehir, Polatlı and Konya [25]
Töbörek Another Tatar variety, similar to a çiğ börek, but baked instead of fried [26][better source needed]
Laz böreği Sweet börek filled with muhallebi (Ottoman-style milk pudding or custard) and served sprinkled with powdered sugar [27][self-published source?]
Küt Böreği Similar to Laz böreği, without the custard filling. It is also called sade (plain) börek and served with fine powdered sugar [28]


Round burek filled with minced meat is made in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Slovenia.
Byrek in Albania
Bosnian rolled burek

In the former Yugoslavia, burek, also known as pita in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is an extremely common dish, made with yufka.[29] This kind of pastry is also popular in Croatia, where it was imported by Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albanians. In Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia, burek is made from layers of dough, alternating with layers of other fillings in a circular baking pan and then topped with a last layer of dough. Traditionally, it may be baked with no filling (prazan, meaning empty), with stewed minced meat and onions, or with cheese. Modern bakeries offer cheese and spinach, meat, apple, sour cherries, potato, mushroom, and other fillings. It is often eaten along with a plain yoghurt drink.

Zeljanica is a spinach burek common in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


In Albania, this dish is called byrek. In Kosovo and few other regions, byrek is also known as "pite". Byrek is traditionally made with several layers of dough that have been thinly rolled out by hand. The final form can be small, individual triangles, especially from street vendors called "byrektore" which sell byrek and other traditional pastries and drinks. It can also be made as one large byrek that is cut into smaller pieces. There are different regional variations of byrek. It can be served cold or hot.

The most common fillings include: cheese (especially gjizë, salted curd cheese), ground meat and onions (ragù-style filling), spinach and eggs, milk and eggs with pre-baked dough layers, but it can also be made with tomato and onions, peppers and beans, potato or a sweet filling of pumpkin, nettles (known as byrek me hithra), or kidney beans (popular in winter).[30]

Lakror is an Albanian pie dish from southern Albania. The pie is sometimes called a type of byrek pastry.[31][32][33] Lakror is generally filled with a variety of greens or meats.[33] Another related dish is Fli, typical from the North of Albania and Kosovo. It is made up of layers of a flour and water batter, cream and butter. Traditionally, it is baked on embers like lakror.[30]

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

In 2012, Lonely Planet included the Bosnian burek in their "The World's Best Street Food" book.[29][34] Eaten for any meal of the day, in Bosnia and Herzegovina the burek is a meat-filled pastry, traditionally rolled in a spiral and cut into sections for serving. The same spiral filled with cottage cheese is called sirnica, with spinach and cheese zeljanica, with potatoes krompiruša, and all of them are generically referred to as pita. Eggs are used as a binding agent when making sirnica and zeljanica.


The Bulgarian version of the pastry, locally called byurek (Cyrillic: бюрек), is typically regarded as a variation of banitsa (баница), a similar Bulgarian dish. Bulgarian byurek is a type of banitsa with sirene cheese, the difference being that byurek also has eggs added.[35]

In Bulgarian, byurek has also come to be applied to other dishes similarly prepared with cheese and eggs, such as chushka byurek (чушка бюрек), a peeled and roasted pepper filled with cheese, and tikvichka byurek (тиквичка бюрек), blanched or uncooked bits of squash with eggs filling.[35]


A photo of bougatsa, a Greek variant of borek

In Greece, boureki or bourekaki, and Cyprus poureki (πουρέκι, in the Greek dialects of the island) are small pastries made with phyllo dough or with pastry crust. Pastries in the börek family are also called pita (pie): tiropita, spanakopita, and so on.[36] Galaktoboureko is a syrupy phyllo pastry filled with custard, common throughout Greece and Cyprus. In the Epirus, σκερ-μπουρέκ (derives from the Turkish şeker-börek, "sugar-borek") is a small rosewater-flavoured marzipan sweet. Bougatsa (Greek is a Greek variation of a borek which consists of either semolina custard, cheese, or minced meat filling between layers of phyllo, and is said to originate in the city of Serres, an art of pastry brought with the immigrants from Constantinople and is most popular in Thessaloniki, in the Central Macedonia region of Northern Greece.[37] Serres achieved the record for the largest puff pastry on 1 June 2008. It weighed 182.2 kg, was 20 metres long, and was made by more than 40 bakers.[38] In Venetian Corfu, boureki was also called burriche,[39] and filled with meat and leafy greens. The Pontian Greek piroski (πιροσκί) derives its name from borek too.[40] It is almost identical in name and form to pirozhki (Russian: пирожки), which is of Slavic origin, and popular in Russia and further east.


The recipe for "round" burek was developed in the Serbian town of Niš. In 1498, it was introduced by a famous Turkish baker, Mehmed Oğlu, from Istanbul.[41] Eventually burek spread from the southeast (southern Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia) to the rest of Yugoslavia. Niš hosts an annual burek competition and festival called Buregdžijada. In 2005, a 100 kg (220 lbs) burek was made, with a diameter of 2 metres (≈6 ft)[42] and it is considered to have been the world biggest burek ever made.[43][better source needed]


In Slovenia, burek is one of the most popular fast-food dishes, but at least one researcher found that it is viewed negatively by Slovenes due to their prejudices towards immigrants, especially those from other countries of former Yugoslavia.[44] A publication of a diploma thesis on this at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana in 2010 stirred controversy regarding the appropriateness of the topic.[45] The mentor of the student that had written the thesis described the topic as legitimate and burek as denoting primitive behaviour in Slovenia in spite of it being by his account "sophisticated food". He explained the controversy as a good example of the conclusions of the student.[46] In 2008, an employee of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SRC SASA) had attained his PhD degree with a thesis on meta-burek at the University of Nova Gorica.[47][48][49]

Other countries[edit]


Algerian bourek pastry

In Algeria, this dish is called bourek, a delicious roll of pastry sheet stuffed with meat, onions, and spice, is one of the main appetizers of Algerian cuisine.[50]

It is a starter served when receiving guests and especially during Ramadan evenings during the round meal of the holy month, usually accompanied by Algerian Chorba or Harira. Other forms include bourek packed with chicken and onions, shrimp and béchamel sauce, or a vegetarian alternative usually made of mashed potatoes and spinach.[51]

Another Algerian variant of Bourek is called Brik or Brika, a speciality of Algeria's east,[52][53] notably Annaba. It is a savory entree made from brik leaf, stuffed with mashed potatoes and a mixture of minced meat, onions, cheese and parsley. The whole is topped with a seasoned raw egg which cooks once the sheet of brik has been folded and soaked in boiling oil.[54]


In Armenia, byorek (բյորեկ) or borek (բորեկ) consists of dough, or filo dough, folded into triangles and stuffed with spinach, onions and feta cheese or ground beef.[55]


Fresh potato burekas on sale at a stall in Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem

Burekas (Hebrew: בורקס) have long been part of Sephardic cuisine were introduced to Israel by Sephardic Jews who settled there. Burekas can be filled with various fillings, although meat is less common in Israel because of the Jewish dietary restrictions. Most burekas in Israel are made with margarine-based doughs rather than butter-based doughs so that (at least the non-cheese–filled varieties) can be eaten along with either milk meals or meat meals in accordance with the kosher prohibition against mixing milk and meat at the same meal. The most popular fillings are salty cheese, spinach, eggplant, and mashed potato, with other fillings including mushrooms, sweet potato, chickpeas, olives, mallows, swiss chard, and pizza flavor.

Other related pastries traditionally consumed by Sephardic Jews include bulemas and boyoz, which are also popular in the Turkish city of Izmir.[56]


Known in Libya as brik, it is also a popular dish in Libya.[57]

Moldova and Romania[edit]

The regional cuisine of the Moldavian West bank of the Pruth still yields a type of dumpling-like food called burechiuşe (sometimes called burechiţe) which is described as dough in the shape of a ravioli-like square which is filled with mushrooms such as Boletus edulis, and sealed around its edges and then tossed and subsequently boiled in borscht like soups[58] or chorbas.[59] They are traditionally eaten in the last day of fasting at the time of the Christmas Eve. It is not clear if the burechiuşe derive their name from the Turco-Greek börek (which is a distinct possibility given the fact that Moldavia was ruled for many decades by dynasties of Greek Phanariotes and that encouraged Greek colonists to settle in the area), so at the receiving end of cultural and culinary influences coming from them, or it takes its name from that of the mushroom Boletus (burete in its Romanian language rhotacised version, and it meant "mushroom" as well as "sponge") by the pattern of the ravioli, which were named after the Italian name of the turnip with which they were once filled.[60]

In Romania, the plăcintă is considered a variation of the phyllo-wrapped pie, with the dough traditionally stuffed with cheese.[61] In Dobruja, an eastern territory that used to be a Turkish province, one can find both the Turkish influence—plăcintă dobrogeană either filled with cheese or with minced meat and served with sheep yoghurt or the Tatar street food Suberek—a deep-fried half-moon cheese-filled dough.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

In Saudi Arabia, Burēk (Arabic: بُريك, Hejazi Arabic pronunciation: [bʊˈre̞ːk]), is usually made in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, it mostly resembles the Bosnian rolled burek but can also come in other variants, and it is stuffed with minced meat or with salty cheese and dill. It's usually served during the month of Ramadan, same goes to samosas.


A Tunisian brik pastry

In Tunisia, there is a variant known as the brik (/brk/ BREEK; بريك) that consists of thin crepe-like pastry around a filling and is commonly deep fried. The best-known is the egg brik, a whole egg in a triangular pastry pocket with chopped onion, tuna, harissa and parsley.[62] The Tunisian brik is also very popular in Israel, due to the large Tunisian Jewish population there. It is often filled with a raw egg and herbs or tuna, harissa, and olives, and it is sometimes served in a pita. This is also known as a boreeka.[63]

See also[edit]


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