Gallery: How to Make Turkish Borek

  • Turkish sigara borek

    Turkish sigara borek

    Once you get the technique down on these little cigars, you'll be having yourself a borek-athon. It all starts with some butter...

    Melt butter

    Borek are painted with oil or butter before rolling to make light, flaky layers. My fat of choice for this is clarified butter. Start by melting your butter slowly so it doesn't scorch. I used a cultured butter, which lent a nice lactic tang to the wrapping.

    Bubble, bubble

    When the butter is completely melted, you can increase the heat slightly, but not much. I keep it on the next-to-lowest setting on my burner. The goal is to cook all the water out of the butter without scorching the milk solids. As it cooks, the butter's milk solids will separate out into white clumps and small bubbles will form.

    Butter, clarified

    Cook patiently, and after about half an hour you'll get something that looks like this: a darker shade of yellow with browned milk solids sunk to the bottom. Since all the water's been cooked out, bubbles will stop rising. This isn't the same as browned butter, but it will definitely pick up toasty, nutty notes. You can store your newly clarified butter in the fridge for months, if not longer. Or use it right away.


    This is yufka, the flatbread many Turkish borek are made from. Triangular ones are perfect for sigara borek and come about 30 to a package. Yufka is thicker than phyllo but thinner than a tortilla. You can make it yourself, but the storebought stuff is actually pretty good, and a big time saver. You can find it in specialty groceries or online. If you can't find yufka, layer three sheets of phyllo with clarified butter between them. The end product will be more flaky but less crisp than your average Turkish borek.

    Grate your kasseri

    Kasseri comes in two forms: young and creamy (pictured), and hard and aged. If you've never had it, imagine emmentaler but with a sheep cheese twang. The young stuff grates and melts easily, perfect for cheese borek, potato and cheese borek, or a killer grilled cheese. This is just one of the many cheeses used to make Turkish borek (though the most accessible melting cheese to American markets, in my experience), so don't feel tied down to it. Some emmentaler or provolone mixed with pecorino and gruyere would be a delicious, if more Occidental, substitute.

    Potato and cheese filling

    When your potatoes are cooked and mashed, fold in cheese, a bit of sour cream, and some salt. This will make a smooth, creamy, potato mash. Taste for seasoning, then fold in an egg.

    Fill your burek

    Paint a sheet of yufka with just enough clarified butter to make a thin film, then add about two tablespoons of potato filling to the wide end and shape it into a thin log. Fold over the edges of the yufka. From here on out it's all burrito architecture.

    Ready to bake

    Roll your borek and press down to seal. At this point you can freeze them for later, or brush them with more clarified butter and bake in a hot oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until crisp, flaky, and golden brown.