Cheese pie (also known as cheese burek and pita sirnica), belongs to the family of Balkan pies made with flaky phyllo dough and a rich stuffing. The real challenge is eating just one piece! Shall we?
Flaky, savory phyllo dough pies were introduced to the Balkans by the Ottomans a few centuries ago. Since then they've taken on local flavors and become a thing of their own.
Today's cheese pie recipe is a phyllo dough pie stuffed with a scrumptious egg, cheese, and sour cream filling. You can eat this type of savory pastry all over the Balkans, but predominately in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia.
In Bosnia, it goes by the name pita sirnica (or just sirnica), translated as a pie made with cheese. In other Balkan countries you'll usually find it as cheese burek. (Croatian štrukli, and Serbian gibanica are its close relatives!)
Pies taste best when they’re made with homemade phyllo. However, with a few simple tricks you can make a delicious pie with a box of phyllo from the store. (Don't worry, we teach you how!)
- Quick, delicious, and made with ingredients you already have on hand, this cheese pie recipe will surely become your favorite go-to when out of ideas.
- Cheese burek is a great, easy way to add phyllo dough to your cooking CV.
- What's not to love about an affordable, delicious, cheesy dish that'll make its way into your weekly menu?
- Cheese: The types of cheese that work best are ricotta, feta, farmers, queso fresco, goat cheese, cottage, and even gorgonzola. Most soft cheeses are a win (not brie though!). Avoid: hard and semi-hard cheeses like gouda, cheddar, and Edam as they'll melt and burn instead of melt and bake.
The first time you make this cheese pie recipe, use the recommended ingredients. The following time, however, keep cheese volumes about the same while you experiment with different types.
Why? Because this pie was made for adjusting itself to your palate.
- Oil: Sub with sunflower, canola or coconut oil, or cooking spray. Or use butter. Avoid: olive oil.
- Phyllo dough: Get phyllo dough in sheet form. Avoid: puff pastry and phyllo cups. These products are not the same!
Our fast and simple instructions are here to give you an idea of how to make cheese burek. For more detailed information look at the recipe card below!
1. Make the filling. Heat oven.
2. & 3. Assemble phyllo, coating and filling into several layers.
4. Bake your cheese pie. (Not pictured.)
5. Coat pie with topping. Rest. Eat.
Serving: This pie is best served about 20-30 minutes after baking. (An hour is even better if you can be patient. From experience, this is hard.)
Assembly: Assemble cheese burek just before baking.
Storing: Store in a cool place (outside) for up to a day. Transfer to the fridge for up to 2-3 days. (Cover in plastic wrap.) Use your favorite reheating method, or eat cold. Do not freeze.
Phyllo pies consist of tissue paper-thin dough called phyllo (filo, or fillo too), stuffed with different savory or sweet fillings. These pies are some of the foundational elements in Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Burek, or borek, originated in Central Asia and the Middle East and spread throughout Europe during the Ottoman Empire. (Burek, btw, is just a different way of saying "phyllo pie.")
Therefore, burek is a phyllo dough pie (look above!) that consists of flaky dough filled with different stuffings. (In Bosnia and Herzegovina burek is the meat pie only, all other pies are named based on their filling.)
Today you can find burek in the Balkans, Eastern, and Central Europe, as well as the countries with immigrant populations from these areas.
Cheesecake is a dessert made with cheese and a crust. Balkan cheese pie (pita sirnica, or burek with cheese), is a savory dish made with filo dough and stuffing made of cheese.
A couple of tips on using phyllo dough.
- Always have an extra box of phyllo on hand. Even the best phyllo dough brands sometimes have a bad batch of phyllo that crumbles and dries quickly.
- Instead of using butter to soften the sheets, you can use a combination of oil and soda water, oil and butter, or just oil.
- For easier handling, get phyllo sheets similar in size to one of the sides of your baking pan...
- ... However, this cheese pie recipe is forgiving! You can cut or wrinkle phyllo to fit, and spread extra pieces inside as you are layering it. No need to be precise here. You can't go wrong!
- Are you a meat and potato person? Come and get it!
- Just the potatoes? Okey dokey.
- Homemade IS best. Try this!
- Want unusual? Zuchinni pie is all yours.
- Our ❤️ language is the spinach and cheese pie.
If you make our phyllo cheese pie recipe (sirnica, cheese burek) and like it, please consider giving it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5-star) rating. This helps others find this recipe more easily!
Also, feel free to leave a comment (I read each one!), and don't forget to tag a photo #balkanlunchbox, or us @balkanlunchbox, on IG.
Prijatno and bon appetit!
Phyllo Cheese Pie
- 8 ounces feta cheese
- 12 ounces farmers cheese or ricotta
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 4-5 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
Phyllo and phyllo coating:
- 1 box phyllo dough 16-18 sheets, about 1 pound
- 5-6 tablespoons butter
- 2-3 tablespoons oil vegetable, canola, sunflower or coconut
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Filling: In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients. Whisk until ingredients are completely integrated. Heat oven to 390°F (200°C).
- Assembly: Grease a baking pan. Layer one phyllo sheet on the bottom of the pan. Brush a thin layer of (butter and oil) coating over the sheet. Add another sheet of phyllo on top of the first one and repeat the coating.
- Grab a generous amount of filling (about 4 tablespoons), and spread evenly over the top sheet. Layer two sheets on top of the filling, coating each before adding the next layer (just like in step two). (If phyllo is larger than the pan, you can fold, crumple or cut it until it fits.) Top with the filling again and spread it evenly. Repeat phyllo, coating and filling layers until you run out ingredients. Make sure the last, top, pie layer has at least 2-3 sheets of phyllo. Brush it with coating last time and put the pan in the oven.
- Bake 15 min. Rotate the pan and continue baking another 15-20 minutes. Monitor the pie so it doesn’t blush too much (or burn). If it blushes too much lower the temperature to 360°F (180°C) or cover with foil.
- Topping: In a small pan combine milk and butter. Warm up the milk just until the butter melts. Take the cheese pie out of the oven. Using a teaspoon distribute the topping evenly over the pie. Turn the oven off and return the pie inside for a few minutes.
- Serve 20-30 minutes (an hour is even better!) after baking. Store in a cool place (outside) for up to a day. Transfer to the fridge for up to 2-3 days. (Cover in plastic wrap.) Use your favorite reheating method, or eat cold. Do not freeze.