Chef, restaurateur, author, grower


Beef “snail” pies (börek)

Mar 11, 2016 | Recipes

What is a “börek”? Everybody asks me this question whenever we have it on the menu. So I decided to write about it and make a recipe. I know that will make my husband happy too. I think Turkish men are made out of dough. They love everything made with flour; they eat bread, a lot of bread, homemade pastas, all sorts of börek and of course dough based and syrup soaked desserts like baklava!

Börek is a general name for savory pastries in Turkish. Traditionally, börek is made by grandmothers or mothers who make the filo dough from scratch and fill it with whatever ingredients available (spinach or any greens, ground meat, cooked chicken, cheeses and herbs). The younger generation prefers the ready to use filo dough, obviously it’s a time saver. I still prefer to make börek with homemade filo when I have time. I’m using market bought for today’s recipe but next time I’ll post the fresh dough recipe.


borek stuffing

Börek is a big thing in Turkey; there are börek houses in every street of the country, we grab a piece of many sizes, shapes or tastes, on our way to school, to work, to meetings. Most of the time, it makes a quick breakfast or lunch and it’s an essential food on every afternoon tea servings. Like everything else (meatballs, pastas, kebabs, desserts, etc.) in Turkey, every city has at least one special börek of their own. A few years ago, my husband, my daughter and I were visiting an old neighborhood in Istanbul and apparently, their specialty börek was very famous! We went in one shop, we ordered two böreks with turkish tea. It tasted “meh!” so went out, started to chat with people and I said that the börek we tasted wasn’t very special, one of the people said “because you didn’t go to the right place, so taste this in that (I don’t remember the name) place”. We were not hungry but curious about the “real taste” so we went again in another place and we tasted the börek. It was a bit better but it wasn’t knocking the hat off of our heads. Anyway, we took a taxi to go somewhere else, and the taxi driver asked how we found their börek and I said “we tried two places, it was OK but not wow “, he said “oh you were not at the right shop!” and he drove us to another börek house. The third place might be the best one but we were so full, we couldn’t taste the difference. So, in Turkey, people can be very eager to make you eat their specialties and börek is one of them.

Here is my  börek recipe. It’s very popular in my restaurants. I translated the name as snail pie because of the shape of it.

borek preparation
borek rolling
borek rolling
borek eggwash
borek eggwashed
borek cooked

All photos by  Su Tarhan – my daughter ©

Beef “snail” pies (Börek)

Print Recipe
Servings 6 pies


  • 500 gr ground beef
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachio
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp currant raisins
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 pack filo dough (usually there is 24 to 28 sheets of filo)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • nigella or sesame seeds optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • To make the filling, heat the oil in a skillet, add the pine nuts and pistachios, cook for a minute and add the onions to sweat.
  • Add the beef and tomato paste, cook until the beef is browned all the way through. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Let it cool completely before filling into filo. Add the parsley.
  • In the meantime, in a small bowl, mix the milk and olive oil.
  • On the kitchen counter or a table, lay the filo sheets and cover them with a cloth.
  • Once the filling is cooled, start rolling the pies. Take two filo sheets per pie, brush all over with milk-oil mix. Spread 2-3 tablespoon of filling on one long edge about an inch (2,5 cm) tick. Roll it loosely through the other end then swirl it to give a snail shape.
  • Place them on the parchment baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with a drop of water. Brush it on each pie and sprinkle with nigella or sesame seeds if you are using.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!


If you make the filling with spinach or other greens or your favorite vegetable sauté, it can be a vegetarian option. I like to serve it with tomato-cucumber salad for summer time and mix green salad during winter.