What Is Phyllo Dough?

It’s a question that has plagued humankind since the invention of the rolling pin: How do they get the layers in baklava so darned thin??? The answer, my good people, is phyllo dough (also spelled “filo” or “fillo”, but we’ll use the ph-spelling because how often do you get to use a “ph” word?). A staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, the word “phyllo” is derived from the Greek word for “leaf,” which aptly describes phyllo dough’s delicate, wisp-thin layers. Today, we’ll examine phyllo dough, and hopefully get phyll-ed in on everything that makes it such an incredible culinary tool.

Is phyllo dough the same as puff pastry?

Let’s get this out of the way: Phyllo dough and puff pastry are not the same; they are distinct types of pastry—even though they share a thin and layered consistency. Both are made with flour and water, sure, but the key difference lies in the fat content. Phyllo dough is made with a bit of oil (typically olive oil), while puff pastry is made with butter—lots of butter. 

What is phyllo dough made of?

Phyllo dough’s primary ingredients are quite simple: flour, water, and a small amount of oil or vinegar. Those three ingredients (and a lot of careful stretching) create a thin, delicate dough that bakes into crispy, crackling leaves. 

What to make with phyllo dough?

The delicate layers of phyllo dough are used to make baklava, fruit-filled strudels, as well as “phyllo cups” filled with creamy custards or chocolate. On the savory side, phyllo dough serves as an excellent vessel for appetizers like spanakopita (a savory Greek spinach and feta pie) or other savory tarts. You can also swap it in for puff pastry if you’re making a pot pie. It’s so thin, you might think you could use it for origami, too, but its crispiness forbids it, unfortunately.

Is phyllo dough vegan?

Phyllo dough is typically vegan, since it’s made with oil instead of butter. But foods made with phyllo dough (like spanakopita and baklava) are not vegan. If you’re buying frozen phyllo dough, be sure to check the ingredients, just in case. And if you’re ordering something made with phyllo dough at a restaurant, ask if it’s vegan. Even though there’s no dairy in phyllo dough, sometimes chefs brush butter onto the dough. 

Does phyllo dough have gluten?

Yes, traditional phyllo dough contains gluten, thanks to the wheat flour. Phyllo dough is known for its paper-thin layers, and gluten plays a crucial role in achieving this texture. You can find gluten free phyllo dough, but we can’t guarantee it’ll taste like the real deal. 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *