Bulgarian Banitsa. Recipe & story

Banitsa is a traditional pastry made from thin layers of puff dough. Home banitsa is an essential part of the Bulgarian tableful. On holidays a “lucky coin” is baked inside: it is wishes, written on paper and wrapped in foil or a piece of dogwood with berries.

Traditional filling is white cheese (sirene/сирене) there are also options with spinach (spanachnik/спаначник), pumpkin (tikvenik/тиквеник), herbs (zelnik/зелник), potatoes (patatnik/пататник), onions (luchnik/лучник), fish and meat. The shape also differs: spiral banitsa is called “sviwnik/свивник”, layered like lasagna “nalozgena/наложена” banica.

Where does this name come from?

It is believed that the name comes from an ancient Slavic word «гъѫбнти» which means «bend or fold». In Bulgarian language, the word «banitsa» can also be used as a synonym of wrinkled or rumpled. For example, a teacher may blame a student for the appearance of his exercise book by comparing it with a banitsa. The same can be said about the car crushed after an accident. According to another version, “bannitsa” is a measure of bread in Russia, 8 bannitsas is one kilogram (Brockhaus-Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1890).

Similar types of pastry can be easily found in the neighboring countries: spinach pie in Greece (spinakopita/σπανακόπιτα), gibanitsa in Serbia, börek in Turkish cuisine, burekas in Israel (בורקס‏‎), bugatsa in Macedonia, achma in Georgia (აჩმა), cheburek in Kazakhstan (çiberek). All these baking options are united by puff pastry “philo”, prepared same way.


The process of making homemade dough for banitsa is very complicated, mainly because you need to roll out many very thin sheets. Therefore, locals prefer to buy ready-made dough in a supermarket (the product is called “точени кори за баница”) and fill it with preferred stuffing. A semi ready frozen banitsa for baking in the oven, already stuffed with different filling, is also available.

So, for traditional stuffing, you will need 450 gr of white cheese, 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk or Bulgarian yogurt, olive oil or butter. At first, ready-made dough must first be defrosted in natural way. Keep in mind that pastry sheets are very thin, it runs dry very quickly and become brittle as far as package is open, so you need to cook fast.

When the stuffing is ready, the layers of dough are laid out in a deep oven-tray, oiled, one after another. Spread the filling between it in small portions. At the end, you need to pour beaten eggs mixed with Bulgarian yogurt and spices on the banitsa. Bake it at around 180° C for 40 minutes, until a golden crust forms on the upper layer.

Here is the recipe for homemade puff dough, if you wish to cook it by yourself:

  • Flour - 1 kg
  • Butter - 100 gr.
  • Bulgarian yogurt - 1 cup
  • Soda - 1 teaspoon
  • Warm water - 4 tablespoons

The ingredients must be mixed into dough, then divided to small balls and left in refrigerator for 1 hour. Then each piece must be rolled out with a rolling pin as thin as possible.

Spiral banitsa (свивник)

Features of modern banitsa

If you do not have an opportunity to use oven, then a ready-made banitca can be bought at the special pastry shop (banitcharnitsa/баничарница). Most of the locals buy banitsa for breakfast or lunch and eat it with bulgarian yougurt.

Typically, the taste of such pastries is worse than homemade, but the price is fantastically low 1-2 BGN ( 0,5 – 1€). Usually, they sell rectangular type of banitsa (“наложена”), as it is simpler to cook and easy to divide into portions.

Every day, early in the morning, locals are wait in line (mostly men) to buy fresh banica «to go» for breakfast or lunch. By the middle of the day, the bakeries, as a rule, are already closed, since the entire amount of baked goods is sold out. What stops them from baking banitsa from morning till evening to increase the sales and earnings is a mystery.

As we already noted above, the price for banitsa in pastry shop is recordly low, therefore producer have to skimp on everything, including cleanliness, unfortunately. Be prepared that there are usually no disposable gloves, and the individual packaging for banitsa is a piece of thick paper or a plastic bag.

Ready dough for banitsa «Точени кори»

In conclusion, it is worth noting that banitsa is a very high-calorie and difficult to digest food, since it contains a lot of dough, it is better to serve it accompanied by fresh vegetables. Homemade banitsa can also be filled with apples, defrosted berries and mushrooms.