Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

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Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

Bougatsa, cream-filled phyllo wrapped parcels sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon

There are some pretty hefty debates which exist in the culinary world.  Should peanut butter be creamy, or chunky?  Is it best to eat your macaroni and cheese with a fork, or a spoon?  Is a hot dog a sandwich? And, is bougatsa just galaktoboureko, minus the syrup?  We’ll get to that last one in a minute, but first: peanut butter should be creamy, mac and cheese tastes best with a spoon, and a hot dog is barely food…let alone a sandwich (having said that…we love hot dogs).

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

The bougatsa versus galaktoboureko debate is a little more complex.  Although both are custard desserts encased in phyllo, one of the major differences is that galaktoboureko is soaked in syrup which is often flavoured with citrus.  Bougatsa on the other hand is usually dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, and has no syrup.  The other difference is that the layer of custard found in bougatsa is quite a bit thinner than the thick layer of custard which makes up a galaktoboureko.  The end result is that when served warm, the bougatsa custard has a beautiful way of remaining creamy, oozy and perfect.

The other difference between these two desserts is in the presentation, at least in the way that our parents make bougatsa.  Unlike galaktoboureko which is prepared in a pan from which we cut pieces, they make their bougatsa as individual parcels, perfect for dessert on the go.  We love bougatsa this way, which highlights another common difference between it and galaktobourko; the way that the phyllo is folded ensures a larger phyllo to custard ratio than in galaktoboureko, especially around the edges.

Helpful hints

Phyllo dough (sometimes referred to as filo dough) has a bad reputation as being a finicky ingredient which is difficult to work with.  Many recipes warn against the fact that it dries out quickly, tears easily and should therefore be handled with extreme caution.  We say, hogwash!  Sure, phyllo can dry up when exposed to air for a long time…but it has to be a pretty long time, longer than it will take for you to prepare this dessert, even for the first time.  To help avoid the horror of dried phyllo however you can always use a clean cloth to cover the phyllo you are not yet working with.  


You can find phyllo dough in pretty much any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocer, or any well stocked supermarket.  It is often available both frozen and fresh. We prefer the fresh variety because we find the frozen phyllo sometimes gets a bit soggy after it has thawed.  If the frozen phyllo is all you can find however, go for it!


Our parents have used vanilla powder for as long as we can remember, so this is what we use here.  If you cannot find vanilla powder, or prefer to use vanilla extract, use the same amount called for in the recipe.  Keep in mind that most vanilla extracts are brown in colour and that this may slightly change the colour of your custard.  If you don’t want to affect the colour you can purchase clear vanilla extract, usually found at baking supply stores.


The type of semolina used in this dessert will affect the outcome, particularly in the colour.   Our parents only use the Monastiri brand of fine semolina, a product of Greece.  If you can find this where you are, we suggest you use it.  If not, then experiment with what you have on hand until you come up with a sweet which you love.

A word about the milk.  In the recipe which follows we listed that you use a 2% milk; the truth is we have often made bougatsa with skim milk (0% milk fat) and milk which is lactose free.  All of the dairy milks that we have tried over the years have resulted in a beautiful bougatsa, so if you want to save a few calories and use skim milk, go ahead.  Your dessert will be just wonderful (and then you can eat more of it!)

The hardest part of this recipe is the creation of the individual bougatsa packets.  Correction, the hardest part is describing in the directions how to prepare the individual bougatsa packets.  Although we have made the instructions as clear as possible, we’ve also includes photos and videos that will probably  be useful.

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

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Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

  • Servings: 15 pieces
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) melted, unsalted butter (meaning, you should end up with 1/4 cup after it is melted)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams)  granulated sugar
  • 1 liter (1000 mL or 32 oz) 2% milk (you can use lactose free milk if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) fine ground durum wheat semolina (we like to use the Monastiri brand)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered vanilla
  • 1 pound phyllo (filo) dough
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) approximately melted butter (for brushing on to phyllo)
  • Cinnamon for dusting
  • Approximately 1/2 cup (65 grams) icing sugar, for dusting the top of the bougatsa


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In a large pot, over medium-high heat,  combine melted butter and sugar.  Mix until combined and then slowly pour in milk.  Add semolina and vanilla.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • In a bowl beat together 3 eggs using a fork.  Once thoroughly beaten slowly add them to the pot.  At this point you must continuously stir the contents of the pot. Continue to cook, stirring continuously, over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. The custard filling is done when it has the consistency of a pudding. You can get a sense of what it looks like here.
  • Set the custard aside and begin to prepare the phyllo.
  • Open up your pack of phyllo and unwrap the sheets.  Cut the pile of large phyllo sheets in half so that you are left with rectangular pieces which measure approximately 8 X13 inches.
  • Lay 3 sheets of phyllo one on top of the other, brushing melted butter between each sheet.  As you lay the sheets down, keep the shorter end facing you.  Then, place 1/3 cup of custard mixture in the bottom center of your square, leaving approximately 1.5 inches from the edge.  Fold that bottom edge of phyllo over the custard and then fold in each of the sides.  At this point your custard should be fully covered by phyllo.  Flip the phyllo and custard over, using a spatula to help you and brush the top with butter.  Next, take the strip of phyllo and fold it over and then under your custard pocket. Brush the top with melted butter. You can watch a video of the process here.
  • Carefully, using a spatula, transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the next packet.
  • Bake in middle of the oven for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven; allow to cool on a baking rack.  Dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
  • Enjoy.

38 thoughts on “Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

  1. Can I prep ahead and freeze? Then take out and bake like we do with spanakopita and tiropita?

    1. Absolutely Violet! These work great baked straight from the freezer. You’ll just have to adjust the cooking time a bit. Hope you enjoy!

  2. Quick question, I’m strapped for time so is it ok to make bougatsa the day before? Or if not can I make the parcels the day before and then just bake them in the morning? BTW absolutely love your site!!!!

    1. Oh no! We don’t seem to have answered this when you were needing a response! So sorry. But, to answer your question…sure you can prepare these bougatsa packages the day before and then bake them from fridge. Otherwise, you can also freeze them, and bake from frozen (simply adjust the cooking time!)

  3. Thank you for your wonderful recipe! My bougatses are cooling as I type and I desperately need your help! Why did my custard explode out of the sides of each pocket? I used 1/3 C (didn’t overfill), is it because they weren’t tight enough? Yours look flatter and more saturated with butter than my did before I put them in the oven. Please share your thoughts. I can e-mail a pic if you’d like:) thanks for your help!

    1. Oh no! Exploding custard is not a good thing…but rest assured, still delicious 🙂 We’re wondering if your pockets were maybe too tight? Sometimes you’ll get an explosion as things build up during cooking and there is not “wiggle room” for the custard. The other thought is that your pockets were not fully wrapped around the custard, that you may have had a seam or an opening which gave your custard an opportunity to seep out. Sure, send a photo! We hope you ate and enjoyed them anyways!

      1. Hmmm…some of my phyllo sheets tore, perhaps that’s the reason! Thank you for your help. I posted a pic on pinterest 🙂

  4. The consistency of my custard isn’t as cream as yours, is that just a matter of over cooking? Will it taste the same just have a less creamy consistency? 😬

  5. Hello, I want to double check if you use the whole egg or just the yolks to make the custard please? Other recipes just use yolk so I’m curious before I make your recipe.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Kristy! Thanks for double checking. Yes, we use the entire egg in our custard. So glad you will be trying our recipe – we hope you love it as much as we do. Let us know if you have any other questions, and how you like it 🙂

  6. Hi,

    I rally love your recipes. I was wondering if I could make the custard the evening before and the full and baka it in the morning?

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Carishma!
      So glad that you are enjoying our recipes. Yes, you can certainly make the custard ahead of time and assemble and bake the next day. You will first have to bring the custard to room temperature and give it a good mix. Enjoy!!

  7. This is the second year in a row that I’ve made bougatsa for Valentine’s Day. I sense the genesis of a tradition.

    One thing I’ll say: buying a very good phyllo will save you trouble down the line. I used my preferred brand last year and everything went smoothly. This year, I used what we could find during the pandemic, a distinctly inferior product. It was much more of a struggle, but still worth persevering with it.

    Thank you for the video and step-by-step photographs. They make everything so much easier.

    1. That sounds like an amazing tradition!! And yes a good phyllo is very important. We’re so happy that you find our photos, videos and instructions helpful!! Hope you continue to find much to enjoy here! xoxo Helen & Billie

      1. Now that I’ve restocked on good phyllo, I’ll have to make bougatsa more often. It really is easy once you’ve done it once.

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