Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

Bougatsa is a classic Greek dessert. It is made with a creamy custard wrapped in phyllo. After baking, the top of each bougatsa parcel is dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon.

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

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?  I’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…I love hot dogs).

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

Bougatsa versus galaktoboureko

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.

Key ingredients

Making bougatsa is a lot of fun, and it really does not require complicated ingredients. The only ingredients which may be a little less common are the phyllo dough, and the semolina. However, if you have been cooking Greek food for a bit, you will likely have these common Greek staples already.

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Phyllo A key ingredient in making bougatsa is phyllo (or filo). This paper-thin unleavened dough can be purchased fresh or frozen. Whenever possible I use fresh phyllo because I find it much easier to work with than phyllo that has been frozen and thawed. Phyllo is usually made very simply with flour, water and either oil or butter.

Unsalted butter I like to use unsalted butter because that way I can adjust the salt amounts as needed. Butter is used not only in the custard, but also to brush between the layers of the phyllo.

Milk I have used a variety of dairy milks to make bougatsa, including lactose free milk, full fat milk, and reduced fat milk. Everything works, so you can use what you have on hand.

Sugar I use white granulated sugar to sweeten my bougatsa custard. The sugar adds sweetness but also only a mild flavour.

Eggs I use large eggs in every recipe, unless otherwise indicated. Eggs help to bind the custard. Follow the instructions carefully to prevent curdling of your eggs.

Semolina Durum wheat semolina is a coarse flour that is yellow in colour. When durum wheat is milled, the most nourishing parts are ground into semolina.

Vanilla I use vanilla powder in this dessert. I really prefer vanilla powder because it does not change the colour the way vanilla extract (which is usually brown) can.

Cinnamon I sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top of the baked bougatsa parcels. A little goes a long way!

Icing sugar Also called confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar, this is white granulated sugar that is ground into a fine powder.

How to make it

Making bougatsa is really easy, and so is preparing the individual phyllo packets. If you follow my simple instructions, you will be successful, and you will impress your family, your friends, and yourself!

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2
Make the custard by combining some melted butter, the sugar, milk, semolina and vanilla in a large pot set over medium-high heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

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Step 3
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.

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Step 4
Set the custard aside and begin to prepare the phyllo.

Step 5
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.

Step 6
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.

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Step 7
Carefully, using a spatula, transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the next packet.

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Step 8
Bake in middle rack of the oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Step 9
Remove from oven; allow to cool on a baking rack.  Dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

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. I 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. I prefer the fresh variety because I 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!

My parents have used vanilla powder for as long as I can remember, so this is what I 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 the colour.   My parents only use the Monastiri brand of fine semolina, a product of Greece.  If you can find this where you are, I 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 I suggested using a 2% milk; the truth is I have often made bougatsa with skim milk (0% milk fat) and milk which is lactose free.  All of the dairy milks that I 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 I have made the instructions as clear as possible, I have also included photos and videos that will probably  be useful.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make bougatsa in a pan instead of individual parcels?

You definitely can. If you would like to make a pan of bougatsa then simply follow the assembly instructions for Galaktoboureko. Layer the phyllo in the same way, pour in the custard, bake. The only difference is that after baking you will not add syrup and you will instead sprinkle the top with cinnamon and icing sugar.

What is bougatsa cream made of?

Bougatsa cream is a semolina based custard. It is made simply using sugar, eggs, milk, butter, semolina and vanilla powder.

Is bougatsa sometimes made with cheese?

Yes, there is a version of bougatsa that is filled with cheese. This version is popular in different parts of Greece, including Chania, Crete.

Watch video below for another one of our favourite desserts: ORANGE AND CRANBERRY OLIVE OIL CAKE

Here are some more delicious desserts that use phyllo pastry.

Galaktoboureko Similar to bougatsa but soaked in syrup, this is the most popular dessert in our family. We all love it!

Portokalopita You can`t see the phyllo in this cake, but trust me, it’s there! Instead of flour, portokalopita uses dried up and crumbled phyllo dough to make the cake. So good!

Baklava Everyone needs a baklava recipe in their repertoire of recipes! Layers of phyllo, nuts, spices and soaked in syrup. Amazing is the best way to describe it.

Galaktoboureko, a Greek classic dessert filled with phyllo and a custard filling.
Portokalopita
Greek Baklava

How to serve

The best way to serve bougatsa is with something lovely to drink. Try a cup of Greek coffee or a Mountain tea or even a warm cup of Milk and coffee.

Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)

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Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa (Μπουγάτσα)
Bougatsa, cream-filled phyllo wrapped parcels sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.

Bougatsa

Bougatsa, cream-filled phyllo wrapped parcels sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 15 pieces
Calories: 269kcal
Author: miakouppa

Ingredients

For the custard:

  • 1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (meaning you should have 1/4 cup after it is melted)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 liter milk we use 2% lactose free milk, but regular is fine
  • 1/2 cup fine ground durum wheat semolina (we like to use the Monastiri brand)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered vanilla

For the assembly:

  • 1 lb phyllo (filo) dough
  • 1/3 cup melted butter for brushing on to phyllo
  • Cinnamon for dusting
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar for dusting the top of the bougatsa

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In a large pot, over medium-high heat,  combine your melted butter and sugar.  Mix until combined and then slowly pour in your milk.  Add the semolina and vanilla.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
    1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (meaning you should have 1/4 cup after it is melted), 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 liter milk, 1/2 cup fine ground durum wheat semolina, 1/4 teaspoon powdered vanilla
  • In a bowl beat together your 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.
    3 large eggs
  • Set the custard aside and begin to prepare the phyllo.
    1 lb phyllo (filo) dough
  • 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.
    1/3 cup melted butter
  • 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 rack of the oven for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven; allow to cool on a baking rack.  Dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
    Cinnamon for dusting, 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 269kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 233mg | Potassium: 151mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 434IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 1mg

Thanks for sharing!

48 Comments

  1. koolkosherkitchen says:

    Love this dessert! It’s my second favorite after baklava. Thank you for sharing!

    1. miakouppa says:

      You are so welcome. Bougatsa is a wonderful sweet (and in case you’re looking for a baklava recipe…we’ve got that too 🙂 )

      1. koolkosherkitchen says:

        I know you do; I’ve seen it on your site, and you have all kinds of wonderful recipes that remind me of my childhood and lovely Greek neighbors.

      2. miakouppa says:

        Thank you 🙂 That is so nice to hear 🙂

      3. koolkosherkitchen says:

        My pleasure, darling!

  2. GreekAmericanMom says:

    I thought I could only get bougatsa in Crete! I can hardly wait to try your recipe!

    1. miakouppa says:

      You can definitely have it wherever you like!! Hope you enjoy our recipe 🙂

  3. thefidgetyfoodie says:

    I’ve always wondered about the difference between the two iconic Greek desserts – thanks!

    1. miakouppa says:

      You are so welcome! Despite the differences, they are both delicious 🙂

  4. a little Swiss, a little Canadian says:

    Such a yummy treat!😍😋

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thanks Ursula! It is absolutely one of our favourites 🙂

      1. Demetra Fait says:

        Can this be made a day ahead, or will it get soggy?

      2. miakouppa says:

        You certainly can make it a day ahead. Consider reheating it before serving, to crisp up the phyllo.

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

    1. miakouppa says:

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

  6. Andriotakis Theodora says:

    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. miakouppa says:

      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!)

  7. 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. miakouppa says:

      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 🙂

      2. miakouppa says:

        That could be it! Hope you enjoyed them, regardless 🙂 🙂

  8. 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? 😬

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Maggie! It may be that your’s overcooked a bit. It should still taste fine! Hope you love it!

  9. 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.
    Kristy.

    1. miakouppa says:

      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 🙂

  10. 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,
    Carishma

    1. miakouppa says:

      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!!

      1. Thank you so much for the quick response!

  11. Charles MacDonald says:

    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. miakouppa says:

      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. Charles MacDonald says:

        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.

      2. miakouppa says:

        Yes!! That sounds like a great plan Charles 🙂

  12. What brand and thickness of phyllo do you use? Seems thicker than used for baklava

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Lin, we use a medium thickness phyllo – it’s actually the same one that we use in our baklava recipe.

  13. I made this with full-fat coconut milk and olive oil to make it dairy free. It worked well, but it ended up perhaps a bit thicker than it would have with dairy milk, probably because of the fat content. I would suggest to anyone looking to make that particular substitute to use either lower fat coconut milk or water down the coconut milk a bit. Though not traditional, I added saffron too because it seemed like it would be nice and cover up some of the coconut flavour (which I’m not a huge fan of)

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thanks Alexa for sharing your experience with the experimenting! It’s great to know. Wonder how it would turn out with an almond milk or rice milk – maybe less thick? In any case, love the addition of the saffron! xoxo Helen & Billie

  14. Meaghan Pang says:

    My fillo sheets were a little bigger, but after cutting in half, I got 6. How did you get 15?? I did have a 1lb box.

    1. miakouppa says:

      Depends on the brand we suppose. Even though you also used a 1 pound box it is possible that your phyllo sheets were thicker, and therefore weighed the same as ours, even if they were smaller. Hope the recipe worked out for you regardless! xoxo Helen & Billie

  15. Hi there Family,
    I am Leo, a Greek American from Queens, NYC who’s mother and aunts were excellent bakers growing up. So between Astoria and Mom and Thia, there was never any shortage of Greek pastries, in fact some of the best. But it wasn’t until I moved to Miami and worked as a cook in the best Greek restaurant in town for a little while that I truly discovered the bougatsa craze, and we used frozen prewrapped bougatsa from our distributor Rodoula Bakery from Saloniki and they were pretty damn good! But now I am in Sicily, Italy and I am ready to share this experience with my in-law familywho are experts themselves with everything from cannoli to casatedda, and found your recipe and I’m gonna go for it! If you are familiar with the Rodoula bakery version in Salonicco maybe you can give me a comparison in style and recipe to yours. Wish me luck. I’m hope I can impress them with this favorite pastry of mine… BOUGATSA!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Oh goodness Leonidas…we are feeling the pressure!!! LOL. All kidding aside, we think that you and your family will be impressed with our bougatsa recipe! Unfortunately we are not familiar with the Rodoula bakery version you are referencing, so we cannot compare. Having said that, hope that the easy to follow recipe, and pics / video will help. We cannot wait to hear what you and everyone think! Good luck, and enjoy 🙂 xoxo Helen & Billie

  16. Χριστίνα Δελλιος says:

    Μπράβο! This is a good one! Not too sweet, which I love. Very easy to put together. I used #7 phyllo which was nice. Am throwing one in the freezer (unbaked) to see how it does. Would love to be able to make these in batches and just pull out a few at a time. Thanks for another great recipe!!5 stars

    1. miakouppa says:

      Amazing! Thank you for giving our recipe a try and yes, they freeze unbaked really well 🙂 So happy you enjoyed, and hope that you continue to find much to love here with us 🙂
      xoxo Helen & Billie

  17. What are the changes to the recipe you’d need to make to have the filling be with sweet cheese like they do in Crete?5 stars

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Michael, the bougatsa you are referring to is a totally different version. The filling, as you say, is cheese. Unfortunately we don’t have a recipe posted…but good news. Our koumbara is from Chania – we will try to get the recipe from her mom, and share it 🙂 xoxo Helen & Billie

  18. Great and delicious recipe! Thank you so much. Brings us back to Greece.😁5 stars

    1. miakouppa says:

      That’s great to hear Maria! So happy that you loved this recipe 🙂 Hope you continue to find much to love here with us! xoxo Helen & Billie

  19. Christina says:

    To bake from unbaked frozen, what is the cooking time please?

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi there Christina. This should take about 40 – 45 minutes. Hope that helps, and enjoy! xoxo Helen & Billie

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