Spanakopita is a Greek fish that is usually a combination of feta cheese, pine nuts, and spinach, encased in a flaky filo pastry.
It’s a common dish in Greece you may have had on holiday and have taken some cooking inspiration home with you, or something you have seen a recipe for.
It’s a dish that has recently found its way to the American dining table as more Americans look to Europe for food inspiration.
Like most pies it’s generally quite easy to make and serves a lot of people, but as a result we often want some extra side dishes to serve alongside it to bulk out the meal for guests, and just have some contrast to the pie itself.
Keep reading to learn more about Greek cuisine as well as this unique and tasty pie!
What Is Spanakopita?
Spanakopita refers to a filo pastry pie that often has cheese and spinach inside, most typically feta cheese and spinach, although there are many varieties that can use broccoli, pine nuts, kale, or any other leafy greens, and various other cheeses like ricotta.
It’s a dish that varies around Greece, but is common in the country as well as abroad – without its Grecian name it’s often called feta and spinach pie.
It’s a satisfying meal that doesn’t have to use meat, something traditionally expensive, while feta cheese is a common commodity in Greece.
It’s very similar to many other dishes of other continental European countries. Burek is very similar in the Balkans areas such as Serbia and Bosnia, with many variations of a filo pastry pie being found elsewhere in Europe such as Italy, and in the Americas.
Why Serve Side Dishes With Spanakopita
While Spanakopita can be quite satisfying, one reason it can be worth serving sides is purely to add some nutrition to this pie. Certain salads or even a meat dish can be worth investigating to get the most out of the pie.
Moreover, spanakopita is often made as one large pie with the goal of serving quite a few people.
In this situation having side dishes helps you bulk out the meal for other guests, so everyone can have a slice of pie while being able to graze on the various side dishes we will discuss.
In terms of enjoying the meal, it can also be good to have side dishes purely for some textural and flavor contrasts to the moreish and cheesey pie, herby and acidic sides often work best as we will learn.
Best Side Dishes To Serve With Spanakopita
Often, to know what to serve with a dish, it can be worth considering what it might be served with in a restaurant or homemade Greek meal, the traditional accompaniments will be classics for a reason so they can often be the best places to look for ideas.
Much of Greek cuisine is influenced by the Middle East, and vice versa, thanks to the country’s borders and history. It’s a good cuisine to look into if you like Italian flavors.
1. Tabbouleh (Herby salad with grains)
Tabbouleh is a classic salad served in the Middle East, and is a typical side dish to serve with Spanakopita. Put simply, it’s a herb heavy salad that relies on herbs being the leafy element of the salad.
Usually herb combinations of parsley, mint, and or cilantro if you have it – as a result it’s a good way to use lots of herbs at once. Usually a tabbouleh goes for a 70:40 ration of parsley to mint, but this is dependent on your preferences.
Bulgur wheat is a common addition to the salad, a cracked grain that is often soaked rather than cooked, but is comparable to couscous.
In American stores, bulgur wheat might be hard to find, so something like quinoa or couscous can work in a similar way. These grains are ideal at soaking up dressing.
The vegetables used in Tabbouleh are commonly cucumber and tomato, although the various European countries that traditionally make Tabbouleh may argue about which vegetables to include. Onion can also be a good addition in the salad.
The dressing is almost always olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, which provides a very satisfying acidic edge that compliments the herby greens well.
This is why the salad is really great with spanakopita as the acidity and freshness of this salad is ideal to cut through the rich and creamy feta cheese.
2. Fattoush (Fried pita chopped salad)
Fattoush, like Tabbouleh, is another Lebanese side dish that often interacts with Greek cuisine due to their historic borders. It’s another kind of salad but a bit closer to what we know as a salad in the US.
Speaking of US salads, you can consider this a chopped salad similar to one you might find in the US with herbs, onions, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers,
The unique factor of this salad is the fried pita bread, kind of like croutons from the mMiddle East. It can be easy to find pita bread in most US grocery stores, and all you need to do is chop it up and fry it.
It’s great to have with the spanakopita and provides some welcome crunch and freshness to something that is soft and rich.
3. Fatteh (Pita with chickpeas and yogurt)
Fatteh is a pretty simple dish, you can consider it to be Middle Eastern nachos, or deconstructed hummus.
Fried bits of pita are arranged on a plate like tortilla chips and then topped with tangy Greek yogurt, chickpeas, tahini, as well as other additions like pine nuts, garlic, cumin, and other similar spices.
It’s pretty simple but provides some nice textural contrast to the pie for something creamy, simple in flavor, but also full of protein.
Most Americans have probably crossed paths with falafel before. If you haven’t it’s kind of like a chickpea meatball, they are really savory and umami and packed with protein from the chickpeas.
You can get falafel from the store, your local Middle Eastern takeaway, or make them yourself. Falafels provide a big savory bomb that compliments the spanakopita well, but is mainly useful for having such a meaty, bite-into texture ideal to provide contrast to the pie.
5. Halloumi Saganaki
Another good idea is to serve a platter of Greek cheese, which is common at a Greek restaurant.
Halloumi, also known as ‘squeaky cheese’ is a semi hard cheese that has a satisfyingly tough and chewy texture. It’s also a really great and healthy source of protein. When fried the dish is commonly known as ‘saganaki’ which just refers to it being fried.
Halloumi when fried is very chewy and meaty and satisfying, a perfect textural contrast to the spanakopita. It’s commonly served with a simple dressing of honey and lemon juice to provide acidity to cut through the richness of the cheese.
6. Labneh With Za’atar
Labneh is a strained yogurt from the Middle East kind of like Greek yogurt or sour cream, you can buy it or make it at home, or swap it out for greek yogurt or something similar you can find.
The tangy yogurt is often dressed with an oil flavored with the Middle Eastern spice Za’atar. Za’atar is basically a herb mix, usually a combination of toasted sesame seeds, oregano, marjoram, sumac, or chili flakes.
This herby and spicy oil is poured on top of the labneh and the outcome is something both spicy and rich, creamy and tangy, usually eaten with pita bread, a perfect compliment to the spanakopita.
While you can serve it as a side dish it is often eaten at breakfast in the Middle East, an ideal cooling and gut healthy way to start your day.
As you can see there is a whole world of side dishes you can serve with spanakopita, many of which are traditionally Middle Eastern in their origin.
These side dishes are often great on their own and teach us many techniques and flavor combinations we may not be privy to in the West, providing us with many avenues to get into both Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine and cooking.
Herby and acidic side dishes, as listed, are perhaps the best with spanakopita but the more savory and moreish dishes like falafel and other cheeses can be ideal for larger parties of guests, so you can be sure they go home satisfied.
What To Serve With Spanakopita? 6 Traditional Side Dishes To Impress GuestsCourse: Sides
- Pick a recipe from above
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