Have you ever tried Kalitsounia? These small hand pies from Crete are filled with cheese or herbs. They are considered a treat and can be sweet or savory. Our savory Kalitsounia recipe is from the Chania region of Crete with handmade phyllo filled with local greens and herbs.

If you love this Kalitsounia Recipe-Cretan Savory Hand Pies, you will also enjoy this Spinach PieTiropitakia-Cheese Triangles with Bacon and Gruyère or Easy Cheese pie with Kataifi Pastry & Roquefort!

Kalitsounia, Cretan hand pies from Chania in a plate with a cloth napkin on a dark green table.

Why this recipe sings

Our savory Kalitsounia recipe is from the Chania region of Crete.

It has handmade phyllo dough, wild greens and herbs from the Cretan mountains. The seasoning is sea salt and freshly ground pepper. The phyllo has all-purpose flour, extra virgin olive oil, a splash of vinegar, sea salt, pepper, and water.

You can create your kalitsounia using seasonal fresh greens found in farmer’s markets and grocery stores. In this hand pies recipe we mixed fresh spinach, spring onions, a leek, fresh spearmint, and dill from a local village farm. Other times we mix any available wild greens like chicory, vlita, amaranth, etc. This recipe is flexible and can be vegetarian by mixing the greens with crumbled feta and ricotta.

Kalitsounia are traditionally fried in olive oil. Frying brings out the best flavor and texture. Alternatively, they can be baked in a 380°F / 180°C oven for 25 minutes. Brush each one with a bit of olive oil or an egg wash before baking.

Here is what you need

For the phyllo dough

  • All-purpose flour.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Red wine vinegar.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

For the filling

  • Greens. Such as spinach, amaranth, collard greens, chicory, dandelions, and Swiss chard. You can mix and match or use just one kind.
  • Fresh herbs. Mix fresh spearmint, dill, oregano, sage, basil, basically anything you have available is fine.
  • Spring onions, leeks, scallions. The same principle applies here. Anything similar is ok.
  • Extra virgin olive oil. You will also need it for frying.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
An elderly woman sitting outdoors on a chair trimming spinach over two large bowls.
Aunt Lena is trimming the fresh spinach sitting on the front porch at her mountain house in Kakodiki, Crete.

Prepare the greens

Four images of trimming, washing greens and spring onions.
  1. Trim the hard parts and if the stems are tender you can keep them. Discard any damaged or discolored leaves.
  2. Add all the trimmed greens to a large, clean container (or sink) filled with water. Wash them very well. Discard the water and repeat the process a couple more times to remove all the dirt on the leaves and stems. Three washes should be enough. Do not skip the three washes; it is crucial to clean the greens thoroughly.
  3. Slice the spring onions, leek, and other herbs into a large bowl.
  4. Roughly dry the leaves. Gather a small bunch in one hand and with the help of a sharp knife, slice from the top into small pieces.
Four images of massaging greens, adding pepper, cooking over the stove in a pot and a close up of the greens cooked.
  1. Use both your hands to mix the herbs, spring onions and chopped leaves. Massage with medium force for a few minutes to soften them. Show them who’s the boss!
  2. Season the greens with two teaspoons of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
  3. Add two to three tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Place it over medium-high heat and add the greens. Saute greens for 5 to 10 minutes(or more), stirring often until all moisture and liquids have evaporated.
  4. Remove the pot from heat and let the greens cool. Taste the filling and add sea salt and pepper to your liking.

Make the phyllo dough

Four images of flour in a bowl with olive oil, hands kneading in the bowl and on a floured surface and the dough in a bowl.
  1. Add the flour to a large bowl. Make a well and add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and some water.
  2. Start incorporating the flour and liquids with your fingers in a circular motion. The dough will start coming together. Add a little water at a time as you knead.
  3. When a ball of dough has formed and the walls of the bowl have been completely cleaned, transfer it to a floured surface. Keep kneading the dough with strong movements pulling and turning it for 5 minutes. The dough should be soft, pliable, and fluffy.
  4. Add some flour to the bottom of the bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Roll the phyllo

An elderly lady rolling the dough into a large phyllo sheet.
Aunt Lena is showing us how to do the perfect phyllo for kalitsounia at her home in Kakodiki, Crete.
Four images of hands flattening the dough on a table, rolling it with a rolling pin, adding flour on top and rolling it on the rolling pin.
  1. After the dough has rested, divide it into 2 or 3 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, flatten it with your hands on a floured surface. Keep the rest of the pieces covered with the damp towel while you work.
  2. Add a bit of flour on top and start rolling it with a long and thin rolling pin.
  3. Open each piece onto a thin sheet, flouring whenever necessary.
  4. Gently roll it on the rolling pin and push outwards with your fingers and palms to open each piece onto a thin sheet around one millimeter thick. Check this video for how to roll the perfect phyllo sheet.

Fill the hand pies

Four images of a hand holding a small plate over the phyllo and a knife cutting it at the edge, a hand filling the pie with greens, two hands fording the hand pie and a fork pressing at the edge of a hand pie.
  1. Place a small plate on the phyllo sheet, use it as a guide and gently cut with a sharp knife around the perimeter of the plate.
  2. Put a full tablespoon of the greens mixture on half of the round phyllo piece about a centimeter from the edge.
  3. Wet your fingers with a bit of water and run them over that half edge of the phyllo. Bring the other side over the filling and seal the hand pie gently with your fingers.
  4. Take a fork and press around the edge to firmly seal the kalitsouni and make a pattern.
Close up of hand pies on a floured baking sheet.

TIP: Place the kalitsounia on a floured surface as you finish each one. Don’t overlap or stack them. They will stick together, and it will be difficult to separate them. Make layers. Add a piece of parchment on top, sprinkle a bit of flour, and place more on the paper if you need to.

Time to cook

Frying the kalitsounia brings out the best flavor (versus baking). It is how they are traditionally made and my preferred way to cook them.

However, if frying is not your cup of tea, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush the kalitsounia with olive oil all over and bake them on a 380°F oven for about 25 minutes or until they are golden and the edges are crispy (but not burned).

Three kalitsounia frying in a skillet.
Three kalitsounia frying in a skillet.
  1. Add some olive oil to a frying pan. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot fry the kalitsounia for about two to three minutes per side.
  2. Keep in mind that as you fry, the oil will get hotter and each hand pie will appear to need less time to cook. Don’t be fooled by this. Lower the heat to medium and cook for a little longer. For the best results, always do a taste test to ensure the hand pies are cooked to your liking.

Place cooked kalitsounia on paper towels (or a wire rack) to absorb the extra olive oil.

Kalitsounia, Cretan hand pies from Chania in a plate and two hand pies on a cloth napkin all on a dark green table.

Helpful tips

  • The kalitsounia can be enjoyed immediately or at room temperature. I even like them cold directly from the fridge. I have been known to sneak into the kitchen and snack on cold kalitsounia. Can’t resist them at any temperature!
  • Add one cup of crumbled feta mixed with 1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese in the greens filling for a different version of kalitsounia.
Kalitsounia, Cretan hand pies from Chania in a plate with a cloth napkin on a dark green table.

A big thank you to my aunt Eleni Vernadaki and cousin Piyi Papadaki for their help in creating these delicious traditional kalitsounia. Our post was photographed at their beautiful home in Kakodiki, Crete.

Four images of a house in the mountains of Crete. A table and a wooden chair in a yard, a staircase with a small cat sitting on a step, a veranda with the view of the mountains and an olive tree grove next to the house.

Cooked this? Rate this recipe! You can also leave a comment below. I love hearing from you!

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Kalitsounia-Cretan Savory Hand Pies

by Jenny | The Greek Foodie
Kalitsounia are hand pies from Crete and can be sweet or savory. This is our family recipe with handmade phyllo with a local greens and herbs filling.
5 from 11 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Dough resting time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer-snack
Cuisine Cretan, Greek
Servings 30 pieces
Calories 88 kcal

Equipment

  • Rolling Pin
  • 2 large bowls

Ingredients
  

For the phyllo dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • cups water approximatelly
  • teaspoons sea salt

for the filling

  • 4 lbs greens spinach, amaranth, collard greens, chicory, dandelions
  • 1 cup fresh spearmint leaves
  • ½ cup fresh dill
  • 3-4 spring onions
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

You also need

  • extra virgin olive oil for frying

Instructions
 

Trim and wash the greens

  • Trim any hard parts from the greens. If the stems are tender, you can keep them.
    Discard any leaves that are damaged or discolored. 
  • Add all the trimmed greens to a large, clean container (or sink) filled with water. Wash them very well, discard the water, and repeat the process a couple more times to remove all the dirt on the leaves and stems. 
    Three washes should be enough. Do not skip the three washes; it is crucial to clean the greens thoroughly.
  • Slice the spring onions, leeks, and any other herbs and place them into a large bowl. Roughly dry the leaves. Gather a small bunch in one hand, and with the help of a sharp knife, slice from the top into small pieces.

Cook the greens

  • Use both your hands to mix the herbs, spring onions and chopped leaves. Massage with medium force for a few minutes to soften them.
    Season the greens with two teaspoons of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. 
    Add two to three tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Place it over medium-high heat and add the greens.
    Saute for 5 to 10 minutes(or more), stirring often until all moisture and liquids have evaporated. 
    Remove the pot from heat and let the greens cool.

Make the dough

  • Add the flour to a large bowl. Make a well and add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and some water.
  • Start incorporating the flour and liquids with your fingers in a circular motion. The dough will start coming together. Add a little water at a time as you knead. 
    When a dough ball has formed and the bowl is cleaned of sticky bits of dough, transfer it to a floured surface and keep kneading the dough with strong movements, pulling and turning it for 5 minutes. The dough should be soft, pliable, and fluffy. 
    Add some flour to the bottom of the bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out the phyllo

  • After the dough has rested, divide it into 2 or 3 pieces.
    Work with one piece at a time, flatten it with your hands on a floured surface. Keep the other pieces covered with the towel.
    Add a bit of flour on top and start rolling it with a long and thin rolling pin. Open each piece onto a thin sheet, flouring whenever necessary. 
    Gently roll it on the rolling pin and push outwards with your fingers and palms to open each piece onto a thin sheet, around one millimeter thick.
    See notes below for a very informative video on how to roll the perfect phyllo sheet.

Make the kalitsounia

  • Using a small plate as a guide, place it on the phyllo sheet and gently cut it with a sharp knife around the perimeter of the plate. 
    Place a full tablespoon of the greens mixture on half the small piece of phyllo about a centimeter from the edge.
    Wet your fingers with some water and run them over that half edge of the phyllo.
    Bring the other side over the filling and seal the hand pie gently with your fingers. 
    Take a fork and press around the edge to firmly seal the kalitsouni. 
    TIP: Place the kalitsounia on a floured surface as you finish each one. Don't overlap or stack them. They will stick together, and it will be difficult to separate them. Make layers. Add a piece of parchment on top, sprinkle a bit of flour, and place more on the paper if you need to.

Fry the kalitsounia

  • Add ¼ of a cup of olive oil to a frying pan. Place over medium-high heat.
    When the oil is hot, fry two three kalitsounia at a time for about two to three minutes per side. Keep in mind that as you fry, the oil will get hotter and each hand pie will appear to need less time to cook. Lower the heat to medium and cook for a little longer.
    For the best results, always do a taste test to ensure the hand pies are cooked to your liking.
    Place fried kalitsounia on paper towels (or a wire rack) to absorb the extra olive oil.

Notes

  • Check this very informative video for how to roll the perfect phyllo for pies and hand pies.
  • Kalitsounia are traditionally fried in olive oil. Frying brings out the best flavor and texture. Alternatively, they can be baked in a 380°F / 180°C oven for 25 minutes. Brush each one with a bit of olive oil or an egg wash before baking.
  • You can use sunflower oil for frying.
  • The kalitsounia can be enjoyed immediately or at room temperature. 
  • Add one cup of crumbled feta mixed with 1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese in the greens filling for a different version of kalitsounia.
 
Nutritional Info – Please remember that the nutritional information provided is only estimated and can vary based on the products used.

Nutrition

Calories: 88kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 2gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 135mgPotassium: 141mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.2gVitamin A: 873IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 1mg
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Kalitsounia-Cretan Savory Hand Pies

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Crispy, flavor-packed hand pies that are not only worth the effort but a taste you wouldnt want to miss. Really delicious, similar to empanadas from my country.

  2. 5 stars
    This post filled my heart, I adored the images of your grandmother making these hand pies! I am going to try making them with my kiddos, I hope they turn out as well as your grandmothers!!

  3. 5 stars
    I love all Greek food, and these sound absolutely delicious. I’d love to make a bunch of them and keep some in the fridge for a quick lunch!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness! The pictures are so tempting that I had to make your recipe immediately! The flavours are incredible and the texture of the pastry was perfect!