If you’re a custard lover, you’ll definitely love this dessert! Galaktoboureko is a traditional Greek custard pie that’s encased in crispy phyllo dough and drenched in a delicious, flavored syrup.
Galaktoboureko (pronounced ga-la-kto-BOU-re-ko) is one of the most popular of all Greek pastries! This dessert is not only popular in Greece, you will also find variations of it in Turkey and Syria, too! If you like Greek food, try some of my other traditional recipes, like my rizogalo (rice pudding), chocolate salami (Greek kormos/mosaiko), or my pasteli (ancient Greek sesame bars)!
What Galaktoboureko tastes like
It’s basically a velvety custard baked in layers and layers of buttery, crunchy phyllo dough, and topped with syrup. The vanilla custard is similar to pastry cream and it’s not “eggy” at all. Despite the amount of aromatic syrup, I find it tastes lighter than most other traditional Greek desserts.
The recipe in this post is a slightly adapted one by Stelios Parliaros, a very famous Greek pastry chef and one of my favorites! He has many different recipes for Galaktoboureko, but this one is the one I always use. I've been making it for many years and it’s practically foolproof!
WHY YOU'LL LOVE THIS TRADITIONAL GREEK DESSERT
There are 3 main things that makes this recipe unique:
- There is NO semolina flour in it! Traditional Greek Galaktoboureko is made with semolina flour, which is a coarse flour made from durum wheat. To me, semolina flour makes the custard too grainy. So, for this recipe, I don’t use any semolina flour at all! As a result, it’s a whole lot EASIER to make and the custard has a really smooth, creamy texture.
- This recipe uses vanilla bean powder instead of vanilla extract. You can still make a wonderful Galaktoboureko with vanilla extract, but I find that vanilla bean powder gives it a more intense vanilla flavor, which is amazing! If you want, you could scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean. I also love all those tiny black specks of vanilla. For me, vanilla bean powder is a lot more convenient and much easier to use, so it has become a staple in my kitchen! I use it for my easy no-churn vanilla ice cream and my homemade vanilla sugar.
- This recipe WORKS! Even if you’ve never made Galaktoboureko before, you can easily follow my steps, picture tutorials and tips and still feel confident enough to make this amazing Greek dessert! It’s definitely worth the time and effort!
What you’ll need to make traditional Greek custard pie - Galaktoboureko:
Eggs & egg yolks
Vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract
Milk & heavy cream
1 package phyllo dough
1 cinnamon stick
How to make Galaktoboureko step-by-step
First, make the syrup!
Before you start, you need to make the syrup so that it has time to cool. If you want, you could even make the syrup 1 or 2 days ahead and keep it in the fridge.
To make the syrup, just put sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and boil for four minutes. Then take it off the heat and set it aside.
HOW TO MAKE THE CUSTARD FILLING & ASSEMBLE THE DESSERT
Heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean powder, and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
In a bowl, whisk the remaining sugar and cornstarch with the egg yolks and whole eggs.
Now, it's time to temper the eggs. Pour some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream and whisk on medium heat until it thickens.
STEPS 5 & 6
Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan letting it hang over the other sides (left side & top) - butter it well.
Add another sheet (let it hang over top & right side) and gently press it in the corners and sides. Then continue moving clockwise with the remaining sheets so they overhang on all sides of the pan.
STEPS 7 & 8
Now add the filling and then fold all the sheets over it, one at a time, buttering each sheet really well as you go.
Use a sharp knife to score the top of the pie. Make sure you don't cut all the way down to the bottom.
Then bake the dessert. When done, remove it from the oven and immediately pour the syrup evenly over it, a ladle at a time. Don't add the syrup all at once. Give the dessert some time to absorb it.
TIPS FOR LAYERING THE PHYLLO DOUGH SHEETS & ASSEMBLING GALAKTOBOUREKO
As with all desserts made with phyllo dough, you have to work fast because the phyllo will dry out quickly. Once you remove the sheets from the package, cover them with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
Begin layering by putting a sheet of phyllo dough in the pan so that it fits nice and snug in a corner of the pan, while the remaining sheet extends and hangs over the other sides of the pan. After that, drizzle with butter so it won’t dry out. Continue layering this way, moving clockwise, so that by the time you add all the sheets, all the sides of the pan will have overlapping sheets of phyllo dough.
When there are no more sheets left, you add the filling and even it out. Then you fold over the sheets, one at a time and buttering each one.
The reason I layer the sheets this way is to ensure that the filling won’t ooze out while it’s baking.
Also, don’t worry if the phyllo dough tears a bit as you’re layering, it won’t make any difference after it’s baked. Just make sure to butter the sheets well.
WHAT SIZE PAN TO USE
The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t really have to worry about pan sizes. This dessert can be made in just about any pan, square, rectangle or round! You could even use a lasagna dish! The only thing you need to remember is that the smaller your pan, the thicker the dessert will be.
For the pictures in this post, I used a 10 x 12 inch (25 X 30 cm) pan, so the pieces were quite thick - about 2.5 inches (6.3 cm)! If I were to use a bigger pan, the dessert would be much thinner, of course. So, it’s really a matter of preference.
You can flavor the syrup for a richer or distinctive flavor. Here are a few ideas:
- Add a shot of cognac or Grand Marnier.
- You could also add a teaspoon of food grade rosewater for a more exotic flavor.
- For a citrus overtone, add a lemon or orange peel.
TIPS FOR THE BEST GALAKTOBOUREKO
- Use good quality butter and phyllo dough.
- Don’t skimp on the butter. Phyllo dough should be very well-buttered, so you’ll need all the butter that’s listed!
- The lemon juice in the syrup helps prevent crystals from forming. If crystals form in the syrup, they can make the syrup grainy, so lemon juice helps avoid that.
- You will need to pour the cold syrup on the dessert as soon as it comes out of the oven. If you want, you could make the syrup a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator.
- You shouldn’t overcook the filling since it will be in the oven for at least an hour. Take it off the heat as soon as it thickens.
- As soon as the filling has thickened, take it off the heat and place some plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a crust from forming. Then let it cool slightly before pouring it in the prepared pan.
- You will need to bake this dessert for 60-80 minutes. However, ovens vary. I suggest checking on it after an hour. It’s ready when the phyllo turns a nice golden brown color, as shown in the pictures.
- I find it’s best to score the top before baking as it will allow the sheets to bake more evenly that way. It also makes it easier to cut into pieces afterwards.
- Don’t add the syrup all at once. Add a ladle at a time and wait awhile for the dessert to absorb it before adding more.
- After you add the syrup, let the Galaktoboureko sit for about an hour before serving. This will give it plenty of time to absorb the syrup and develop the flavors. Also, it won’t fall apart because it will have time to solidify a bit as it cools.
- This dessert is best the day it’s made. If you refrigerate it, the phyllo dough will soften and lose its crunchiness, but it’ll still taste great.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
It’s best served at room temperature, preferably on the same day it was made. If you want to keep it longer than that, you can refrigerate it for up to 4-5 days.
You can keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but keep in mind that the phyllo won’t be as crunchy.
The best way is NOT to put it in the fridge at all! Refrigeration will soften the phyllo dough. So, if you like it crispy, I suggest eating it on the same day it’s made.
Although most people I know enjoy it at room temperature or straight out of the fridge, you could reheat it in the microwave a bit if you prefer.
I’ve never tried freezing it before as I think it will get too soggy and fall apart, so I wouldn't suggest it. I never needed to freeze it, either, because it's usually gone within 2 or 3 days!
MORE GREEK RECIPES!
Let me know how this Galaktoboureko turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
Traditional Greek Custard Pie Galaktoboureko (Easy + Tips)
For the syrup
- 2 ½ cups (500 g) white sugar
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (300 ml) water
- juice from half a lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the vanilla custard filling
- 2 ¾ cups (700 ml) milk
- 1 ¼ cup (300 ml) heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (160 g / 5.6 oz) sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 6 egg yolks
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (80 g / 2.8 oz) cornstarch
For assembling the pie
- 1 package phyllo dough (about 12-14 sheets), thawed
- 1 cup (250 g) butter, melted
Make the syrup
- Put all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for EXACTLY 4 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.
Make the vanilla custard filling
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Whisk on medium heat to combine, but don't bring to a boil.
- In another bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, cornstarch, whole eggs and egg yolks.
- Pour some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream and and whisk on medium heat until it thickens, about 2-4 minutes. When it thickens, take it off the heat and place some plastic wrap on the surface to prevent crusting.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F / 165°C.
Assemble the pie
- Generously butter your pan.
- Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan letting it hang over the other sides (left side and top). Butter the sheet well.
- Add another sheet and let it hang over the top and right side of the pan. Gently press it in the corners and sides. Butter it well.
- Continue moving clockwise with the remaining sheets so that you end up with sheets overhanging on all sides of the pan.
- When there are no more sheets left, add the filling and even it out.
- Fold the sheets over the filling, one at a time, and butter each one well.
- Score the top of the pie.
- Bake for 60-80 minutes, until it's golden brown.
- When done, remove from the oven and pour the cold syrup evenly over it. Don’t add the syrup all at once. Add a ladle at a time and wait a bit for the dessert to absorb it before adding more*.
- Let the dessert sit for about an hour before serving.
- This dessert is best eaten the day it’s made. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days**.