Traditional Greek Custard Pie Galaktoboureko (Easy + Tips)

If you’re a custard lover, you’ll definitely love this traditional Greek dessert! Galaktoboureko is a creamy vanilla custard pie that’s encased in crispy phyllo dough and drenched in a delicious, flavored syrup. 

traditional greek custard pie galaktoboureko on a plate and in a pan on a white countertop with cinnamon sticks and dried roses

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!

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. Stelios Parliaros is one of my favorite pastry chefs! He’s an absolute culinary genius! He has many different recipes for Galaktoboureko, but this one is my favorite! I’ve been making it for many years and it’s practically foolproof! It’s a family favorite and it has never let me down!

WHAT MAKES THIS RECIPE STAND OUT FROM TRADITIONAL ONES

There are 3 main things that makes this recipe unique:

  1. 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.
  2. This recipe uses vanilla bean powder instead of vanilla essence. You can still make a wonderful Galaktoboureko with vanilla essence, 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 Vanilla no churn ice cream and vanilla sugar.
  3. 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!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do you store Galaktoboureko?

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.

How long does it last in the refrigerator?

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. 

How do you keep it crispy?

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.

Can you reheat it ?

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.

Can it be frozen?

I’ve never tried freezing it before as I think it will get too soggy and fall apart. I never needed to freeze it, either, because it’s usually gone within 2 or 3 days!

What you’ll need to make Galaktoboureko:

Eggs & egg yolks

Butter 

Cornstarch

Sugar

Vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract

Milk & heavy cream

1 package phyllo dough

lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick 

TIPS FOR LAYERING THE PHYLLO DOUGH SHEETS & ASSEMBLING THE DESSERT

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. 

HOW TO MAKE TRADITIONAL GREEK CUSTARD PIE – GALAKTOBOUREKO 

galaktoboureko steps 10

STEP 1

heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean powder & 2 tablespoons of sugar

STEP 2

in a bowl, whisk the remaining sugar & cornstarch with the egg yolks & whole eggs

STEP 3

pour some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture & whisk to combine

STEP 4

pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream & whisk on medium heat until it thickens

STEP 5

place a sheet of phyllo in the pan letting it hang over the other sides (left side & top) – butter it well

STEP 6

add another sheet (let it hang over top & right side) & gently press it in the corners & sides – continue moving clockwise with the remaining sheets so they overhang on all sides of the pan

STEPS 7 & 8

now that the sheets are hanging over all the sides of the pan, add the filling & then fold all the sheets over it – butter each sheet well

STEP 9

score the top & bake

STEP 10

when done, remove from the oven & pour the cold syrup evenly over it

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 when it’s done.
  • 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.
  • The amount of syrup for this dessert is what’s traditionally used and the sweetness is not overpowering. However, if you prefer less syrup, I suggest pouring a little syrup over the dessert. Then wait for it to be absorbed and taste it to see if you want more syrup or not.
  • After the syrup is added, 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 eaten the day it’s made. If you refrigerate it, the phyllo dough will soften and lose its crunchiness, but it’ll still taste great.

a close-up of a piece of galaktoboureko on a plate with a pan in the background

VARIATIONS

You can flavor the syrup for a richer or distinctive flavor. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add a shot of cognac or Grand Marnier.
  • Add a teaspoon of rosewater for a more exotic flavor, just make sure it’s food grade.
  • Add a lemon or orange peel for a nice, citrus overtone.

traditional greek custard pie galaktoboureko on a plate and in a pan on a white countertop with cinnamon sticks and dried roses

MORE GREEK RECIPES!

 

Let me know how this Galaktoboureko turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula 

 

Traditional Greek Custard Pie Galaktoboureko (Easy + Tips)

If you’re a custard lover, you’ll definitely love this traditional Greek dessert! Galaktoboureko is a creamy vanilla custard pie that’s encased in crispy phyllo dough and drenched in a delicious, flavored syrup. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, vanilla, custard, phyllo dough, galaktoboureko, syrup dessert
Servings: 8 large or 16 small pieces

Ingredients

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 

Instructions

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**.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

*The amount of syrup for this dessert is what’s traditionally used and the sweetness is not overpowering. However, if you prefer less syrup, I suggest pouring a little syrup over the dessert. Then wait for it to be absorbed and taste it to see if you want more syrup or not.
**When refrigerated, the phyllo dough will soften and lose its crunchiness, but it’ll still taste great.
© Pastry Wishes
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