Greece,  Recipes,  Thessaloniki

Can You Guess the Breakfast of Greek Champions in Thessaloniki?

Bougatsa is the traditional breakfast pastry of Greek Champions typical to the cuisine in Thessaloniki. Over the years, the origin has been debated….. is it Greek or Turkish? Many typical Greek recipes do have Turkish origins mostly likely as a result of years of invasion and traditions being set and left behind. Near as I can tell, based on the research I have done, is that Bougatsa is, of Greek origin, specifically Constantinople, now Istanbul. Yes, I realize is Istanbul is in Turkey but when Bougatsa originated, Constantinople which is now known as Istanbul, was the head of the Greek Empire.

Bougatsa is found specifically in Thessaloniki and other regions of Northern Greece. Of course, just like in any country, taste and method variances are depending on what region you find yourself in. For example, there are versions of Bougatsa that are very sweet and have much more cream filling while in Thessaloniki, you will find it less sweet and crunchier. Some of the original versions were made with ground beef and other spices. In some areas of Greece, it is still made this way. The recipe below is typical to Thessaloniki.

Bougatsa- Hot, Fresh, and Ready to Munch!

Let’s make Breakfast of Greek Champions in Thessaloniki, Bougatsa!

Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Calories 376.5
Total Fat 20.7 g
Saturated Fat 12.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6.2 g
Cholesterol 49.9 mg
Sodium 237.7 mg
Potassium 36.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 41.6 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Sugars 19.7 g
Protein 5.7 g
Vitamin A 14.5 %
Vitamin B-12 0.6 %
Vitamin B-6 0.0 %
Vitamin C 0.0 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 3.6 %
Calcium 9.5 %
Copper 1.7 %
Folate 9.3 %
Iron 7.6 %
Magnesium 1.7 %
Manganese 10.0 %
Niacin 8.5 %
Pantothenic Acid 1.3 %
Phosphorus 3.6 %
Riboflavin 7.8 %
Selenium 14.2 %
Thiamin 15.6 %
Zinc 1.3 %

Bougatsa Ingredients:

1  fresh egg, at room temperature

1  fresh egg yolk, at room temperature

¼ cup finely granulated white sugar

1 ½ cup whole milk- you need the fat from the whole milk for the best results

¼ cup semolina (farina or I have even used cream of wheat)

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg (optional, but I love the taste)

½ cup butter, cut into cubes- Do Not Use Margarine

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice

1 lemon, zest of

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8- 10 phyllo pastry sheets, thawed, covered with a dampened towel

½ cup butter, melted and clarified

icing sugar for dusting (powdered sugar)

cinnamon to sprinkle on top


The Custard:

  • Beat eggs until frothy; beat in white sugar until thick and foamy, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
  • Heat whole milk until hot but not boiling.
  • Remove from heat and whisk into the egg mixture in a thin stream until all the milk mixture is used up – do not stop whisking so that you can prevent the eggs from cooking. This process is called “tempering”
  • Pour the egg mixture back into the pot and set on medium-low heat; cook, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Gradually sprinkle in semolina (farina or cream of wheat); add a pinch of salt and nutmeg if using.
  • Reduce heat to very low, and cook, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook until very thick and smooth, about 5-6 minutes. Whisk in pieces of cut-up butter. If your custard does not get thick, you can add additional farina, cream of wheat, or semolina until the desired consistency.
  • Remove the custard from the heat, place a clear piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and cool completely. Putting the plastic wrap directly on the custard will keep a “skin” from forming.
  • When the custard has cooled completely, stir in the lemon juice and zest, and vanilla. The custard needs to be completely cooled or when putting in the vanilla, it will bubble up.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.


  • Unroll one sheet of phyllo, keeping the remainder covered with a dampened kitchen towel to prevent the sheets from drying out. They dry out very fast, so make sure to keep the sheets covered,
  • Place 1 sheet on a work surface, with the narrow end facing you.
  • Using a pastry brush, brush very lightly with melted, clarified butter.
  • Place about 3 tbsp of custard on the lower 1/3 of the phyllo sheet.
  • Using a thin, flexible spatula, spread custard into a wide rectangle, approximately 10×5 inches, nearly covering the lower third of the phyllo sheet.
  • Fold right and left sides of phyllo towards the center so that edges just meet; lightly brush folded sides with the butter.
  • Fold lower third up and brush with butter.
  • Fold the upper third down and brush with butter.
  • It should now look like an envelope.
  • Line your baking sheet with parchment paper that has been lightly buttered or sprayed with cooking oil. Continue this process until your custard mix has been done. You should yield about 8- 10 Bougatsa.
  • After brushing the tops of Bougatsa with remaining butter, bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes, depending on the individual oven.
  • Let cool 20 minutes before serving.
  • Serve warm. Option: Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon

Storing the Bougatsa:

Your Bougatsa can be frozen by wrapping individually, first in parchment paper and then in foil, and can then be stored in the freezer for up to four months. When removing them from the freezer, let them thaw, unwrap and place them in the oven to reheat. To store in the refrigerator, wrap individually and store for up to three days.

Folding the Bougatsa. Initially, Your Goal is to Form an Envelope Style Package

Now that you know how to make this delicious breakfast, Bougatsa, you will be the winner of any breakfast contest you enter and have your family and friends begging for more!

Until next time, friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live!”


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