This delicious Bulgarian phyllo pastry pie is many people’s favourite. As a vegan dessert it is traditional for the night before Christmas but you can make it during the whole pumpkin season. It is very easy and can be prepared in few variations.
Where is this recipe form
Banitsa is a Bulgarian phyllo pastry pie made with different fillings. While the savoury cheese stuffed kind is the most popular, there are also several types of sweet banitsa: for example with apples, with milk and eggs and with pumpkin. The last one has a special place on the table the night before Christmas when traditionally only vegan dishes are served.
The current recipe is the Tikvenik we make with my mom. I will also include below some variations of the same recipe which are also popular.
How do you prepare this recipe
For this particular version of Tikvenik you need just few ingredients: phyllo pastry sheets, raw pumpkin, walnuts, sugar, oil and spices. The hardest part of the whole recipe is peeling and grating the pumpkin as it can be very thick. Then it is just mixing it with the sugar, walnuts and spices. You need to roll each sheet with the filling and some oil and arrange it on a pan.
The whole recipe and the ingredient quantities are below the post, in the recipe card.
🥣 Recipe tips and variations
- I prefer this recipe with raw pumpkin as I find the taste less overwhelming when made this way. The most traditional way is to sauté the grated pumpkin with oil, or even butter if you are not aiming for a vegan dish. There is also the option to boil the pumpkin first and then mash it roughly with a fork before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.
- The same recipe can be prepared with apple filling instead: this would convert the banitsa into a sort of strudel.
- The usual spices for this dish are ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. I like to add also allspice and ginger to create a real pumpkin pie spice experience.
- In Bulgaria the most commonly used oil is sunflower oil. However I prefer to use olive oil for this dish (and for almost all recipes that call for vegetable oil).
- I prefer butternut squash for this recipe as it is easier to work with and its taste is mild and sweet. You can make it with any kind of pumpkin, however.
- The best of this banitsa is that it’s soft inside and crispy outside. To achieve this result and to avoid dryness, you have to use enough pumpkin. Also don’t forget to spread some oil on top before baking it as this will make the top extra crispy.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know how it went if you’ve made it: your feedback is always appreciated.
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Pumpkin Banitsa (Tikvenik)
- 14 oz/ 400 g thin phyllo pastry sheets
- 2 pounds/ 1 kg pumpkin (see notes)
- 1/2 cup/ 100 g sugar
- 1 cup/ 100 g walnuts roughly minced (see notes)
- 1/2 cup/ 120 ml vegetable oil (see notes)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/3 tsp ground cloves
- 1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
- Peel and grate the pumpkin. Place it in a large bowl. Add sugar, spices and walnuts. Mix very well and set aside.
- Extend the phyllo pastry sheets on the kitchen counter. Brush the first one with oil and spread some filling all around it. Starting from the long side, roll the sheet. Place the roll on the edge of a greased 10-11 inch round pan.
- Repeat the process with the next sheet. Place the roll at the end of the first one. Continue arranging the sheets the same way, creating the shape of a snail shell. If the sheets are too many, you can press them closer one to another to make sure they all fit in the pan.
- When all the rolls are arranged, Brush the top of the banitsa with the remaining oil.
- Bake at 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let cool for 15 minutes covered with kitchen towel.
- Pumpkin: You can use the kind of pumpkin you prefer, including squash.
- Walnuts: it is best to mince the walnuts but they shouldn’t be exactly ground. This effect is best achieved if you use mortar and pestle. You can also chop them finely with a knife.
- Oil: sunflower oil is most commonly used in Bulgaria. Olive oil is also suitable for this recipe as it is a healthier option. You can use also canola or corn oil. Butter is a good option as well if you are not looking for a vegan dish.
- Baking: Sometimes the banitsa might get baked on top pretty fast while it is still not ready inside. This happens usually if the moisture hasn’t reached the top. To avoid it to happen watch closely the baking process and if you see it becoming brown too early, place on top some baking paper or aluminium foil.