Gibanica Cheese Pie: An Irresistible Combination of Cheese and Filo!

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Dear Reader I am SO excited to share this Gibanica or cheese pie recipe with you! This is one of my favourite recipes that I made this year. This Gibanica is so utterly delicious that I guarantee if you serve this to friends or family, they will devour it quickly! This cheese and filo pie has the lightest, spongiest texture and uses simple ingredients cleverly. It also takes about 10 minutes to put together so within an hour you'll be eating one of the most delicious pastries or pies you've ever tried! This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader.

I first came across Gibanica on Instagram. It was on my explore page by @Mikina Kuhinja and I was absolutely mesmerised by the texture of it. It looked difficult but when I looked at the recipe, it was anything but. Gibanica is a general term for a Balkan pastry that can be either sweet or savoury and can be a complex, layered sweet cake or in this case, a simple savoury cheese pie.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

The name Gibanica comes from the dialect word güba which means to fold. Other say that it comes from the Egyptian word for gebna, a white cheese used. The cheese I used was Danish feta although European cottage cheeses and Bulgarian feta or Sirene can be used. The pastry used in gibanica is filo or phyllo dough layered with a mixture of cheese and eggs and sometimes other ingredients such as spinach, meat or vegetables.

Usually filo desserts are painstakingly time consuming because you have to brush each layer of filo with butter but not the Gibanica! The fun part is crumpling up the pastry sheets and dipping them in a delicious cheese and yogurt mixture. The baking powder in the cheese mixture makes the layers light and fluffy.

When and How to Serve Gibanica: Gibanica is typically served as a breakfast or as a side dish with other meals. You can eat it as is or serve it with some Ajvar (capsicum paste) on the side. And did I mention how absolutely delicious it is?

Gibanica Cheese Pie

How Long Does Gibanica Keep? Gibanica is best served warm and fresh from the oven but can be refrigerated or frozen once baked too. Just thaw it in the fridge and then heat it in the oven on 180C/350F for 10-12 minutes.

This gibanica recipe is adapted for Australian ingredients - our filo pastry tends to come in packets of 375g or 13ozs so I made this in a 20x20cm/8x8inch square tin so that the gibanica is nice, high and spongy. One note: I've made this recipe quite a few times as Mr NQN loves it for lunch and annoyingly sometimes the pastry has 21 sheets of dough, sometimes 20 and we want 21 sheets haha! Also natural yogurt here in Australia tends to be thicker so I thinned it down with milk.

Variations of Gibanica: adding diced ham and green onions is delicious! You could also add some finely chopped spinach or cooked, minced beef or finely chopped sun dried tomatoes to keep it vegetarian. Adding chives is also really tasty.

I loved this dish so much that I really want to explore more Balkan recipes. I have tried a few as my brother in law Laporello's mother once cooked us some delicious Croatian dishes and I loved everything that I tried. I love learning about new recipes and cultures and I've already bookmarked a really interesting looking cake.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

I was at a lunch a few months back where I was chatting to a man who had his own television show in Ireland. His name was Francis Brennan and he had a luxury lodge in Kerry and a tv show a few years ago called At Your Service. It was like a version of Gordon Ramsay's Hotel Hell but Francis focused on delivering etiquette advice and how to do things in a kind fashion. Although Francis is in his 70s he had a young guy fanboying him at this event. "Can I take a photo with you to send my mum? She won't believe that I've met you!" he said excitedly posing with an enormous grin.

I was sitting next to Francis at lunch and he had all sort of stories and fun facts and one of them was that did you know that there is a "correct" way to have your toilet paper (these things are important at luxury lodges he said). Apparently the paper should go on top or over because if you have it underside you waste 2 sheets of toilet paper each time! So I hope to impart that little bit of advice to you plus a recipe for the most delicious cheese pie today :)

So tell me Dear Reader, do you have any Balkan recipes that you recommend trying? Where do you stand on this over vs under debate? And do you like learning about new cultures and fun facts?

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Did you make this recipe? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • 400g/14ozs feta cheese (Danish or Bulgarian feta is ideal)
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 120g/4ozs grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • 350ml/12ozs natural or Greek yogurt
  • 165ml/5.8ozs milk (skim milk is fine)
  • 125ml/4flozs oil (canola, grapeseed or rice bran oil is fine)
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sparkling water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 375g/13.ozs filo pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line the base of a 20x20cm/8x8inch square tin with a square of parchment and grease the sides.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Step 2 - Using a large bowl take a fork and press down on the feta crumbling it but leaving a few little lumps of feta. Add the beaten eggs, minced garlic, grated parmesan or pecorino, yogurt, milk, oil, salt and baking powder. Place the sparkling water and tablespoon of oil in a separate cup and have a pastry brush ready.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Step 3 - Open the filo pastry and cover it with a tea towel. Layer two pieces of filo criss cross across the bottom, one covering the top to bottom and the other from side to side. Brush with some water/oil on the base. Reserve one sheet of filo for the end. Then take a sheet of filo and crumple it up and dip it in the cheese mixture. Make sure to soak it well, you don't want any dry pastry bits. Scrunch into a loose ball and place the wet pastry it on the base of the tin. Don't worry if you have a lot of cheese mixture and it pools - you want it wet.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Repeat until you get a layer of 9 or so rounds, then repeat with a second layer of this on top of the first - try and use up all of the cheese mixture. Fold in the filo on the side and then add the extra reserved sheet of filo on top and tuck it under the sides. Then brush generously with the oil/water mixture all over the top of the pastry, particularly down the sides of the gibanica.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

Step 4 - Beat the extra egg with what is left in the bowl of the cheese mixture and pour over the top brushing it out to the edge. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and then slice and serve.

Gibanica Cheese Pie

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