Savory authentic cheese fatayer (hand pies) are a Levantine staple and popular throughout the Middle East and beyond. They may look intimidating to prepare, but after you’ve made them once, you’ll be making them over and over again!
A pastry by many names! Whether you call this cheese fatayer, cheese hand-pies, Lebanese cheese pie, Middle Eastern cheese fatayer, or simply fatayer with cheese, these baked savory cheese pies are a crowd-pleaser and incredibly popular around the Arab world! They are often served as part of a Levantine breakfast alongside other classics like manakish, fatteh hummus (chickpea and yogurt fatteh), ful medames (stewed fava beans), homemade labneh, Jerusalem sesame bread, cheese sambousek and of course hot tea.
It’s actually not that difficult to make and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making them over and over again, I promise you that! The dough for this recipe is based on my master flat bread recipe (Taboon) which can also be used to make Cheese Manakish, Za’atar Manakish and other variations of fatayer (Spinach fatayer and Meat Fatayer).
This recipe comes together with staple pantry and fridge ingredients.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Flour: Authentic fatayer dough is made with all purpose flour or unbleached flour. But there’s nothing stopping you from making them healthier by substituting some of the white flour for whole wheat. You can substitute up to 25% of the flour with whole wheat if you like.
- Yeast: I use and recommend instant yeast, but you can use active dry yeast. If you use dry active yeast, keep the quantity the same and pre-bloom it in the warm liquid before adding it to the dry ingredients. You can also use fresh yeast, but do adjust the quantity. When using fresh yeast instead of dry, use double the amount by weight.
- Milk: The warm milk helps keep the final product soft and pliable. If you want to keep this recipe vegan, you can replace the milk with an equal amount of water.
- Oil: Olive oil is my go-to choice here but you can use avocado or vegetable oil instead.
- Cheese: This recipe calls for both mozzarella cheese and feta cheese. You can also use grated halloumi or akkawi cheese but keeping it simple is best. Some people also use a bit of cream cheese to give it a creamier texture, but I find that unnecessary.
- Parsley and Mint: fresh chopped parsley is traditional, but I like to add chopped mint to the mixture. The mint balances really well with the salty cheese.
- Sesame Seeds: I love to add sesame seeds to the side of the hand pies, after applying the egg wash. You can use white or black sesame seeds (or both!). Make sure to use untoasted sesame seeds.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make This Authentic Cheese Fatayer Recipe
I recommend that you read through the entire recipe before starting.
1. Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the dough dry ingredients and mix well to combine. Add the warm water, milk and oil. Run the stand mixer with the dough hook until a ball of dough forms, about 5-7 minutes (Image 1).
2. Rise. Rub the dough ball lightly with oil on all sides and let it rise, covered, in the bowl of the stand mixer for 1 hour in a warm place (Image 2a and Image 2b).
3. Cheese filling. While the dough rises, prepare the cheese mixture by combining the cheese and herbs (Image 3).
4. Divide and Shape. After the bread dough has risen to about double its original size, divide it into 12 pieces (for standard size) or 18 pieces (for minis). Shape each piece of dough into a tight ball and rest them on your kitchen counter for 10 minutes, covered, so that the gluten can relax (Image 4).
5. Flatten. Preheat your oven to 425F (220C). Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough balls into a ¼ inch (0.6cm) thick. Place the dough circles on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (Image 5).
6. Fill and Shape. Add cheese mixture to the center of the dough circle. Pich the dough disk in a way to form a diamond or boat shape and create a pocket. You will need to really pinch the sides well to ensure they remain closed when baked (Image 6).
7. Egg wash. Place the pastries on a baking sheet (Image 7a). Brush the dough with egg wash (Image 7b). Sprinkle some sesame seeds (Image 7c).
8. Bake. Bake in a preheated oven until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melted (Image 8).
- Skip the mixer. You can mix this dough by hand in a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer. Make sure to knead it for a full 5 minutes after it comes together on your countertop.
- Skip the dough. Not a fan of making your own homemade dough? No problem. Use store-bought pizza dough instead. It won’t be exactly the same but it will be close enough.
- Grease the work surface. If you find that the dough is sticking to your work surface, use a bit of oil instead of flour to keep things loose and moving. If you use flour, it could change the consistency of the dough.
- Struggling with the boat shape? Try making half-moon (empanada) pockets instead and seal with the tines of a fork.
- Flip the disk! You'll find that after rolling out the disk, the bottom of it will be sticky whereas the top will be smooth. By flipping it upside down (sticky side up), it will be a lot easier for you to seal the seams!
- Use a pizza oven! If you have one, use a woodfired or gas pizza oven to bake the pastries. This will give it a more authentic flavor. You’ll have to adjust the recipe directions accordingly.
Fatayer are savory Levantine hand pies that are baked with different fillings such as cheese, meat or spinach. They are a popular breakfast or snack food throughout the Middle East.
These cheese hand-pies can be stored in a ziplock bag and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Though I am not a fan of freezing, they can also be frozen for up to 6 months and reheated in a toaster oven.
If you’re looking to save some time, you can make the dough 1 day ahead of time and let it rise in the fridge overnight. This longer, slower rise is actually beneficial in many ways and the result will be a much easier-to-digest bread for those with gluten sensitives. Just use half the amount of yeast if you plan to let the dough rise in the fridge overnight.
If you make this Cheese Fatayer (Levantine Savory Hand Pies) or any other baking recipes on Urban Farm and Kitchen, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe.
Cheese Fatayer (Levantine Savory Hand Pies)
For the dough
- 3 cups All purpose flour - 360 grams
- 2 ¼ teaspoon Instant yeast - 7 grams
- 1 tablespoon Sugar - 12.5 grams
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt - 5 grams
- ½ cup Water, warmed - 120 grams
- ½ cup Milk, warmed - 120 grams
- ¼ cup Olive oil - 53 grams
- 1 ½ cups Mozzarella - Shredded, 340 grams
- 1 ½ cups Feta - Crumbled, 340 grams
- ¼ cup Parsley, fresh - Finely chopped - use more or less to your taste
- 2 tablespoon Mint, fresh - Finely chopped- use more or less to your taste
- 1 Egg - Beaten
- 1-2 tablespoon Sesame seeds - Black and/or white (untoasted)
- Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and mix well to combine. Add the warm water, warm milk and olive oil. Run the stand mixer with the dough hook until a ball of dough forms, about 5-7 minutes. If you find the dough is sticking to the sides, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time.
- Rise. Rub the dough ball lightly with oil on all sides and let it rise, covered with a tea towel, in the bowl of the stand mixer for 1 hour in a warm place.
- Cheese filling. While the dough rises, prepare the cheese mixture by combining the cheese and herbs in a bowl.
- Divide and Shape. After the bread dough has risen to about double its original size, divide it into 12 pieces (for standard size) or 18 pieces (for minis). Use a kitchen scale here if you want your fatayer to be evenly sized. Shape each piece of dough into a tight ball and rest them on your kitchen counter for 10 minutes, covered, so that the gluten can relax.
- Flatten. Preheat your oven to 400F (205C). Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough balls into a ¼ inch (0.6cm) thick. Place the dough circles in one layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You may need to do this in steps or using multiple baking sheets. NOTE: You'll find that after rolling out the disk, the bottom of it will be sticky whereas the top will be smooth. By flipping it upside down (sticky side up), it will be a lot easier for you to seal the seams in the next step!
- Fill and Shape. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cheese mixture to the center of the dough circle. Pich the dough disk (on opposite ends) in a way to form a diamond or boat shape and create a pocket to hold the cheese mixture in place. You will need to really pinch the sides well to ensure they remain closed when baked. (Take a look at the photos above).
- Egg wash. Brush the edge of the dough with a beaten egg and sprinkle some sesame seeds.
- Bake. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Keep an eye on your oven, you may need to adjust the time and or temperature to avoid burning. Serve warm.