Pan-Seared Saganaki

Saganaki recipe

The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
373 Calories
27g Fat
14g Carbs
19g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 373
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 34%
Saturated Fat 15g 75%
Cholesterol 71mg 24%
Sodium 659mg 29%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 19g
Calcium 546mg 42%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Frying may not be the first cooking method we think of when it comes to cheese, but the Greek recipe of saganaki does just that. A firm cheese is sliced, dredged in flour, and pan-fried until golden and crispy on the outside with a warm and tender interior. There are several Greek cheeses to use, including the popular graviera and Halloumi.

Saganaki is written as σαγανάκι in Greek and pronounced sah-ghah-NAH-kee. The recipe takes its name from the pan in which it's made: the sagani, a two-handled pan made of many different materials. If you don't have or can't find a sagani, you can use a small paella pan, a small cast-iron skillet, or a non-stick skillet.

Serve saganaki as an appetizer, hors d'oeuvres, or as part of a meal made up of a variety of mezethes or appetizers. This fried cheese goes well with ouzo or wine, olives, vegetable mezethes, tomatoes, and crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound firm cheese (preferably graviera cheese)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 lemons (quartered)
  • Optional: chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for saganaki
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  2. Cut the cheese into slices or wedges 1/2-inch thick by 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide. Each slice must be thick enough that it doesn't melt during cooking.

    Cheese slices
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  3. Moisten each slice with cold water and dredge it in the flour. Shake off any excess flour. 

    Moisten each slice
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  4. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a sagani or small heavy-bottomed frying pan.

    Heat oil
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  5. Place a cheese slice in the hot oil and sear it until it's golden brown.

    Sear cheese
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  6. Flip the slice of cheese to brown the other side. Repeat with the remaining slices of cheese.

    Flip slice
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  7. Serve hot with lemons for squeezing, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, if desired.

    Serve hot
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

Tips

  • Use a firm cheese that will hold up to the heat and won't melt in the pan. Authentic Greek recipes usually use graviera, kefalotyri, or kefalograviera. Halloumi is traditionally used in Cyprus, while chefs on the island of Chios prefer mastello. You can also use pecorino romano in a pinch.
  • The key to success with this dish is to get the oil as hot as possible before cooking the cheese, but don't let it begin to smoke.

Recipe Variations

  • To create more of a batter coating, you can dip the floured cheese into a beaten egg before frying. 
  • Add some freshly ground black pepper to the flour before dredging the cheese.
  • For a flaming version of saganaki, transfer the finished cheese to a clean sagani or skillet. Pour a shot of ouzo over it and light it with a match, then douse the flames with the lemon juice. This isn't a Greek tradition, but it can be a showstopper.