Pan-Seared Saganaki Recipe

Saganaki on a plate with lemon
Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Ratings (43)
  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
373 Calories
27g Fat
14g Carbs
19g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 servings
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.)

Considering how delicious it is, saganaki is a surprisingly simple Greek recipe, at least in its basic form. There are many variations out there, but the simple cheese version is immensely popular. 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 even an oval au gratin dish.

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

Ingredients

  • 1 pound firm cheese (preferably graviera cheese)
  • Water (enough for 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 lemons (quartered)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  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.

  3. Moisten each slice with cold water and dredge it in the flour. Shake off any excess flour. 

  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a sagani or small heavy-bottomed frying pan. Cast iron works best.

  5. Sear each cheese slice in the heated oil until it's golden brown.

  6. Flip the slice midway through to brown both sides evenly. 

  7. Serve hot with a last-minute squeeze of lemon juice.

  8. Enjoy!

Tips

  • A sagani is 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 even an oval au gratin dish.
  • 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 start to smoke.
  • Use a firm cheese that will hold up against the heat. Authentic Greek cooking usually uses 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. 

Recipe Variations

  • To create more of a batter coating, you can dip the floured cheese into a beaten egg before frying. 
  • If you enjoy a little pepper, 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 at gatherings and parties.