Sweet Cheese Pastries From Crete Recipe

Crete cheese pies
Courtesy of Nancy Gaifyllia
Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 30 to 36 servings

In Greek: καλιτσούνια Κρήτης, pronounced kah-leet-SOON-yah KREE-tees

These sweet cheese pastries use a rolled dough instead of thin phyllo sheets. Depending on how they are folded (see below), they can be baked or fried. They are holiday tradition on the Greek island of Crete, but eaten at other times as well because they're so delicious! These call for the fresh soft variety of myzithra (not the aged salty type) cheese, and if you can't find it, try Italian mascarpone or ricotta.


  • For the Dough:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup strained yogurt (unflavored)
  • 2 eggs (beaten with a fork)
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 2/3 pounds fresh soft myzithra cheese (or mascarpone or ricotta)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel (grated)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg (beaten, for glaze)
  • Optional: 1 cup olive oil (if frying)
  • Garnish: ground cinnamon (for baked pastries)
  • Garnish: powdered sugar (or honey, for fried pastries)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this sweet cheese pastry is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Prepare the Dough

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together (sugar, baking powder, flour).

  2. Add the oil, mixing with a spoon or hands.

  3. Stir in the strained yogurt and eggs and mix with a spoon until the dough begins to stiffen, adding the brandy to soften the dough as needed.

  4. Knead the dough in the bowl for approximately 10 minutes until smooth, and set aside to rest.

Make the Filling

  1. In a separate bowl, mix the cheese, cinnamon, sugar, egg yolk, orange peel, and flour together until well blended.

  2. On a floured surface with a rolling pin, roll a piece of dough out to a thickness of about 1/8-inch.

  3. Using a 3 to 4-inch cutter or saucer as a guide, cut out circles. (Alternatively, take a piece of dough the size of an unshelled walnut and roll it out to a circle about 3 to 4 inches across.)

To Bake

  1. Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture into the center of the circle and spread out close to the edges.

  2. Raise the rim of the dough up around the cheese and, with wet fingers, pinch the edges to pull the dough in around the cheese, leaving the center open so the cheese shows. Repeat using all the dough and filling.

  3. Place the kalitsounia on the baking sheet and brush lightly with beaten egg to glaze.

  4. Bake at 350 F for approximately 20 minutes until lightly browned.

  5. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

To Fry

  1. Place a teaspoonful of cheese mixture into the center of the circle, fold the circle over into a half-moon shape.

  2. With wet fingers, crimp the edges to close securely.

  3. Preheat 1 cup of olive oil over medium heat and fry until golden on both sides.

  4. Drain on paper towels.

  5. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or drizzle with honey.

  6. Allow cooling on the baking sheet. Kalitsounia will keep well, covered, in the refrigerator.

  7. Serve and enjoy!