A Vegan Galaktoboureko: My Family’s Recipe

Faye's vegan galaktoboureko

Here’s another veganised Greek family recipe I’m very happy to share! Thanks yet again to aquafaba (I use canned chickpea liquid for my aquafaba– please click on that aquafaba link to read more about it!) I was able to recreate this traditional Greek family favourite. I had to experiment a few times because the first time I used the wrong sized baking dish and it turned out flat (but spot on everywhere else). The second time I used ground cinnamon in the syrup (Mum was horrified) as I ran out of sticks and didn’t make enough syrup so it all pooled in the middle and looked urgh. The third time turned out perfect but Mum and I tried the ‘lazy’ way of assembling the filo, but the filo got overcooked on the edges but not in the middle (but again, tasted perfect).

As always with family recipes, people have their own versions. One of my aunts puts cloves in her syrup but my Mum and I don’t. Of course, my version is completely different and not at all traditional as there are no eggs in the egg custard bit! Nor the dairy butter or milk called for. But it tastes pretty much the same and I find it has the same lovely custardy consistency. Plus it’s quite addictive, like the original. My Greek recipe testers agreed that taste-wise you can’t tell the difference between this and the traditional eggs-milk-butter version, so that’s a win for me! The traditional recipe with the butter and eggs is more yellow in colour, so it’s up to you if you want to add a little turmeric, as I’ve done in one example below.

The aquafaba is unbeaten (as in, not whipped) in the custard. I never bothered trying a galaktoboureko simply without egg or using an egg replacer as eggs are a key ingredient for the custard filling 😉  Truthfully, I was not at all sure my custard would hold its shape well when cooled and that it may be either too sloppy or like a dense brick of moosh. I’ve made semolina porridge on the stove enough times (semolina, plant milk and sugar) to know that when it goes cold it’s not nice to eat!

The recipe can be printed out below, but here are some photos of the process and some notes. I will highlight my errors so you don’t repeat them! But if you do, the errors still taste awesome 😀

– Preparing the custard filling of fine semolina, caster (very fine) sugar, seeds from one vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, lemon zest and almond milk. I add everything together then whisk so there are no lumps. Some may prefer to warm the milk first then slowly whisk in the semolina. Whatever works for you, just make sure it’s not lumpy. I’ve tried both ways and it turns out the same:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– The custard has thickened and I’ve removed the cinnamon stick and whisked through the aquafaba. At this point you can add some vegan butter if you like but I don’t even though my mum’s non-vegan recipe calls for butter at this point. Be aware that if you’re using a vegan butter it may slightly influence the final taste (for e.g. if using a coconut oil based butter) though with the amount of lemon, vanilla and cinnamon I use those three flavours stand out the most:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– Preparing the syrup involves boiling then simmering some sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, lemon peel and lemon juice. Can you tell I had no lemon peel left and got desperate? My other experiments involved using a larger strip of peel:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

Get your work space ready! Baking dish, melted vegan butter and your filo pastry. Keep a clean damp towel over your filo until you’re ready to take a sheet. Brush butter on your baking dish first. My baking dish measures about 25cm x 19cm x 8cm:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– Brush butter over the sheet of filo then place it in your buttered baking dish. Depending on the size of your dish, you may have to overlap pieces. Don’t fold the filo to make it fit in the dish, it’s all supposed to hang out. Also don’t worry if your filo tears. Here you can see we’ve overlapped the sheets. I did about six layers:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– The custard should be cooled (or at least ever so slightly warm to the touch, but not hot!) when you pour it in to your prepared dish:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– Use a sharp knife to gently cut through the top layers of filo. Don’t cut through to the bottom! In this photo example, Mum and I folded the ‘lazy’ way, which was adding a few sheets to entirely cover the custard, then we folded the overhanging edges inward. I prefer to trim the edges and tuck them in. You can see how to do that in this video, which is in Greek but fast forward towards the end to see how it’s done. It’s very important to make sure your custard filling is enclosed properly so it doesn’t leak out and make a mess in your oven:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– In this experiment, Mum’s oven browned the filo too much on the edges. Although the filo in the middle was cooked and crisp, we decided it was best to take it out instead of letting the middle brown more. Use your sharp knife to cut pieces all the way through but don’t remove a piece! I prefer to leave it cool before I cut it, but Mum and I were in a hurry here:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– Your syrup should be completely cool before pouring it over the hot galaktoboureko. Here my Mum poured it straight from the saucepan but I recommend using a ladle or a big spoon. At this point Mum and I realised we didn’t use enough filo sheets on top and were a bit mehhhh just pour it straight on and get it over with! Now this is the hard part: LEAVE IT TO COOL! You will be tempted to pick at the filo. You will pick at the filo. You will go find something to do but keep coming back for more picksies. You will cut a weeeeee piece while it is still hot even when you know you should wait. I am certain of it. When it has cooled enough for a piece to hold its shape, without custard slopping around, that’s when you can stuff your face:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– In the next ugly photo below, I tucked the filo in properly around the edges. Then I had a moment of panic where I thought I had made a mistake with cutting through the filo before baking, so I used filo scraps like band-aids and hoped it would end up looking like a pretty decoration. It didn’t. This is also the experiment where I used cinnamon powder in the syrup instead of sticks and I also made half the amount of syrup I needed. Not only has most of the syrup pooled in the middle, but the cinnamon powder has kinda made it look crap. So don’t use cinnamon powder!

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– In the next photo, I’ve tucked the filo in properly but it was too bulky around the edges because I had the batch of filo from hell, where the sheets were clumped together and kept tearing when I’d try to separate them. Still, biting in to a chunk of nice sweet filo doesn’t bother me too much:

Faye's vegan galaktoboureko

– This next pic shows a piece from the batch with the cinnamon-powder-in-syrup-instead-of-sticks. I’d also added a good pinch of turmeric to the custard for colour. Despite how fug this experiment looked (in the photo immediately above), it tasted perfect:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– In this pic below, the slice comes from the same batch shown in the step-by-step photos. We didn’t use enough filo on the top layer. You can see it’s still quite pale on top, even though it was crisp and cooked. The custard is also the untouched colour (as in no turmeric). When the syrup is poured on top your filo will soften. It won’t look as good over the next few days but you won’t care:

Faye's Vegan Galaktoboureko

– This was my final experiment, using six tablespoons of aquafaba instead of four. Hard to say if it made much of a difference, because in this experiment I also added more syrup. The end result was a slightly softer custard, though whether this was because I added more syrup I can’t be sure. So if my recipe says use four tablespoons but you have six and have nothing to do with the last two tablespoons, feel free to throw them in instead of down the sink!

Faye's vegan galaktoboureko

The recipe is quite open to flavour changing. If this too lemony or not lemony enough for you, add less or more! Same with the cinnamon, same with the sugar in the syrup. Add a few cloves to the syrup if you like. Some may be happy adding orange and lemon peel to the syrup. Experiment and enjoy the process!

A Vegan Galaktoboureko: My Family's Recipe
Print Recipe
A traditional galaktoboureko includes eggs in the semolina custard. Here I've used aquafaba (my choice of aquafaba is the liquid from canned chickpeas). Encased in filo then soaked in a lemon cinnamon syrup, this galaktoboureko is every bit as delicious as the non-vegan version, standing up equally in taste and structure.
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
A Vegan Galaktoboureko: My Family's Recipe
Print Recipe
A traditional galaktoboureko includes eggs in the semolina custard. Here I've used aquafaba (my choice of aquafaba is the liquid from canned chickpeas). Encased in filo then soaked in a lemon cinnamon syrup, this galaktoboureko is every bit as delicious as the non-vegan version, standing up equally in taste and structure.
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 30 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Ingredients
Syrup
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Make the syrup first: put the syrup ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally. The syrup must be completely cooled before pouring over the cooked galaktoboureko, so set it aside while you prepare the filling. The syrup may be prepared well in advance.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C. Prepare your work surface: melt the half cup of butter and butter your serving dish. My serving dish measures 25cm x 19cm x 8cm. Cover your filo pile with a clean damp towel while you work.
  3. Make the filling: in a medium to large sized saucepan, add the milk, vanilla pod seeds, semolina, caster sugar, grated lemon and the cinnamon stick. Whisk well to combine (you may find the cinnamon stick gets in the way) and cook, constantly stirring, over medium heat. When it reaches a gentle boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer (still stirring) until thickened. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick. If using the 1/3 cup butter option, add it in now and stir through. Still stirring, add in the aquafaba and stir until well combined. The custard should be cooled (a little warm is okay) before pouring it in to the prepared filo. Set your custard aside.
  4. Take a sheet of filo and place it in the baking dish with the edges hanging over the side of your dish (don't fold it in to fit the base-- the filo should be hanging over the edges). Brush it with the melted butter over the base and sides. Depending on the size of your filo sheets and dish, you may need to layer half the dish at a time. Each filo sheet should be brushed with the melted butter after placing in the baking dish. Build up six layers of the filo on the base.
  5. Pour the cooled custard on top of the filo base. Take your overhanging pieces of filo and fold them neatly over the custard filling. Brush again with the melted butter if necessary.
  6. Now, taking one fresh sheet of filo, brush it with the melted butter and lay it on top of the custard, similar to how you lined the base. NOTE: some people prefer to splatter/sprinkle the melted butter instead of brushing it. Let the filo hang over the edges as before, like a big blanket. Repeat for about 6 to 8 sheets of filo. I prefer to brush the top layers with butter before putting them on top of the custard.
  7. The folding bit can be tricky and here I'm giving instructions for the nice neat tucked in filo. With a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, trim the overhanging filo just where it hangs over the edges of your baking dish. Then very gently tuck your filo in to the sides, like you're tucking a blanket between the bed and the wall 🙂 Don't worry if it's not perfect, though you must make sure your custard is trapped by filo so it doesn't escape and overflow. Please see my blog post as it has a link to a video showing how I do it. Brush with butter again, over the sides and tops as this helps the filo to go crispy.
  8. With a sharp knife, lightly cut the layers of filo down the middle lengthwise-- don't cut through to the bottom! You really only want to score the first two or three layers of filo. If you cut all the top layers by accident, don't worry about it. Just make sure you don't cut down to the base. Then make a few long perpendicular cuts, these will form your serving sizes.
  9. With your fingers, sprinkle some water on top. My grandmothers always did this to make the pastry more crisp. I can't say if it works or not but I do it anyway!
  10. Put the galaktoboureko in the oven at 180C for about an hour but check at the 45 minute mark. For the last ten minutes I like to put the dish on the bottom rack of the oven, to get the bottom layers of filo browned. When the top has browned nicely, remove from the oven. Have your cooled syrup ready.
  11. Ladle the syrup gently over the galaktoboureko. For my dish I use about four big ladles, so feel free not to use all the syrup if you're concerned it will be too much. Just make sure you pour syrup on those nice thick edges. If you feel you have to flatten the top of the filo (if it's very puffed) please be careful of the steam!
  12. The hard part: leave it to cool completely! Resist the temptation to cut a piece as the custard will be runnier while it's hot. When it has cooled, cut your serving portions and enjoy! You can sprinkle some cinnamon or icing (confectioner's) sugar on top to make it look nicer if serving to guests.
Recipe Notes

Please note this is just my family's veganised recipe. There are different versions of the non-vegan galaktoboureko including different ingredients, amounts and how the filo is folded.

Feel free to play around with the amounts of ingredients shown!

If it sounds tricky, please don't let it put you off! I would say the trickiest bit is when you have to fold in the filo. Don't stress about it (like I did *cough*)! If you're concerned you've assembled the filo incorrectly, put your baking dish on another tray to catch any potential overflow.

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27 thoughts on “A Vegan Galaktoboureko: My Family’s Recipe

    • thanks! I always think gosh should I put this horrible picture up on the blog but figure it can be helpful!

  1. I love how thorough you (and your mum) are with your recipe development. I would stop at the first one. Though I would probably eat too much when it was warm and wish I had more left. It looks delicious – esp with a bit of colour from the turmeric. BTW did your kids and husband like it? I hope so as it looks like you had heaps 🙂

    • I’m always too paranoid I’m going to post up a hideous recipe! I get so sick of it easily though so I was happy to share the experiments with family! Arthur and I are the only ones who like this (Husband and DeeW are those crazy people who like grapefruit and have no problem eating lemon…!)

  2. I almost cried reading this. I loved galaktoboureko in my pre vegan days. I always had it on my list of things to try to recreate, but I’m not even going to try my own version if it has your Greek mum’s seal of approval. I’ll be making this soon. Thanks!! 🙂

  3. Beautiful! I seem to remember seeing a non-vegan version of this on Greek Vegetarian a couple of years ago, and will be bookmarking yours as a more inclusive alternative. 🙂

  4. This looks seriously amazing. I’ve never eaten the non-vegan version so I would have nothing to compare it to, but I am going to try your recipe!! Love that you and your mum went through so many trials to get the vegan version just right. I’ve never cooked with my mum (well, not since I was tiny) so you’ve inspired me to do some cooking with her to write down some of my favourite childhood recipes 🙂 Oh, and I’ve only recently discovered aquafaba but isn’t it magic? I am so impressed!!

    • aquafaba is amaaaazing! I still haven’t tried meringues though as I’ve never really liked them much enough to make them from scratch. Oooh definitely get some cooking with your mum in, I so regret not doing more of that with my grandmothers!

  5. I made this and it is AMAZING. words can’t begin to say how much I love it and it COMPLETELY FOOLED MY GREEK FAMILY!!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, this recipe is legendary!!!!

    • that is fantastic to hear, thank you! Ha, I understand about fooling the Greek rellies 😉 It’s one of my major goals when veganising family recipes!

  6. I have just made this recipe using soy milk and vanilla essence (because I didn’t have almond milk or vanilla beans handy). It worked perfectly. Thank you! What would happen if I left the Aquafaba out? Does it act like an egg in the recipe?

    • wow so happy it worked! I’m not 100% sure on leaving the aquafaba out though I suspect the custard may be a little too thick without it. The semolina mix gets quite thick and adding the eggs/aquafaba made it less superthick I’ll try a version in the future and see how much difference it makes 🙂

  7. Hi – I too have a Greek background and find it hard to make sweets without eggs. My daughter has an allergy to eggs and nuts. I was wondering weather I could use milk and butter (traditional ingredients instead of almond milk) ??

  8. I just ate 3 pieces, but it’s my birthday so calories don’t count 😉
    This recipe is amazing. I asked my husband to make it for me as a birthday ‘cake’ and it’s been a smash hit. Thank you so much for this!

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