Turkish Sigara Boregi With Minced Meat

Sigara boregi literally translates to ‘cigarette pastry’, a shape common in Turkey and filled with either sweet or savory mixtures. The cigarette shape is familiar to me as I have made egg rolls, lumpia, and spring rolls all of which are a variation on the cigarette shape but using different types of wrappers. For this recipe, I used phyllo dough and I am thrilled with how the pastries turned out.

The dough used to make these pastries can vary from a traditional yufka to phyllo or puff pastry. Yufka (somewhat thicker than phyllo) can be hard to located in the United States so I opted to use phyllo. While some people swear by phyllo, others tend to swear *at it*. Phyllo sheets are thin and can be temperamental, especially if you are not prone to having a gentle touch.

I based this recipe on one found in a Turkish cookbook which used a meat filling in a tepsi (a deep tray-shaped pan). In the original recipe, you layer the pan with phyllo and the meat filling to create a sort of pie. It seemed easy enough but I really wanted to try using the filling for individual sized pastries. I have a strange fetish for serving-sized foods. If I could eat finger food for every meal, I would be more than happy.

Sigara Boregi With Minced Meat

Meat Filling
adapted from Layered Minced Meat and Pine Nut Pie, The Food and Cooking of Turkey

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1 egg
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons milk
1 lb phyllo sheets (about 18)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onion begins to soften, then add minced garlic and pine nuts. Saute for an additional 1-2 minutes or until pine nuts begin to turn golden.

Add ground beef to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add cinnamon, oregano and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, olive oil and milk. This mix will be slightly thick and will be used to moisten the phyllo dough.

Take a sheet of phyllo dough and lay it out on a flat surface with the longest side facing you. Keep the remaining phyllo covered with a moist towel until ready to use. Lightly brush the left half of the phyllo with the egg mixture. Gently lift the right side of the phyllo and fold it over the left side. The phyllo dough will now to half the size of when you started and you will now have the shortest side facing you.

Brush the top of the phyllo with the egg mixture. Take 1/4 cup of the beef mixture (make sure it has cooled) and place it 2 inches in from the nearest edge of the phyllo and leave 2 inches of spaces on either side of the meat. The meat mixture is placed nearest to you as you will begin rolling it away from you. Don’t worry if some of the phyllo sheets have small tears in them. My package had a few damaged pieces and they worked just fine.

Fold in each of the long sides by 2 inches. Beginning at the edge closest to you, fold the narrow end over the meat mixture. Continue rolling the dough away from you as you form a cigarette shaped roll. When you are nearing the end, brush the final 2 inches with the egg mixture. Fold the roll over this final bit of dough to seal it. Place seam side down on a baking sheet.

Next time I will remember to take a photograph of these rolling steps. As I’m writing it, I realize how hard it is to convey the rolling technique. Surprisingly, it’s quite easy to do.

Before baking, brush the tops and sides of each roll with more of the egg mixture. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

The sigara boregi turned out beautifully. I loved the shape and color, especially the decoration of sesame seeds on top. Remember to let them cool before biting into one … it’s difficult to wait, but you risk burning your mouth otherwise. I always learn the hard way :-)

My only complaint is that the mixture is a little too meaty for me. I like the combination of spices but wanted something sweet to compliment the meat and give it a contrasting flavor. I might try bits of diced dried apricots or raisins as I think the sweetness would work well.

Minced meat is only one of many possible fillings for these pastries including feta, potatoes or other vegetables so let your imaginations run wild!

UPDATE 9/30/08: Kat from A Good Appetite made this recipe and also created a Chicken version with golden raisins. She also provides photos showing how to roll the phyllo cigars which is helpful. They look and sound wonderful!

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  1. Fetish? Looks like you have become weary of forks and knives, Allen, haha :) How can I say no to meat cigars? At the risk of being hated by Greek people all over the world, I’d like to say I would love to have some with some, uh, chutney :P“`
    Thank you also for the Greek lesson… Now I know what the boreko in galaktoboreko means :)

  2. As you’ve written, this rolled shape is not exclusive to Turkish cuisine. The Greek call these “pourakia” or cigars.

    The filling here is so aromatic with the cinnamon.

  3. Very impressive! For people who swear at phyllo dough, they should try to find the fresh/refrigerated kind rather than frozen… the frozen tends to rip more easily from what I’ve noticed.

  4. That has to be one of the funniest comments made about phyllo! I’ve sworn at it many times! These are very aromatic Allen…I’m really enjoying your Turkish series.

  5. OCD much Allen ;) these are too perfect to eat. Excellent work! The filling sounds delicious. I love the the addition of cinnamon. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh my! That filling sounds like one I got in a similar roll at a Mediterranean restaurant in San Francisco. I seem to remember they sprinkle theirs with a little powdered sugar. This is one I have to make!

  7. Arundathi: Thank you! A vegetable filling would be wonderful in these.

    Manggy: Hmmm, I think you’re likely to be hated by the Turkish people, since this is a Turkish recipe and not Greek :-)

    Peter: These would have been so much better with your homemade phyllo :-)

    Cenk: Thank you for all of your information!

    Patsyk: I haven’t seen the fresh phyllo locally but will keep an eye out for it. The frozen stuff can be a pain!

    Peter G: Ahhh, the frustration of phyllo :-) I’ll have at least 2 more Turkish recipes to complete my series this week.

    Erin: OCD? Never!

    Jen: Haha – it does have lots of interesting recipes that I haven’t even started to make.

  8. Perfect looking cigara boreyi! You did a great job! Next time try them with cheese feeling, it is very delicious too. Love your Turkish food series:)

  9. I would also be more than happy to eat finger food at every meal Allen! What is it with that?? I love it. These pastries look so gorgous and they are so damn photogenic!

  10. Hey Allen, I made these last night & they were so good! I did half of them with your beef filling & made the other half with a chicken filling. I posted about it today & linked back to you.

  11. Dang dude, that looks awesome. My wife’s family are Sephardic Jews mostly from Turkey and make a lot of foods in a similar vein. Bolemas filled with feta and spinach in a crispy pastry (not phyllo, homemade) are particularly awesome.

  12. Hi Allen,

    First of all i would like to say Turkish cuisine is a very good choice ( I am from Turkey of course). I think you did a good job but it could be better. It is like one of those movies where the cast is awesome but the script is a little lousy. Overall the movie is good but not as good as i expected. I dont know how familiar you are with Turkish cuisine but i must say sigara boregi seems like an easy option. Although it looks delicious, you could have lots of recipes which would end up better than sigara boregi. As i Turkish guy, i must say Sigara boregi is fried not baked. What you made is more like a kiymali borek – borek with minced meat. I found this video on Youtube. Some tourists learn how to cook sigara boregi. Your viewers can see how they roll the borek.


    I think you did a great job.


    I never tried sigara boregi with Phylo dough and baked before but your recipe is sooo inviting, I had to try.

    I used 1 layer of phylo and it broke easily so I used 2 AT A TIME and they turned our wonderful. Thank you for sharing your recipe, it was very delicious and EXCELLENT alternative to the fried cigar borek. Warm greetings.

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