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Kale-Stuffed Phyllo “Pens” with Ajvar


This is one of my favorite pick-up foods — so fun to serve at holiday gatherings. Variously known as sigara (cigarette) or kalem (pen) böregi (or börek), these delicious appetizers are believed to have originated in what is now Turkey. These small cylindrical phyllo pastries filled with a savory stuffing are popular throughout the Middle East, as well as the Mediterranean and parts of Eastern Europe. My favorite filling is made with kale and white beans. Wrapped tightly into little phyllo “pens,” they look a bit like crispy spanakopita spring rolls. I hope you enjoy them!

Kale-Stuffed Phyllo “Pens”

This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing. Used with permission.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to brush phyllo
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces kale, tough stems removed, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1½ cups cooked white beans, or 1 (15.5-ounce) can, drained, rinsed, and mashed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 (14 by 18-inch) sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • ¼ cup finely ground walnuts
  • Ajvar (recipe follows), optional


Heat the oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, dill, mint, and lemon zest. Add the mashed white beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and mix well. Set aside or refrigerate to cool completely before using.

Place a sheet of phyllo dough on a flat work surface. Brush the sheet evenly with olive oil and top it with a second sheet of phyllo. And brush the second sheet with oil. Keep the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel to keep from drying out. Use a sharp knife to cut the phyllo sheets into three strips. With the short side of the phyllo facing you, spoon a line of the filling (about 1-inch diameter) about 1 inch from the bottom edge of a strip of phyllo, about ½ inch from each side. Fold in the side ends of the phyllo toward the center, then use both hands to tightly roll up the phyllo to enclose the filling, evenly and firmly rolling it up into a tight roll, as you would a spring roll.

Transfer the phyllo “pen” to a platter. Repeat the process for the remaining phyllo until the filling is used up. When all of the böregi are assembled, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the böregi on a nonstick baking sheet. Brush the top of the phyllo rolls with any remaining oil and sprinkle with the walnuts. Bake until crisp and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve with ajvar, if using.

Makes 1 dozen



This flavorful Balkan condiment made with red peppers can be used as a dip for pita chips or as a sandwich spread with crisp vegetables. It can also be enjoyed as a zesty accompaniment to the Kale-Stuffed Phyllo “Pens.” Ajvar often contains eggplant as well and can be made mild or spicy, according to taste. This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing. Used with permission.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 fresh hot chile, minced or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers (jarred or home-roasted), chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chile and tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the roasted red peppers and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and well blended. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Pulse until the mixture is finely minced and well combined. You can leave a little texture remaining or you can puree it until smooth. Transfer to a bowl to serve. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week.


Makes about 1½ cups



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{ 33 comments… add one }

  • Trine - Mind Your Foods December 13, 2014, 12:16 am

    These look delicious! I have some phyllo dough in the freezer – now I know what to do with it 🙂

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 8:33 am

      It’s a great way to use up leftover phyllo!

  • Megan December 13, 2014, 7:52 am

    Oh yum, the little finger-things look so cute! A great potluck dish!

  • Shannon December 13, 2014, 9:52 am

    Yum!! I have Balkan heritage and have eaten a lot of ajvar in my day… I can only imagine how delicious it would be with these phyllo rolls. All of the flavors sound awesome. Happy VVP!

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 10:48 am

      These flavors really are great together, Shannon. Happy VVP!

  • Kayse December 13, 2014, 10:17 am

    These are beautiful!!!!
    Happy VVP!

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 10:47 am

      Thanks Kayse. Happy VVP to you, too!

  • Jessica DeMarra December 13, 2014, 10:44 am

    I LOOOOVE stuffed pastry! When a pasty isn’t stuffed I am always a little disappointed. I love the idea of the roasted red pepper spicy sauce to dip! How divine indeed.

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 10:46 am

      Thanks Jessica. I hope you try some– They’re really good!

  • Jaime @ the Seasonal Veg Head December 13, 2014, 10:51 am

    YUM!! I love the herb combination of oregano, dill and mint! And that dipping sauce looks incredible! 🙂

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 11:01 am

      Thanks, Jaime. I love these flavors, too!

  • Somer McCowan December 13, 2014, 11:04 am

    Robin! Those look incredible! Nice to see you at the potluck!

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 11:05 am

      Thanks, Somer. Glad to be here — I love the VVP!

  • Ashley @ A. Cook in the Making December 13, 2014, 11:08 am

    They look delicious and so fun to eat! The ajvar sauce sounds awesome as well. Perfect appetizer!

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 12:55 pm

      They are lots of fun to eat Ashley — and the ajvar sauce is fantastic!

  • Nancy | Ramsons & Bramble December 13, 2014, 12:33 pm

    This looks taste-a-mondo! I do love a stuffed filo pastry parcel! Never thought of using kale though. Or beans. Will do in future!

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 12:54 pm

      I hope you enjoy it, Nancy!

  • Janyce Denise Glasper December 13, 2014, 1:03 pm

    These look superb!!! Would love to give them a try. Do you think it’s okay to replace kale with spinach?

    • Robin December 13, 2014, 1:59 pm

      Hi Janyce, Yes, it’s absolutely fine to replace the kale with spinach. I often do that myself!

  • Hannah December 13, 2014, 2:58 pm

    These look so good! I’m usually not a big fan of phyllo (I know!), but these look like something I could totally get behind. Such a gorgeous appetizer 🙂

  • Becky Striepe December 14, 2014, 7:45 am

    Those look delicious! Happy VVP!

    • Robin December 14, 2014, 8:37 am

      Thanks Becky. Happy VWB to you too!

  • Katie @WorldWideVegetarian.com December 14, 2014, 9:27 am

    Yum yum! I love anything with ajvar, but these kale pens look awesome, I will have to try this out 🙂

    • Robin December 14, 2014, 9:42 am

      I hope you enjoy them, Katie!

  • Bianca @ ElephantasticVegan December 15, 2014, 12:50 pm

    Those look great. I have to get my hands on some phyllo dough soon. Wonderful photo! 🙂

    • Robin December 16, 2014, 10:09 am

      Thanks Bianca. The photo is be Sara Remington and is from my book, Vegan Without Borders.

  • Linda @ Veganosity December 17, 2014, 10:49 am

    Thank you for sharing this recipe Robin. It’s so perfect for the holidays!

  • Lovlie December 17, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Ajvar is new to me. But we do have similar dips with roasted eggplant that we make in Mauritius. I need to get some phyllo dough now, there are a few recipes that I want to try and yours is a great appetiser. 🙂

  • Keely @ Gormandize December 27, 2014, 12:06 am

    How lovely, and I think your serving plate is just gorgeous – I wish I had one! Thanks for bringing these to the potluck, I wish it was a physical potluck so I could go back for more. 🙂

  • Lavonne M February 9, 2015, 1:06 pm

    Made the phyllo stuffed kale for Superbowl Sunday, even though I wasn’t having a party and they were great. Even my non vegan husband enjoyed them. Just wondered if they can be frozen before baking?

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