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Things that are cool in Israel #12: Boureka Laws (with boureka and freezer puff pastry dough vocab lists)

Every once in a while, just when we start feeling Israeli, something new comes along that honestly charms the pants off of me all over again. Something like… the Boureka Law.

Yup, that’s really a thing. Read on to find out.

Tummy rumbles 

For supper tonight, at NR's request, we're making homemade bourekas. We bought the pastry and now we just have to make a bunch of fillings and bake them up. In case you're wondering, there are a million kinds of freezer pastry here. Probably in North America as well, but there, most of them weren't kosher. Usually, we just

use what is generically known as "puff pastry."

This generally translates as בצק עלים / batzek alim / leaf dough, but there are a few different varieties in the freezer section, including pareve and dairy versions, sweet and savoury versions, along with different types of pastry coating for different types of wraps (like עלי סיגר / alei sigar / cigar leaves, delicious single-layer crispy pastry for wrapping Moroccan-style filled pastries and which make amazing egg rolls).

(in the end, I actually made a complete list with vocabulary below – feel free to keep on reading and check it out!)

After checking a few Hebrew websites, I bought בצק פילאס תורכי / batzek filas turkey / Turkish filas dough.

None of which is relevant to this article.

All of which is background to the fact that, as I was planning out loud which types of bourekas to make, NR said, "I want to make cheese. There's a law that the cheese ones have to be a triangle."

What? Seriously?

A cheese pastry law?

I had to do some reading on this. And it turns out she's right.

I already knew that there are pretty strict rules in kashrus when it comes to dairy breads. Because bread is usually pareve and used at both meat and milk meals, if you want to make a dairy bread, you're supposed to add a "siman," a sign that it's dairy.

Otherwise, your nice milky, buttery bread could be a "michshol," a stumbling block, leading other people astray if they don't know any better.

So in 2013, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate decided that with all the possible shapes of puff pastry, it would be a michshol, a stumbling block, to break away from the standard dairy-is-triangular model and start making the dairy ones any old shape.

What are the rules?

I started listing all the different rules in this article, starting with the idea that triangular bourekas are always dairy, as of 2013, but the rules actually get pretty complicated. It all depends on whether they're traditional bourekas, filo-pastry type bourekas (cigars), or croissants and rugelach.

If you're genuinely interested, I'm sure there's somebody you can contact. There are a few additional details in this English article, or you can google the subject in Hebrew.

Your almost-complete boureka vocabulary:

Here are the standard boureka shapes you can observe at most bakeries:

image The aforementioned classic cheese bourekas. Most recipes I’ve seen here call for a mix of a Mediterranean-style cheese like Bulgarit or Feta with cottage cheese and perhaps a grating of European-style cheese, like Mozzarella.
image Cheese and olive boureka © Peteravivangel
image Pizza bourekas in the standard wrap-around (שבלול / shablul / snail) shape © Jerusalemisrael2014
image Regulation-rectangle potato bourekas ©


Other varieties available pareve are spinach (often snail-shaped) and mushroom (I think these are round)?, but I couldn’t find freely-available images to share for these.

And, of course, the triangular cheese ones.

image Cigar pastries with cigar-wrap outer pastry. I’ve also heard this referred to as “brik,” which is apparently the Tunisian term. Confusingly, crispy-pastry savoury treats are known as “borek” in Turkish and other places, not to be confused with “bourekas.”
image Sweet pastries, sold in bakeries, usually have these stripey lines across the top. This one is apple-filled. Cheese ones, a little like danishes and sometimes called geviniot, are pointy at the ends.
image Miscellaneous pastries, with signs clearly marking them as dairy or pareve. Notice the pareve rugelach are straight. I think that’s part of the law; curved shapes are for dairy.
imageimage The pastry you and I know as croissant (I say it the French way), but which Israelis know as קרואסון / korosan. These can be both plain (pretty uninspired, honestly) or dessert-style. There are some really decadent marzipan-filled ones (dairy) if you know where you look (hint: Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv).

And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at a few of the types of pastry dough you’re likely to find in a typical freezer section. Because why the heck not?  This is corona times and nobody’s going anywhere, am I right? Helpfully, most of these tell you right on them what they’re for.

Your almost-complete freezer puff pastry vocabulary:

image Batzek alim merudad.
“Rolled” puff pastry dough.
For sweet and savoury
Use to make palm leaves (known as “elephants’ ears” here, bourekas, roladas
image Ribuei batzek alim.
Squares of puff pastry dough.
Exactly the same as above, but in pre-cut squares.
image Batzek filas turkey
Turkish filas dough
Still not really sure what this is, but it was very yummy in the bourekas for our supper tonight. The box here says it’s delicate and thin, suitable for sweet and savoury. And boy was it!
image Batzek shmarim alim.
Yeast-dough leaves.
For sweet baking
Use to make cheese puffs, crunch cakes, croissants
imageimage Batzek parich maluach / matok
Sweet crispy dough
As shown, these are useful for crusts and cookies.
If you see a wide package like this, often it contains two rolls, which is nice because then you have a backup for next time!
image Top to bottom:
Batzek parich matok chema – Sweet crispy butter dough
Batzek alim chema – Butter puff pastry
Batzek shmarim alim chema – Butter yeast dough sheets
image Alei cigar
Cigar / brik / borek pastry leaves
Thin and light and crispy, great for oven-baked samosa or egg rolls, could probably also be deep-fried.
image Batzek filo
Filo dough
For sweet and savoury dishes, especially Mediterranean desserts like baklava
image Kadaif, or kadaif noodles
These are filo pastry shredded finely and used in Middle Eastern desserts and savoury dishes, including – most famously – Kanafe, which I’ve shared a recipe for over here.

Phew!  There sure are a lot of pastries around here. I hadn’t quite realized this when I started. If I’ve left any out, let me know in the comments.

So is it really a boureka LAW?

No.  Since you’ve made it this far I should add that obviously, even though I call this the Boureka Law, it isn't so much a law of the land as it is a rule of the Rabbanut (Chief Rabbinate). That means that if you don't comply, you won't be arrested, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting a hechsher. Nevertheless, I find it utterly charming, yet another reminder of what life is like in a Jewish country.

And for those of us at home, it means we can basically do what we like. Which offers us the creative opportunity to invent scandalous, radical new shapes. So we feel a little bit “bad”… or just because they're ALL delicious.

p.s. Those really are our own homemade bourekas featured up top! A potato boureka (the rectangular ones) is just seasoned (instant) mashed potatoes wrapped up in a storebought pastry – super-simple to make! The snails are mushroom-filled, and my husband made the filling for those. My daughter also made cheese-filled ones, but those got eaten before anyone thought to take a picture.



What shape of boureka is your favourite??  And which of the many, many pastry types shown here have gotten you thinking creatively? Let me know in the comments!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה



  1. Oh yum. Have lost nearly all of the 20 lbs I put on in Israel due to these things! Probably a good thing I can't get them here.......

  2. Cheese ones are triangular in TO too!


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