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How Greeks Brought 50 Kinds of Pie to America

greek pies
Spanakopita, made with feta and spinach, is one of the most popular Greek pies. Credit: Alpha/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Although Greek food is known and loved around the world, one specific type of traditional food, the Greek pie, holds a special place in the country’s cuisine, as it is among the oldest, simplest, and most delicious dishes found in Greece.

”Pites,” as they are known in Greek, have so many variations that it may be impossible to count precisely how many different kinds of Greek pies there are out there.

Nonetheless, regardless of their fillings or their different types of scrumptious crusts, Greek pies share some basic common characteristics:

They are made of the simplest yet most delicious ingredients, and they can feed a lot of hungry people.

The countless variations of Greek pies

The world-famous Greek cheese pie (tyropita) and spinach pie (spanakopita) are only two of the kinds of pies that Greek immigrants introduced to the United States. However, today, much like in Greece, Americans can now savor over 50 different kinds of Greek pies.

Greeks refer to any sweet or savory dish containing ingredients wrapped in either puff pastry or thin crusty or doughy sheets as “pies.”

A pie gets its name according to the filling; hence, other than the cheese and spinach pies that are the most popular, other types of Greek pies include: ground-beef pie, ham pie, sausage pie, onion pie, leek pie, zucchini pie, apple pie (quite different from American-style apple pie since it’s made with puff pastry), lemon pie, cherry pie, peach pie, apricot pie, fig pie, spaghetti pie, chicken pie, pies with many different cheese varieties accordingly named—and many, many more pies!

Then there are the cake-like “pies,” with the most common being the traditional Vasilopita, which signifies the New Year featuring orange juice and mastic, as well as other yummy ingredients.

Other cake-like pies are the karydopita (walnut pie), portokalopita (orange pie), sokolatopita (chocolate pie), and many more.

The list of examples of pie variations from Greece could literally be endless, and each region of Greece is justifiably proud of its own ”pita.”

These pies were brought to the United States by the first generation of migrants with the  dough and pastry sheets handmade by the women themselves. Generations since have improved and modernized these recipes and introduced them to American society.

Greek-American bakers, confectioners, and restaurant owners have also played a role in promoting Greek pastries and bakery products.

Furthermore, Greek festivals in various communities have played a pivotal role in introducing Greek pies to Americans. When imports of food products became easier, diaspora Greeks and Americans had better access to such delicacies.

The domination of the Internet in the last two decades has changed the map when it comes to pitas—not only allowing easy online orders but, most importantly, making recipes and discussions pertaining to cooking on websites and forums widely accessible.

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