Cheese Sambusak, or Mini Cheese Pies

cheese sambusak

What is sambusak, you ask? It’s like a bite-sized turnover, an empanada or a pie. The dough is a savory butter pie crust made with a mixture of semolina and all purpose flours, and the filling is a simple cheese mixture. And that’s it; we just made cheese sambusak! (Just kidding, I’ll go into more detail soon.)

These can really be filled with anything, but we eat two kinds: cheese or meat. And cheese sambusak is the best kind, especially because if you’re making the filling meat, you can’t make the dough with butter.

Technically, you can do this on your own, but it’s way more fun if you make it a group project. Invite some friends over and shape all of the sambusaks together! We met up at our mom’s apartment with our sisters, made three batches, and split them among all of us at the end of the day. This way, the shaping and crimping is a lot more fun, and goes by a lot faster! We probably should have made even more batches.

After all of your hard work, pop a few in the oven and reward yourself with a delicious snack, and freeze the rest. They should be baked until the dough is just cooked through, before they brown up and the cheese mysteriously disappears (really, sometimes, if you overcook them, the cheese vanishes!). Then, next time you have company, or don’t know what to make for dinner, cook up a few of these for an appetizer or a side dish, and don’t forget to brag that you made them yourself!

making sambusak dough mixing the dough by hand: sambusak sambusak doughsambusak dough: perfect consistencydough balls for sambusakcheese mixture and tortilla press: we're making sambusak cheese mixture for sambusak

Intimidated by making all of these cute little pies? Have no fear, we have step-by-step photos and a video, so by the end of this post you’ll be a sambusak-making pro:

press sesame seeds into the sambusak doughfill sambusak with cheesefold sambusak in halfstart crimping your sambusaksambusak shaping: pinch and turnbeautiful cheese sambusaktray of sambusaks

As part of 2013’s first Kosher Connection linkup, we decided to share with you a classic Syrian savory pastry:

Cheese Sambusak
Makes about 50 mini pies

[[Click here to watch the video on how to shape sambusak!]]


For the dough:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water

For the filling:

  • 2 lbs. grated muenster cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • sesame seeds


  1. Make the dough: Mix the flours, butter and salt in a large bowl. Add a little water at a time, until well blended. Cover and set aside.
  2. Make the filling: Mix together the cheese, eggs and salt.
  3. Shape the sambusak: Roll a tablespoon-sized ball of dough in your palms.
  4. Roll the dough in sesame seeds and smash it in your palm or using a tortilla press.
  5. Put a teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the dough. Fold in half and seal the edges.
  6. Crimp the edges by pinching with your thumb and pointer and folding over, going all the way around. (HUH!? If this doesn’t make sense to you, just watch the video or refer to the photos above.)
  7. When all of the sambusak is shaped, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or freeze. Frozen sambusak doesn’t have to be defrosted before baking, just keep it in the oven a bit longer.