The difference between phyllo (filo) and puff pastry

This is an updated version of a post originally published on September 2, 2011.

Phyllo (filo) and puff pastry are both paper thin sheets of dough that, when baked, become very flaky. They are related — in fact, there is a theory that puff pastry is descended from the Middle Eastern phyllo — but they differ in at last two aspects.

The first is the way they are prepared. Phyllo sheets are rolled out individually. I’ve heard it said that pastry chefs practice for years and years to perfect the skill. Puff pastry is made by placing chilled butter on a rolled dough. The dough is folded into thirds, rolled, turned, folded, chilled and the process is repeated several times thereby multiplying the layers of butter-separated sheets.

The second is the manner in which they are used. Phyllo sheets are used individually. Commercial phyllo sheets come in a roll (like a roll of aluminum foil). Sometimes, the sheets are separated by perforated edges. Other times, they come stacked but completely separable from one another — like wonton wrappers but much less sticky and much more fragile. How are they used? Sometimes, as wrappers — much like how spring roll wrappers are used. Most times, though, they are arranged in layers. Do a search using “baklava” as a keyword. Find a video if you can. That’s the best illustration of how phyllo sheets are used in layers. Filling is often placed between the sheets and each sheet is brushed with melted butter before the next stack is added.

Puff pastry consists of sheets that are already stuck together and is used pretty much like any pie crust. But because each sheet is already separated by butter, when the compressed sheets are baked, they rise as steam is released and the result is a flaky crust.

Both phyllo and puff pastry are very tricky to make. I’ve been psyching myself up to try and make puff pastry but the thought alone of all that work makes me tired already. So, when I found packs of puff pastry in the supermarket (Shopwise Libis) recently, I bought one.

Now this is the “healthy” version. Instead of butter, the dough sheets are separated by vegetable oil. I knew from the start that it would taste different but my intention was to practice with the handling and preparation.

The puff pastry is separated by non-stick paper.

I thought I’d make mini-croissants and here’s how I made them.

First, I cut each puff pastry into two triangles. Then, I rolled up each triangle.

The rolled triangles were formed into crescents, the tops brushed with beaten egg then baked in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes.

And there are my mini-croissants.

And there is a close-up so you can see the flaky texture.

So, is it difficult to handle puff pastry? No, it is not. I’ll make savory turnovers (maybe ham and cheese or tuna) and mini-pies (probably something with fruits and nuts) with the remaining puff pastry and post the recipes later.

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The Author

Hello, my name is Connie Veneracion. I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

21 Responses

  1. Julius Sinlao says:

    Hi Connie,

    I used Phyllo to make a Chicken Pot Pie Recipe that I found in a book titled “Healthy Family Meals” written by the American Heart Association.

    I think Phyllo is healthier than Puf Pastry because it doesn’t contain trans fat or cholesterol, Butter on the other hand (well that’s a no-brainer) contains lots of fat and cholesterol.

    Here’s the chicken-Pot-Pie recipe article that i wrote about in my blog:

  2. nina says:

    hi ms. connie…i attended a baking class wherein the chef demonstrated how to make napoleons and the puff pastry for napoleon layers. he used something called pastry margarine for the puff pastry. i asked him if there’s any substitute we can use and he said no, not even shortening. the pastry margarine is also used for croissant…

    • Connie says:

      LOL I think you should question his credibility.

    • Maricel says:

      I’ve tried using pastry margarine. It does make it easier to make puff pastry because it does not melt easily specially in our tropical climate. But, of course, you miss out on the real butter taste.

  3. Roma Agtarap says:

    Good afternoon Ms. Connie, may i ask where did you buy the puff pastry?

    Thanks in advance.


  4. emyM says:

    I made “cheese rolls” like those being sold at Goldilocks
    using your cheesecake recipe as filling for the puff pastry.
    So yummy.

  5. emyM says:

    Yes,I put a little white coarse sugar on top.
    Check the website of Portos Bakery, a Cuban bakery here in LA
    that sells cheese rolls and puff pastry w/ guava and cream
    cheese filling….that’s where I got the idea.

  6. rachel says:

    Its simple . We call “yufka” the one that you call phylo originally turkish food. Its without any greasy ingredient. Here is a video how to prepare homemade yufka.

  7. Joy says:

    I used to always mix the two.

  8. Connie, well done with your explanation of the difference between fillo pastry and puff pastry. The “basic” difference is that when using fillo pastry, the end user decides what type of “butter/oil/shortening” is used in any recipe, while in both commercially purchsed puff and shortcrust pastry, the “fat” is already layered between the sheets. Hope you enjoy using our product! Cheers.

  9. nitz says:

    hi ms. connie,
    where can I buy the fillo pastry sheets? thanks

  10. helen says:

    I want to answer to the womans’ question if she can use margarine to make a croissant, actually you can, i always make my own puff pastry dough from scratch and croissant. you can mix butter and 79% vegetable oil like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter it taste very good.

    You can make samosas with fillo pasry sheet but you should be very careful cuz it dry very fast. my next project is to make homemade fillo pastry sheet from scratch, if it’ll be matagumpay i’ll share it with you so that you can post it in your website cuz you had a lot of readers. thanks.

  11. john barrowman says:

    you are a really good person and forgive me for saying this but I actually love you and the way that you love cooking, you are seriously my one true love that I would love to see some time xxxxxxxxxxxxx :) love you.xx john.

  12. I hope that Julius gets a chance to read your comment. :)

  13. john barrowman says:

    yeah so do i, I just really want to tell her how much i really do love her and her WONDERFUL cooking xxxxxxxxxxxxx john :)x

  14. Julius is obviously male based on his gravatar.