Pita Pockets

By Jacqueline Dunnington

Pita bread, with its empty center, seems to await a wide range of fillings, simple or sophisticated, for the lunchbox, party, or supper.

Pita bread is a flat, circular bread that has its origins in the Mediterranean lands of the Middle East. Here, the pita is often sold individually, but in the United States, these pita pockets are generally packaged and labeled: peeta, pitah, pitta, or "pocket bread." The word "pita" is derived from the classical Greek term, "to cook." The pockets formed during the baking process are suited to be filled with any of an infinite variety of stuffings. Your imagination is the only limit.

All these recipes fill four 7- or 8-inch pita pockets and are easy to double or triple in quantity.

Magic in Your Pockets

(Serves 4)

A no-cook pita pocket pleasure.

  • 1-½ cups fresh avocado
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons crumbled tofu
  • 2.25-ounce can chopped black olives
  • ½ cup minced fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • Salt or salt substitute and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut four pita pockets in half. Lightly mash all ingredients and seasonings with a fork. Pack each pocket with filling and serve at once.

Total calories per ¼ filling: 167 Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 155 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Roasted Veggie Power Pack

(Serves 4)

There's no cleanup after preparing this delightful filling.

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped turnips
  • ½ cup well cleaned, chopped leeks
  • 1 cup unpeeled chopped red potatoes
  • Low-sodium soy sauce, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a double layer of foil and cover with carrots, turnips, leeks, and potatoes. Splash mixture with a few drops of soy sauce, and seal tightly. Bake for about 40 minutes. If the vegetables aren't soft enough yet, continue cooking until they are easily mashed with a fork. Let cool until you can handle foil.

Open packet, mash contents to a soft pulp, and stir in parsley. Let cool a bit, then pack your pockets.

Total calories per ¼ filling: 77 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 11 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 159 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Herbed Walnut-Mushroom "Caviar"

(Serves 4)

Pack your pockets with a delightful treat that makes elegant party fare.

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • One pinch dried basil
  • One pinch dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • ⅓-½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded fresh spinach leaves

In a pan or skillet with lid, sauté garlic and onions in oil until they are soft. Add mushrooms and soy sauce. Cook until all ingredients are soft and well-mixed. Add wheat germ, herbs, and nuts. Mix well, cover at once, then set aside, and let cool.

Fill each pocket equally with spinach and the "caviar." For party food, cut pita pockets into eight wedges.

Total calories per ¼ filling: 164 Fat: 13 grams
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 114 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Peanutty Filling for School Lunch Pockets

(Serves 4)

An easy-to-fix, easy-to-eat treat for the lunchbox set.

  • ½ cup finely shredded fresh carrots
  • ½ cup organic peanut butter
  • ¼ cup crushed peanuts
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons chopped fresh bean sprouts

Mix all ingredients, pack pockets equally, wrap, and set in lunchbox with some fresh fruit for dessert.

Total calories per ¼ filling: 275 Fat: 21 grams
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 86 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Fiesta Filling for the Pockets

(Serves 4)

The cuisine of the Southwest offers a healthy filling for a pita pocket.

  • ½ cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • One pinch garlic powder
  • One pinch ground black pepper
  • One pinch red chili powder
  • 1 cup shredded roasted red pepper, from a jar or your oven
  • ¾ cup cooked and finely mashed pinto beans
  • ½ cup chopped avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup shredded lettuce

Purée tomatoes, lime juice, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder, and red pepper in a blender. Scrape into bowl, and mix in beans, avocado, and cilantro. Chill for 1 hour.

Pack each pocket equally with lettuce and filling.

Total calories per ¼ filling: 96 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 287 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Tamari and Tofu Pita Pocket Centers

(Serves 4)

Try a new taste treat inside your pita bread.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 green scallions (green onions), trimmed and minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup crumbled tofu
  • 2 Tablespoons tamari
  • 1 cup finely chopped, drained, and cooked greens (kale, spinach, broccoli, etc.)
  • One pinch salt
  • One pinch ground white pepper
  • One pinch paprika

Sauté onions and scallions in oil. Remove from heat and stir in tofu along with tamari. Add greens and seasonings. Cover for a few minutes. If the mixture gets too dry, add a few drops of vegetable broth or water. Pack pita pockets and serve warm.

Total calories per ¼ filling: 136 Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 517 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Jacqueline Dunnington is a freelancewriter from Santa Fe, NM, and a frequent contributor to the Vegetarian Journal.