Traditionally, lucky charms are put into the pastry on certain occasions, particularly on New Year's Eve. These charms may be coins or small symbolic objects (e.g., a small piece of a dogwood branch with a bud, symbolizing health or longevity). More recently, people have started writing happy wishes on small pieces of paper and wrapping them in tin foil. Wishes may include happiness, health, or success throughout the new year (similar to fortune cookies).
Banitsa is served for breakfast with plain yogurt, ayran, or boza. It can be eaten hot or cold. Some varieties include banitsa with spinach "спаначник" (spanachnik) or the sweet version, banitsa with milk "млечна баница" (mlechna banitsa) or pumpkin "тиквеник" (tikvenik).
Traditionally, banitsa is made with homemade or commercially made pastry sheets that are prepared from a baker's hard dough including flour, eggs, and water. At home the sheets can be spread by continuously pulling the sheet of dough with one's fingers until it becomes less than a millimeter thin, or by using a rolling-pin in several stages with sunflower oil sprinkled between the partially spread leaves, or by a very difficult technique comprising waving movements of the entire sheet over the head of the cook, which resembles pizza dough making techniques. Commercially available sheets are mechanically spread and somewhat dried before packing.
Another sort of banitsa is called tutmanik (тутманик) or poparnik (попарник) and is made with leavened sheets. The usual filling is cheese.
The traditional filling is made of crushed white cheese (sirene, feta cheese), yogurt, and eggs. Sometimes baking soda is added to the yogurt, which makes it rise (as the baking soda reacts with the acid in yogurt). The addition of baking soda results in a fluffier filling.
Vegetable fillings include spinach, sorrel, docks, mangold, chards, beet leaves, nettles, leeks, onions, parsley, cabbage or sauerkraut. All these variants, including cabbage, are called zelnik (зелник), from the word зелен (zelen) 'green'. The leek variant is called praznik (празник) and onion variant is called luchnik (лучник).