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How to Make Baklava

This easy baklava recipe has been in my family for generations! Flaky sheets of phyllo dough layered with walnuts and topped with a sweet, lemony simple syrup. It’s so good!

Simply the Best Baklava Recipe

Name a better dessert than baklava. I’ll wait….

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t LOVE a flaky, gooey, sweet baklava. The flavors and texture are just so dang delicious! I love the contrast between the phyllo sheets and syrup coated walnuts. This recipe in particular has been in my family for years and years. Growing up in Macedonia, anytime there was a family gathering you better believe this dessert was on the table!

Baklava is made of 40 sheets of phyllo dough. Yes, 40! Those sheets of flaky, airy and crisp dough are layered with syrup and nuts. I know that sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s actually simple to put all the layers together. The end result is totally worth it!

What is Baklava?

Baklava is a phyllo layered sweet treat packed with a mixture of nuts, sugar and spices. Think of it as the lasagna of desserts! Those layers are then smothered in a honey syrup or simple syrup.

Slices of homemade baklava in a baking dish

What Country is it From?

If you ask me – which I’ll assume you will since you’re here – baklava originated in Macedonia. 🇲🇰  😉 But, ask anyone from the Balkan region or the Middle East and they will all lay claim to this crispy, sweet dessert. I mean, have you tried it? If you have, you’ll understand exactly why everyone wants credit for it. 😊

However, each culture has their own variation or special tricks to their baklava. The two constants in all baklava recipes are phyllo dough and a sweet syrup. Everything else is up for debate! What we have here is my family’s traditional Macedonian baklava recipe.

Filling for homemade baklava

Recipe Ingredients

For Baklava, you’ll be layering phyllo dough with a sweet nut mixture and then pouring a simple syrup over top. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Simple Syrup

  • Water
  • Sugar – White granulated sugar
  • Lemon juice – Use fresh lemon juice, not bottled.

For the Baklava

  • Walnuts – You could also use pistachios or macadamia nuts.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Butter – Use unsalted butter.
  • Phyllo dough – Though both phyllo dough and puff pastry are known for their flaky texture, phyllo dough is different from puff pastry. Phyllo dough has a much lower fat content than the very buttery puff pastry. Because of this, phyllo dough can dry out easily and is usually brushed with melted butter or oil.

Can I Use a Different Kind of Nuts?

Yes! Some of my other favorite nuts to mix in with the walnuts (or without walnuts) are pistachios and macadamia nuts. And, I’m a big fan of mixing coconut into my filling, too.

A slice of homemade baklava on a spatula

How to Make Baklava

Make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Set the saucepan aside and let the syrup cool down completely.

  • Prep your tools. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. rush the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with some of the melted butter.
  • Make the nut filling. In a large bowl, combine the chopped walnuts, sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon and set it aside.
  • Assemble the baklava. Unroll the phyllo sheets. As you work with the phyllo sheets, keep the stack covered with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out while you’re working. You can also use plastic wrap to cover the stack.
Brushing phyllo dough with butter in a baking sheet
  • Arrange 10 layers of phyllo sheets into the prepared baking pan, one sheet at a time, brushing EACH SHEET with butter before adding the next.
  • So, layer 1 sheet, brush with butter, then layer the next, brush with butter, and so on…
Nut filling being placed on phyllo sheets with butter
  • Sprinkle about ¾ cups of the walnut mixture over the phyllo.
  • Continue to layer 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter before adding the next.
  • Sprinkle with a layer of ¾ cup walnut mixture. Repeat this 4 times.
  • Finish the baklava with a layer of 10 phyllo sheets and brush the top with more butter.
Unbaked baklava ready to go into the oven
  • Cut the baklava. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You can cut it into 4 long rows, and then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes, or straight across to make square shapes.
Golden baked baklava in a pan

Bake. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top of the Baklava is golden. Remove the baklava from the oven and pour the cooled syrup evenly over the Baklava.

Cool and serve. Let the baklava cool completely in a dry and cool place. For best results, let baklava sit overnight before serving.

What is the Order of the Layers?

I know, that’s a lot of layers to keep track of right? Here’s a quick reference you can use as a guide while assembling your baklava layers:

  • 10 phyllo sheets with butter, then 3/4 cup of the nut mixture
  • 5 phyllo sheets with butter, then 3/4 cup of the nut mixture
  • 5 phyllo sheets with butter, then 3/4 cup of the nut mixture
  • 5 phyllo sheets with butter, then 3/4 cup of the nut mixture
  • 5 phyllo sheets with butter, then 3/4 cup of the nut mixture
  • 10 phyllo sheets with butter, then 3/4 cup of the nut mixture
Slices of baklava on a baking sheet

Pro Tips for Success

Baklava is good no matter how you shake it. Seriously, it’s hard to mess up. I’ve tried many baklava recipes in my day, you can trust me on this one. These tips will make this the best baklava you’ve had, yet!

  • Do not thaw your phyllo dough on the counter top. Instead, allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. This will make it easier to work with.
  • Don’t let the phyllo dry out. When you’re working with the phyllo dough sheets, keep your stack covered with a damp paper towel or tea towel so they don’t dry out while you’re working.
  • Be generous with the butter! Make sure you brush EACH SHEET of phyllo dough with butter. This is not the place to skimp.
  • Let your baklava sit overnight at room temperature. This allows the syrup to soak into and soften the layers.
Close up of a slice of baklava

How to Store

I keep my baklava in an airtight container at room temperature. It will stay fresh and delicious for about 10 to 14 days.

Can I Freeze Baklava?

You can assemble it ahead of time and keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just cover it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. When ready, thaw on kitchen counter and bake as directed in the recipe.

More Desserts to Try

ENJOY!

Tools Used in this Recipe

cut up baklava in a pan

Easy Baklava Recipe

Katerina | Diethood
You’re going to love my family’s Traditional Baklava Recipe! Flaky sheets of phyllo dough layered with walnuts and topped with a sweet, lemony simple syrup.
4.91 from 11 votes
Servings : 30 pieces
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins

Ingredients
  

For the Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Baklava
  • 4 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces phyllo dough (about 40 pieces), thawed according to directions on the package

Instructions
 

  • Make the Simple Syrup first; combine water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and bring mixture to a simmer; simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat; set aside and let cool down completely.
  • Preheat oven to 325˚F.
  • In a large bowl combine chopped walnuts, sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Brush the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with some of the melted butter. Unroll phyllo sheets; as you work with the phyllo sheets, keep the stack covered with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out while you’re working. You can also use plastic wrap to cover the stack. *IF your phyllo sheets are too large for the pan, use a sharp knife to cut them so that they will fit in your pan.
  • Arrange 10 layers of phyllo sheets into the prepared baking pan, one sheet at a time, brushing EACH SHEET with butter before adding the next. (So, layer 1 sheet, brush with butter, then layer the next, brush with butter, and so on…). Sprinkle about ¾ cups of the walnut mixture over the phyllo. Continue to layer 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter before adding the next. Sprinkle with a layer of ¾ cup walnut mixture. Repeat this 4 more times. Finish the baklava with a layer of 10 phyllo sheets and brush the top with more butter.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You can cut it into 4 long rows, and then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes, or straight across to make square shapes.
  • Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until top of Baklava is golden and crisp. Remove from oven and pour cooled syrup evenly over the entire Baklava. Let the Baklava cool completely in a dry and cool place. For best results, let Baklava sit overnight. Serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 253 kcal | Carbohydrates: 24 g | Protein: 4 g | Fat: 17 g | Saturated Fat: 5 g | Cholesterol: 16 mg | Sodium: 128 mg | Potassium: 82 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 14 g | Vitamin A: 192 IU | Vitamin C: 1 mg | Calcium: 20 mg | Iron: 1 mg | Net Carbs: 23 g

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Balkans, Macedonian
Keyword: how to make baklava
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27 comments on “How to Make Baklava”

    1. Katerina - Diethood
      Katerina Petrovska

      Hi!
      You can use dried fruits, if you like. Chopped dried apricots, cranberries, raisins… Some people use sesame seeds to add a bit of crunch.
      Are you also allergic to coconuts? If not, I have this recipe for Coconut Baklava: https://diethood.com/coconut-baklava/ You would need to leave out the walnuts.

  1. This wasn’t hard to make and it tastes delightful! My husband was a bit skeptical because he really likes honey, but he put it in the top three! What I really loved was the sizzling bubbles when I added the syrup to the top 😁

  2. The origins are Roman (placenta) taken then by Greeks and Turks. Greeks use mostly walnuts and Turks pistachios. There is one more ingredient that to me is essential: cloves! I like to add a small amount (1-2 tsp ground) to the filling.

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