How to Make Baklava: Step-By-Step Recipe

5 from 26 votes
Jump to RecipeJump to Video

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

A step-by-step process for how to make baklava perfectly every time. Including top tips, troubleshooting, and FAQs for homemade baklava that combines buttery, honey-syrup-soaked layers of flaky phyllo pastry with an appetizing nut filling.

Freshly baked baklava in a pan

Homemade baklava is the ultimate nutty pastry for a sweet tooth. Learning how to make baklava may seem time-consuming and tricky. But not only is it easier than you’d think (especially with my top tips and FAQs), it’s more than worth it. As soon as you take a bite into this pistachio baklava, you’re hit with crisp pastry, rich nuts, and an oozing sweet orange blossom honey syrup to die for.

Homemade baklava recipes are usually so much better than store-bought options. Plus this sweet filo pastry dessert is perfect for the holidays and special occasions. And it makes for a great edible Christmas gift, too! So, let’s dive right in.

A slice of baklava in a plate

What Is Baklava?

Baklava (sometimes spelled baklawa, backlawa, or backlava) is a type of pastry traditionally comprising layers of chopped nuts and butter-brushed phyllo pastry, soaked in a sweet syrup. It becomes crisp on top with a chewy, syrupy-soaked base. There are several key elements to a well-made, authentic baklava.

Secrets to Baklava Success

  • Golden color: Well-baked baklava pastry should be golden and shiny.
  • Well-placed layers: This filo pastry dessert contains a LOT of layers. Plus they need to be placed correctly to avoid the dessert falling apart.
  • Buttery: The best baklava should have a subtle buttery smell/taste. However, be careful not to use too much, or you’ll end up with soggy baklava.
  • Crispy but well-soaked: This is the KEY to perfect baklava. The pastry needs to remain crispy on top (and when you bite into it). And it should be thoroughly soaked in syrup, but not enough for it to be pooling out the bottom or even dripping. This all comes down to temperature, timing, and enough resting.
  • Not too sweet: This filo pastry dessert is meant to be a sweet treat – but not cloyingly.

Keep reading for the best baklava recipe that hits all the above points and more!

Where Is Baklava From

The origins of baklava have been a point of contention for years, with roots back to the Ottoman empire and many links to Turkey, Greece, and Persian countries. Some believe it has links all the way back to 13th-century Persia. Now, though, it is a popular dessert enjoyed in Turkish, Bulgarian, Greek, Iranian, and Arab cuisine, as well as across the Balkans and Central Asia.

Of course, like all treats with a long history, there are plenty of differences between regions. For example:

  • Greek baklava dessert: Usually made with walnuts and cinnamon. Plus 33 sheets of phyllo dough to represent the years of Jesus’s life. Also, often with honey-based syrup.
  • Turkish baklava: This one is very popular, though it’s made with walnuts, almonds, and even sometimes hazelnuts. Often served with kaymak (aka “ashta,” a thick clotted cream) or ice cream.
  • Middle Eastern: There are several versions, like Iranian and Lebanese. These often contain orange blossom water or rose water in the syrup. Plus other spices like cardamom or clove in a baklava walnut filling. Plus, the Lebanese version contains less syrup for a lighter treat.
Hand holding a half eaten slice of baklava

How Many Kinds of Baklava Are There

Besides the differences per region/country, you will find other types of baklava as well. These variations depend on the baklava ingredients – for example, remove the baklava nuts and you get a nut-free pastry. There are also varieties with chocolate or fruit as well as cheese-filled ones (like Künefe).

Having spent years testing recipes, I’ve found that my perfect version is a non-traditional baklava recipe is a bit of a mix of elements, with pistachios, honey syrup, and orange blossom flavoring. Either way, it’s the most addictive baklava dessert you’ve yet to try!

What is in Baklava

The Basics

  • Phyllo dough: For this easy recipe, use pre-made phyllo (gluten-free if necessary), to save TONS of time and effort.
  • Nuts: I made pistachio baklava this time, though this recipe would also work very well with walnuts or cashews. When selecting pistachios, choose fresh, green pistachios that have already been de-shelled. Buying nuts in bulk can help to keep the cost down.
  • Ghee/butter: I love the richness of butter. Whereas ghee (or clarified butter) will provide a nuttier flavor, browns evenly, and there’s less risk of it burning.
Phyllo dough and a knife

Baklava Syrup

  • Sugar: Regular white sugar is best.
  • Water: To make the simple syrup.
  • Honey: I love combining sugar and honey for syrup with added rich depth. If you’d prefer to omit the honey, make extra simple syrup (1:1 ratio).
  • Cardamom: For a subtle but delicious flavor.
  • Vanilla: For the best flavor, use a high-quality vanilla pod, though natural vanilla paste/extract will work in a pinch.
  • Orange blossom: (or rose water) creates a wonderfully fragrant yet subtle floral note.
  • Lemon juice: To cut through some sweetness for a brighter syrup flavor.
Ingredients for baklava sugar syrup

What Kind of Nuts Are in Traditional Baklava

Walnut and pistachio baklava are the most common traditional varieties.

Can You Use Other Nuts for the Baklava

You can use almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, or even a nut mixture.

How to Make Baklava

How To Make Baklava Syrup

First, combine the sugar and water in a medium-large saucepan. Heat it over medium, stirring often until the sugar is almost melted.

Then, add the lightly crushed cardamom, vanilla pod (cut in half lengthwise, you can also scrape the seeds into the pot), and a squeeze of lemon juice. Bring to a boil.

Steps for preparing baklava sugar syrup

Next, remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the honey and orange blossom (or rose water). The consistency should be like maple syrup.

Allow the baklava syrup to cool for 10 minutes before straining out the solids. Then set it aside to cool completely.

Baklava sugar syrup in a pitcher

Prepare The Baklava Ingredients

First, transfer the pistachios (or your nut of choice) to a food processor and process into a medium crumb consistency.

Also, melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl or a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat.

Melted butter and crushed pistachios

Working with Baklava Phyllo Dough

First, you must cut the phyllo pastry dough to fit your pan. I used a 9×13-inch baking pan (23x33cm), though round pans will also work. You need 33 layers in total.

Store-bought phyllo here tends to come in sheets of 14×18 inches. So I simply cut them in half and trim the extra inch.

Top Tips For Working With Phyllo Dough

  • Make sure it’s thoroughly thawed first; otherwise, it will fall apart/stick.
  • Keep any pastry you aren’t immediately handling underneath a lightly damp kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
  • Work with one sheet at a time while the others remain covered under the damp towel.
  • Be gentle when handling it – a few tears are fine, but handle it carefully for minimal damage.

How to Assemble Baklava

Start by brushing a thin layer of butter across the bottom of the baking dish. Then add 8 layers of phyllo pastry, brushing each with a thin, even layer of butter between layering them.

Next, add ½ cup of the ground pistachios, spreading them evenly across the pastry.

Then, alternate between layers so your FINAL baklava layers are:

  • 8 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios (as written above)
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
  • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 4 buttered phyllo sheets (remember to butter the top, too)
Steps for layering baklava

Chef’s Tip: I bought a box of 18 sheets, which provides 36 layers. So feel free to add the extra three layers to the top to use them all.

How to Cut Baklava into Diamonds

First, preheat the oven to 325ºF/165ºC fan-assisted.

Top Tips For Cutting Baklava

  • Use a sharp knife to easily cut through all the nuts and pastry layers.
  • For even pieces, use a ruler. Otherwise, free-hand it.
  • The space between the cuts will determine how big or small the pieces are.

To make diamond-shaped baklava, first, you need to make straight, parallel lengthwise cuts across the 9-inch part of the pan.

Chef’s Tip: For large, even-sized pieces, I recommend spacing them every 2.25 inches. Make three cuts in total for four long sections of baklava. For smaller pieces, I recommend making four cuts instead, every 1.8 inches apart.

Then, slice diagonally across the baklava at equal intervals (2.25 inches for larger pieces or 1.8 inches for smaller ones). Not all the edge pieces will be similar in size. That’s normal – if you want more even pieces, cut squares or triangles instead.

Steps for cutting baklava

For square/rectangle baklava: Cut the lines vertically and then horizontally, rather than diagonally, at equal intervals.

For triangle baklava: Cut the pieces into rectangles/squares. Then slice diagonally through the squares to cut them each into two separate triangles.

What Temperature to Bake Baklava

Transfer the tray to the middle shelf of a preheated oven and bake for about one hour at 325ºF/165ºC fan-assisted.

Check on it at 30 minutes, and if it’s browning on top too quickly, tent the pan with some foil.

How Do You Know When Baklava is Done?

When ready, this baklava dessert should be golden-brown and crispy throughout every layer of pastry.

Pour Over The Syrup

Immediately out of the oven, pour the fully cooled syrup evenly over the pastry – sizzling is normal.

Pouring sugar syrup over freshly baked baklava

Then set the pistachio pastry aside to cool down and absorb the liquid for 6 hours (overnight is even better). Optionally, garnish it with extra chopped nuts or a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Serving Recommendations

Enjoy 1-2 pieces of this sweet baklava alone as a quick snack. Or make more of a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or clotted cream. I love enjoying a piece at the end of dinner with a cup of tea (or coffee).

Sprinkling pistachio on top of baklava

How to Store Baklava

At room temperature: This method helps to maintain the crispy texture and soft chew. Store it in an airtight container for 10-14 days.

In the fridge: Refrigeration in an airtight container allows you to store homemade baklava for 2-3 weeks. However, it will make for a harder, chewier pastry. So it works best when you leave pieces to come back to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before enjoying them.

Can You Freeze Baklava

Yes, this homemade baklava is freezer friendly. You can do so in small batches of about 4-6 pieces or for the entire dish. Wrap them tightly in several layers of plastic wrap (and then pop them in a Ziplock bag if they’ll fit). Store them for up to 3 months.

Leave them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying them.

Hand holding a piece of baklava

FAQs

How to avoid soggy baklava?

Make sure to use completely cooled syrup on hot baklava. Also, avoid using too much butter on the pastry. It just needs to be a light brushing over each layer.

How to fix soggy baklava?

It’s best to take steps to avoid sogginess. To fix it, if the baklava has excess syrup, you can try to carefully remove some of it. Placing the pastry back in the oven at 200ºF/95ºC for about 20 minutes can also help it dry out.

Why does my baklava fall apart?

Chilling it can make it harder/chewier, so bring it back to room temperature for the best consistency.

Why is my baklava hard and chewy?

Chilling it can make it harder/chewier, so bring it back to room temperature for the best consistency.

What temperature should baklava be served?

It’s typical to serve it at room temperature for the best texture and consistency. If you want to reheat it, all it requires is about 15 seconds in a microwave.

More Desserts You Might Like

If you try this easy baklava recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

How to Make Baklava: Step-By-Step Recipe

5 from 26 votes
By: Samira
A step-by-step process for how to make baklava perfectly every time. Including top tips, troubleshooting, and FAQs for homemade baklava that combines buttery, honey-syrup-soaked layers of flaky phyllo pastry with an appetizing nut filling.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 30 squares/diamonds (more or less depending on size)

Ingredients 
 

  • 14 oz phyllo pastry sheets (filo) needed 33 sheets or more
  • 10 oz butter or ghee/ clarified butter
  • 4 cups pistachios crushed, or other nuts like walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.

For the sugar syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup honey OR make 2/3 cup more simple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom or rose water
  • 2 cardamom pods optional
  • 1/2 vanilla bean optional
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Add more flavor with cinnamon, clove, or orange zest in the syrup or nut mixture.

    Instructions 

    Make Baklava Syrup

    • Combine the sugar and water in a medium-large saucepan and heat it over medium, stirring often, until the sugar is almost melted.
    • Add the lightly crushed cardamom, vanilla pod (cut in half lengthwise, you can also scrape the seeds into the pan), and a squeeze of lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a soft boil until the sugar has completely melted.
    • Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the honey and orange blossom (or rose water). The consistency should be like maple syrup.
    • Allow the baklava syrup to cool for 10 minutes before straining out the solids. Then set it aside to cool completely.

    Prepare The Baklava Ingredients

    • Transfer the pistachios (or your nut of choice) to a food processor and process into a medium crumb consistency.
    • Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
    • Cut the phyllo pastry dough to fit your pan. I used a 9×13-inch baking pan (23x33cm), though round pans will also work. You need 33 layers in total.
      Store-bought phyllo here tends to come in sheets of 14×18 inches, so I simply cut them in half and trim the extra inch.

    Assemble The Baklava

    • Brush a thin layer of butter across the bottom of the baking dish. Then add 8 layers of phyllo pastry, brushing each with a thin, even layer of butter between layering them.
    • Add ½ cup of the ground pistachios, spreading them evenly across the pastry.
    • Then, alternate between layers so your FINAL baklava contains:
      • 8 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios (as written above)
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios,
      • 3 buttered phyllo sheets, 1/2 cup pistachios
      • 4 buttered phyllo sheets (remember to butter the top, too)
      I bought a box of 18 sheets, which provides 36 layers, so feel free to add the extra three layers to the top to use them all.

    Cut Baklava into Diamonds

    • Preheat the oven to 325ºF/165ºC fan-assisted.
    • Slice diagonally across the baklava at equal intervals (2.25 inches for larger pieces or 1.8 inches for smaller ones). Not all the edge pieces will be equal in size. That's normal – if you want more even pieces, cut squares or triangles instead.
      For square/rectangle baklava: Cut the lines vertically and then horizontally, rather than diagonally, at equal intervals.
      For triangle baklava: Cut the pieces into rectangles/squares, then slice diagonally through them to cut them into two separate triangles.

    Bake the Baklava

    • Transfer the tray to the middle shelf of a preheated oven and bake for about one hour at 325ºF/165ºC fan-assisted, until it's golden brown and crispy.
      Check on it at 30 minutes, and if it’s browning on top too quickly, tent the pan with some foil.

    Pour Over The Syrup

    • Immediately out of the oven, pour the fully cooled syrup evenly over the pastry- sizzling is normal.
    • Set the pistachio pastry aside to cool down and absorb the liquid for 6 hours (overnight is even better). Optionally, garnish it with extra chopped nuts.

    How to Store Baklava

    • At room temperature: This method helps to maintain the crispy texture and soft chew. Store it in an airtight container for 10-14 days.
      In the fridge: Refrigeration in an airtight container allows you to store homemade baklava for 2-3 weeks. However, it will make for a harder, chewier pastry, so it works best when you leave pieces to come back to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before enjoying them.
      Freeze: You can do so in small batches of about 4-6 pieces or for the entire dish. Wrap them tightly in several layers of plastic wrap (and then pop them in a Ziplock bag if they’ll fit), and store them for up to 3 months.
      Leave them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying them.

    Video

    Notes

    • Use cold syrup: The baklava must be hot from the oven while the syrup is fully cool for baklava that remains crispy but fully soaks up the syrup (or hot syrup on cold baklava). So plan for time for it to cool down.  
    • Leave it to rest: This time is important for allowing the syrup to fully soak into the baklava and provide the correct consistency for serving.
    • Fully thaw the pastry: If it is frozen, remove it from the freezer a day in advance to fully thaw. Otherwise, it can make the dessert soggy, and the sheets stick/tear a lot.
    • If it’s too dry: You didn’t add enough of the honey syrup (or possibly you reduced it too much on the stove) or may not have used enough butter.
    • If it’s soggy: You likely used too much butter or poured the syrup over the baklava while it was still warm.
    • Cut it before baking: Once it’s baked and crispy, it’ll be a huge mess to cut.
    • Time-saving hack: One reader recommends using a spritzer bottle for the melted butter rather than using a brush over the sheets of phyllo dough.
    Can I make it ahead? You can assemble and freeze unbaked baklava for up to 3 months. Start by lining your baking tray with two layers of foil (with an overhang). Assemble but don’t cut the baklava, then cover the dish with plastic wrap and freeze until solid. Next, remove it from the baking tray and wrap it in 3-4 layers of plastic wrap to store.
    When you want to use it, remove the plastic, place it back in the pan, and thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Finally, allow it to come to room temperature for 1-2 hours before slicing and baking as normal.
    Top Tips For Working With Phyllo Dough
    • Make sure it’s thoroughly thawed first; otherwise, it will fall apart/stick.
    • Keep any pastry you aren’t immediately handling underneath a lightly damp kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
    • Work with one sheet at a time while the others remain covered under the damp towel.
    • Be gentle when handling it – a few tears are fine, but handle it carefully for minimal damage.
    Top Tips For Cutting Baklava
    • Use a sharp knife to cut through all the layers of nuts and pastry easily.
    • For even pieces, use a ruler. Otherwise, free-hand it.
    • The space between the cuts will determine how big or small the pieces are.
    Check the blog post for more tips, serving recommendations, and answers to top FAQs!
    Course: Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine: Balkan, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Turkish
    Freezer friendly: 3 Months
    Shelf life: 3 Weeks

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1piece, Calories: 249kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 132mg, Potassium: 186mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 304IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 1mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe Rating




    11 Comments

    1. 5 stars
      I haven’t made yet but I will. Looks delicious!
      I don’t understand this sentence:
      “Use cold syrup: The baklava must be hot from the oven while the syrup is fully cool for baklava that remains crispy but fully soaks up the syrup (or hot syrup on cold baklava). So plan for time for it to cool down.”

      1. Hi Tammy,
        I recommend first making the syrup so it has time to cool down to room temperature while you prepare and bake the baklava. Then, as soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over it.
        Alternatively, if you can’t make the syrup in advance, first make the baklava and let it cool, then make the syrup and pour it hot over the cold baklava. I hope this helps.

    2. Hi Samira

      I made this last night because I had the phyllo in the freezer for ages and pistachios that I needed to use – enough for half a recipe. Even though I messed up and added the honey at the beginning, it still turned out most delicious. I found that using a ‘scraper’ – the wide, flat, sharp edged metal instrument I bought to temper chocolate on marble (and which looks like it can also be used in home renovations ) – worked really well to cut the baklava very easily before baking!

      Thanks for sharing. My daughter is a lover of baklava and thoroughly enjoyed it after breakfast this morning!