My Family’s Traditional Baklava Recipe


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. It’s the perfect dessert for a family feast or holiday celebration.

If you love coconut, make sure to try my Coconut Baklava.

baklava soaking in syrup

My Family’s Traditional 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!

Basically, baklava is a phyllo layered sweet treat packed with a nutty mixture. Think of it as the lasagna of desserts! It’s hard to say no to layers on layers of phyllo dough brushed with butter, filled with a sweet spice and nut mixture, and topped with a lemon infused simple syrup. 😋 

What is Baklava?

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.

What is Baklava Made With?

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.

Though both phyllo dough and puff pastry are known for their flaky texture, phyllo dough is different from puff pastry in a few ways. Both can be used in sweet and savory dishes, however, 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.

A picture collage that shows the steps for how to make 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

FOR THE BAKLAVA

  • walnuts
  • granulated sugar
  • lemon zest
  • ground cinnamon
  • butter
  • phyllo dough

How to Make Baklava

1. Make 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.

2. Prep: Preheat the oven to 325˚F.

  • In a large bowl, combine the chopped walnuts, sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon and set it aside. Brush the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with some of the melted butter.

3. Layer: 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.

  • 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 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.

4. 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.

Baklava sliced and ready to serve.

Tips for the Best Baklava

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

How to Store Homemade Baklava

  • I keep my baklava in an airtight container at room temperature. It will stay fresh and delicious for about 10 to 14 days. See the FAQ section below for my take on freezing baklava.

A slice of Baklava being served.

Baklava FAQs

Can I freeze baklava?

  • I don’t love to freeze my already baked baklava. It stays well at room temperature for almost 2 weeks, so it seems kind of pointless to me to freeze it. To be honest, there is never any left after a week. 
  • You can, however, 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.

cut up baklava in a pan

Can I make baklava ahead?

  • Absolutely! Baklava is best 2 days after it is baked. I prefer to eat it cold, not room temperature. But, that’s a personal preference. Because it’s so good a few days after baking, it’s perfect as a make-ahead dessert.
  • You can also make the syrup ahead of time to eliminate that step on the day you bake your baklava. Simple Syrup can be made up to 4 weeks ahead and stored in your fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Can I use other kinds of nuts?

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

More Desserts to Try

ENJOY!

Tools Used in this Recipe

cut up baklava in a pan

Easy Baklava Recipe

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.

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: Balkans, Macedonian

Servings: 30 pieces

Calories: 253 kcal

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

  1. Make the Simple Syrup first; combine water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan.

  2. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and bring mixture to a simmer; simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved.

  3. Continue to simmer for 5 more minutes.

  4. Remove from heat; set aside and let cool down completely.

  5. In a large bowl combine chopped walnuts, sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Set aside.

  6. Brush the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with some of the melted butter.

  7. 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.

  8. 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…)

  9. Sprinkle about ¾ cups of the walnut mixture over the phyllo.

  10. Continue to layer 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter before adding the next.

  11. Sprinkle with a layer of ¾ cup walnut mixture. Repeat this 4 more times.

  12. Finish the baklava with a layer of 10 phyllo sheets and brush the top with more butter.

  13. 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.

Nutrition Facts

Easy Baklava Recipe

Amount Per Serving

Calories 253 Calories from Fat 153

% Daily Value*

Fat 17g26%

Saturated Fat 5g25%

Cholesterol 16mg5%

Sodium 128mg5%

Potassium 82mg2%

Carbohydrates 24g8%

Fiber 1g4%

Sugar 14g16%

Protein 4g8%

Vitamin A 192IU4%

Vitamin C 1mg1%

Calcium 20mg2%

Iron 1mg6%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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