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Overhead view of Classic Greek Baklava cut into diamond shapes in a glass 9x13-inch pan

Classic Greek Baklava

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Layered with filo, nuts, and an orange flower water flavored syrup, once you taste this Classic Greek Baklava, you’ll never forget this heavenly dessert! Nothing held my mom back in the kitchen and this baklava dessert was one of the most delicious, memorable treats she made for our family!

If you’ve never baked with filo, fillo or phyllo dough, scroll down and read my tips for working with these extremely thin pastry sheets. Once mastered, this Baklava Recipe will become a new favorite dessert!

Diamonds of Baklava Recipe stacked on a small white plate

 

Greek Baklava Recipe

I was blessed to spend most of my childhood in a small, Midwest university town. Basically, Ames, Iowa, was in the middle of nowhere, but the college brought many benefits. We’d attend the symphony, theater, and football games. So what if all the key players were university students! My parents became friends with folks from all over the world and with that, we were exposed to new cuisines.

After chatting with my Greek friend, Eleni, I learned that a Baklava Recipe can vary depending on the family and area it is made. Many have honey, cloves, cinnamon, and bread crumbs. My mother’s classic Greek Baklava is lacking all of those ingredients, but she did reassure me that sugar syrup and orange blossom water were also traditional. I will try adding her suggestions of breadcrumbs and cinnamon to my next filling.

Overhead view of Classic Greek Baklava cut into diamond shapes in a glass 9x13-inch pan

Easy Baklava Recipe

Down the street lived the Adamantios family, and Marcia and my mom became fast friends. Through this friendship, my mom acquired recipes for Greek lemon soup, moussaka, and, our favorite, this baklava dessert.

Thanks to an international grocery store on campus, we had access to filo dough, quite exotic for Iowa in the 1970s! I remember painting melted butter over the thin, fragile pastry sheets with my mom at my side. No other baklava recipe tastes as wonderful as this version made with love by my mother. Keep reading and I’ll share how to make baklava at home! 

Filo Dough Recipes

What is Filo? Filo or phyllo dough is a paper-thin pastry that is used in Mediterranean cuisine.  Due to its thin nature, filo dries out quickly and becomes extremely fragile when exposed to air. Therefore, extra care is needed when you’re using filo in your baking like with this classic Greek baklava recipe, börek, spanakopita, strudel, tiropita, and more! Once you’ve worked with filo, you’ll find this is truly an easy baklava recipe!

Here are a few tips for working with Filo Dough:

  • Filo dough is usually found in your grocer’s freezer case. Follow the instructions on the box for defrosting. A slow overnight defrosting in the refrigerator is usually the best option.
  • Do not remove the filo from the plastic wrapping until all your other ingredients are prepped and ready to go.
  • PRO-Tip: When you’re ready to start layering, remove the filo from its packaging, unroll, and place it on a clean work surface. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, then a damp towel. 
  • Work quickly, uncovering the filo just to remove a sheet. Make sure to cover it again as soon as possible. If the filo dries out, it will shatter into many pieces when you try to move it.
  • Brush your pastry with oil or melted butter as directed in your recipe. Since the exterior edges are more likely to dry out first, brush around the perimeter first. Using a soft pastry brush will minimize any tearing.
  • Don’t worry too much if you have sheets tear. I use these in the middle of my baklava. No one will be the wiser as there most likely are intact layers above and below.
  • Wrap any leftover filo well and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Overhead view of a slice of Classic Greek Baklava slice on a white plate

What Is Baklava?

Baklava is a sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo dough, nuts, and sweet syrup to hold it all together. The nuts, syrup, and flavorings vary depending on the baker.

What is the Origin of Baklava?

Baklava hails from the Middle East and the Mediterranean including the Levant, South Caucasus, Southeast Europe (Greece), Maghreb, and Central Asia. The Ottoman Empire is considered baklava’s place of origin.

Baklava Ingredients:

  • Filo or phyllo dough is a given. If you’re not familiar with filo, it is a paper-thin pastry dough that is buttered and layered to make flaky layers for desserts, appetizers, and entrees.
  • Nuts are not optional either, but the variety can vary. My recipe uses walnuts, but pistachios and even hazelnuts or almonds are utilized.
  • A sugar syrup is needed to help the dessert come together. Often made with honey, the Turkish versions tend to leave that out. I do, too. Mine is flavored with orange flower (or orange blossom) water for a subtle, but distinctive taste I adore.
  • Butter (or olive oil) to brush between the filo layers.

Close up on the insides of a slices of Classic Greek Baklava

How Do You Make Baklava?

Baklava is not a difficult recipe, once you know a few tricks. First, get all your ingredients ready. Nuts should be chopped, filo defrosted, and in the refrigerator, and damp towel ready to cover the filo while you’re layering. The sugar syrup should be made and chilled before you start your assembly. Here’s how to make baklava:

  • Melt the butter and grease your baking pan with a pastry brush.
  • Mix together the nuts and sugar and set aside.
  • Open your filo and cover with the plastic or parchment from the box, then a damp towel to keep the pastry from getting dry and brittle.
  • Layer half the filo dough, brushing each layer with butter, into the prepared pan. 
  • After the first half of the filo is in the pan, spread the nut mixture over the surface.
  • Continue layering and buttering the rest of the filo over the nuts.
  • Cut the baklava on the diagonal in one direction, then the other to form lozenge (or thin rhombus) shapes, then bake as directed.
  • As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, evenly pour over the cold sugar syrup. Let the baklava cool to room temperature, then dig in!

More Recipes with Nuts You’ll Love:

This recipe was originally shared in May 2016. The text was updated in 2020.

Gretchen's Baklava - My mom's baklava with layers of buttery filo & a walnut filling doused with orange blossom water kissed sugar syrup

Classic Baklava Recipe

A traditional Greek dessert that you can now make at home!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Yield 24 servings

Ingredients

Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 1 pound filo dough

Baklava:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 6-8 ounces chopped walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions

  1. Make syrup by dissolving sugar in water and simmer till thick enough to coat a spoon, then add lemon and orange blossom water and simmer 2 more minutes. Cool to room temperature in the refrigerator.
  2. Brush a 9 x 13 pan with butter. Place half of filo in the pan, one sheet at a time, brushing each layer with butter. Keep the filo covered with a damp towel while brushing the layers to prevent it from drying out. Don't worry if it tears, though, it will still look and taste fine. Mix nuts and sugar and spread over the filo layers. Cover with remaining filo, brushing each layer with butter as before.
  3. Cut diagonally into lozenge shapes. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes, then increase temperature to 450º for 15 minutes or less till puffed and golden.
  4. Remove from oven and quickly pour cold syrup over baklava. Cool.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 559Total Fat: 49gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 37gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 80mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 4gSugar: 11gProtein: 9g

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