My family's secret baklava recipe combines layers of honey-soaked crisp phyllo pastry and a cinnamon-scented nut mixture with pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnut. Baklava is the perfect make-ahead dessert because it's even better the next day!

New to making baklava from scratch? This easy step-by-step tutorial and expert tips will help you make the BEST honey baklava every single time! Be sure to also watch the video below. 

Two pieces of Greek baklava with pistachio pieces sprinkled on top

When you grow up eating baklava at every gathering, you become a bit of a baklava snob--at least I did.

To me, nothing rivals homemade baklava. The texture of crisp, flaky phyllo pastry. The crunchy filling. And the warm honey syrup. It is all I want in a dessert.

Making honey baklava at home may seem like a big undertaking but trust me, it's easier than you think. This fool-proof recipe will have you making Greek baklava like a pro!

And it's the perfect make-ahead dessert, so you never have to rush the process! 

What is Baklava? 

Baklava is a sweet dessert made of layers of flaky phyllo pastry filled with crushed nuts and sweetened with honey syrup.

What is traditional baklava made of? 

Traditional Turkish baklava, also known as fistikli baklava or pistachio baklava is typically made of phyllo dough, finely crushed pistachios, butter, and a simple syrup made of sugar, water, and lemon juice.

You'll find many variations of this beautiful dessert from Middle Eastern baklava, where the  simple syrup is scented with rosewater, to Greek baklava with walnuts and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon within.

This recipe leans toward Greek baklava, although with my own very nutty Egyptian twist (it's all in the nut mixture).

Can you use other nuts?

Pistachios or walnuts are the most commonly used nuts. But you don't have to use just one or the other. I love to use a combination of nuts and plenty of them! My favorite thing about this version of  Greek baklava is that it uses a mixture of three different nuts--pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts-- along with cinnamon, pinch of ground cloves, and a sprinkle of sugar.

The nuts are chopped, but to get the perfect bite, don't grind them too finely. This baklava recipe is a bit on the nutty side and no one is ever mad about it! But you can totally make this recipe your own and change the nut mixture to your liking.

Let's take a look at what all goes in baklava recipe from scratch...

Greek honey baklava pieces in pan

Baklava Ingredients

When making this baklava recipe, it helps to think of the ingredients list in three different components:

  1. Phyllo pastry- find frozen phyllo dough in the freezer section next to things like pie crust.
  2. Nut mixture- pistachios, walnuts, hazelnut, sugar, ground cinnamon, pinch of ground cloves. You can change the nut mixture according to what you have. For example, you can use just walnuts or pistachios, but be sure to have enough of whichever nut you use. And if you're not a fan of cinnamon, you can omit that.
  3. Honey syrup- water, sugar, honey, and lemon juice. To infuse the syrup with more flavor, I add two more completely optional items, orange extract and whole cloves.

How to Make Baklava: Step-by-Step

My guide for how to make baklava

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Make the Honey Syrup

    Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat stove-top, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add the honey, orange extract, and whole cloves (cloves are optional here); stir to mix. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes. Remove syrup from heat. Add lemon juice. Remove the whole cloves and let the syrup cool completely (it will thicken a little bit).

  3. Make the Nut Mixture

    In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, add the pistachios, walnut, and hazelnuts. Pulse a few times to chop. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Mix well to combine. Baklava nut mixture

  4. Prepare the Phyllo Pastry

    Carefully unroll the thawed phyllo pastry and place the sheets in between two clean kitchen towels. This will help keep the phyllo from breaking while you work.

  5. Assemble the First Few Layers of Baklava

    Prepare a 9”x 13”x 2” baking pan. Brush the interior of the baking pan with some of the melted butter.
    To assemble the baklava, take one sheet of phyllo and place it in the pan (for this size pan, I typically fold my phyllo sheet in half, and it fits perfectly. You can also do a bit of trimming using a pair of kitchen shears). Brush the top of the phyllo sheet with the melted butter.

    Repeat this process a few more times until you have used up about ⅓ of the phyllo pastry, each layer being brushed with the melted butter.

    First few sheets of phyllo dough assembled in the baking dish

  6. Distribute some of the Nut Mixture

    Now, distribute about ½ of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of phyllo.
    A bit of the nut mixture distributed over phyllo

  7. Continue Assembling the Baklava

    Continue assembling the baklava, one sheet of phyllo pastry at a time using another ⅓ of the phyllo. Again, brush each layer with a bit of the melted butter.

    Distribute the remaining ½ of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of phyllo.

    Finish the remaining ⅓ of the phyllo pastry following the same process, laying one folded sheet at a time and brushing each layer with melted butter.

    Brush the very top sheet of phyllo with butter.

  8. Cut the Baklava into Pieces

    Using a good sharp knife, cut the pastry into diamond shaped pieces (anywhere from 24 to 36 pieces) about ½-inch deep. (See the video to see exactly how I cut baklava) Baklava cut into pieces before baking

  9. Bake:

    Place the baklava dish on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes or until the top of the baklava turns golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. (IMPORTANT…Because ovens vary, be sure to check your baklava half-way through baking).

  10. Pour Syrup. Let COOL. Garnish:

    As soon as you remove the baklava from the oven, pour the cooled syrup all over the hot baklava. Make sure you disribute the syrup evenly.
    Let the baklava cool completely (it's best if you leave it for several hours, or at least 1 hour, to allow the flaky phyll.o layers to absorb the honey syrup completely).
    Cut through the pieces you marked earlier. And if you like, garnish with a little sprinkle of pistachio before serving. Baklava with honey syrup and crushed pistachio garnish

Important Tips

There are a couple of things that intimidate people when it comes to making baklava. One for sure is how to work with paper-thin phyllo dough. I shared a couple tips on that with my spanakopita recipe, but let's go over those again in addition to a couple more baklava-specific tips that will ensure you make the BEST baklava ever:

  1. Thaw your phyllo dough properly. Too much moisture will make the phyllo sticky and hard to manage.  Do not remove the phyllo (fillo) from the package, place it in the fridge 12-14 hours until ready to use.
  2. Place the phyllo pastry sheets between two clean towels while you work.  Unless you are able to work quickly, before you begin to assemble the baklava, place the thawed phyllo sheets in between two clean kitchen towels. This helps the phyllo sheets remain lenient so they won't tear or break too much.
  3. Prepare your honey syrup ahead. It's important that the honey syrup is cool when it hits the freshly-baked hot baklava. This way, the hot baklava layers will absorb as much of the syrup as possible and you'll have perfectly honeyed baklava. You have enough time to make the syrup while the baklava is baking, but be sure you take it off heat and set it in a cool place.
  4. Chop the nuts well, but don't grind them too finely into a paste or powder. Obviously you don't want the nuts nestled in the baklava to be too big or make it hard to bite on the beautiful pastry. But be sure not to grind the nuts too finely that you end up with dust for your filling. You want to still be able to taste the nuts and enjoy their texture.
  5. Cut the assembled baklava into pieces before baking. So important, before you bake it, use a sharp knife to cut the pastry into pieces (I cut my baklava into larger diamond shaped pieces.  You can usually get about 24 up to 36 pieces depending on their size). Why cut it before you bake it? Because once phyllo pastry is baked, it's super crunchy and if you try to cut through it then, it'll break into a mess.
  6. Make your baklava one night in advance!  Hooray for the perfect make-ahead dessert! Baklava is even better the next day when it's had a chance to completely soak in the honey syrup. You can store it covered at room temperature for one night. Be sure it is completely cooled before you cover it (so important)

How to keep baklava from getting soggy?

Remember my one tip about hot baklava and cool syrup? This is also the key to keep your honey baklava from getting soggy. The hot flaky phyllo will properly absorb the cooled syrup while remaining crispy.

If the syrup was also hot, or if the syrup and baklava were both cool, the syrup will kind of collect in a bit of a pool and will not be absorbed properly. This will cause the beautiful pastry you worked so hard on to get soggy.

How to store baklava?

The good news is baklava is one of the few desserts you can make a few days ahead. It will keep well for up to 2 weeks stored in an air-tight glass container at room temperature or in the fridge.

Personally, I move any leftover baklava to the fridge after a few days, but keeping it at room temperature does preserve it's crispy texture better. 

You'll know when your baklava is nearing the end of its life when it starts to dry out.

You can freeze already baked baklava for up to 4 months, if you like. It's good to store it in small batches so you don't have to thaw out the entire pan when you need a treat. Thaw in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for a few hours.

Watch the video to make it:

 

Craving more phyllo recipes? Try apple strudel, Spanakopita, or this savory meat pie!

For all recipes, visit us here. Check out our Mediterranean diet recipes. 

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Two pieces of Greek baklava with pistachio pieces sprinkled on top

Baklava Recipe- How to Make Baklava


  • Author: Suzy Karadsheh
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 24 pieces 1x

Description

My family’s secret baklava recipe combines layers of honey-soaked crisp phyllo pastry and a cinnamon-scented nut mixture with pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnut. Baklava is the perfect make-ahead dessert because it’s even better the next day!

Be sure to read through for tips and watch the video to make it. 


Ingredients

Scale

For the Baklava and Nut Filling

  • 6 oz shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon ground cinnamon (start with less if you're not sure)
  • large pinch of ground cloves
  • 16-oz package phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1 ½ to 2 sticks of unsalted butter (up to 16 tbsp), melted

For the Honey Syrup

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp orange extract (optional)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 lemon, juice of

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the Honey Syrup: Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat stove-top, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add the honey, orange extract if using, and whole cloves; stir to mix. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Add lemon juice. Remove the whole cloves.

Make the Nut Mixture: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, add the pistachios, walnut, and hazelnuts. Pulse a few times to chop. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Mix well to combine.

Prepare the Phyllo Pastry: Unroll the thawed phyllo pastry and place the sheets in between two clean kitchen towels. This will help keep the phyllo from breaking while you work.

Assemble the Baklava: Prepare a 9”x 13”x 2” baking pan. Brush the interior of the baking pan with some of the melted butter. To assemble the baklava, take one sheet of phyllo and place it in the pan (for this size pan, I typically fold my phyllo sheet in half, and it fits perfectly. You can also do a bit of trimming using a pair of kitchen shears). Brush the top of the phyllo sheet with the melted butter.

Repeat this process a few more times until you have used up about ⅓ of the phyllo pastry, each layer being brushed with the melted butter.

Now, distribute about ½ of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of phyllo.

Continue assembling the baklava, one sheet of phyllo pastry at a time using another ⅓ of the phyllo. Again, brush each layer with a bit of the melted butter.

Distribute the remaining ½ of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of phyllo.

Finish the remaining ⅓ of the phyllo pastry following the same process, laying one folded sheet at a time and brushing each layer with melted butter. Brush the very top sheet of phyllo with butter.

Cut the Baklava Pastry Into Pieces: Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into 24 diamond shaped pieces (you can get up to 36 smaller pieces). (Review the tutorial above to see how I cut baklava).

Bake: Place the baking dish on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes or until the top of the baklava turns golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. (IMPORTANT…Because ovens vary, be sure to check your baklava half-way through baking).

Pour Syrup Over Hot Baklava: As soon as you remove the baklava from the oven, pour the cooled syrup all over the hot baklava.

Cool Completely: Allow baklava to sit for a few hours before serving or for at least 1 hour. Cut through the earlier marked pieces. Serve with a garnish of chopped pistachios, if you like.

Notes

  • Cook's Tip: Before you begin thaw the baklava pastry package in the fridge overnight (review package instructions). Take it out of the fridge 1 hour before you start.
  • Cook's Tip: To save time, while the syrup is simmering begin to assemble the baklava. 
  • Let Baklava Sit a While Before Serving: Make sure baklava sits cools completely before serving. Baklava is even better the next day when it's had time to absorb the syrup.
  • Storage and Freezer Instructions: Be sure baklava is compeletly cool before storing. Cover it very well and store it at room temperature the first night, if you like. To store for a longer period, transfer the baklava to airtight glass containers and leave at room temperature or in the fridge for a few days or freeze for later use. Thaw frozen baked baklava in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
  • Visit our online shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean

Keywords: Baklava, how to make baklava, honey baklava, Greek baklava

This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2014 and has been recently updated with new media and information for readers' benefit. Enjoy!

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. I love baklava and have always wanted to try making it, but have always been intimidated. Your step by step guide is just what I need! I'm off to get ingredients and make this pronto!

  2. Made first time today while on CV lockdown, this has gone down so well with all 5 of us, will definitely make again, your step by step is perfect, thank you Suzy, so reminds me of Greek holidays x

  3. I have wanted to make baklava for such a long time, and this recipe looked so easy. It was! I used Meyer lemon zest while making the syrup and then used Meyer lemon juice. It came out fantastic! Thank you so much for posting.

  4. Just poured over my syrup and waiting for it to cool but holy moly... Not sure if my phyllo package is different than yours but it came with two rolls instead of potentially one big one? Which means it took me over two hours to separate all of my layers and follow your directions. It's now 11:30 p.m. and I'm tired of the dog but glad it's finally over so I can eat it tomorrow for Easter. Excited to try it!

  5. I will have to try to make this at home. You make Baklava look delicious and easy to make.

    1. We've tested on our end, Jaques, and the print function is working fine. Can you try again from a different device, simply hit "print recipe".

  6. I’ve never in my life bothered to leave a review from a Pinterest recipe however, a few people were concerned about the cinnamon levels.....it’s perfect. It was so very good! I added 2oz of bourbon to my syrup because not many desserts leave my kitchen w/o booze...but the ratios on everything were so right on the money! Do not put this dessert in the fridge or it gets soggy. (My bad). But out of the oven was divine. Wish I had left it on the counter over night instead of the fridge.

    1. Thanks, Catherine! Glad you enjoyed it. The Greek version of baklava does use a bit more cinnamon 🙂 But it can be adjusted per personal preference

  7. This is always a crowd-pleaser! My husband and I make this recipe several times a year and it always turns out amazing. We do not do any edits to the recipe, except for omitting walnuts and subbing more pistachios (personal preference). Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful recipe with us!!

  8. Absolutely THE BEST! I still can’t get over the whole thing that I actually made this yesterday and nailed it! My family absolutely loved it. Never made it before yesterday and I will forever make this from now on! It is impressive. Intimidating at first, but once I got into the zone, I really enjoyed the process. Decadent and a real treat!

    To the below comment in regards to is 2 TBS of cinnamon to much, no it is not! I will add an additional big pinch of ground cloves next time I make this. I will also make 1/2 again the amount of honey syrup to this recipe. And I will add a little extra orange extract. The flavors are so delicate in this recipe and I’m sure this resize is perfect alone as is, but I want to tweak it a little and see if it’s even possible to improve it.

    1. So glad you liked it, Jiri! It's a big family favorite around here. Thanks so much for the kind note!

  9. Had fun with this recipe for making baklava for my first time. Awarded with rave reviews from friends at the dinner party I served it at. I loved it. I noticed, though, that the middle and bottom layer of phyllo dough (7 layers each) got crushed. Any thoughts on how to keep those layers noticeable.

    1. That's wonderful, Brian! Baklava never dissapoints. I'm not sure I'm completely get the question. Phyllo/fillo does tend to break, and I don't worry too much about that. But it may take a couple tries to get the layers how you want them exactly. I hope the tutorial is helpful though.

      1. I have always wanted to try this, thank you so much for sharing!