CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA | WITH WALNUTS & HONEY

CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA

There is no dessert more associated with Greek cuisine than baklava. Sweet syrup-soaked layers of golden fillo dough filled with ground nuts & spices – baklava is loved by people the world over for good reason, it is absolutely delicious! There are so many cultures that make baklava, each with their own unique variations, and with its exact origins deeply disputed, I am not here to claim that baklava is Greek. I am simply here to share this classic Greek baklava recipe with you because I want you to be able to make & enjoy baklava with those you love!

CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA

Every year when the holiday season commences, I look forward to making and gifting our classic Greek baklava. There are a handful of Greek cookies that are specifically made during this time of year, but none of them quite compare to baklava in our opinion. And because my hubby’s Greek family has always made baklava for the holidays, it is only natural that it became a part of my life when we got married.

about classic Greek baklava

There are three things that are specifically characteristic of classic Greek baklava. First; honey is a key ingredient in the syrup (if you are vegan, you can substitute with agave). Second; walnuts are most commonly used for the nut filling. And third, the nut filling is flavored with at least one spice. For this classic Greek baklava recipe, we will be using both honey & sugar to sweeten our syrup and walnuts & cinnamon will make up our filling.

do not fear fillo dough

The number one thing that keeps most people from making baklava at home is the fear of working with fillo dough. Thin, paper-like sheets of fillo dough are much more resilient and forgiving than you may imagine. But, there are two very simple steps that you need to take to ensure that your fillo dough will be easy to work with. (THIS is my favorite fillo dough)

  • STEP 1: Thaw your frozen fillo dough by removing it from the freezer the night before you are going to make your baklava. Place the frozen fillo dough to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. 1 hour before using, remove your package of fillo dough from the refrigerator and leave it in the package at room temperature.
  • STEP 2: When you are ready to start layering your fillo dough into your baking vessel, use a lightweight, damp kitchen towel to fully cover your stack of fillo sheets to keep them from drying out while you work.
CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA

baklava de-mystified

Now that you no longer fear working with fillo dough, let’s de-mystify the baklava making process. Baklava is not a technical pastry. You cannot ruin it by messing up measurements for example. It is simply layers of fillo, butter, and spiced nuts that get baked until golden and then soaked in a sweet syrup. Here is a simple breakdown of the process:

  • PROPERLY THAW YOUR FROZEN FILLO: *see above for explanation
  • MAKE YOUR SYRUP: the syrup needs to be cool before it is poured over the hot baklava, therefore, we start by making this first.
  • CLARIFY YOUR BUTTER: we remove the milk solids from our melted butter because they will negatively affect the flavor & aesthetic of our baklava
  • PREPARE YOUR NUT FILLING: 4 cups of finely ground nuts of your choice – *walnuts are our favorite. Add spices like cinnamon, clove, or even cardamom to flavor the nut filling. A bit of sugar added to the ground nuts helps them bind together while baking. And a pinch of salt balances the overall sweetness of the baklava.

BAKLAVA ASSEMBLY BREAKDOWN:

  • STEP 1: 14 layers of buttered fillo
  • STEP 2: Half of nut filling
  • STEP 3: 6 layers of buttered fillo
  • STEP 4: Remaining half of nut filling
  • STEP 5: 16 layers of buttered fillo
  • STEP 6: Score top layers of fillo into pattern of choice before baking
  • STEP 7: Bake at 325°f for 1 hour to 1 hour & 15 mintues
  • STEP 8: spoon cooled syrup over hot baklava
  • STEP 9: cool completely at room temperature to allow syrup to fully soak into baklava
  • STEP 10: cut through all layers of baklava to create individual slices and ENJOY!

By breaking down the baklava making process into specific steps, hopefully, you can see that it actually is not that complicated after all! And to further encourage you to make baklava, I produced a very detailed video of the entire process and posted it to IGTV. You can watch PART 1 HERE and watch PART 2 HERE.

CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA

The greatest thing about baklava is that it is completely customizable! And because there is no baking chemistry involved, you have the freedom to really play with your flavor combinations, layering techniques, and scoring patterns! If you give my classic Greek baklava recipe a try, I would love to hear what you think in the comments! Your feedback means so much to me and helps me make sure I am providing you with everything you need to be successful in your kitchen endeavors!

CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA

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CLASSIC GREEK BAKLAVA


  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 28 pieces 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

FOR THE SYRUP:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey (substitute with agave for a vegan version)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick

FOR THE BAKLAVA:

  • 1 lb. (454g) frozen fillo dough, thawed
  • 2 sticks (227g) unsalted butter, clarified (use plant based butter for a vegan version)
  • 4 cups (500g) raw walnuts, finely ground
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Instructions

FOR THE SYRUP:

  1. Combine water, sugar, honey, lemon juice & cinnamon stick in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until simmering. Simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat and leave syrup to cool completely.

FOR THE BAKLAVA:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 325°F
  2. Butter a 9×13 baking dish with a pastry brush and some of your clarified butter.
  3. Start your layers by adding 1 sheet of fillo dough into the baking dish, gently smooth it with your hands & using a pastry brush, butter the fillo sheet thoroughly. Continue this process until you have 14 layers.
  4. Use a large spoon to evenly distribute 1/2 of the nut filling on top of your fillo layers, using the back of the spoon to smooth out the nut filling.
  5. Add 6 layers of buttered fillo over the top of the first layer of nut filling.
  6. Evenly distribute the remaining nut filling over the center layer of fillo.
  7. Add the final 14 layers of fillo over the 2nd layer of nut filling.
  8. Score the top layer of buttered fillo dough with a sharp knife. I typically score into diamond shapes or squares, but you can choose whichever shape you like! You can use a ruler if you want your slices to be very precise.
  9. Bake scored baklava in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour & 15 minutes until nice and golden in color.
  10. Once you have removed the baklava from the oven, use a large spoon to slowly pour the cooled syrup over the baklava, making sure to evenly distribute the syrup nice over every area of the baklava.
  11. Cool baklava completely at room temperature. Cut through all of the layers with a sharp knife before removing individual slices of baklava. Enjoy!

Notes

The fillo brand that I use comes with 18 sheets of fillo that is 13×18″ – this yields a total of 36 sheets of 13×9″ fillo dough for my baklava. Depending on the brand of fillo that you use, your total number of sheets may vary. But if you have a little more or a bit less, you will be just fine. Just make sure to calculate approximately how many sheets you have before you start so that you will know how many sheets of fillo to use for each section of the baklava.

  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Category: Pastry
  • Cuisine: Greek

more recipes that feature fillo:

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Francisco December 16, 2019, 9:29 am

    Instantly knew I needed to make this recipe after seeing it. Fillo gives me anxiety but this recipe made me confident enough to try it.

    Turned out great and the touch of lemon in the syrup was amazing.

    I did use vegan butter instead and turned out great. Also added some pistachios to the nut mix. We love pistachios.

    Whole process was a labor of love but much easier then I imagined. Thank you for measuring out everything. Like Latin cooking my Greek friends cook via instinct and don’t use measures. That helped a lot.

    • bella | ful-filled December 16, 2019, 1:13 pm

      Thank you so very much for sharing your experience Francisco! I am just over the moon that the whole process was simplified for you and that you finally got to make your homemade baklava dreams come true!

      • Elias January 3, 2021, 10:47 pm

        Been looking for a receipe that sounds like the way my Yia-Yia made hers. I think I finally found it! Can’t wait to give this a try.
        Do you have a Tiropita receipe?

        • bella | ful-filled January 4, 2021, 12:36 am

          Oh yay! I am so happy that you came across my recipe! I sure hope it meets your expectations! And, I have not published a tiropita recipe yet, but it is actually on my list of recipes to share here on the blog this month!

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:42 pm

    THE BEST baklava of ALL TIME!!!

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:43 pm

    My family’s favorite version USED to be a Paleo Turkish baklava that was being sold at an Armenian restraunt…….

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:45 pm

    the Armenians made a really good baklava too but at this specific restraunt they chose to sell the Paleo Turkish version because alot of their customer’s were pistachio forward.

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:46 pm

    My family liked the pistachio take on it so we patronized the sell of the Paleo Turkish baklava from the Armenian restraunt for years, BUT,………..

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:47 pm

    then we discovered Bella’s family recipe on their take of traditional GREEK style baklava and it was OVER!!!!!!!!!!

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:50 pm

    LITERALLY this GREEK style baklava is better than the Paleo turkish version, the Armenian version, the Persian version, the Lebanese version, the Iraqi version, the Palestinian version, the Egyptian version, or any of the other ONE HUNDRED or so versions from all over Europe and the Middle East and North Africa, basically better than the ENTIRE Mesopatomia region!!!

    • Nadia May 31, 2021, 11:53 am

      They are all good.

      • bella | ful-filled May 31, 2021, 5:12 pm

        They are all good in their own unique ways :)

  • niko December 22, 2019, 3:55 pm

    ONLY one thing that i wanted to point out to you Bella before all the Paleo Bromiathithes Turkales jump your $#!t about, there is a typo on the IGTV how-to-video you made, the screen said 2 TBSP of ground cinnamon for the baklava portion, whilst you verbally said 2 TSP. and your ingredient list here on the blog also said 2 TSP for the ground cinnamon for the baklava portion. Just wanted to point that out so that no @$$holes had any ammunition to try and pick a fight and start some mess like you know some of them haters like to do!!!!!!!!!

  • CArolyn Jensen December 29, 2019, 2:05 pm

    Bella, I’ll never forget the first time I tasted baklava. I was in 5th grade and it was “International day”. We were assigned to bring a food from our culture, my friend, who is Greek brought baklava. I don’t recall a single other food besides this, it clearly made an impression on me and I can taste it even now!!!! I never, for a minute, thought of making it, it seemed way too difficult but maybe……just maybe…..I’ll give it a try!

  • Nick @ GreekBoston.com January 29, 2020, 7:25 am

    Baklava is one of the most popular Greek desserts out there, and it’s one of my personal favorites. I personally love it when it is made with a combination of cloves and cinnamon.

    • bella | ful-filled January 30, 2020, 6:30 pm

      Yes indeed! We love adding a touch of clove as well Nick! Thank you for commenting! It’s always lovely to hear from other Greeks :)

  • Pia April 19, 2020, 7:57 am

    YUMM! And um, can we please talk about that closeup? Like, what?!
    Also, I’ve only had Baklava once in my life, and that was on a plane, so I am very excited to make and try this, the day I finally find phyllo somewhere 😅

  • Julie December 31, 2020, 9:23 am

    The best baklava ever…So easy to make!

    • bella | ful-filled January 1, 2021, 1:14 pm

      Oh my goodness! That makes me so happy! Thank you for making my recipe & sharing your thoughts here!

  • Helan April 18, 2021, 2:07 am

    Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.

    • bella | ful-filled April 18, 2021, 11:16 am

      You are so welcome Helan! I am honored that you will share it with your friends…baklava is most definitely meant to be shared! Thank you for leaving a comment :)

  • mt5ma May 18, 2021, 6:18 pm

    Big hint. Score the top layers of Phyllo dough before baking. Pour hot syrup over cold baklava OR cold syrup over hot baklava. Make at least one day ahead for the syrup to soak in.

    • bella | ful-filled May 22, 2021, 8:18 am

      Yes! That is precisely what I advise in the recipe, scoring the phyllo before baking is key, as well as the cool syrup over the hot baklava. And if you can exercise self-control, the baklava is always best the next day :)

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