This heavenly Baklava combines honey-soaked layers of flaky phyllo pastry with spiced walnuts. It’s a great make-ahead dessert perfect for the holidays or special occasions.
If I had to name some of the best desserts of all time, Baklava would be on the list for sure.
Anyone who’s tasted it knows why. The flavors and textures are so unique and so delicious!
What is Baklava?
If you haven’t had it before, it’s layers upon layers of butter brushed phyllo dough with cinnamon scented walnuts in the middle, and after you bake it, you pour a citrus honey syrup all over it for the phyllo to soak up.
It’s quite sweet, but provided you use a good quality honey, you can really taste those nuances, and the texture has the most pleasing crunch and bite.
It is also one of the most practical desserts in terms of storage.
It keeps well in the freezer and fridge, and even keeps at room temperature for about a week, so it’s a great option for gifts too.
In fact, when I was a kid, my dad mail ordered baklava every Christmas season, so it’s shippable as well.
How to Make Baklava:
Prepare the Spiced Nut Filling
Place walnuts, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a food processor:
Pulse about 10 times, until the walnuts are well chopped:
That’s the filling. It’s so easy!
Build the Baklava in Layers
Place layers of thawed phyllo dough down into your pan, brushing each one with melted butter:
You don’t need to brush each layer thoroughly. Just a quick swish across several times, to cover most of it.
Assembling the baklava, you want to move relatively quickly, to prevent the phyllo from drying out, so no need to be meticulous with the butter.
Once you have 8 layers of phyllo, add about 1/5 of the walnut mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly:
You’ll need about 2/3 cup of the walnuts for each nut layer.
How to Make the Baklava Perfectly Even:
If you’re keen on making the baklava really even, here’s how I did mine.
I bought a 1-lb box of phyllo, which stated on the box that there were 18 13×18″ sheets.
Using a 9×13 pan, you should cut the sheets in half, which gives you 36 total sheets.
So for the phyllo dough, I did the layers like this: 8, 5, 5, 5, 5, 8, with walnuts in between each of those sets.
Once the baklava is layered, cut it into pieces using a sharp knife:
You can do squares, diamonds, triangles, or whatever shape you want.
Bake the baklava in the oven for 50 minutes, until it looks golden on the tops and edges:
Then let the baklava cool for at least 15 minutes.
Prepare the Syrup
In the meantime, start the syrup. Combine honey, water, sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, and lemon peel in a saucepan:
Bring to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes, to allow the cinnamon and citrus to flavor the syrup.
While the sugar syrup is still hot, pour it all over the baklava, which should soak it right up.
It is SO important that the syrup is hot when you pour it over, otherwise it won’t soak properly.
The Baklava Needs to Rest
Now here’s the hard part….leave the baklava at room temperature for 8 hours, uncovered, to let the syrup properly absorb, and allow the flavors and layers to meld together.
You want to leave it without a cover, to prevent sogginess.
Then the Baklava is ready to enjoy!
Baklava Tips and FAQ:
Can Baklava be frozen? Yes, it freezes beautifully. Store for up to 3 months in a sealed container.
Can Baklava be left out? Yes, but I wouldn’t keep it out at room temperature for more than a week. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Can it be made a day ahead? Yes. Since it needs 8 hours of standing time before serving, it’s the perfect make ahead dessert.
Can you use other nuts? Yes. Pistachios are also very popular, and you can do a blend of any nut you wish. However, I really think walnuts have the best taste and texture.
For the Baklava:
- 16 oz walnuts
- 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (or ground cloves)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 16 oz phyllo dough* thawed
- 1 cup butter melted
For the Syrup:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup good quality honey**
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 strip orange peel
- 1 strip lemon peel
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Pulse the walnuts in a food processor with the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt until well chopped.
- To assemble the baklava, place 8 layers of phyllo dough one-by-one on the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan, brushing each lightly with butter.
- Spread 1/5 of the walnut mixture evenly on top (about 2/3 cup).
- Add another 5 layers of phyllo one-by-one, brushing each with butter, then add another layer of nuts. The total sequence should be phyllo layers of 8,5,5,5,5,8, with nuts in between those layers.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into whatever shape you desire (diamonds, squares, triangles, etc). See blog post for picture.
- Bake the baklava for 50 minutes, until golden on the edges and tops. Then let cool for at least 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, bring all the syrup ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick, and pour the hot syrup evenly over the baklava.
- Let the baklava cool completely at room temperature for 8 hours (uncovered, to prevent sogginess). Then it's ready to enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in December 2020. Originally published March 2012.