This heavenly top-rated Baklava recipe 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 this is your first time making this sweet treat, prepare to be blown away. This delicious dessert is easily in my top 10 favorites of all time.
If I had to name some of the best desserts of all time, Baklava would be on the list for sure, along with Peanut Butter Pie, Millionaire’s Shortbread, and Creme Brulee.
Anyone who’s tasted this Middle Eastern dessert knows why. The flavors and textures are so unique and so delicious!
If you haven’t had it before, baklava is a dessert made with layers upon layers of butter brushed phyllo dough with cinnamon scented walnuts in the middle. After you bake it, you pour a citrus honey syrup all over it for each layered sheet of phyllo to soak up.
This dessert is 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.
Why This Recipe Is The Best
Perfected proportions – I’ve done many rounds of recipe testing and I truly think the proportions here are absolute perfection. Not too many nuts, enough pastry to hold it together well, and while this dessert is sweet, it’s not over the top.
Make-ahead friendly – This is one of the best options for make ahead desserts, since it actually does need to sit for a while after it’s made.
Stores well and freezer friendly – Baklava keeps exceptionally well. It’s fine at room temperature for up to a week, or you can freeze it. If you want to ship some to a loved one, baklava handles travel wonderfully.
Minimal ingredients required – If you take a look at the shopping list in the recipe card, it’s not too long. This dessert is mostly about honey, walnuts and layers of phyllo dough, with some citrus and spices to enhance the flavor.
How to Make It Step by Step:
Baklava is mostly all about layering and assembly. It’s not really a difficult dessert, but just takes some time to put together. For best results, scroll through the following visual guide and read the recipe in its entirety to understand how it’s assembled.
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!
Begin building the layers
Place layers of thawed phyllo dough down into a 9×13 metal pan or baking dish, 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 sheets of phyllo dough from drying out, so no need to be meticulous with the butter. If the phyllo starts to seem dry while you’re working, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel.
Once you have 8 layers of phyllo in the bottom of the pan, add about 1/5 of the nut mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly:
You’ll need about 2/3 cup of the ground nuts for each layer.
How to Make It Perfectly Even:
If you’re keen on making your homemade baklava really even, here’s how I did mine.
I bought a 1-lb box of phyllo sheets, 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 nut layers in between each of those sets. Note that the top layer and the bottom layer have 3 more sheets of phyllo than the middle layers.
Once the baklava is layered, cut it into pieces using a very sharp knife:
You can do squares, diamond shapes, triangles, or whatever shape you want.
Bake the baklava in the oven for 50 minutes, until it looks golden brown on the tops and edges:
Then let the baklava cool for at least 15 minutes. In my experience, pouring the hot sweet syrup over hot baklava can make the bottom layers soggy. It’s best to let the baklava cool a bit before adding the syrup.
Prepare the Syrup
In the meantime, start the syrup. Combine honey, water, sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, and lemon peel in a small saucepan:
I prefer to use the citrus peels and not any actual orange or lemon juice in the syrup, because the juices can get bitter during boiling. You may also wish to try adding 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water for flavoring, if you enjoy it.
Bring the sweet honey syrup to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes, until the sugar dissolves, and also 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. Yes, I have tested this.
Let it 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 your homemade baklava is ready to enjoy!
Next try my Rice Pudding or butter swirl Shortbread Cookies. Happy baking!
Yes, it freezes beautifully. Store for up to 3 months in an airtight container, to prevent absorption of off odors.
Yes, baklava can be stored for one week at room temp. If you want to store it longer, refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for 3 months.
Yes, and since it needs 8 hours of standing time before serving, it’s the perfect make ahead dessert.
Absolutely. 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.
Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
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 9×13 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.
91 Comments on “Baklava”
I stumbled across this recipe and need to let others know it makes perfect baklava. Someone gave us fresh honey and I had everything else, so I gave it a go. It is as good as I have ever had, and my second batch is cooling and waiting for the syrup addition. Thank you for this one!
I’ve always been scared to make baklava but it’s one of my favorite dessert. This doesn’t look scary at all and I’m excited to try your recipe! Question though, should I blanche the walnuts beforehand? If so, I’m guessing I should let them dry over night before I crush them?
If I freeze this, do I thaw in fridge or on countertop?
If you get flustered at working quickly to cover the phyllo with the melted butter, cover the phyllo with a damp dishcloth so the pressure is off.
This is my second time making this recipe. It has turned out perfect both times. I have gotten rave reviews from family and friends. Thank you for a fool proof recipe.
I used your recipe and made Baklava for the first time. I think it’s gonna be a great dessert. It looks amazing. Now I have to wait til morning to test it.
Just FYI it would be helpful if some of the tidbits above the recipe were in the actual recipe. I should have read the whole thing before I made it yes but it would have helped (for people like me who don’t read the whole thing) to know I was supposed to cut it before I baked it and I was supposed to let it cool for 15 minutes before pouring the liquid. Hoping it still tastes good! It looks like a mess but how it tastes is the important thing. Thanks
Hi Brooke, that’s not your fault. I agree it is best to read through the step-by-step but that cutting instruction should absolutely be in the recipe box. I’m not sure if it got deleted or why it wasn’t there, but I fixed the cutting step. Letting the baklava cool, I see that already in the step-by-step as well as the recipe box instructions, so not sure if you meant something else. I apologize for the trouble and thanks for your comment.
It is a delicious recipe. First time making baklava and it turned out perfect. A little time consuming, but not difficult. I had found several recipes on line and the one thing I did glean from another recipe, was to put the unbaked baklava in the refrigerator for 1 hour to make cutting through the baklava easier after it had hardened up a bit in the fridge. After cutting, put right in the oven.
How does cutting sheets that are 13×18 in half fill a 9×13 pan? The sheets would be 6.5×9. Your video shows the cut sheets completely filling your pan. What am I missing?
Try reversing one set of numbers. LOL
13×18 will fill 13×9 tray if the 18 length is cut in half to 9 inches.
Sometimes pictures help.
A big hit. Everyone thought I was some sort of great baker. This made for an easy recipe. Will make it again with mixed nuts next time.
Hi! I made the nut mixture a day ahead and now am wondering if I can make the syrup a day ahead also. What do you think? Thanks!
Is it hot syrup on Baklava that is just out of the oven?
You’re starting to make the syrup after the baklava has finished baking, so the baklava has cooled slightly. I’ve added notes in the copy and in the recipe box to make this more clear. The baklava cools for about 15 minutes before pouring on the syrup.
okay I am about to attept this so I can have it ready for tomorrow which is thanksgiving really hope my family likes this it is my first time attempting baklava so I will be back to say if they liked it or what have you 🙂
I’m sure it is going to be delicious! My daughter and I just finished making your recipe. I printed the recipe to have it right next to us but the recipe doesn’t say to cut it before pouring the sauce on. We both wondered how it would soak in…should have double checked the website. I’ll let you know how it turns out. We decided the edge pieces will be sooooooo good.
It is instruction #6 🙂
Do you butter the top layer of phyllo dough?
Looks great! But OK, but what happens if I don’t let it sit for 8 hours? What if I just let it cool to room temp?
The flavors develop together during the 8 hour wait. Basically it tastes much better after sitting overnight.
This was my first ever attempt at making baklava…but definitely not my last! It was a huge hit with all at the gathering!!! My friend commented, saying this recipe was the perfect balance of sweetness, that the syrup mix did not take over the flavor of the nut mixture. My husband said he was going to share with his coworkers, but then decided against it, because he wanted all for himself! Thank you for sharing the recipe and the tips you offered…a bonus THANKS!!!
That’s wonderful!! Really glad to hear this.