Delicious homemade baklava starts with layers of crispy, golden phyllo pastry with ground walnuts (or pistachios) in between. Baklava is bathed in homemade simple syrup, scented with honey, lemon juice, cinnamon, and a few other ingredients. Trust me, you’ve never had baklava like this!

baklava square in baking dish with knife

Baklava is on the list of my top 5 favorite desserts of all time.

Layers of butter-basted crispy phyllo dough with a cinnamon-scented ground nut mixture. And when you pick up that first piece and look and those delicious little diamonds that are perfectly segmented with distinct layers of nuts and crispy phyllo sheets, it makes your heart sing.

I’ll say this upfront. There’s more than one way to make baklava. 

Greek Baklava uses more honey in the simple syrup and more spices in the actual nut mixture. There’s Lebanese baklava (or baklawa) where it’s flavored with orange blossom and rose water (sometimes.) The list goes on and on. If you’re looking for a Greek Baklava recipe, I’m sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t it.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t discriminate. I love baklava from any and all regions. But I do want to set the right expectations here. I would say my homemade baklava more closely resembles a Lebanese Baklava recipe. I scent my simple syrup with a hint of orange blossom and use a splash of rose water too. 

And I’ll tell you what. I’ve been making it this way for almost 10 years with rave reviews to whomever I’ve served it to. This recipe has not only been tested it’s also been perfected and it’s my absolute favorite. It’s a must-make during holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, and Eid. Golden brown squares that are doused in honey syrup. 

The flavor is out of this world!

stack of baklava on plate

What do you need to make baklava at home?

  • Sheet of phyllo dough: Filo pastry can be found in most grocery stores these days. It’s usually in the same aisle as frozen desserts. Keep in mind that puff pastry and phyllo dough are different. Phyllo dough is essentially thin layers of dough. Puff pastry is layers of dough that are laminated with thin layers of butter in between. For this recipe, we need to use phyllo and not puff pastry.
  • Raw nuts: Baklava is made with both walnuts and pistachios. If I feel like splurging, I use 100% pistachios. My family loves it that way. But usually, I do a 50:50 of walnuts and pistachios and it works beautifully.
  • Sugar: You’ll need a couple of cups of sugar to make the simple syrup. You’ll also need some to sprinkle over the ground nut mixture.
  • Melted Butter: Melted butter, clarified butter, or ghee will all work for this recipe. Clarified butter is what’s most typically used when making homemade baklava. I usually use European butter because it has a lower water content than regular butter.
  • Ground Cinnamon: A big pinch of cinnamon goes into the ground nut mixture. You can use up to double the amount if you’d like, however, I prefer it with 1/2 teaspoon so it’s not too overpowering.
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon and honey add flavor to the simple syrup. It helps cut some of the sweetness.
  • Honey: Just a couple of tablespoons to bring some depth into the syrup. Greek Baklava typically uses a higher ratio of honey in simple syrup. For my recipe, two tablespoons is more than enough.
  • Spices + Flavorings: I use a couple of pods of cardamom that I toss into the saucepan of simple syrup. Keep in mind that the cardamom is optional, if you don’t have any on hand, omit it from the recipe. I also use some rose water and orange blossom water. The orange blossom water is optional. I’ve linked my favorite brand for both of these ingredients. I find these two flavors make the baklava taste just like my favorite Middle Eastern dessert shop here in Houston.
simple syrup
processing the nuts and adding sugar and spices for the filling

Step-by-step. How to make Baklava at home:

  1. Start by making the simple syrup. Add the honey, sugar, lemon, water, and cardamom pods (if you’re using them) to a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. When boiling, lower the heat to medium low heat so that it maintains a simmer. Allow the syrup to simmer for 12 minutes. Then, remove from heat, stir in the orange blossom water and the rose water, fish out the cardamom pods and allow the simple syrup to cool to room temperature. The syrup will thicken further as it cools. Note: my simple syrup looks a bit darker because I use cane sugar for all my recipes.
  2. Prep the dish and the nuts. Start by preheating the oven and spraying a 13×9 baking pan with cooking spray. In a food processor or pulse the nuts until they break down into small pieces. You don’t want them to be completely ground, some texture will make for better baklava. Add the sugar, melted butter, and ground cinnamon and stir, or pulse for a few seconds to combine.
  3. Make phyllo layers. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a clean work surface. Measure the dough with the baking dish and trim off any extra pieces – don’t discard them! You may need them later. Cover the dough with a damp towel as you work so that it doesn’t dry out. Place the first sheet of phyllo in the baking dish. Brush with butter evenly. Then repeat this 9 more times. Top with 3/4 cup of nuts. Then the next 4 layers will alternate with 5 sheets of phyllo (make sure you butter them in between) with 3/4 cup of nuts in the middle. The top layer will end with 10 butter phyllo sheets (just like the bottom.) I’ve also included details on how to layer below.
  4. Bake it. Brush the top of the last phyllo sheet with melted butter. Then, cut into 4 strips lengthwise. Turn the pan and cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern or cut crosswise then make diagonal cuts (like I did.) Bake until golden and.
how to layer baklava, step by step pictures

Tips for making the best baklava recipe:

  • Phyllo is different from puff pastry. Both are usually next to each other in the freezer section but they are very different! Puff pastry has layers of butter between the layers whereas phyllo is a thin, delicate sheet (almost like parchment) and does not contain much fat.
  • Start with the simple syrup. Add the honey, sugar, lemon, cardamom pods (if you’re using them), and the water to a saucepan and bring the syrup to a simmer. When the syrup has simmered and thickened. Remove from heat, add the flavorings, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Remember, hot baklava, room temperature syrup. The syrup doesn’t absorb as well if it’s hot.
  • Use raw nuts, not roasted. Raw nuts develop a nutty flavor as they bake and have the perfect nutty scent when the baklava is done. Roasted nuts have a chance of gaining too much color and a very strong (bordering not great) aroma in the 40-50 minutes it takes to bake baklawa.
  • Cover filo sheets with a damp towel when not actively using. Phyllo dough becomes very brittle and dry the longer you expose it to air. So it’s important to keep the stack of phyllo covered with a damp (not wet) kitchen towel while you’re layering the baklava.
  • Tips for layering phyllo. The first phyllo sheet after you’ve sprinkled with nuts can be difficult to brush with butter. So my trick is to stipple the brush over the phyllo to cover in butter instead of using a brushstroke motion. The second sheet onwards should be easy to brush!
  • Don’t discard your phyllo just yet! You want to hang on to every scrap until you’ve successfully made it to the end of the layering process. Sometimes, my box is missing a sheet or two so the trimmings can be combined to make sheets as needed.
  • Make sure you cut the baklava before baking it. Crispy layers of phyllo dough are difficult to cut through! So it’s important to not just score but to cut the pieces before you bake the baklava.
  • Storing baklava. For baklava, you want the layers to remain crispy. So instead of covering the dish tightly with plastic wrap, I prefer to loosely drape the dish with a tea towel over the top. This will keep moisture from being trapped before the phyllo layers and becoming soggy!
pouring simple syrup over baklava triangles

How to make layers:

  • 10 sheet phyllo (butter in between) 
  • ¾ cup nut filling
  • 5 sheets phyllo (butter in between)
  • ¾ cup nut filling
  • 5 sheets phyllo (butter in between)
  • ¾ cup nut filling
  • 5 sheets phyllo (butter in between)
  • ¾ cup nut filling
  • 5 sheets phyllo (butter in between) 
  • ¾ cup nut filling
  • 10 sheet phyllo (butter in between)
baklava pieces in dish with knife

Recommended kitchen equipment for homemade baklava:

showing layers of baklava
Yield: serves 20-24

How to Make Baklava (Baklawa)

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Hands-off time 6 hours
Total Time 7 hours 10 minutes

Delicious homemade baklava starts with layers of crispy, golden phyllo pastry with ground walnuts (or pistachios) in between. Baklava is bathed in homemade simple syrup, scented with honey, lemon juice, cinnamon, and a few other ingredients. Trust me, you've never had baklava like this!

How to Make Baklava (Baklawa)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. (40 sheets) phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight
  • 1 lb. raw nuts (I like 50:50 walnuts and pistachios)
  • 2 ½ cups sugar, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, melted (or clarified butter)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons EACH: lemon juice AND honey
  • 2 cardamom pods (optional, see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water

Instructions

    1. SYRUP: Add 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, lemon juice, honey, and smashed cardamom pods (or ground if using) to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. When boiling, lower the heat to medium-low so that it gently simmers. Let simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat, add orange blossom and rose water. Let cool to room temperature, the syrup will thicken as it cools.
    2. PREP: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside for now.
    3. PROCESS: In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they break down into a ground texture, do not over pulse into a powder! Dump out into a medium bowl, add ½ cup of sugar, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and ground cinnamon, and stir to combine.
    4. PHYLLO: Lay the phyllo dough flat on a clean surface. Place your baking pan and trim off anything that’s larger than the pan, hang on to trimmings just in case. Cover phyllo with a damp towel as you work so it doesn't dry out.
    5. LAYER: Place the first sheet of phyllo in the baking dish. Brush with butter evenly. Repeat this 9 more times (a total of 10 sheets,) then sprinkle ¾ cup of the ground nut mixture. The next 4 layers will have 5 sheets of phyllo (buttered), with ¾ cup of filling in between (detailed in notes.) The top layer will end with 10 sheets of phyllo (same as the bottom layer.)
    6. BAKE: Brush the top of the last phyllo with melted butter. Cut into 4 strips lengthwise. Turn the pan and cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern or cut 6 times crosswise and then cut those down the center. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden on top. Remove from oven.
    7. POUR IT OVER: Immediately pour syrup over baklava while hot. Let sit for 6 hours, for best results, I usually let it sit overnight. Cover loosely with a cloth once the baklava is at room temperature. Garnish with nuts or dried rose petals before serving. Leftover baklava can be stored covered at room temp for up to 1 ½ weeks.

Notes

Baklava Layers:

10 sheet phyllo (butter in between) + ¾ cup filling
5 sheets phyllo (butter in between) + ¾ cup filling
5 sheets phyllo (butter in between) + ¾ cup filling
5 sheets phyllo (butter in between) + ¾ cup filling
5 sheets phyllo (butter in between) + ¾ cup filling
10 sheet phyllo (butter in between)

  • Cardamom: You can also use a pinch of ground cardamom.
  • Salt: I like to add a pinch of salt to the nut mixture when processing and also to the butter that I brush between the layers of phyllo. This is entirely optional, but I find that it helps cut through some of the sweetness and makes the other flavors stand out a bit more.

Have you made this recipe?

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