Lebanese Baklava (Baklawa) is the best of many Middle Eastern sweets. This Lebanese pastry is made with sheets of filo dough (phyllo dough) or puff pastry, layered with clarified butter or ghee, and filled with sugary walnuts and topped with a rose water syrup (ater recipe).Jump to Recipe
What is baklava
In Lebanon baklava is a very common dessert. Puff pastry is layered with melted butter, and the baklawa filling is made with walnuts (in some places it’s made with pistachios). This authentic baklava recipe is then baked in the oven until golden brown and crispy, then drizzled with a flowery (or citrus) simple syrup called “ater” and served with strong coffee.
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What does Baklava taste like?
Baklava is a very sweet and rich pastry that is baked until very crunchy and flaky. The homemade sugar syrup (ater syrup) keeps the baklawa from being dry. The ater sugar syrup also brings a subtle flowery or citrusy undertone to the filo pastry dessert.
The smell of this traditional baklawa baking in the oven immediately takes me back to Christmas and to fun times hanging out with family. I have heard stories of relatives, a few generations removed, that used to make the filo dough from scratch for baklawa. They would roll it out and lay it out throughout the house for it to dry before layering it and making this amazing Arab dessert.
Origins of Baklava – Where is baklava from?
It is said that in the history of baklava, that it dates back to the Ottoman empire (modern day Turkey) all the way back to around 800 B.C.. It is rumored that on special occasions, dough would be rolled and stretched out very thinly to make pastry sheets (like modern day filo pastry sheets), spread with chopped nuts, cinnamon and honey.
This evolved to be what we know as modern day baklava, and eventually found its way to many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. This is a staple of Middle Eastern desserts.
Baklawa Vs. Baklava
So is it Baklawa or baklava? It is true that there are different types of baklava. BaklAWA (also pronounced baklehwah or batlawa) is the traditional Lebanese version of the baklava recipes out there. Where Baklava is more of the traditional Greek or Turkish recipes.
This recipe here, is the traditional Lebanese baklawa recipe.
Want to learn more about Lebanese cuisine? Check out this article >>> What is Lebanese Food
Also check out these other amazing and popular Lebanese recipes!
- Lebanese Fattoush Salad
- Stuffed Yellow Squash (Lebanese Kousa)
- Lebanese Cabbage Rolls
- Lebanese Hummus
- Homemade Lebanese Falafel
- Spicy Lebanese Potatoes
Difference between Greek and Lebanese Baklava
The difference between Lebanese baklawa and other baklava is whatever is drizzled over the top. Many Lebanese desserts, including this recipe for baklawa, are drizzled with a simple syrup made with rose water called “ater.” Whereas other baklava recipes are usually drizzled with honey.
If you are wondering what country makes the best baklava? I would say “Lebanon,” but I am a little partial.
Ingredients for Baklawa
The lovely thing about Lebanese food, is that every family has their own version of each traditional recipe out there. While many baklawa recipes call for pistachio nuts, it’s not uncommon to make baklava with walnuts instead. This is how we do it in our family. This particular recipe calls for:
- phyllo dough (aka puff pastry or filo dough, it can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store)
- Clarified butter or ghee
- Walnuts (or pistachios if you prefer) use only the freshest, raw walnuts
- rose water (can be substituted with lemon juice, which is how I make it)
Make sure to use GOOD QUALITY nuts! Check out these below. I love buying them from nuts.com because of the quality!
How to Make Homemade Baklawa
First, you may want to grab a helper for making baklawa. It can be intimidating the first time you make it. Don’t worry, it is worth it and is not too bad once you know what to do. Start by thawing the phyllo dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight. It is very important that the puff pastry sheets are thawed completely so they don’t tear or rip apart.
How to clarify butter- how to make ghee
Clarified butter, or ghee, is used in all baklawa recipes. What is ghee? Ghee is butter that has the milk solids removed from it. Ghee is very easy to make and will save you money if you just make it yourself at home with butter. Most recipes call for unsalted butter, but I actually use salted butter. You can use whichever you want, just be sure to add some salt to the filling if you choose to use unsalted butter.
Take a pound of butter (4 sticks salted butter) and place it in a 2 quart saucepan. Melt the butter slowly over medium heat and remove it from the heat once it is melted. You will notice that the milk solids will be at the top of the melted butter and that the clear butter or clarified butter that remains is below.
Skim off the milk solids from the top and you are left with clear ghee or clarified butter.
You will want to use a pastry brush and only use the clarified butter that remains after skimming the top, to brush the puff pastry sheets for the baklawa.
Layering the Lebanese baklawa
Remove the filo dough from the plastic package and cover it with a slightly damp kitchen towel so that it does not dry out. Carefully layer the bottom of a 11 x 15 jelly roll pan with one layer of filo pastry. Depending on the brand of filo dough that you buy, you might be using one big filo sheet, or 2 filo sheets placed right next to each other, you want one single layer of filo dough.
Also, I specifically use that size of pan for baklawa. Check out this one below, you want it to have shallow sides preferably. You will also need a pastry brush as well.
Now carefully brush the layer of filo dough with the clarified butter. The first layer is always the hardest! If the filo pastry sheet is too big, just let it stick to the side and brush the bottom of the filo sheet. After several layers, you can cut the excess filo pastry off of the sides of the pan with a sharp paring knife.
Remember to cover up the remaining filo dough with the kitchen towel, while you are buttering the layers.
Layer another sheet of filo dough and butter again. Keep layering and buttering until half of the layers are used up.
Video how to make baklava
How to make the filling for baklawa
The baklawa filling is very easy to make as long as you have a food processor. I highly recommend the Cuisinart larger capacity food processor. They are very versatile in the kitchen and are high quality and last a LONG time!! I’ve had mine for years and it still works like new.
Take the walnuts and chop them in the food processor until they are ground pretty finely. It will look like gravel. Mix the ground walnuts with the sugar and evenly spread the nut mixture across the buttered layers of the baklawa.
Now continue the layering and butter process from before, with the rest of the phyllo pastry sheets.
How to cut baklava
Authentic baklava Lebanese style is traditionally cut into diamond shapes. You NEED to cut the baklawa BEFORE baking it in the oven. In order to cut baklava into triangles, you will first want cut the baklawa in half right down the middle (*see cut #1 below) carefully with a sharp knife. Proceed to cut each section in half until you have halved it 7 different times (see cut diagram below).
After those cuts are made, make a diagonal cut from the edge of the pan towards each intersecting cut, making a diamond pattern.
Take a look at this video of how to cut baklava evenly into diamond shapes.
How to cut baklava into diamonds video
After cutting the baklawa diagonally into diamonds, place it uncovered in the preheated oven and bake it for 1 hour, or until it is golden brown and crispy on the top. While it is baking, proceed to make the simple syrup recipe for baklawa.
How to make simple syrup recipe for Lebanese Baklawa (Ater recipe)
As I said before, Lebanon baklava is different than Greek baklava, mainly because of the syrup drizzled over the top. My family always drizzles this simple syrup or ater recipe over the top of the warm baklawa.
Many Lebanese recipes for baklawa call for the ater, or simple syrup to be made with rose water or orange blossom water. This was very difficult to find after my ancestors immigrated to the Unites States, so they had to come up with a solution.
What is a substitute for rose water?
A great alternative to rose water in this ater recipe is lemon juice. The lemon juice will give off a citrus essence as opposed to a flower essence that the rose water will give. But the important thing about the lemon juice is that it will stabilize the simple syrup so that it will not clump together. I personally like the taste of the lemon juice, as opposed to the rose water as well.
If you want to use rose water, you do well. That is the traditional way of making this Lebanese simple syrup and you can find some here:
Make sure to buy food grade rose water like in the link above. If you go elsewhere, rose water for beauty products are very popular, but that is not the correct kind of rose water for baking. Please purchase through the link above at The Spice House, to get good quality, food grade rose water.
In a 2 quart sauce pan, heat the water and sugar up to boiling and boil for about 15 minutes, or until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon (about 250 degrees F). After it begins to thicken, remove from the heat and a few minutes later stir in the lemon juice and rose water (optional).
Let it cook to room temperature.
After the baklawa is done baking, let it cool f0r about 5-10 minutes. The key to getting the perfect crispy texture to the baklava, and the syrupy sweetness is to pour the cooled almost ROOM TEMPERATURE syrup over the WARM BAKLAWA.
Pour it evenly over the top of the baklawa and let it soak in and sit for about 30-45 minutes before serving it. Serve with strong coffee and enjoy!!!
How do I store Baklawa?
You can store baklava in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. You do not need to refrigerate baklawa.
Can I freeze baklawa?
Yes! Baklawa can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months in a freezer. To thaw, set the container with the baklava at room temperature for 1 hour or until thawed.
How long does baklava have to sit?
After pouring the syrup onto the warm baklava, allow it to sit for 45 minutes to an hour in order to soak up all of that sweet syrup before serving.
When should I cut baklava?
Always cut the baklawa into triangles or diamonds BEFORE baking it in the oven! Read more about cutting baklawa in the above section: How to Cut Baklava
How to make baklava crispy
In order to make sure that your baklawa is crispy, you must use clarified butter or ghee and brush it onto each layer of filo dough. Butter that is not clarified has too much moister and you may end up with not crispy baklava.
Do not try to pour melted butter or ghee over the top of the baklava instead of brushing it on each layer. If you don’t brush each layer with clarified butter, it may come out doughy or gummy and not crispy. ***You must brush each individual layer!
Making sure that you bake it in the low heat oven will also ensure the crispy baklava texture that is the best
How to keep baklava from getting soggy
Always remember to pour COOL SYRUP over the WARM BAKLAWA and your baklawa will stay crispy and not become soggy.
Is Baklava Vegan?
No, unfortunately baklava is not vegan since it has ghee, however it is vegetarian.
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Lebanese Baklawa Recipe – Authentic Walnut Baklava
- 2 cups Ground Walnuts or pistachios
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 lb Filo dough thawed
- 1 lb Butter 4 sticks (salted)
Simply Syrup Recipe for Baklawa (Ater Recipe)
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1 cup Water
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- ½ teas Rose water optional
- Preheat the oven to 300°F
- Prepare the baklawa filling by grinding the raw walnuts (or pistachios) in a food processor until fine. You should have 2 cups of the ground walnuts
- Mix 1 cup of sugar into the ground walnuts. Set aside
- In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and remove from heat once it is melted. With a spoon, skim the milk solids off of the top and you are left with clarified butter, or ghee
- Layer one sheet of puff pastry (or filo dough) on the bottom of an 11×15 pan and carefully butter it with a pastry brush. Make sure to cover the unused puff pastry sheets with a kitchen towel before using so they don't dry out! *if the filo pastry sheet is too large for the pan see note in post
- Continue layering each sheet of filo dough, one and a time and buttering each one, until HALF of all of the sheets are used
- After halfway through buttering the filo sheets, spread the nut mixture evenly over the top
- Continue the same layering and buttering process of the filo pastry until it is all used up
- Cut the baklawa into diamonds BEFORE baking it. Read the step by step instructions and watch the video of how to cut baklawa in the post
- Bake the baklawa uncovered in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until golden brown and crispy on top.
- Make the simple syrup (ater recipe) while the baklawa is baking! (below)
- Let the baklawa cool for 10 minutes. Pour the cooled simple syrup over the warm baklava. It is important to pour the cool syrup over it while it is still very warm! This will keep the baklava crispy and flaky!
- Allow the baklawa to sit and soak up the syrup for about 45 minutes to an hour before serving. Enjoy!
Simple Syrup Recipe with Rose Water (Ater recipe)
- Bring 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water to a full boil and continue to boil for 15-18 minutes, or until the syrup thickens and becomes viscous. It should coat the back of a spoon
- Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and rose water (optional). If you don't add the rose water, you still need to add the lemon juice for flavor and to stabilize the syrup. Let it cool