This baklava recipe is easy to make, crispy, and sweet. It is plant-based and made with a minimum amount of olive oil. It is honey-free sweetened with agave-or maple syrup.
Baklava is a common dessert and a treat at festivities in the middle eastern. I made my first baklava for a Greek party we had at home. I did not use honey since I made it Vegan and wanted to make my version low in fat. So my recipe became a mix of different variations and with no white sugar.
Baklava is made of thin layers of phyllo dough. Filled with nuts and drenched in sugar syrup. This dessert is very crispy and sweet. Different nuts give different variations and tastes. You can flavor your baklava in different ways and spices. Orange, lemon, rosewater, and different spices are commonly used.
In my country, pistachios are very expensive, so I used a mix of walnuts, almonds, and pecans. You can, though, only use one sort of nuts also. I think the best baklava is made of pistachios, just slightly roasted. Pecan nuts are also my favorite with a pinch of cinnamon.
What is the difference between Greek and Turkish baklava?
Greek baklava often is made of honey, walnuts and flavored with cinnamon. Turkish baklava is known for its sugar syrup, pistachios, and lemon juice. Also, walnuts or almonds are commonly used in Turkey.
Other regional variations
Armenian Baklava is flavored with cinnamon and cloves.
Azerbaijan Baklava type pastry is made of hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds and flavored with cloves, cardamom, saffron, and sugar. Often cut to star or diamond shape.
Iranian baklava is often flavored with rose water.
Persian baklava has chopped almonds and pistachios and sweetened with rose water syrup and flavored with cardamom.
Which country makes the best baklava?
Turkey is considered to make the best baklava and has its baklava masters. Especially the baklava in Gaziantep has delicious pistachios. You find the best baklava in Turkey at Karakoy Gulluoglu. Greek baklava is best for those who love honey.
In Gaziantep there is even a Baklava museum!
What can you flavor baklava with?
- Orange blossom water
Other things you can experiment with are dried fruit in the nut mix as filling. You can also make a Greek version called galaktoboureko. This has a creamy custard filling between the phyllo sheets. It is usually made of cream or milk, but to make a vegan version of galaktoboureko, you can use plant-based milk, semolina, and vanilla.
How many calories in one piece?
One small bite of baklava has 105 calories, 6,6 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbs. Phyllo dough is quite low in calories since it has no fat. The fat comes from olive oil and natural fats in the nuts.
Baklava is not a weight-loss dessert, but if you have the self-control only to eat one piece, it can be a nice treat with coffee. The calorie amount is counted to cut 40 pieces of this recipe. I made my pieces, the ones you see in pictures, even smaller, and got 56 pieces.
How to make it gluten-free?
You can use rice paper sheets to make a gluten-free version of baklava. Vietnamese rice paper, Banh Trang works also.
I have to say that I have not made gluten-free baklava. So don´t have any specific tips for that, but you can find many recipes online.
How to make a vegan version?
Change the butter for vegetable oil or vegan butter and the honey for sugar syrup, agave syrup or maple syrup. Check that the phyllo sheets are made without butter and are vegan.
In my recipe, I used olive oil. Some might think it tastes too much. I did not taste in the finished result of the olive oil. Coconut oil will work great and give a slight coconut flavor. Vegan butter is also a great option, they are melted before brushing on the sheets.
Can you make it fat-free?
You can make fat-free baklava by not using any oil or fat in between the phyllo sheets and just brushing them with almond butter that is mixed with aquafaba or some plant milk. Some fat is needed so the phyllo sheets become crispy but not too dry and burned. Any nut butter will work.
So that your fat-free baklava won't stick to the bottom of the pan you need to use parchment paper or spray oil.
The risk of getting a soggy baklava is high if you use just nut butter mix. You need to brush is thinly on the sheets and make sure it bakes long enough in the oven.
Many people following a plant-based diet don´t use oil, and this is the reason for not using any processed fats in a vegan baklava recipe. Nuts have natural fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. So nuts in moderation are a good addition to a plant-based diet. Phyllo dough is great because it has no fat added.
You can make a quite healthy version of baklava!
As a syrup base, you can use white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar. Maple syrup and agave syrup will work also. In the nut mix, you can also use date paste to sweeten it. This depends on what you have at home.
In my recipe, I used agave syrup, because I had that and maple syrup at home. I rarely use white sugar, so this was the reason. Studying the nutritional values and how they raise your insulin, I think it will make no difference if you use either of these sweeteners. Agave and maple syrups are though quite expensive, white sugar is very cheap.
The best sweetener for desserts is date paste in my opinion because it also has a lot of fiber to regulate sugar absorption. But you really can´t make a traditionally tasting baklava with date paste.
Below you have two alternatives to the agave syrup in this recipe.
Make a sugar syrup
1 and ¼ cup sugar, 1 cup water, lemon juice from ½ lemon. Let simmer for 15 minutes so the sugar melts and thickens to a syrup consistency. Add flavorings to your sugar syrup if you want to such as cinnamon, rose water, or orange blossom water.
If you want to make a honey syrup
Use 1 cup sugar, ½ cup honey, squeeze of lemon or orange juice and ½ cup water. Boil until sugar is dissolved and then let simmer for 4-5 additional minutes.
How to keep baklava crispy?
If you cover you baklava with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge it will get soggy. Store your baklava in room temperature and cover it with cheesecloth or towel to keep it crispy.
How to handle phyllo dough?
Remember to thaw your frozen phyllo dough well ahead of time. You can put it in the refrigerator a day ahead or have it at room temperature for some hours. Don´t microwave it because it is hard to keep track of the right temperature, and your dough is also wrapped in plastic, so it is probably not a good idea to put that plastic in the microwave.
Phyllo dough is very thin and it breaks easily. It is easiest to cut to the right size when you have the sheets layered on top of each other. I used scissors, and that is the easiest way.
The sheets dry up very fast, it is good to keep them in the original package until you start to bake with them. Then have a moistened kitchen towel to store your sheets under so they don't dry up.
It is also important to remember to cut up your baklava before baking. Use a very sharp knife for this. If you cut it after baking it will just crumble to pieces.
Easiest way to make baklava
So to spread oil or butter to every single sheet take time. The easiest and fastest way to make baklava is to spread the sheets and nuts as dry, cut the pieces and then pour melted butter or oil on top of the baklava before baking. Here is a good video on this method. But this method means a lot of fat! And for sure is high in calories.
How many days does baklava last?
Baklava will taste good for 4-7 days. Then the taste might alter a bit. If stored in the refrigerator keep it just slightly covered and not tightly wrapped so it won't get soggy. It is best stored at room temperature in a container. Store it for up to 1-2 weeks.
Low-fat Vegan Baklava
- 17 sheets of phyllo dough 300 grams
- olive oil or spray vegetable oil
- 2,5 cups of nuts of choice ex mix of pecan almond, walnuts
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 orange
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup agave syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoon orange juice
- Thaw(defrost) your frozen phyllo dough according to instructions on the package.
- Start by grating the skin of 1 orange. Squeeze the juice and use that for the syrup.
- Roast your choice of nuts in the oven at 390F, 200C, be sure they do not burn. They should get just a little bit of golden color.
- You can also air-fry your nuts in 180C, 350F for 2-3 minutes. So they get a slight gold color.
- Pulse your slightly cooled nuts in a food processor, so they become finely chopped but with some texture left. Add your spices, orange zest, and maple syrup to the nut mixture.
- Put together your baklava. Use an 11x15 inch form. If you use smaller, you get higher baklava with more layers.
- Have your phyllo sheets under a moistened towel, so they don´t dry out. Start by putting 5 sheets of phyllo dough at the bottom of the oven pan. Cut your dough, so it is the right size. (scissors are best) You should put 1-2 sheets at a time and spray some olive oil in between. To get a minimum amount of oil between the sheets, you can also use a silicone brush to spread it out. If you don't have an oil spray, dip your brush in oil and gently brush your sheets. They do not have to be totally covered in oil, but some oil is needed between the layers, so the phyllo sheets become crispy.
- After the first layers of oiled phyllo sheets, add some nut mixture as a thin layer on top. Continue to add 4 sheets of phyllo dough, oiled in between the sheets.
- Put together the layers as 5 sheets-nuts-4 sheets-nuts-4 sheets-nuts-4 sheets on top—together 17 sheets of dough.
- Bake at 350F, 175C 30-40 minutes. Until the top is golden brown.
- While the baklava bakes, cook the syrup. Add all ingredients to a pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes, so it becomes more syrupy and thickens slightly. When done, remove the cinnamon stick.
- When you get your baklava out of the oven, pour the syrup evenly on top of the hot baklava.
- Let your baklava cool down and moisten up before serving.