This vegan baklava is layers of sweet filo and chopped nuts, all covered in a sweet syrup! No honey and no dairy needed, it’s a simple yet showstopping dessert guaranteed to impress!
What is baklava?
Baklava is a delicate and flaky layered dessert from the Middle East. It’s made with a layer of buttered phyllo dough on the bottom, then topped with crushed nuts (pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and/or almonds). Another layer of phyllo is placed on top before it’s cut into bite-sized pieces and baked.
To finish, the baked baklava is soaked in a delicious syrup made from honey and/or rosewater. This gives the dessert a lovely sweetness that’s beautifully contrasted by the nutty, almost savory flavors.
Coming up from a Middle Eastern, Asian, and European background, my concept of a classic dessert was VERY different from that of my friends and family. While my childhood friends would talk about weekend treats of cakes and brownies, I’d be lamenting about various cultural desserts. If I wasn’t drooling over saffron-infused ice cream or pistachio cream puffs, I was definitely hammering on about Baklava!
My mom’s baklava is probably one of my all time favorite desserts EVER (along with her baklava cheesecake). She would make several variations of it- Either the Persian way (with pistachios and rose water) or the Greek way (with walnuts and vanilla extract!). Obviously, I had to steal her recipe and make a few tweaks to it!
Is baklava vegan?
Traditional baklava is, unfortunately, not vegan. The reason for this is that a primary ingredient used is honey. However, we can easily substitute that and make this taste just like the classic, albeit with no honey flavor.
Furthermore, many people are unaware that phyllo dough and filo pastry is actually vegan. There are no eggs or dairy used in them!
Now, this baklava may look incredibly fancy, but I promise you, it is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. It uses simple ingredients and requires no fancy mixing!
No honey or dairy butter is needed, but you’d never tell. The texture is flaky, soft, buttery, with some added crunch from the nuts. It’s sweet and with a hint of vanilla (and rosewater, if you use it!), without being overpowering!
I made a batch and shared it with my mom and she could NOT believe that I didn’t use dairy or honey in it- In fact, she preferred the maple version better (she admitted that reluctantly…).
- Phyllo dough– Also known as filo pastry. This can be found in the frozen and chilled section of the grocery store.
- Walnuts and pistachios– Traditional Greek style baklava is made with walnuts, but many Middle Eastern countries also include pistachios. I used a combination of both, but you can use one or the other.
- Cinnamon– Just a pinch to give some lovely cinnamon flavor.
- Vegan butter– Brushed on each sheet of phyllo dough (pastry). The butter is necessary, as, on its own, the dough is very dry.
- Water– Mixed with the sugar to form a simple syrup.
- Sugar– Any white sugar can be used. Avoid using brown sugar or coconut sugar, as it will change the color and flavor of this dessert.
- Maple syrup– A fabulous vegan substitute for honey, this gives extra sweetness, and also the glorious sticky texture. If you aren’t strictly vegan, you can use raw honey.
- Vanilla extract– Gives the baklava a light, vanilla flavor.
- Rosewater extract– Optional, but add this if you’d like authentic Middle Eastern style baklava.
How do you make baklava?
Start by preparing the phyllo dough. Carefully cut them in half and place them in a damp kitchen towel or cloth, so they don’t dry out while you prep the rest of the ingredients. In a mixing bowl, mix together the nuts with the cinnamon and set aside.
Next, lightly butter a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Start by placing two sheets of the dough into it, before brushing it with butter. Repeat this three more times, so you are left with 8 sheets of dough. Sprinkle two heaping tablespoons of the chopped nuts on top, before topping with another two sheets of dough, and brushing with butter again. Repeat this process, leaving 6 sheets to layer the very top with.
Now, using a sharp knife, cut diamond squares, leaving an inch from the bottom. Bake the baklava for around 45-50 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
While the baklava is baking, prepare the sugar syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar. On medium heat, bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce to low and let simmer for 10 minutes, before removing from the heat. Whisk in the maple syrup and extracts, until combined. Place back on the heat and let simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Remove the baklava from the oven, and pour the syrup all over the top. Let it cool completely, before using the knife, cut down deep to the bottom of the pan, to let the syrup seep through.
Tips to make the best baklava
- The base and the top of the baklava must be thicker than the layers in between. Aim to have at least 6 layers on the top, preferably 8.
- Reserve some extra chopped nuts to top the baklava with, once it’s set.
- If you don’t follow a strict vegan diet, you can use raw honey instead of maple syrup.
- If you’d like to make this gluten free, use gluten free phyllo dough.
Storing and freezing the baklava
- To store: Leftover baklava can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. DO NOT cover it up, otherwise, it will become soggy.
- To freeze: Place baklava is a freezer friendly container and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator uncovered.
More incredible vegan dessert recipes to try
Easy Vegan Baklava
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Slice your phyllo dough in half, and set 14 sheets aside, for the top and bottom of the baklava. Cover them in a damp kitchen towel, to avoid them drying out.
- In a mixing bowl, combine your chopped walnuts with cinnamon and set aside. Brush a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with butter.
- Place two sheets of the phyllo dough into the bottom of the buttered dish. Brush with more butter. Repeat this process three more times, so you are left with 8 sheets with phyllo dough. Sprinkle two heaped tablespoons of the chopped nuts on top, followed by two sheets of dough, and brush with butter. Repeat this process, until the remaining 6 sheets are left. Place those on top. Using a sharp knife, cut diamond shapes, leaving an inch from the bottom of the dish.
- Bake the baklava for around 45 minutes, until golden on top.
- While the baklava is baking, prepare the sugar syrup. In a small saucepan, combine your sugar and water. On medium heat, bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, remove from the heat and add in the maple syrup and extract. Place back on the heat and on low heat, let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Once the baklava is baked, pour the sugar syrup to cover it completely. Let it cool completely, beforeusing the knife again to cut to the very bottom of the baking dish, for the syrup to seep through. Top with crushed nuts and serve.
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