A Family Tradition- Greek Baklava!

The Baklava, fresh out of the oven

The Baklava, fresh out of the oven

When I first got married (many years ago!), I wanted to learn to make Baklava. You’ve probably tasted it at Greek food festivals or weddings. It’s a delicious, sweet cookie/dessert that’s been around for ages.

My Aunt KC gave me her recipe and I wrote it down. Since then, we’ve both made subtle changes to the original but the outcome is just as awesome.

The Recipe!

My historic original recipe!

Phyllo dough no longer comes in big sheets (in the Athens box!). I don’t use crushed zwieback any more. But this recipe is priceless to me. I had to finally place it in a plastic sleeve to keep it from falling apart. I don’t have the heart to discard my ancient piece of history so I am going to attempt to re-write my recipe here. If you’re comfortable handling phyllo dough, this recipe is a cinch. If you’re not so experienced with phyllo, give it a try anyway. Just keep moving so the dough doesn’t dry out.

Greek Baklava

1 lb. of walnuts, chopped between coarse and fine (not too fine!)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

15-20 sheets of phyllo – I use one tube of Athens phyllo dough, thawed in the fridge for a couple of days. Or you can thaw on the counter for a few hours.

8- 10 oz of butter (no margarine!)

9 x 13 glass (preferably) pan

Silicone basting brush

Syrup Ingredients

3 and 1/2 cups water

6 cups sugar

squeeze 1/2 lemon

1/2 orange, cut up in slices

1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Grind the nuts and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Lightly mix. Set aside.



Melt the butter over low heat. Be careful not to burn it or let it brown. Make an assembly line of sorts. Place a 9 x 13 (preferably glass) pan in front of you. Place your saucepan of melted butter and your brush above or next to you. Place the phyllo dough next to the pan. Start by laying 5-6 sheets of phyllo down in the pan, buttering each layer lightly.

My daughter Michelene making Baklava!

My daughter Michelene making Baklava!

Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture over the entire pan and smooth it out. Butter two more sheets of phyllo over the nuts (go slow or the dough will rip), another 1/3 of the nuts, two more sheets of phyllo, then the final layer of nuts.

First Layer of Nuts

First Layer of Nuts

Layer at least 5-6 more sheets of phyllo on top of the last layer of nuts, again buttering between each layer. I don’t saturate each phyllo layer, just a good light coating of butter. Do butter the top layer of phyllo very well.

Place the finished product in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. While it’s in there, pre heat your oven to 300 degrees.

After ten minutes the phyllo will be hardened. Take a good knife and score the baklava before you bake it. I like to do a diamond pattern (see the picture at the opening of this post). I achieve this by making four long lines, length wise across the pan. Then I start at the top left corner and slowly make diagonal cuts about an inch or less apart. Don’t think the phyllo will cut perfectly. It may give you a hard time but just keep at it, working slowly.

Tip: I don’t make my pieces too big. It’s perfect when you can eat one in two or three bites. You are welcome to make your pieces bigger!

Bake the baklava for about an hour. Keep an eye on it after 50 minutes. It will make your whole house smell wonderful. Pull it out of the oven when it is a medium golden brown. You don’t want it too dark.

Let the baklava cool completely (preferably over night). When you’re ready to syrup it, combine the water, sugar, lemon, orange and cinnamon and bring to a light boil. Boil the syrup for 10-15 minutes until it is slightly tacky.

Take the syrup off the heat and set a timer for 5 minutes to briefly cool it. After cooling, take a measuring scoop or soup ladle and fill it with syrup. Lightly pour the syrup over the baklava, going back and forth over the whole pan.

My original recipe calls for 2 cups of syrup per pan but that may be too much. I really just eye ball it. When the syrup comes about half way up the sides (an advantage to having a glass pan), that’s when I stop.

Let the baklava sit and absorb the syrup. Within a couple of hours, you should be able to cup it (use pretty cupcake liners- one piece per liner). Arrange a few in a pretty box or tin and what a gift. Or, arrange on a holiday platter and dazzle your guests.

A few tips:

I usually place a piece of aluminum foil over the pan after I syrup it. I don’t seal the foil yet. You don’t want an airtight seal until the syrup is absorbed. Later, you can seal the foil and this will keep it fresh.

Save the ends of the rows of baklava. They’re not great for presentation but they make a delicious topping for ice cream sundaes. 🙂 Don’t forget the honey or chocolate syrup drizzled on top!

The syrup recipe will make enough for 3 pans of baklava. If you don’t use it all, it makes a delicious simple syrup to use in your tea for the winter.

Resist the temptation to pour hot syrup over hot baklava. One should be hot and one should be cold. Cold baklava, hot syrup.

Baklava with Coffee

Baklava with Coffee

If you make my baklava, please let me know how it turns out. Happy Holidays!





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20 thoughts on “A Family Tradition- Greek Baklava!

  1. Brandi

    Best Christmas present yet!! I’ve always wanted to try to make baklava! Thank you for sharing! I couldn’t love the original recipe card any more, it’s a beautiful piece of history. Maybe you can frame it?

  2. Julie (aka Cookie)

    Ok Joanne–I’ve always loved good baklava—I once had some students from Pakistan whose their mom, who spoke no English, made baklava for a bake sale the art students once hosted—-I ate more than what I should have left to the sale, it was that good 😉
    I shall give this a-go once January rolls around and I have some time to tackle the phyllo dough 🙂
    Merry Christmas Joanne—and thanks for the recipe —
    big hugs—Julie

  3. Cindy

    Oh my, doesn’t get better than home-made Greek Baklava and coffee! Thanks for sharing this special receipe and family tradition, especially baking with your daughter. Those old used and eorn receipes are the best and most wonderful family keepsakes! I am going to try this! Reading this was making my mouth water! I usually buy some for Christmas, but I can’t imagine it being this good!

    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      It is definitely worth a try. You will love it. We make it every year and it never fails to gather loving comments. Good luck and best wishes for a happy holiday!
      xo Joanne

  4. Marylin Warner

    I’ve copied your recipe, Joanne, and on Tuesday evening my granddaughter and I are going to make our first batch of baklava together! Thanks for sharing this, and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  5. Michele

    Thank you for sharing your recipe. I love baklava and believe the first time I ever had it was at your moms house ! Oh those were the days Joanne ! We grew up in a great neighborhood and we had such great neighbors who shared their homes and traditions. What a loving gift!

    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      Hi Michele! I hope you decide to try making my baklava! We did grow up in such a great neighborhood. The older I get the more I appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to comment. xo Joanne


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