Pistachio baklava from Gaziantep, Turkey
Place of originOttoman Empire
Serving temperatureCold, room temperature or re-warmed
Main ingredientsFilo pastry, nuts, syrup

Baklava (/bɑːkləˈvɑː, ˈbɑːkləvɑː/[1] or /bəˈklɑːvə/[2]) is a layered dessert made of filo pastry sheets, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey.

There are many competing proposals for the origin of baklava, but there is no consensus on which of the options is true.[3][4] In modern times, it is common in Greek, Iranian, Arab, Turkish, Levantine, and Maghrebi cuisine, as well as in the cuisines of South Caucasus, Balkans, and Central Asia.


The word baklava is first attested in English in 1650,[5] a borrowing from Ottoman Turkish: باقلاوه /bɑːklɑvɑː/.[6][7] The name baklava is used in many languages with minor phonetic and spelling variations. The earliest known reference to baklava is in a poem by the 15th century mystic Kaygusuz Abdal.[8]

The historian Paul D. Buell argues that the word baklava may come from the Mongolian root baγla- 'to tie, wrap up, pile up' composed with the Turkic verbal ending -v;[9] baγla- itself in Mongolian is a Turkic loanword.[10] The lexicographer Sevan Nişanyan considers its oldest known forms (pre-1500) to be baklağı and baklağu, and labels it as being of Proto-Turkic origin.[11] Another form of the word is also recorded in Persian, باقلبا (bāqlabā).[12] Though the suffix -vā might suggest a Persian origin,[13][14] the baqla- part does not appear to be Persian and remains of unknown origin.[15] The linguist Tuncer Gülensoy states that the origin of baklava is bakl-ı (feed) in proto-Turkish and suffixes -la-ğı are added. The word changes as bakılağı > bakılavı > baklava.[16]

The Arabic name بقلاوة baqlāwa originates from Turkish.[17]

In Azerbaijani, Balqabaq means sweet pumpkin, which Baqlava is derived from, to show its sweetness.


The three main proposals for the roots of baklava are the Greek placenta cake,[18] the Medieval Arab/Persian lauzinaj,[19] and the Central Asian Turkic tradition of layered breads.[20] There are also claims attributing baklava to the Assyrians, according to which baklava was prepared by them in the 8th century BC.[21]

There are also some similarities between baklava and the Ancient Greek desserts gastris (γάστρις),[22] kopte sesamis (κοπτὴ σησαμίς), and kopton (κοπτόν) found in book XIV of the Deipnosophistae.[23][24] However, the recipe there is for a filling of nuts and honey, with a top and bottom layer of honey and ground sesame similar to modern pasteli or halva, and no dough, certainly not a flaky dough.[25]

Another recipe for a similar dessert is güllaç, a dessert found in Turkish cuisine and considered by some as the origin of baklava.[26] It consists of layers of filo dough that are put one by one in warmed up milk with sugar. It is served with walnut and fresh pomegranate and generally eaten during Ramadan. The first known documentation of güllaç is attested in a food and health manual, written in 1330 that documents Mongol foods called Yinshan Zhengyao (飮膳正要, Important Principles of Food and Drink), written by Hu Sihui, an ethnic Mongol court dietitian of the Yuan dynasty.[9]

Although the history of baklava is not well documented, its current form was probably developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace in Constantinople (modern Istanbul).[20][27] The Sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı.[19][28][29]

Placenta cake theory

Many claim that the placenta, and therefore likely baklava derived from a recipe from Ancient Greece.[30] Homer's Odyssey, written around 800 BC, mentions thin breads sweetened with walnuts and honey.[30] In the fifth century BC, Philoxenos states in his poem "Dinner" that, in the final drinking course of a meal, hosts would prepare and serve cheesecake made with milk and honey that was baked into a pie.[31]

The word "placenta" originally comes from the Greek language plakous (πλακοῦς), which means something "flat and broad".[32][33] An early Greek language mention of plakous as a dessert (or second table delicacy) comes from the poems of Archestratos. He describes plakous as served with nuts or dried fruits and commends the honey-drenched Athenian version of plakous.[34] Antiphanes, a contemporary of Archestratos, provided an ornate description of plakous:[34][35]

The streams of the tawny bee, mixed with the curdled river of bleating she-goats, placed upon a flat receptacle of the virgin daughter of Demeter [honey, cheese, flour], delighting in ten thousand delicate toppings – or shall I simply say plakous?

I'm for plakous.

— Antiphanes quoted by Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, 3rd century[36]

In the Byzantine Empire, the traditional placenta cake (known as "koptoplakous", κοπτοπλακοῦς), a dish similar to baklava, was consumed.[37][38][39] The earliest known detailed recipe for placenta, from the 2nd century BC, is a honey-covered baked layered-dough dessert which food historian Patrick Faas identifies as the origin of baklava.[18][40]

Historian Andrew Dalby speculates as to why Cato's section on bread and cakes, which he describes as "recipes in a Greek tradition", are included in De Agricultura: "Possibly Cato included them so that the owner and guests might be entertained when visiting the farm; possibly so that proper offerings might be made to the gods; more likely, I believe, so that profitable sales might be made at a neighbouring market."[41]

Cato's original recipe for placenta follows:

Shape the placenta as follows: place a single row of tracta along the whole length of the base dough. This is then covered with the mixture [cheese and honey] from the mortar. Place another row of tracta on top and go on doing so until all the cheese and honey have been used up. Finish with a layer of tracta. ... place the placenta in the oven and put a preheated lid on top of it ... When ready, honey is poured over the placenta.

— Cato the Elder, De Agri Cultura 160 BC[18]

According to a number of scholars, koptoplakous (κοπτοπλακοῦς) was a precursor to the modern baklava.[18][42][43] Historian Speros Vryonis describes koptoplakous as a "Byzantine favorite" and "the same as the Turkish baklava",[44] as do other writers.[32] The name (Greek: πλατσέντα) is used today on the island of Lesbos for thin layered pastry leaves with crushed nuts, baked, and covered in syrup.[45][46]


Main article: Lauzinaj

Baklava is a common dessert in modern Arab cuisines, but the Arabic language cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh, compiled by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq in the 10th-century, does not contain any recipe for baklava.[47] Its recipe for lauzinaj refers to small pieces of almond paste wrapped in very thin pastry ("as thin as grasshoppers' wings") and drenched in syrup.[48] Some writers say this is dessert that most closely resembles the modern baklava.[49] Charles Perry, however, has written that "it was not much like baklava".[50]

There are similar recipes for lauzinaj in the 13th-century Kitab al-Tabikh by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi. Written in 1226 in today's Iraq, the cookbook was based on an earlier collection of 9th century Persian-inspired recipes.[19] According to Gil Marks, Middle Eastern pastry makers later developed the process of layering the ingredients.[19]


Large baking sheets are used for preparing baklava.
Baklava cut in a lozenge shape

Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of filo dough,[51] separated with melted butter and vegetable oil, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, but hazelnuts and almonds are also sometimes used—is placed on top, then more layers of filo. Most recipes have multiple layers of filo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry.

Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelograms (lozenge-shaped), triangles, diamonds or rectangles. After baking, a syrup, which may include honey, rosewater, or orange flower water is poured over the cooked baklava and allowed to soak.

Baklava is usually served at room temperature, and is often garnished with ground nuts.

Regional variations


Algerian baklawa served during Eid

Baklava in Algeria is called Baklawa (Arabic: بقلاوة, Tifinagh: ⴱⴰⴽⵍⴰⴹⴰ). In most Algerian regions, Baklava is the centerpiece of any sweets table. This type of Baklava originates in the Algerian city of Constantine. The Algerian Baklava is distinct in that filo dough is not used. Instead, they use another type of thin dough called malsouka or warqa and instead of walnuts or pistachios they use almonds.[52][53][54][55]

Like other forms of baklava, the layered pastry is cut into diamond-shaped pieces and has one almond placed on top of each piece before being baked. It is then soaked in a syrup of honey, sugar, and lemon juice.[56][57][58]


Syrian baklawa

In Syrian cuisine, baklava (Arabic: البقلاوة, Syriac: ‎ܒܩܠܘܐ) is a dessert mostly served on special occasions like Eid al-Fitr, or Syrian Christmas.[59] It is made of 24 layers of buttered phyllo dough, a filling of either chopped pistachios or chopped walnuts (walnuts are preferred) and a syrup consisting of sugar, orange blossom water, and lemon juice.[60] Syrian baklava comes in many shapes, but the diamond shape is the most common one.[61] A Syrian baklava recipe was introduced to the Turkish city of Gaziantep in 1871 by Çelebi Güllü, who had learned the recipe from a chef in the city of Damascus which transformed into the Gaziantep baklava we know today.[62]


Armenian pakhlava

Armenian baklava, known in Armenian as pakhlava (Armenian: Փախլավա) is made of layers of phyllo dough, a filling of cinnamon-spiced chopped walnuts, and a syrup made from cloves, cinnamon, lemon juice, sugar and water.[63][64] It is diamond-shaped and often has either one hazelnut, almond, or half a walnut placed on each piece.[65] It is often served at special occasions like Armenian Christmas or Armenian Easter.[66][67]

Armenian baklava has some variations on how many phyllo layers are supposed to be used. One variation uses 40 sheets of dough to align with the 40 days of Lent Jesus spent in the desert where he fasted.[68][69][70] Another variation is similar to the Greek style of baklava, which is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Jesus's life.[71]

The city of Gavar makes Its own version of baklava. It is made with 25 dough layers, has a filling of cleaned and dried chopped walnuts, sugar and a syrup that is poured over the finished baklava consisting of honey and flowers.[72][73] This type of baklava used to be prepared in the then-Armenian city of Bayazet, but the people living there immigrated to Gavar and surrounding regions in 1830.[74]


Azerbaijani paxlava

Azerbaijani baklava (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan paxlavası) is made mostly for special occasions (like Nowruz).[75][76][77] Pastry, cardamom, and saffron are used for the preparation. Nuts (mostly hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts) and sugar are used as the filling, and syrup is used as a sweetener.[78] Ethnic groups native to different regions (like Lezgins and Tat people) have contributed to some regional variations.[79][80][81]


A tray of baklava in Kosovo

In Bosnian cuisine, Ružice is the name of the regional variant of baklava.[89]

Baklava also exists in Romanian cuisine, being known as baclava in Romanian. It is one of the most preferred desserts among Romanians together with the Kanafeh (cataif) and the sarailia. In Romania, some Turkish pastry shops that sell baklava have notable popularity. They are common in the south and southeast of the country, but some also exist in its east.[90] In Bulgaria, baklava is very popular during the winter holiday season, when people have it for dessert after dinner.


Greek baklava with walnuts

In Greek cuisine, walnuts are more common than pistachios, and the dessert is flavored with cinnamon. Greek baklava (Greek: Μπακλαβάς) comes in many regional guises, with different names such as samousades, zournadakia, and masourakia. Generally speaking, in southern Greece baklava is mostly made with chopped almonds and in the north with walnuts. Some recipes use hazelnuts, sesame or raisins.[91] The syrup is made of sugar, honey, water, cinnamon and orange or lemon zest.[92][93] Greek baklava is supposed to be made with 33 filo dough layers, referring to the years of Jesus's life.[94]

On the island of Lesbos in Greece a type of baklava is still known as placenta (Greek: πλατσέντα), which is the name of an Ancient Greek pastry that is often seen as the predecessor of baklava. The latter is a baked dessert with very thinly made pastry layers and chopped nuts. The base for this modern placenta is made with leaves of filo dough, and nuts stacked upon each other. After baking, it is soaked in a simple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.[95][96][97]


Photo of baklava on wooden dish, garnished with pistachios
Yazdi baklava

Iranian baklava (Persian: باقلوا) is less crisp and uses less syrup than other baklava variations.[98] The cities of Yazd, Tabriz, Qazvin, Kashan and the Gilan province are famous for their baklava variations, which are widely distributed in Iran.[99][100][101][102] Iranian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts and pistachios spiced with saffron, cardamom or jasmine. For the syrup, rose water, lemon juice, sugar, honey, and water are used.[103][104] Iranian baklava may be cut into diamonds or squares.[105] When it is finished it is often garnished with chopped pistachios, rose petals, jasmine or coconut powder depending on the region.[106]


Gaziantep baklava

In Turkish cuisine, baklava is traditionally filled with pistachios, walnuts or almonds (in some parts of the Aegean Region). In the Black Sea Region hazelnuts are commonly used as a filling for baklava.[107] Hazelnuts are also used as a filling for the Turkish dessert Sütlü Nuriye, a lighter version of the dessert which substitutes milk for the simple syrup used in traditional baklava recipes.[108]

Şöbiyet is a variation that includes kaymak[109] as the filling, in addition to the traditional nuts.[110] The city of Gaziantep in south-central Turkey is famous for its baklava made from locally grown pistachios,[111] often served with kaymak cream. The dessert was introduced to Gaziantep in 1871 by Çelebi Güllü, who had learned the recipe from a chef in Damascus.[112] In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication for Antep Baklava,[113] and in 2013, Antep Baklavası or Gaziantep Baklavası was registered as a Protected Geographical Indication by the European Commission.[114] Gaziantep baklava is the first Turkish product to receive a protected designation from the European Commission.[115]

Uzbek and Tatar

Uzbek cuisine has pakhlava, puskal or yupka or in Tatar yoka, which are sweet and salty savories (börekler) prepared with 10–12 layers of dough.[17] In Crimean Tatar cuisine, the pakhlava is their variant of baklava.[116]


There are many variants in Maghrebi cuisine as well.[117]


See also


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General references