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For the Macedonian music group, see Baklava (band).
Baklava - Turkish special, 80-ply.JPEG
Baklava is prepared on large trays and cut into a variety of shapes
Type Dessert
Place of origin
Ottoman Empire
Region or state
Countries of the former Ottoman Empire, Western and Central Asia
Serving temperature
Cold, room temperature or re-warmed
Main ingredients
Phyllo dough, nuts, sweetening
Variations Multiple
Cookbook:Baklava  Baklava

Baklava (/ˈbɑːkləvɑː/, /bɑːkləˈvɑː/,[1] or /bəˈklɑːvə/;[2] Ottoman Turkish: باقلوا [bɑːklɑvɑː]; Arabic: بقلاوة) is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, but is also found in Central and Southwest Asia.


The word baklava is first attested in English in 1650,[3] a borrowing from Ottoman Turkish باقلوا /bɑːklɑvɑː/.[4][5] The name baklava is used in many languages with minor phonetic and spelling variations.

The origin of the name is disputed. The Turkish etymologist Sevan Nisanyan attest to the old Turkish origin (baklağı or baklağu) of the word baklava.[6] 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;[7] baγla- itself in Mongolian is a Turkic loanword.[8]

Though the suffix -vā might suggest a Persian origin,[9][10] the baqla- part does not appear to be Persian.[11] Another form of the word is also recorded in Persian, باقلبا (bāqlabā).[12]

The Arabic name is doubtless a borrowing from Turkish,[13] though a folk etymology, unsupported by Wehr's dictionary, connects it to Arabic بقلة /baqlah/ 'bean'.[dubious ]


Although the history of baklava is not well documented, there is evidence that its current form was developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul based on a Central Asian Turkic tradition of layered breads.[14]

The tradition of layered breads by Turkic peoples in Central Asia suggests the "missing link" between the Central Asian folded or layered breads (which did not include nuts) and modern phyllo-based pastries like baklava would be the Azerbaijani dish Bakı pakhlavası, which involves layers of dough and nuts. The Uzbek pakhlava, puskal or yupka, and Tatar yoka, sweet and salty savories (boreks) prepared with 10–12 layers of dough, are other early examples of layered dough style in Turkic regions.[13] The thin phyllo dough used today was probably developed in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace.

The Sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı.[15]

One of the oldest known recipes for a sort of proto-baklava is Güllaç, also found in Turkish cuisine. It consists of layers of phyllo 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 in a food and health manual written in 1330 that documented primarily Mongol-Turkic foods called Yinshan Zhengyao (飮膳正要), which was written by Husihui (忽思慧) who was a Turkic physician to the Mongol court of the Yuan dynasty[7]

Other theories about baklava's origins include:

  • That al-Baghdadi describes something similar to it in his 13th-century cookbook. Claudia Roden[16] finds no evidence for it in Arab or even medieval Persian sources and suggests it arrived in the region during the Ottoman period.
  • That baklava-like dishes were native to the urban cuisines of Anatolia and surrounding regions. Servants, including cooks, in the Ottoman Topkapı Palace were recruited from the native (pre-Turkic) non-Muslim inhabitants[clarification needed] of the empire through the devşirme system, and baked nut and honey based sweets were popular ancient desserts in the region. In fact, baklava may have also been a common Byzantine dessert.[17] Byzantine scholar Speros Vryonis describes koptoplakous (κοπτοπλακοῦς) as a "Byzantine favorite" and "the same as the Turkish baklava."[18] Other authors have also claimed that the koptoplakous dessert discussed by the ancient author Athenaios in book XIV his Deipnosophistae was similar to baklava.[19] The Homeric poet Hesiod refers to a "thin wrapped cake full of sesame and seeds" that is suggestive of baklava.[20] There are also similarities between baklava and the Ancient Greek gastris (γάστρις),[21] kopte sesamis (κοπτὴ σησαμίς), and kopton (κοπτόν).[22][23] (Gastris is said to have contained a filling of nuts and honey, while its outer layers were made of a honey and ground sesame mixture similar to modern pasteli or halva.[24]) There are classical antecedents for many other layered dough dishes similar to baklava, such as modern tyropita, which has as a classical antecedent Artemithoros' "plakountas tetyromenous."[25] Several other Ottoman sweets are similar to Byzantine sweets, combining dough, sesame, wheat, nuts and fruits, such as börek and halva.[18]


Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo dough,[26] separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, but hazelnuts are also sometimes used—is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. Most recipes have multiple layers of phyllo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry. "The Oxford Companion to Food states that filo pastry is a Turkish invention, although the word has entered Western vocabulary through the Greek language.[27]

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

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

Regional variations[edit]

In Turkey, baklava traditionally is made by filling between the layers of dough with pistachios, walnuts, almonds (parts of the Aegean Region) or a special preparation called "kaymak" (not to confuse with kaymak). In the Black Sea Region hazelnuts are commonly used as a filling for baklava.[28] The city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey is famous for its pistachio baklava and regarded there as its native city, though it only appears to have been introduced to Gaziantep from Damascus in 1871.[29] In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication for Antep Baklava,[30] and in 2013, Antep Baklavası or Gaziantep Baklavası was registered as a Protected Geographical Indication by the European Commission.[31]

In many parts of Turkey, baklava is often topped with kaymak or, in the summer, ice cream (milk cream flavour, called "kaymaklı dondurma").

In the Balkans, it is a popular dessert. It is also made on special occasions, especially by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr, and by Christians during Pascha and Christmas.

In Albania, the dough may include egg yolks,[dubious ] and the filling uses walnuts.[citation needed]

In Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia, baklava is made with walnuts and sugar syrup.

In Greece, baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life.[32]

In Armenia, paklava is made with cinnamon and cloves.[33]

In Azerbaijan, pakhlava is mostly prepared during the Nowruz festivity. After preparation the pakhlava is cut into diamond shapes and each piece is garnished with an almond or a walnut.

In Afghanistan and Cyprus, baklava is prepared into triangle-shaped pieces and is lightly covered in crushed pistachio nuts.

In Georgia, baklava is made with honey, sugar, walnuts, vanilla, butter, and sour cream.

In Iran, a drier version of baklava is cooked and presented in smaller diamond-shaped cuts flavored with rose water. The cities of Yazd and Qazvin are famous for their baklava, which is widely distributed in Iran.[34] Persian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds and pistachios spiced with cardamom and a rose water-scented syrup and is lighter than Middle Eastern versions.[9][35]

In Israel, baklava is made of phyllo pastry sheets, nuts, such as pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds, sweet butter, clove, sugar, cinammon, and the syrup combined with orange and lemon rind.[citation needed]

In Jordan, baklava is made of dough layers filled with nuts, such as pistachios, and sugar or honey syrup.[36]

In Lebanon, baklava is made of filo pastry filled with nuts and steeped in Attar syrup (orange or rose water or sugar) or honey. It is usually cut into triangular or diamond shapes.

In Syria, baklava is prepared from phyllo dough sheets, butter, walnuts and sugar syrup. It is cut into lozenge pieces.[37]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  2. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition
  4. ^ "Merriam-Webster Online, ''s.v.'' Baklava". Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  5. ^ " Unabridged, ''s.v.'' Baklava". Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Paul D. Buell, "Mongol Empire and Turkicization: The Evidence of Food and Foodways", p. 200ff, in Amitai-Preiss, 1999.
  8. ^ Sukhbaatar, O. (1997). A Dictionary of Foreign Words in Mongolian (PDF) (in Mongolian). Ulaanbaatar. p. 25. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  9. ^ a b Batmanglij, Najmieh, A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cooking, I.B.Tauris, 2007, ISBN 1-84511-437-X, 9781845114374; page 156.
  10. ^ Marks, Gil, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and Sons, 2010, ISBN 0-470-39130-8, ISBN 978-0-470-39130-3; page 38.
  11. ^ "a derivation from balg, a common dialect form of barg "leaf", or from Ar. baql "herb" is unlikely", W. Eilers, Encyclopædia Iranica, s.v. 'bāqlavā'
  12. ^ "Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary, باقلبا". Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  13. ^ a b Akın and Lambraki, Turkish and Greek Cuisine/Türk ve Yunan Mutfağı p. 248-249, ISBN 975-458-484-2
  14. ^ Perry 1994, 87
  15. ^ Syed Tanvir Wasti, "The Ottoman Ceremony of the Royal Purse", Middle Eastern Studies 41:2:193–200 (March 2005)
  16. ^ New Book of Middle Eastern Food, 2000, ISBN 0-375-40506-2
  17. ^ John Ash, A Byzantine Journey, page 223
  18. ^ a b Speros Vryonis The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, 1971, p. 482
  19. ^ "Food in Motion the Migration of Foodstuffs and Cookery Techniques from the Oxford Symposium on Food Cookery, Vol. 2, p. 184"
  20. ^ Homerica, "The Battle of Frogs and Mice"
  21. ^ γάστρις, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  22. ^ κοπτός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  23. ^ Deipnosophists 14:647, discussed by Charles Perry, "The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava", in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper), 1994. ISBN 1-86064-603-4. p. 88.
  24. ^ Charles Perry, "The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava", in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper), 1994. ISBN 1-86064-603-4.
  25. ^ "Food in Motion the Migration of Foodstuffs and Cookery Techniques" from the Oxford Symposium on Food Cookery, p. 184
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "What Is Baklava—and Where to Find the Best Baklava in Istanbul? – Witt Magazine". Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  29. ^ Esther Brunner, "A sweet journey: Güllüoğlu baklava" Turkish Daily News, June 14, 2008.full text
  30. ^ "Bsanna News, February 21, 2008". 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  31. ^ "Publication of an application pursuant to Article 50(2)(a) of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs". European Commission. 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2013-12-20. 
  32. ^ Theodore Kyriakou and Charles Campion, The Real Greek at Home, London 2004
  33. ^ The flower of paradise and other Armenian tales by Bonnie C. Marshall, Virginia A. Tashjian, Libraries Unlimited, 2007, p. 179, ISBN 1-59158-367-5
  34. ^ N. Ramazani, "BĀQLAVĀ", Encyclopaedia iranica, Volume 3, Issues 5–8, page 729.
  35. ^ Food and Booze: A Tin House Literary Feast, Michelle Wildgen, Nicole J. Georges, Tin House Books, 2007, ISBN 0-9773127-7-1, ISBN 978-0-9773127-7-1; page 200.
  36. ^ "1000Places : Photo Keywords : madaba : MADABA – A tray of Jordanian baklava—a pastry made of layers of dough filled with chopped nuts, mainly pistachios, and sweetened with sugar and honey syrup.". 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  37. ^ "Baklava recipe on Shahiya". Retrieved 2012-04-22. 


  • Reuven Amitai-Preiss and David O. Morgan, eds., The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy Brill, 1999. ISBN 90-04-11946-9.
  • Paul D. Buell, "Mongol Empire and Turkicization: The Evidence of Food and Foodways", p. 200ff, in Amitai-Preiss, 1999.
  • Christian, David. Review of Amitai-Preiss, 1999, in Journal of World History 12:2:476 (2001).
  • Perry, Charles. "The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava", in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper), 1994. ISBN 1-86064-603-4.
  • Roden Claudia, "A New Book of Middle Eastern Food" ISBN 0-14-046588-X
  • Vryonis, Speros, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, 1971. Quoted in Perry (1994).
  • Wasti, Syed Tanvir, "The Ottoman Ceremony of the Royal Purse", Middle Eastern Studies 41:2:193–200 (March 2005)

External links[edit]