This walnut and pistachio vegan baklava is sweet, sticky and perfect for snacking on. Layers of filo pastry, a filling of cinnamon and crushed nuts, and a homemade sticky agave nectar syrup topping. No honey needed!
If you’ve been wanting to try making your own dairy-free baklava but have been too scared to, here’s your sign to do it!
I have LOVED baklava ever since the first time I tried it at a German Christmas market in my hometown a few years ago. The sweet, sticky goodness coupled with nuts and spices… it’s just so delicious.
When I’m lucky enough to find a honey-free, dairy-free baklava in the shops, I make sure to stock up. Unfortunately, that is becoming quite rare these days so I thought I’d make my own!
I have been thinking about making baklava for the blog for a few months now. The reason that I didn’t make it sooner is because it seemed like an extremely difficult recipe.
I’m happy to report that vegan baklava is quite an easy recipe! The most difficult part is having the patience to layer several individual sheets of filo dough and brush them with (vegan) butter.
Aside from that though, all you need to do is make some simple agave syrup and mix some crushed nuts with cinnamon. So I encourage you to give this recipe a go and not to be afraid!
What is baklava?
Baklava is a pastry dessert made with thin layers of filo pastry. It’s filled with nuts and is topped with a sweet, sticky syrup.
I’m not 100% sure where baklava originated from. I know there’s a Syrian version and a Lebanese version, but it’s mainly known as a Turkish and/or a Greek dessert to us folks in the UK. Rumour has it that it was created in Turkey then later modified by the Greek.
Greek baklava is typically made with walnuts, cinnamon and cloves, and is covered with a honey syrup. Turkish baklava on the other hand, is usually made with pistachio nuts, although it is sometimes made with walnuts or a mix of the two. Turkish baklava is made with a sugar syrup that is sometimes flavoured with orange blossom or rose water.
As you can tell, there are many ways to make this tasty dessert. I am neither Turkish nor Greek (nor Syrian or Lebanese) and therefore, any type of baklava I make is not likely to be a 100% authentic recipe.
Instead of opting for a specific type, and possibly offending many people and cultures, I made somewhat of a hybrid of Turkish and Greek vegan baklava. I used the “honey” syrup (agave is a great vegan alternative) and used a mix of walnuts and pistachios for my filling. I also added cinnamon, because I love it in baklava, and I omitted the cloves because I didn’t have any to hand.
Is baklava vegan?
Sometimes, yes but in many cases, no. Homemade baklava or the type you’ll find at food markets is usually made with honey.
The ready-made, shop-bought baklava is typically made without honey, but I’ve found that most of the time now, it contains some type of dairy. There are still a few dairy-free exceptions out there though so be sure to check the ingredients if you ever come across some in the shops!
Luckily, making your own vegan baklava is as simple as omitting the honey and using a filo pastry that’s dairy-free (which is most of the ready-rolled ones in my experience). And as I mentioned earlier in this post, using agave nectar instead of honey for the syrup.
I used Theos Filo pastry to make this recipe. I cut the sheets in half so I only needed 1 pack. Please note that the amount of sheets/filo leaves in each pack will vary, so I’d recommend getting 2 packs to be on the safe side. If you end up not needing it, you can make a second batch at a later date.
Some other vegan filo pastry brands are:
Equipment you’ll need:
- An 8×10-inch tin that’s at least 3-inches deep. I don’t recommend using a different size of tin as this will affect the baking time and the amount of ingredients required.
- A pastry brush. These are available from most supermarkets and are quite cheap.
- A food processor or high-power blender, to grind up the nuts finely.
More sweet vegan pastry recipes:
How to make vegan baklava
Before making this recipe, remove 250g of filo pastry from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least two hours. Do not remove it from the packaging until you’re ready to use it. Allowing the pastry dough to come to room temperature will prevent it from tearing so easily.
Add 350g of nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts and pistachios) into a food processor or high-power blender. Pulse until finely chopped.
Add the nuts to a bowl and mix in 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. This will be the baklava filling- set it aside for now.
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F (or 160°C/325°F if you’re using a fan or convection oven).
While the oven is preheating, prepare your agave sugar syrup.
To a small saucepan, add 180ml cold water, 180g of caster sugar, 150g of agave nectar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Turn the heat to medium-high and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Turn the heat down slightly until the mixture is just gently bubbling, then leave to simmer for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.
You don’t need a thermometer for this syrup as it’s pretty fool-proof. It will still look quite runny when you remove it from the heat but will firm up and become gooier as it cools. The great thing about preparing the syrup first is that you’ll have time to place it back on the heat again if it’s still super runny once cold.
Run a clean dishcloth under some water and wring out the excess. You want it to be slightly damp but not wet.
Remove the filo dough from the packaging and cut the sheets to fit an 8×10-inch tin. Place the sheets under the damp cloth for now, and keep them under there while you work. This is important, otherwise the filo will dry out and crack.
Melt 150g of dairy-free butter in the microwave. Using a pastry brush, brush some butter over the bottom of your baking tin.
Add a sheet of filo dough and brush it with the melted dairy-free butter. Add 9 more sheets of filo, brushing with butter as you go, so that you have 10 sheets total in your tin.
Pour half of the nutty cinnamon filling on top of the dough and spread it out evenly.
Add 10 more filo sheets on top of the filling, brushing with melted butter as you go.
Sprinkle over the rest of the filling, and add 10 more buttered sheets on top. Brush the top layer with melted butter too.
Save a small amount of the nuts to sprinkle over the baklava after baking.
Cut the unbaked baklava into small diamonds or squares in the tin.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Pour your syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven. Top with more nuts if desired.
Let it sit at room temperature, uncovered, overnight or for at least 5 hours. This is the hardest part but I promise, it’s worth the wait!
Once you’ve let it set fully, baklava slices can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days. You can keep it in the fridge if you prefer but the pastry will stay crispier if you store it at room temperature.
Yes. Once cooled, dairy-free baklava can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the tin loosely in tin foil or plastic wrap before freezing. When you’re ready to eat it, let it sit at room temperature for a few hours until completely thawed. Do not refreeze. I haven’t tried baking the baklava from frozen yet so I’m unsure if this works.
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoy this honey-free baklava recipe. If you make it at home, please let me know how you get on by leaving a comment and/or rating below. Happy baking! xo
Vegan Baklava (Pistachio and Walnut)
Dairy-free baklava without honey! Layers of crispy filo pastry with a lightly spiced, nutty filling and sweet syrup topping.
- 250 g Ready-rolled filo pastry dough (~9oz) left out at room temperature for at least 2 hours beforehand
- 150 g Vegan butter (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) I recommend a block-style vegan butter, not a margarine.
- 350 g Nuts (12oz) I used a mixture of pistachios and walnuts
- 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
- 180 ml Cold water (¾ cup)
- 180 g Caster sugar (¾ cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 150 g Agave nectar (~½ a cup)
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
Add the nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse until fine. Place them in a large bowl with the cinnamon and mix well. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F (or 160°C/325°F if you're using a fan or convection oven).
While the oven is preheating, prepare your syrup. Add the water, sugar, agave nectar and vanilla extract to a saucepan. Heat on medium-high until the mixture is boiling and the sugar has dissolved.
Turn down the heat to medium and leave the mixture on a gentle simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove it from the heat and set aside to cool. It'll look a bit runny but will become gooey as it cools.
Dampen a clean dish cloth and wring out excess water (it should be lightly damp, not wet). Unwrap the filo dough and cut it to fit an 8×10-inch tin. I cut mine in half then cut a little extra from the edges.
Place the filo sheets under the damp cloth, which will prevent them from drying out as you work.
Melt the vegan butter and let it sit for a minute or two until it's cooled slightly. Use a pastry brush to brush some butter over the bottom of your tin.
Add one sheet of filo dough to your tin and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat with 9 more sheets of dough, brushing each one with butter as you go. You'll have 10 sheets total in the tin.
Sprinkle half of the filling over the dough and spread it out evenly.
Add 10 more sheets of filo dough on top of the filling, brushing each one with butter.
Sprinkle over the remaining filling and top with 10 more buttered filo sheets. Brush the top one with butter too.
Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into diamond-shaped slices, then bake for 50-55 minutes. You'll know it's ready when it's golden brown all over.
As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup on top. Sprinkle over some extra nuts if desired.
Let it sit at room temperature uncovered overnight, or for at least 5 hours, before enjoying. This will give the pastry time to absorb the syrup properly.
- Store cooled baklava in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.
- Ready-rolled filo pastry is almost always vegan but make sure to double check before buying.
- Syrup adapted from this recipe.