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Traditional Serbian Baklava

20 minutes


24 - 26 pieces

Lets be real, baklava is one of those desserts that I once found very intimidating to make. Don’t get me wrong, I loved eating baklava as a child, but when I observed this beautiful dessert I would think how much effort, time and skill this would take to create! But then, last year, during the festive season I gave it a go. Turns out this Traditional Serbian Baklava recipe is surprisingly a simple dessert to put together. Nothing to fear afterall.

You will love this Traditional Serbian Baklava recipe! Flaky sheets of phyllo dough layered with walnuts and topped with a sweet, lemony syrup. It’s the perfect dessert for a family feast, holiday celebration or for anyone who needs a stash of something sweet in the fridge.

If you didn’t already know …

Baklava is a sweet dessert made of layers of flaky phyllo pastry filled with nuts and sweetened with a syrup of some kind.

Though the dessert is most often associated with Greek or Turkish restaurants, its exact origins aren’t really pinpointed to one particular country (not to my knowledge anyway). Some sources say that this recipe has origins in Armenia. The modern baklava that we know of today may have been invented in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire, and also modified in Greece. Since the Balkans were occupied by Turkey for roughly 500 years, it makes sense that this divine dessert made its way into our roots as well.

Each culture has their own variation or special tricks to their baklava, what I’m sharing with you here is my family’s Traditional Serbian Baklava recipe.

baklava slices

My tips for a great baklava

Usually when I try a recipe for the very first time, I tend to mess something up along the way. However, with a Baklava, you cant really go wrong. As long as you follow the actual recipe, all will go well. Also, the ingredients for this recipe are minimal which means less fuss. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Have all of your ingredients measured and prepared on the counter before starting the recipe.
  • Be careful not to grind the nuts too finely so that you end up with dust for your filling. You want to still be able to taste the nuts and enjoy their texture.
  • It’s important that the lemony/sugar syrup is cool when it hits the freshly-baked hot baklava. This way, the hot baklava layers will absorb as much of the syrup as possible. This is why making the syrup comes first.
  • When you’re working with the phyllo dough sheets, keep them covered with a damp tea towel so they don’t dry out while you’re working. Trust me, this is very important! Each time you take one sheet, immediately cover the rest with the towel again.
  • Make sure you brush every single sheet of phyllo dough with melted butter. This is also very important!
  • Cut the assembled baklava into pieces before baking. Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry into pieces. You will not be able to get nicely cut pieces of baklava after it has baked.
  • Once your baklava is ready, let it sit covered at room temperature for some time. Afterwards, leave the baklava in the fridge overnight. This allows the syrup to soak and soften the layers. For me, this Traditional Serbian Baklava tastes best when cold 😊.
traditional baklava

My take on baklava

Now, I like to think I know what a good baklava should taste like. After all, I am Serbian, which means I have attended many festive occasions so I have an idea on what a consistently good baklava tastes like. All this Traditional Serbian Baklava comes down to is some walnuts, pre-made phyllo pastry and a lemon/sugar syrup. It’s really not as scary as it looks, the ingredients are simple, the process is basic. Other Balkan countries may have a slightly different take but the two constants in all baklava recipes are phyllo dough and a sweet syrup. Everything else is up to interpretation. If you can put together a cake well enough on your own then this is a good next step in your baking journey.

The servings

It’s hard to determine how many servings this recipe yields because you don’t know how many pieces of baklava a person will eat. It also depends on how you cut the baklava, and the size or shape of the pan. My pan yields about 24 baklavas. Yours will vary and that is perfectly okay! Not all baklavas are exact.


I have to say …

One thing this dessert should not be is – dry!

You have no idea how many times I have brought baklava here in New Zealand and what I got was a very dry pastry. This is a bit of a contrast to how I have grown up eating baklava.

For me, nothing rivals homemade baklava. The texture of flaky phyllo pastry. The crunchy nutty filling. And the warm lemon sugar syrup. It is exactly how this dessert should be.

 The syrup is the part of the recipe that you may wish to skip as it does have a lot of sugar but please don’t! The syrup is what makes this dessert truly fabulous! All baklavas have some type of syrup, you simply cannot make a baklava without one.

Besides, after having one or two pieces your cravings will be truly satisfied! I like to have mine with a strong cup of coffee and I am in heaven 😊!

baklava slices

Making baklava at home may seem like an overwhelming task but trust me, it’s easier than you think. Take it from someone who use to see this dessert as the most complicated dish on earth! I hope this recipe helps you to make a delicious baklava at home from scratch.

Craving more phyllo recipes? Try this Gibanica – Serbian Cheese Pie as a savory treat!

Did you make this recipe?

All families have their own recipe, this Traditional Serbian Baklava is just one. If you have an interesting take on baklava, feel free to leave a comment below! You can also reach out over on Instagram and tag me with your creation of this Baklava.



Adjust Servings
500ml water
500g caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon
50g phyllo pastry sheets
500g ground walnuts
100g caster sugar
100g melted butter (for brushing)


For the syrup
Make the syrup by combining the water, sugar and lemon juice in a pot. Boil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Mixing occasionally. Remove and let cool.
Mark as complete
To prepare
In a food processor, blend the walnuts until they become grounded. Then, in a bowl, mix the grounded walnuts with 100 g sugar. Set aside. Melt 100 g butter over low heat and set aside.
On a wooden board or clean surface, lay out the phyllo sheets and cover with a clean wet cloth. It is very important to keep the phyllo sheets covered with a wet towel throughout the whole process. If the phyllo sheets are larger than pan, cut the sides until it fits into your baking tray perfectly. Preheat the oven to 180°C & prepare a baking tray by greasing it generously with some butter.
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Making the baklava
Layer 4 phyllo sheets on the bottom of the baking pan, brushing each with butter before adding the next layer on top. Grab a generous handful (roughly 3 tbsp.) of the nut mixture and sprinkle evenly over the sheets. Place 1 sheets on top of the mixture, brush with butter before adding the next handful of walnuts. Repeat this process until you have only 3 phyllo sheets left. Add the 3 remaining phyllo sheets as the top layers, buttering two of the sheets before adding the last one. Do not butter the very last sheet - yet. Wait to butter the top sheet until you cut the baklava. If you were to grease the last sheet, it would be very difficult to make straight cuts. Carefully cut baklava into slices. Using a sharp knife, make straight cuts parallel to the long edge of the pan. Hold down the pastry gently as you cut, and use a rocking motion so the pastry does not drag out of place. Then make diagonal cuts running from one corner of the pan all the way to the opposite corner to create diamond shapes. You can also cut the baklava into square pieces, this is also a common shape.
Lastly, gently butter that last layer of phyllo. Place on medium rack and bake at 180°C for 30 - 35 minutes or until the top layers start turning a golden brown colour. Depending on your oven you may want to check on the baklava to ensure it does not over bake or under bake.
Mark as complete
Adding the syrup
Once the baklava is ready, take the pan out of the oven. Using a ladle, pour the syrup generously over the baklava. Make sure that you get all parts of the baklava, even the corners. This will ensure that the baklava is moist.
Cover the pan with some foil or a kitchen towel and leave this to cool. Then place in the fridge overnight so that the baklava can soak up the syrup (this is the best part!).
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To serve
Serve the following day (with a strong cup of coffee 😃) or a refreshing drink. Sprinkle with some extra walnuts on top or some cut out lemon rounds on top if you wish.
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Storage: Baklava will keep well for up to 2 weeks stored in an air-tight glass container in the fridge. You can also freeze baklava for up to a few months. Thaw frozen baked baklava in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
Let the baklava sit before serving: Make sure baklava sits cools completely before serving. Baklava is even better the next day when it's had time to absorb the syrup.

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