AskDefine | Define baklava

Dictionary Definition

baklava n : rich Middle Eastern cake made of thin layers of flaky pastry filled with nuts and honey

User Contributed Dictionary




  • The word baklava itself is derived from Arabic , based on an Arabic word for nuts.


  1. defn English

Alternative spellings




baklava s (p: baklave)
  1. baklava (dessert)



  1. baklava (dessert)




baklava s (p: baklave)
  1. baklava (dessert)

Cyrillic spelling



  1. baklava

Extensive Definition

Baklava or baklawa is a rich, sweet pastry featured in many cuisines of the former Ottoman countries. It is a pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped walnuts or pistachios and sweetened with syrup or honey.
Gaziantep, a city in Turkey, is famous for its baklava and, in Turkey, is widely regarded as the native city of the dessert. In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication certificate for Antep Baklava.
Baklava was chosen to represent Cyprus in the presentation Sweet Europe of the cultural initiative Café Europe in 2006.


The history of baklava is not well-documented; but although it has been claimed by many ethnic groups, the best evidence is that it is of Central Asian Turkic origin, with its current form being developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace.
Vryonis (1971) identified the ancient Greek gastris, kopte, kopton, or koptoplakous, mentioned in the Deipnosophistae, as baklava, and calls it a "Byzantine favorite". However, Perry (1994) shows that though gastris contained a filling of nuts and honey, it did not include any dough; instead, it involved a honey and ground sesame mixture similar to modern pasteli or halva.
Perry then assembles evidence to show that layered breads were created by Turkic peoples in Central Asia and argues that the "missing link" between the Central Asian folded or layered breads (which did not include nuts) and modern phyllo-based pastries like baklava is the Azerbaijani dish Bakı pakhlavası, which involves layers of dough and nuts. The traditional Uzbek 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.
The thin phyllo dough as used today was probably developed in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace. Indeed, the sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı.
Other claims about its origins include: that it is of Assyrian origin, dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and was mentioned in a Mesopotamian cookbook on walnut dishes; that al-Baghdadi describes it in his 13th-century cookbook; that it was a popular Byzantine dessert. But Claudia Roden and Andrew Dalby find no evidence for it in Arab, Greek, or Byzantine sources before the Ottoman period.
One of the oldest known recipes for a sort of proto-baklava is found in a Chinese cookbook written in 1330 under the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty under the name güllach (Buell, 1999). "Güllaç" is found in Turkish cuisine. Layers of phyllo dough 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 word baklava entered English from Turkish; it is sometimes connected with the Arabic word for "bean" (بقلة /baqlah/), but Wehr's dictionary lists them as unrelated. Akın and Lambraki state that the word baklava entered into Arabic from Turkish. Buell (1999) 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. Baklava is found in many cuisines, with minor phonetic variations on the name.



  • 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, op.cit.
  • Christian, David. Review of Amitai-Preiss, op.cit., 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 01-404658-8
  • 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

baklava in Tosk Albanian: Baklava
baklava in Arabic: بقلاوة
baklava in Bengali: বাক্‌লাভা
baklava in Bosnian: Baklava
baklava in Bulgarian: Баклава
baklava in Catalan: Baklava
baklava in Danish: Baklava
baklava in German: Baklava
baklava in Modern Greek (1453-): Μπακλαβάς
baklava in Spanish: Baklava
baklava in Persian: باقلوا
baklava in French: Baklava
baklava in Korean: 바크라와
baklava in Indonesian: Baklava
baklava in Italian: Baklava
baklava in Hebrew: בקלווה
baklava in Hungarian: Baklava
baklava in Dutch: Baklava
baklava in Japanese: バクラヴァ
baklava in Polish: Bakława
baklava in Russian: Пахлава
baklava in Albanian: Bakllava
baklava in Serbian: Баклава
baklava in Finnish: Baklava
baklava in Swedish: Baklava
baklava in Turkish: Baklava
baklava in Ukrainian: Баклава
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