Every country has its own typical desserts. France is known for croissants, Italy for gelato, and Portugal for its delicious pastel de nata. But there is another incredibly popular dessert that will make your mouth water, baklava!
These massively caloric pastries are extremely popular in the Middle East and Greece but can now be found all over the world. But are they vegan?
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What is baklava?
The debate on where baklava originated is still open, with some people claiming it was invented in Istanbul, others believing it has Persian or Mongolian origins, and others firmly convinced that it derives from some old Roman, Turkish, or Persian cake.
Regardless of its origins, baklava is a delicious dessert consisting of layers of filo dough divided by freshly chopped nuts and topped with a cascade of sweet syrup. But can baklava be enjoyed by vegans?
Is baklava vegan?
Unfortunately, we have bad news for you. The original baklava recipe contains several non-vegan ingredients, making this dessert unsuitable for a whole-plant diet. But, don’t despair.
Thanks to the rise of veganism, today you will find several brands selling vegan baklava in several countries. If instead, you prefer to save some money, you can also make your own!
Below you will find our recipe for the perfect vegan baklava, but first, there are a few extra points we still need to discuss.
Non-vegan ingredients in baklava
Ok, so we established that baklava is not vegan. But what are its animal-derived ingredients?
- Butter: Unfortunately, most baklava recipes baste their filo dough layers in butter.
- Egg Wash: Egg wash is a liquid made from beaten eggs and a little bit of either water, milk, or cream. This ingredient is often used for desserts as it is added on top of baked pastries before inserting them in the oven. Egg wash is present in most baklava recipes.
- Honey: Honey is another key ingredient in traditional baklava. In fact, this dessert is often topped with a generous amount of honey syrup.
- Filo dough: Filo dough is typically made from flour, water, and oil or butter. When oil is used in the dough, there is no problem and the final result can be enjoyed by both vegans and non-vegans alike. However, when butter is used, baklava immediately becomes unsuitable for vegans.
Other extra ingredients to check out at the store
The ingredients above are the main ones you should watch out for when buying baklava in a bakery. However, if you’re buying your baklava from a supermarket, there are a few extra ingredients you should pay attention to.
- White sugar: Unfortunately, white sugar is not always vegan. In fact, its manufacturing process includes an animal-derived ingredient, bone chart. This is often used to give sugar its white color.
- Glycerine/glycerol: Used in a variety of products, this ingredient can be both derived from plants and from animals. If the label states ‘vegetarian glycerine’ then there’s no reason to worry. Otherwise, you may want to contact the company to double-check.
- Artificial flavors: Unfortunately, there is no way to know whether artificial flavors were or were not extracted from animal products. When in doubt, always contact the manufacturer.
- L-cysteine: Even though it is rarely derived from animals, this amino acid can also be extracted from animal hair or feathers. Often used in bread and other products, it is always better to avoid it when possible.
Vegan substitutes for homemade baklava
The list of non-vegan ingredients in baklava seems quite long, but if you’ve paid close attention, you probably realized that making vegan-friendly baklava is not that difficult after all. Even though the original recipe has butter, egg wash, and honey, none of these ingredients is fundamental. So, how can you make baklava from the comfort of your apartment?
The key is to simply replace every animal-derived product with a vegan variant. A few examples?
- Instead of butter, opt for vegan butter. Today there are plenty of options available in most supermarkets so it won’t be too difficult for you to find a substitute.
- When it comes to honey, the answer is simple. Just use your favorite syrup. The options are endless. You can opt for agave syrup, date syrup, maple syrup, and many others.
But how can you make baklava from scratch?
Our vegan baklava recipe
Let’s start by making the syrup. You can easily do so by simmering a cup of water, a cup of sugar (make sure not to use white sugar), and half a cup of your favorite syrup. Let it cook until you reach the perfect texture and then let it get cold.
It’s now time for our nut mix. Traditionally, the Turkish baklava version uses pistachios, while the Greek one has walnuts, but you can put whatever nuts you want. Walnuts, pistachios, cashews, Brazilian nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, just get creative! Use a food processor to blend everything together and, if you want, add some sugar and cinnamon to the mix. It’s now time to assemble our baklava.
Put some vegan butter on the bottom of your casserole and then add eleven sheets of filo dough (most filo dough on the market are vegan, but make sure to double-check.). Time to add half of your nut mix and then repeat the whole process again. Eleven layers of filo dough and the other half of your nut mix (save some for the topping). Add the final eleven layers of filo dough and here you are, your baklava is almost ready!
Traditionally, bakers add a thin layer of butter between each sheet, but this can be extremely time-consuming. A good trick is to melt a good amount of butter and simply add it on top of your dessert, after cutting your baklava into small rectangles so that the syrup can penetrate each layer.
Follow the instructions on your filo dough box for the baking times and once you take your delicious dessert out of the oven, top it with some extra nuts and your homemade syrup. Resist all your impulses and wait for your baklava to reach a safe temperature before eating this delicious treat.
To summarize: Is Baklava Vegan?
Unfortunately, baklava is not vegan. The traditional recipe contains a variety of animal-derived ingredients ranging from butter to honey and egg wash. However, making vegan baklava is quite simple. So just roll up your sleeves and make your delicious vegan version!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Turkish baklava vegan?
No. Turkish baklava contains a variety of non-vegan ingredients ranging from honey to butter and eggwash.
Is Greek baklava vegan?
Unfortunately, no. Greek baklava contains butter, honey, and, at times, egg wash. However, making your own vegan baklava is quite easy, so no need to despair!