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Is Baklava Vegan? Ingredients & Alternatives 2024

Donald Romeo

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

is baklava vegan
Vegan baklava: Phyllo layers, nutty filling, sweet syrup topping. Photo: Ba Le Ho

Baklava, a sweet and rich dessert, hails from Middle East and Mediterranean culinary traditions. But if you follow a vegan diet, you may wonder, “Is baklava vegan?”

This layered pastry dish is packed with honey and butter, which aren’t suitable for a vegan diet.

But while traditional baklava isn’t vegan, this dessert can be adapted to fit vegan dietary restrictions with some creativity.

A vegan-friendly version of baklava can be achieved by swapping out animal-derived ingredients with plant-based alternatives.

Is Baklava Vegan Friendly?

No, traditional baklava is not vegan-friendly as it contains honey and dairy butter. But, it can be made vegan-friendly by using substitutes like agave nectar or maple syrup instead of honey and vegan butter or olive oil instead of dairy butter. Thus, while not naturally vegan, baklava can be made vegan-friendly with a few adjustments.

Is Baklava A Vegan Dish?

The answer to this question might seem simple, but it opens up a wider conversation about traditional recipes and modern dietary preferences. Traditionally, this Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dessert is not considered vegan. This is because the authentic recipe[1] often calls for honey, butter, and occasionally egg yolk originating from animals.

However, with the rising popularity of veganism and plant-based diets in recent years, food innovators have found ways to modify traditional foods to fit these dietary restrictions.[2] This is how vegan baklava has become a delicious reality.

Instead of honey, vegan-derived sweeteners[3] like maple syrup or agave nectar can be used. These offer a similar sweetness and consistency to honey. 

Does baklava have dairy? Butter is another major component of traditional baklava that can be replaced with vegan butter substitutes[4] or olive oil. Doing this does not create significant changes in the texture or taste of the baklava. When used, eggs can be excluded or replaced with appropriate plant-based binders.

So while traditional baklava is not vegan, a vegan version is feasible with modern advancements and alternative ingredients. Those who adhere to a vegan diet can thus enjoy baklava that aligns with their dietary preferences.

What Is Baklava?

The nutritional content of baklava can vary widely based on the specific ingredients used. Different factors include the type of nuts, the amount of sugar in the syrup, and whether butter or oil is used. On average, an 80-gram piece of baklava[5] may contain the following.

  • 346 calories.
  • 23 grams of fat.
  • 30 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 5 grams of protein.
  • 2 grams of fiber.
  • 10 grams of sugar.

Baklava is a traditional dessert[6] from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culinary cultures, renowned for its sweet and nutty flavor profile. This unique dessert is a composition of multiple layers of thin, flaky phyllo dough[7] interspersed with a filling made of chopped nuts such as almonds, pistachios, or walnuts.

The distinct sweetness of baklava is achieved through a syrup or honey mixture. This mixture is often infused with aromatic spices such as cinnamon or clove and a hint of citrus from lemon juice or orange blossom water. 

The sweetness from the syrup or honey combined with the nutty filling forms an irresistible blend of flavors. These flavors soak into the layers of the phyllo dough during baking.

Making baklava is meticulous, requiring careful layering of the buttered phyllo dough and nut mixture in a baking dish. It is baked until golden brown, producing a crisp, sweet dessert. 

Traditional baklava is not vegan due to honey and butter, but it can be modified to accommodate plant-based diets.

Non-Vegan Ingredients In Baklava

Baklava, typically incorporates several non-vegan ingredients. The most common are honey, butter, and occasionally egg yolk.

Honey

Honey[8] is derived from the labor of bees and serves as the primary sweetener in traditional baklava. The layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, and aromatic spices are generously doused in honey syrup, supplying the dessert’s signature sweetness. However, honey isn’t vegan-friendly because it involves the exploitation of bees.

Butter

Butter is another standard ingredient in baklava, contributing to the flaky, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the phyllo dough layers. This dairy product[9] separates the sheets of phyllo pastry, allowing them to bake into thin, crisp layers. 

Since butter is an animal-based product, it falls outside the vegan diet.

Egg Yolk

Although less widely used, egg yolk is an ingredient in some versions of baklava, lending extra richness to the dessert. Like butter, egg yolk[10] is an animal-derived ingredient, making it non-vegan.

How To Make Baklava Vegan?

Making a vegan baklava recipe involves replacing non-vegan ingredients with plant-based substitutes. Honey can be replaced with maple syrup, agave nectar, or sugar syrup from brown sugar and water. Vegan butter or olive oil can replace traditional butter to keep the phyllo sheets separate and add a rich flavor.

VEGAN PISTACHIO & WALNUT BAKLAVA

Start-to-finish time, 6 hours 45 minutes. Active time, 45 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of coarsely ground pistachios and walnuts, plus extra for garnish.
  • Half a teaspoon of ground cardamom; adjust to taste.
  • 1 cup of ground vegan crackers or breadcrumbs.
  • Four sticks of vegan butter, melted. Alternatively, use an equivalent amount of coconut oil.
  • 16 sheets of vegan phyllo dough, halved and thawed if frozen.

For the Syrup

  • 3 cups of coconut sugar. 
  • 6-to-8-ounce bottle of agave nectar or maple syrup.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice.

Directions

  • Set oven to 350°F.
  • In a bowl, combine nuts, ½ tsp cardamom, and breadcrumbs.
  • Using a brush, coat a 9×13-inch dish with vegan butter/oil.
  • Arrange eight oiled phyllo sheets in the dish.
  • Over the phyllo, distribute ¼ of the nut mixture.
  • Repeat the previous two steps three times.
  • Layer another eight oiled phyllo sheets on top.
  • With a sharp knife, shape baklava into diamond/square pieces.
  • Place in oven and bake for approximately 1 hour or until golden.
  • In a saucepan, combine coconut sugar, vegan syrup, and 1-1.5 cups water.
  • Allow to boil for 10-15 mins, then incorporate lime juice and boil for an additional 2 mins.
  • Set syrup aside to cool slightly.
  • Over the freshly baked baklava, drizzle the cooled syrup.
  • Ensure baklava is left to absorb syrup for 6 hours or overnight.
  • Before serving, sprinkle with additional nuts.

Nutrition Information per Serving

1 Slice.

  • 258 calories. 
  • 2 grams of protein.
  • 17 grams of fat.
  • 26 grams of carbohydrates. 
  • 48 milligrams of sodium.
  • 1 gram of fiber.
  • 19 grams of sugar.

Conclusion

While traditional baklava is not vegan or dairy-free, it is possible to make vegan baklava and incorporate it into your healthy diet. The non-vegan baklava ingredients, such as honey, butter, and egg yolk, can be replaced with vegan-friendly substitutes. 

By making these swaps, you can still enjoy the layers of phyllo pastry, the sweet syrup, and the nutty filling. Whether homemade or from vegan meal delivery, vegan baklava can be a delightful addition to any vegan diet.

If you’re on a vegan diet and looking for more vegan foods, look for a list of vegan foods that can help with weight loss. You can also find more about the benefits of a vegan diet and the best weight-loss diets. 

If you’re searching for convenient meals, check out the best vegan meal delivery services and vegan meal replacements.

Remember to incorporate plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet, along with the necessary vitamins and minerals. You can also explore the benefits of green powders when you’re looking for convenience! Enjoy your journey through vegan cuisine, and let baklava be a sweet part of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do vegans eat baklava?

Vegans can eat baklava when it’s made with vegan-friendly ingredients.

Why isn’t baklava vegan?

Traditional baklava isn’t vegan due to honey and butter, which are animal-derived.

Is there any dairy in baklava?

Yes, traditional baklava contains dairy, specifically butter.

Does baklava have milk or eggs in it?

Traditional baklava typically doesn’t contain milk. Some recipes do include eggs. It’s important to consult the ingredients on the package before consumption.


+ 10 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Taghi, M. (2018). Favorite and traditional rice flour–based puddings, breads, and pastries in the north of Iran: A review. Journal of Ethnic Foods, [online] 5(2), pp.105–113. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jef.2018.03.001.
  2. Melina, V., Craig, W.J. and Levin, S. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, [online] 116(12), pp.1970–1980. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025.
  3. Clarys, P., Deliens, T., Huybrechts, I., Deriemaeker, P., Vanaelst, B., Willem De Keyzer, Hebbelinck, M. and Mullie, P. (2014). Comparison of Nutritional Quality of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diet. Nutrients, [online] 6(3), pp.1318–1332. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6031318.
  4. Kalyani Gorrepati, Balasubramanian, S. and Chandra, P. (2014). Plant based butters. Journal of Food Science and Technology, [online] 52(7), pp.3965–3976. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-014-1572-7.
  5. Usda.gov. (2023). FoodData Central. [online] Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2343527/nutrients
  6. Maha Hoteit, Zoghbi, E., Rady, A., Iman Shankiti and Ayoub Al-Jawaldeh (2021). Development of a Lebanese food exchange system based on frequently consumed Eastern Mediterranean traditional dishes and Arabic sweets. F1000Research, [online] 10, pp.12–12. doi:https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.27461.1.
  7. Usda.gov. (2023). FoodData Central. [online] Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172791/nutrients
  8. Kamal, M., Harun Ur Rashid, Shakti Chandra Mondal, El, F. and Jung, C. (2019). Physicochemical and microbiological characteristics of honey obtained through sugar feeding of bees. Journal of Food Science and Technology, [online] 56(4), pp.2267–2277. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-019-03714-9.
  9. O’Callaghan, T.F., Faulkner, H., McAuliffe, S., O’Sullivan, M.G., Hennessy, D., Dillon, P., Kilcawley, K.N., Stanton, C. and R. Paul Ross (2018). Corrigendum to ‘Quality characteristics, chemical composition, and sensory properties of butter from cows on pasture versus indoor feeding systems’ (J. Dairy Sci. 99:9441–9460). Journal of Dairy Science, [online] 101(9), pp.8616–8616. doi:https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-101-9-8616.
  10. Liu, B., Zhou, Q., Zhu, J., Lin, G., Yu, D. and Ao, T. (2020). Time course of nutritional and functional property changes in egg yolk from laying hens fed docosahexaenoic acid-rich microalgae. Poultry Science, [online] 99(9), pp.4616–4625. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psj.2020.06.007.
Donald Romeo

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Donald Romeo is a highly skilled health and wellness writer and a dedicated nutritional researcher. His expertise unravels the intricate connections between nutrition, holistic health, and well-being. With an astute understanding of nutritional science and a talent for translating complex concepts into accessible content, Donald brings valuable insights to his readers. He is committed to empowering individuals by providing practical and evidence-based advice to support their wellness journey. Through his engaging articles, Donald inspires readers to make informed choices, adopt healthier habits, and embrace a holistic approach to their overall vitality.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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