History of Baklava

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Most of us know that baklava is a beloved and popular Greek dessert. Sheets of phyllo are layered with a nut and sugar mixture and then baked to perfection. The whole thing is finished with a delicious, sweet syrup. Everyone makes his or her baklava differently, and many culture have their own version of it.  Have you ever stopped to think of where baklava actually originated? This is the subject of a lot of debate. Unfortunately, people don’t agree on where it came from, but we can certainly speculate.

Here are some thoughts on the history or Baklava:

Did Baklava Originate in Greece?

Baklava is often considered to have originated out of the Ottoman Empire. This theory is supported by the fact that the word, baklava, is actually borrowed from the Turkish language. However, this does not mean that the dish didn’t come to the Ottoman Empire by other means.

There is some evidence that suggests that it may have its roots in Greece, because there are a few traditional dishes from Ancient Greece that are similar to baklava and predate the earliest references of baklava that are present in the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire. These Ancient Greek versions don’t use phyllo dough, but it is thought that phyllo began being used during Byzantine times. However, a version of phyllo may also have been present in Ancient Greece.

Interesting Facts About Baklava

So, what are some baklava facts that can help you make a decision as to where it came from? There are three popular theories as to where it came from, and there is evidence that supports each one. Looking at the facts can certainly help you decide! Here are some of the most notable:

  • Ancient Greece. There are some Ancient Greek desserts that are similar to baklava. These are: gastris (γάστρις), kopte sesamis (κοπτὴ σησαμίς), and kopton (κοπτόν). Each of these were referenced in a work called the Deipnosophistae. It is interesting to note that some of them have a filling that resembles the filling of baklava, but none of them incorporate the flaky phyllo-style dough.
  • Phyllo Dough. The origin of phyllo dough is also highly debated, but many believe that it originated during the Byzantine Empire. Layered dishes, such as the layered pasta dish we know of as lasagna, originated in Byzantine times, so could it be that Phyllo came from the Byzantine Empire as well? As we know, Greece was part of the Byzantine Empire before Ottoman occupation.
  • Earliest Reference. The earliest reference of baklava occurred out of the Yuan Dynasty in China in 1330 AD.

The challenge with pinpointing the origin is baklava is that many cultures have adopted the dish, and references of the origin were never officially recorded in chronological order, or at least have never been found. One could certainly make a strong case that the dish originated in Greece.

Want to make baklava for yourself? Here’s a look at our Greek baklava recipe. 


Wikipedia – Baklava

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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