Greek baklava is a deliciously rich phyllo dessert with a sticky-sweet nut filling. Instead of squares, make this recipe for baklava rolls, also known as saragli; an impressive and decadent dessert!
Debate: Who Created It?
The origins of baklava have been debated for centuries. Many believe that the original baklava recipe comes from Greece, while some say it's Persia, and others believe Turkish baklava is the original.
I’m going to remain impartial. The truth is, the decadent dessert is enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. I am merely thankful for the person who originally created it. After all, desserts should never cause arguments, they are intended to bring joy.
Regardless of the origin, Baklava comes in various forms. Some countries make it with a cinnamon and walnut filling, while in Turkey, they often make pistachio baklava, and there are other filling options as well. The dessert can be sweetened by pouring a flavored sugar syrup over the top, or by adding honey to the filling.
Greek cuisine has some amazing foods. Kolokithokeftedes and flaming saganaki are delicious mezze appetizers. For dinner, traditional favorites include soutzoukakia (baked Greek meatballs) and a layered pasta dish called pasticcio. For dessert, Greek baklava rolls, also known as saragli, are a must!
Alternate Names / Spellings: Saragli, Baklawa, Batlawa
Pronunciation: BAA-klah-vah or Sa-RAG-lee
Difficulty: Medium 🥄🥄
Baklava Rolls vs Squares
My first time enjoying rolled baklava was during a visit to Istanbul, Turkey. I had never seen the dessert squished up into cigar-shaped rolls; I found them delightful and intriguing.
The orange sugar syrup soaks into the crunchy nooks and crannies of the baked phyllo, making it perfectly moist in all the right places.
Oh, and even better, this dessert doesn't need to be eaten with a fork. When you bite into one of the rolled desserts, the filling stays put and doesn't squish out the other side.
Another significant difference between traditional baklava and rolled baklava is the number of layers the dessert has. Traditional Greek baklava has 33 layers, meant to represent the years of Christ's life on Earth. Recipes for saragli call for just two layers of phyllo.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Phyllo- Also spelled filo, these are very thin sheets of unbaked pastry, made with flour, water, and sometimes egg. Look for them in the freezer section of your local grocery store. Most brands are sold in 16-oz. boxes. If you don't see them there, look in the refrigerated section, near the prepared pie crusts and biscuit dough.
- Nuts- This Greek baklava is made with walnuts. If you'd like to use a different type of nut, any variety of finely chopped nut should work. Pistachios are a popular choice.
Chopped nuts can be a bit pricey. To save some money, purchase whole nuts and chop them yourself.
Phyllo sheets are sold in different thicknesses, so read the package labels. Choose the type that has 18-20 sheets per package.
- Orange blossom water- This aromatic water is made by distilling the flower blossoms of orange trees. If you're unable to find it, substitute it with 1-2 drops of orange oil or an orange liqueur. As a last resort, use pure freshly squeezed orange juice.
NOTE: If you use orange juice, omit the lemon juice called for in this recipe. Otherwise, the syrup will be very acidic and sour tasting.
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organic food grade orange blossom water (imported from Morocco)
organic food grade orange blossom water (made in the USA)
Tools For Making Saragli / Rolled Baklava
With a traditional baklava recipe, the ingredients are layered directly into the baking pan. Making saragli is a bit different, because the dessert is assembled and rolled up on the countertop, then placed into the pan.
To assist in rolling the pastry sheets, you'll need a thin piece of wood doweling. I purchased a 4-foot length of ⅜-inch wood dowel for less than one dollar from a hardware store. I cut it in half, giving me two 2-foot lengths of dowel, which is perfect.
Recipe Video: Making Baklava Rolls
The step by step photos below show how to make this Greek dessert recipe. To see the recipe in action from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Tips for Making Greek Baklava
- Have all ingredients prepped and ready to use. The thin sheets of pastry dry out very quickly and can become difficult to work with. Be sure to have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start making the baklava recipe.
- Keep phyllo covered when not in use. To keep the pastry moist and pliable, cover the sheets you aren't going to use immediately with a damp kitchen towel.
- Use real butter or ghee. The richness of this dessert comes from all of the creamy butter. Please do not make this dessert with margarine or low quality butter. Use the best quality American butter you can afford, or if you can find it, European butter, which has less water than American butter.
What to do with leftover phyllo
If you have any phyllo dough sheets left over after making the dessert, as long as they are still pliable, it's okay to wrap and refreeze them. They can also be kept wrapped in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Greek Baklava FAQ
Rolled baklava will stay fresh for up to two week. For the longest shelf life, store it in an airtight container, and keep it at room temperature or in the fridge.
This dessert is meant to be moist, rich and very high in calories. These characteristics all come from large amounts of butter or ghee and a coating of sugar syrup. Be sure to cover the dessert with plenty of syrup to prevent it from drying out and becoming chewy.
Greek Baklava Rolls (Saraglia) + Video
- 5/16" or ⅜" wood doweling (See Note 1)
- 16 oz Phyllo dough 18-20 sheets
- 1 ½ cups butter or ghee, melted
- 4 cups walnuts finely chopped
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp orange water
- Melt butter and set aside.
- Blitz walnuts and cinnamon in a small food processor or chop by hand to fine crumbs. Reserve 2 tablespoons for topping, and set all aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. (177°C.)
- On a clean surface, lay out phyllo dough sheets and brush top layer with butter, then sprinkle evenly with cinnamon nut mixture.
- On edge of pastry closest to you, lay a long, thin wooden dowel horizontally on top of the walnut mixture. Gently lift one sheet of dough, wrap it around dowel to secure, then roll completely to end of pastry piece. Leave dowel at end of sheets.
- Brush another layer with butter and lift previously rolled dough on the one layer closet to you and roll one more time.
- Place seam side down on working surface and using both hands on either end of dowel, squish the two ends together to make the crinkled baklava.
- Using one hand, push one end of the crinkled baklava until it slides off dowel and into an 8”x8” baking pan. NOTE: You will need TWO square baking pans to fit all of the baklava rolls. Repeat steps 2-5 until all phyllo sheets are used are prepared rolls are in baking pans.
- Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.
- While the dessert is baking, add the syrup ingredients to a saucepan and boil for 10 minutes, stirring often. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Remove baked dessert from oven and rest 10 minutes. Pour syrup evenly over baklava rolls, sprinkle chopped walnuts on top, and allow to rest for 1 hour before slicing. I typically get 5 rolls per 8x8" pan and cut each roll into thirds for 15 pieces each pan.
- I purchased 5/16" or ⅜" wood doweling that came in a 4' length. It was $0.98 at Home Depot. I cut it in half and it works perfectly.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.