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Is Baklava Vegan?

Baklava is a sweet treat and great dessert from the middle eastern countries. We would love to let everyone try some, but that is not possible for every diet. When it comes to those who are vegan, baklava is something you’ll want to be careful with.

Most baklava is not vegan because of a couple ingredients, including ours. The good news is that there are vegan recipes for baklava, and we are working on incorporating one of those recipes soon on our menu. To do that, we have to identify the ingredients that make baklava not vegan.

Butter

Butter is used on the filo layers to avoid dry dough. On its own, the filo pastry dough is dry and brittle, making it difficult to work with and too crumbly to eat. The butter softens the dough to keep it moist and flaky instead.

Some recipes also use egg wash with the butter for flavor and to cook it evenly. Instead of using butter and egg wash, the vegan option is to use vegan butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil. Because olives are commonly grown in the middle east and mediterranean, olive oil is a common ingredient to replace butter and egg wash.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is an issue with other dietary groups as well as vegans because it is one of the main reasons for deforestation in habitats of endangered species. Most packaged, pre-made dough in stores has an additional oil to keep the dough from drying out.

There are two major oils that are used: palm oil and sunflower oil. If you decide to make your own baklava with vegan ingredients and are buying pre-made dough, look for those made with sunflower oil instead of palm oil. 

L-cysteine 

This amino acid is most commonly used in bread and some pastries. It extends the life of the bread and makes it easier to mix the dough. While it can be extracted from plants, it can also be taken from animal hair, feathers, and animal horns.

The good news is that most bread and pastries use plants to find L-cysteine, but it is not specified on the packages unless it is marked as vegan. The best way to avoid finding one of the few companies that still uses animals is to make your own filo dough

Glycerol and Glycerine

This is another ingredient that can come from plants or animals. They are used to help disperse colors and flavors into pastries. Similar to L-cysteine, you may want to avoid products with glycerol and glycerine unless it is specifically labeled as vegan. It’s also easy to avoid if you make your own filo dough. 

Eggs

Like most bakery items, eggs are used to help bake the baklava in some recipes. Some recipes don’t require eggs or the egg wash mentioned earlier, so be sure to ask wherever you want to order your baklava. 

Honey

Since honey is made from bees, and not all honey is farmed ethically, it can pose a problem for people following a vegan diet. Large-scale production beekeepers often use chemicals on their bees and plants the bees harvest from and replace the bees’ food source to keep honey production up. The honey is used to sweeten the baklava and hold the layers together.

baklava stuffed with walnuts 8 piece box

There are a few vegan honey options, and there are other syrups to use, like maple syrup, that can be used instead. Some recipes encourage more creativity by making a sugar syrup and adding your own flavors like rose water, lemon juice, orange blossom water, and other subtle flavors. If you order baklava from a restaurant or ordering service, be sure to ask what type of syrup they use.

While baklava is not always vegan, there are plenty of vegan recipes that let more people enjoy the tasty dessert of the mediterranean. We hope to have vegan options soon, so check back in with Holy Land to get your next favorite baklava.

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