Is any baklava gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Some baklava can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and avoiding wheat-based ingredients. However, traditional baklava recipes contain wheat flour, making them not gluten-free. Care must be taken when purchasing baklava from stores or restaurants to ensure it does not contain gluten.

What is Baklava?

Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The most common types of nuts used are walnuts, pistachios, and almonds. Baklava originated in the Middle East and is popular in Mediterranean, Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine.

The key components of traditional baklava are:

– Filo dough – thin sheets of unleavened dough made from wheat flour and water. Filo dough can contain only wheat flour or a blend of wheat and starch flours.

– Nuts – walnuts, pistachios, almonds, or a combination. The nuts are chopped and mixed with sugar or honey.

– Sweetener – simple syrup made from sugar and water, or honey. This is poured over the baked baklava.

– Spices – mainly cinnamon, but can also include cloves, allspice, cardamom, and orange blossom water.

– Butter – used to brush between each filo sheet.

Is Baklava Traditionally Made with Wheat?

Yes, traditional baklava recipes call for filo dough made from wheat flour. Therefore, it contains gluten and is not naturally gluten-free.

Filo dough can also be made using a blend of wheat and starch flours. Common starches used include rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, or chickpea flour. However, unless specifically stated as “gluten-free filo,” store-bought filo likely contains gluten.

The flour blend, along with the common use of butter between layers, gives traditional baklava its distinctive flaky, crispy, layered texture. Gluten helps provide the elasticity needed for the thin dough sheets.

What Makes Baklava Not Gluten-Free?

Here are the reasons why traditional baklava recipes are not gluten-free:

– Wheat flour: Traditional filo dough contains wheat flour, which has gluten.

– Store-bought filo: Most pre-made filo dough sheets contain wheat flour and are not gluten-free.

– Added thickeners: Some baklava recipes add starch thickeners like cornstarch, which can be derived from wheat.

– Contamination: Baklava is often made in facilities that also process wheat ingredients, increasing the risk of gluten cross-contact.

– Other ingredients: Some types add wheat-based ingredients like breadcrumbs or semolina.

So unless a baklava is specifically made to be gluten-free, it likely contains gluten and cannot be considered safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Can You Make Gluten-Free Baklava?

Yes, it is possible to make gluten-free baklava by substituting the traditional wheat filo dough with gluten-free options. Here are some ways to adapt baklava to be gluten-free:

– Use gluten-free filo dough. Some brands make filo from rice flour, tapioca starch or chickpea flour.

– Make your own gluten-free filo using starches like rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch or potato starch. Adding xanthan gum helps mimic the elasticity of gluten.

– Substitute wheat flour with gluten-free flours in any breadcrumb or semolina additions.

– Use certified gluten-free oats instead of wheat-based breadcrumbs.

– Verify all ingredients are gluten-free, including sugars, spices, nuts, butter, etc.

– Bake the baklava in a gluten-free facility or thoroughly clean surfaces and tools first.

With some substitutions, it is possible to prepare baklava that does not contain any gluten or wheat. However, care must still be taken to avoid cross-contamination.

What are Good Gluten-Free Filo Dough Substitutes?

Here are some recommended gluten-free options that can substitute for wheat-based filo dough:

Rice paper – Translucent sheets made from rice flour and water. It becomes crisp when baked.

Rice flour – For homemade gluten-free filo, combining rice flour with starch creates a pliable dough.

Cornstarch – Adds structure and mimics the crispness of wheat flour when making gluten-free filo.

Potato starch – Helps bind gluten-free dough and gives a light texture. It has a neutral flavor.

Tapioca flour – From cassava root, it provides stretch and chew in gluten-free baking. Combine with rice flour for best filo results.

Chickpea flour – Made from ground chickpeas, this gluten-free flour makes filo more pliable. It has a slightly nutty, sweet flavor.

Sorghum flour – A gluten-free whole grain flour that can be used to add fiber and protein to homemade filo dough.

Xanthan or guar gum – Small amounts of these binding agents mimic the stretchy texture of gluten and improve the structure of gluten-free dough.

Are Store-Bought Gluten-Free Baklava Options Available?

As gluten-free diets have become more popular, some baklava producers have started offering gluten-free versions:

– Phyllo By Karem’s – Pre-made gluten-free filo dough sheets. Can be ordered online or found in some grocery stores.

– Kontos Foods – Makes frozen gluten-free filo dough and baklava with rice flour and tapioca starch instead of wheat. Sold online and in stores.

– My Dad’s Sweets – Based in Canada, they sell gluten-free baklava made with rice paper instead of filo dough. Available to order online.

– Nia Bakes – A home bakery selling gluten-free, dairy-free baklava made with rice flour filo. Sold online and at California farmer’s markets.

– Olive and Fig – This Austin, Texas bakery prepares gluten-free baklava with almond meal replacing breadcrumbs and semolina.

– Iliada – A Brooklyn gluten-free bakery offering baklava made with homemade chickpea flour filo dough.

So there are more pre-made options becoming available as specialty bakeries expand gluten-free offerings. However availability may still be limited in some areas.

What to Look for When Buying Gluten-Free Baklava?

When purchasing baklava, either pre-made or from a bakery, here are some tips to find or verify gluten-free options:

– Look for baklava specifically labeled as “gluten-free.” This indicates it was made without wheat, rye or barley.

– Check the ingredients. It should not list wheat flour, breadcrumbs, semolina or other gluten sources.

– Ask about how they make their filo dough. It should be made with gluten-free starches, not regular wheat flour.

– Inquire about risk of cross-contamination in facilities and on equipment. Dedicated gluten-free facilities are safest.

– Baklava made with rice paper instead of filo is typically gluten-free.

– Purchasing certified gluten-free oats and making your own filo at home gives you the most control.

– For pre-made baklava, trusted gluten-free brands like Phyllo By Karem’s or Kontos Foods are good options.

Doing your homework before purchasing can help identify truly gluten-free baklava and avoid uncertainty. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

Can You Eat Baklava If You Are Gluten Intolerant?

Those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease need to avoid all gluten exposure. While some people may be able to tolerate small or accidental amounts of gluten, experts recommend aiming for a strict gluten-free diet.

For most people with gluten issues, traditional baklava would cause problems due to the wheat-based filo dough. Consuming it could trigger gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, and other issues.

However, gluten intolerant individuals can still enjoy baklava made with certified gluten-free ingredients and careful precautions. Testing small amounts first can help assess individual tolerance.

People with wheat allergy should also verify with the supplier that the product does not contain any wheat protein residues. Gluten cross-contact may still trigger wheat allergy reactions.

Overall it is safest to choose baklava labeled gluten-free from trusted bakeries that avoid cross-contamination. With care, most gluten intolerant people can find or make gluten-free baklava options to enjoy.

Nutrition Facts of Baklava

Here is the nutritional content in a standard 1.5 oz (42g) serving of traditional walnut baklava made with wheat-based filo dough:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 230
Fat 16 g
Saturated Fat 5 g
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Carbohydrates 20 g
Fiber 1 g
Sugar 14 g
Protein 3 g

Key points:

– Baklava is high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Much of this comes from the sugar syrup, nuts, and butter.

– It provides minimal fiber or protein.

– Baklava contains gluten from wheat flour, making it unsuitable for gluten-free diets.

– Gluten-free varieties will have slightly different nutrition values depending on ingredients used.

So while delicious, baklava is considered a high-calorie treat that should be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Those avoiding gluten can still indulge with care using gluten-free recipes or purchased options.

Health Risks of Eating Gluten for Those with Intolerance

For people with gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or wheat allergy, consuming gluten can trigger a variety of negative health effects:

– Gastrointestinal problems – Diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, vomiting.

– Malnutrition – Impaired nutrient absorption leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies over time.

– Increased infection risk – Due to damage to gut lining.

– Bone loss – From poor calcium absorption.

– Lactose intolerance – Damage to small intestine can cause secondary lactose intolerance.

– Neurological symptoms – Gluten exposure can impact the nervous system, causing issues like fatigue, anxiety, headaches and numbness in extremities.

– Autoimmune disorders – Celiac disease involves attacks on the body’s own tissues and greater chance of co-occurring autoimmunities.

– Lymphoma risk – Celiac disease is associated with a slightly higher risk of small intestine cancers.

– Infertility, miscarriage risk – Undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease can lead to reproductive health issues.

Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is the most effective way to manage symptoms, improve gut healing, and minimize potential complications of gluten ingestion. Those with gluten issues should be very cautious about exposure.

What Types of Gluten-Related Disorders or Intolerances Are There?

There are three main categories of gluten-associated health conditions:


– Celiac disease – An autoimmune disorder where gluten triggers immune system attacks on the small intestine. It damages the villi lining and impairs nutrient absorption.

– Dermatitis herpetiformis – A skin manifestation of celiac disease marked by itchy rashes and blisters.

– Gluten ataxia – Neurological autoimmune condition affecting muscle control and balance.


– Wheat allergy – An allergic reaction to wheat proteins, distinct from gluten intolerance. Symptoms may include hives, trouble breathing, and anaphylaxis.

– Wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis – A rare food allergy triggered by consuming wheat followed by physical exertion.


– Non-celiac gluten sensitivity – Reactions to gluten without an autoimmune response. Symptoms resolve on a gluten-free diet.

– Gluten intolerance – Milder gluten issues with gastrointestinal symptoms but not full-blown celiac disease.

The only treatment is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet for life. For autoimmune forms like celiac disease, blood tests aid diagnosis, and intestinal biopsy confirms damage.

Are Gluten-Free Diets Healthier?

For those medically required to follow a gluten-free diet, it is clearly healthier as it prevents adverse reactions and allows gut healing. However, for the general population without gluten issues, the health impacts of going gluten-free are more nuanced.

Potential benefits:

– Promotes consumption of different whole grains like quinoa, millet, and buckwheat that provide nutrients and fiber.

– Encourages preparing more meals at home, avoiding processed foods.

– Eliminates unhealthy junk foods that happen to contain gluten.

– Reduces overall carb and calorie intake for some people.

– Can improve energy, gut health and inflammation in gluten-sensitive individuals.

Potential downsides:

– Risks missing out on fiber, vitamins, and minerals from enriched wheat-based products.

– Gluten-free packaged foods often have more sugar, fat, and salt to improve taste.

– Can be more expensive and difficult to maintain 100% gluten-free.

– No proven benefit for heart health or weight loss in those without gluten issues.

For people without medical necessity, removing or reducing gluten appears neutral or potentially positive for health. But following a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is most important, whether or not it includes gluten. Consulting a registered dietitian can provide guidance tailored to individual needs and health status.


In summary, traditional baklava contains gluten and is not suitable for those following gluten-free diets due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, with careful substitutions and precautions, gluten-free baklava can be prepared at home or purchased pre-made from dedicated bakeries. Reading labels carefully and asking questions helps identify truly gluten-free options that don’t risk cross-contamination. While eliminating gluten is medically vital for some, it offers unclear benefits for the general population. Those without gluten disorders can enjoy traditional baklava in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. With care to find gluten-free varieties, individuals with gluten issues can also partake in this classic and enjoyable pastry.

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