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Carrot Cake Baklava

Riley Wofford
Cook Time:
45 mins
Prep Time:
4 hrs 30 mins

Chef notes

Baklava, while simple and straightforward enough, is often thought of as a dessert best saved for special occasions. While it’s a wonderful addition to any Easter or spring dinner menu, it’s also a delicious “anytime dessert.” When spring is in full bloom, I like to incorporate seasonal carrots into any dish that I can, including dessert. Carrot cake is an obvious choice, but there are so many other ways to incorporate vegetables into sweet treats, including this baklava. It has all of the characteristic flavors of carrot cake, but it’s something a little more unique.

The base of a good baklava are countless crispy layers of phyllo dough. Phyllo is made with a few simple ingredients — usually flour, water, salt and oil. The reason it becomes so flaky is because it is rolled out so thinly. As the paper-thin layers heat up in the oven and mingle with melted butter, they become golden brown and crisp enough to shatter.

Shredded carrots are added to the nutty baklava filling for a seasonal touch. To make the filling, finely grind pistachios, walnuts and almonds in a food processor before the carrots are stirred in. The vibrant orange vegetable adds a subtle amount of sweetness, so you can use a little bit less sugar in the recipe. Plenty of warming spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, are added to the filling, which will fill your kitchen with a lovely aroma. Press whole cloves into each baklava square before baking for a pretty flair and just a hint of flavor.

To brighten everything up, add a bit of lemon zest to the nut mixture and some fresh lemon juice to the sticky honey syrup for drizzling over the freshly baked baklava.

Technique Tip: Sprinkle some water over the baklava before it goes into the oven to help the phyllo crisp up even further.

Swap Option: Walnuts and pistachios are the most common nuts used in baklava, but feel free to swap in any of your favorites — other mild nuts like cashews and macadamia nuts are also delicious. 


  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound phyllo dough (about 20 sheets), thawed but still cold
  • whole cloves, for decorating (optional)
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Place the walnuts, almonds and pistachios in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add 1/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and lemon zest and pulse until combined. Transfer to a bowl.


Using paper towels, squeeze as much liquid from the carrots as possible, then stir them into the nut mixture. Set aside.


In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the water and remaining 1 cup of sugar to a boil, stirring with a spatula until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the syrup thickens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and lemon juice. Let cool completely.


Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan generously with butter. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut into a rectangle just slightly larger than the baking pan. Working gently so as not to rip the phyllo dough, layer 7 sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing generously with butter between each layer. Sprinkle evenly with half of the carrot-nut mixture. Layer with 7 more phyllo sheets, brushing each layer with butter, then sprinkle with the remaining carrot-nut mixture. Layer with the remaining 6 to 7 phyllo sheets, brushing each layer with butter. Brush the top and final layer with more butter.


Using a sharp, thin knife, cut all the way through the baklava layers on a diagonal in 1-inch segments. Then, cut diagonally the other way in 1-inch segments (this will create a diamond pattern). Press one clove into the center of each diamond. Wet your hands and gently sprinkle the surface of the baklava with water.


Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until it is deeply golden brown and flaky. Remove from the oven and slowly drizzle the cooled honey syrup over the top. Use your knife to cut all the way through the layers again. Let cool completely, at least 4 hours. The baklava can be stored at room temperature, covered loosely, for up to 1 day. Otherwise, refrigerate it and bring to room temperature before serving.