Kunafa: The Origins Of This Timeless Dessert With Recipe
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Kunafa is composed of two crispy layers of shredded kataifi, or knefe dough, buttered and coated in a sugar syrup scented with orange blossom water and lemon juice. Rich cheese cream, often scented with cardamom and orange zest, fills the cake's inside. Turkish künefe is traditionally made using Hatay, Urfa, or Antep cheese. It's best served warm, and pistachios are usually added as a garnish. This is the pinnacle of cheese-filled pastries; it's sophisticated and surprisingly simple to make. But each Middle Eastern location has its own unique twist on this well-known treat.

The History Of Kunafa

The Arabic word "kanaf," which means "to protect," is the source of the term "knafeh," which has its origins in the Palestinian city of Nablus. After that, it spread throughout the region, with each country blending its own taste into the original recipe without compromising its mouthwatering core. While keeping the dish's traditional charm, countries like Greece and Turkey, as well as Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other places, have developed their own versions of knafeh. These variations include their own unique cooking techniques.

The main cause of the difference is the makeup of the filling and crust. The crust can be formed of vermicelli and referred to as "khishna" or semolina referred to as "na'ma," which is delicate and fine. For those who desire the best of both worlds, "mhayara" offers a delicious combination of the two. The filling comes in two varieties: cheese-jubnah or rich ashta cream. To complete this rich meal, a sugar syrup scented with orange, lemon and rose petals is poured over the knafeh. Next, pistachios or edible rose petals are usually added as a garnish.

Beyond just its delicious taste and aromas, the Knafeh has deeper significance; it fosters a sense of belonging and community. It is a perfect example of the delectable cuisine of the Middle East and North Africa, especially Palestinian food. Every mouthful reveals the traditions and heritage that have been passed down through the ages, fostering bonds that are boundless.

Kunafa Recipe

Here's how you can make the perfect kunafa at home:


Simple Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or rose water, optional

Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons of cornflour

Kunafa dough preparation:

  • 350 g of Kunafa dough
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • ¾ cup melted ghee


  • Crushed pistachios


Sugar Syrup:

  • Place the sugar and water into a small pan, stir to combine, and heat until boiling. Boil for nine minutes, or thirteen minutes if you'd like a thicker syrup.
  • After turning off the heat, thoroughly combine the lemon juice or rose water. While the syrup is boiling, some people add lemon juice, although this eliminates the lemon flavour. Therefore, it is best to apply it after removing the heat source.
  • After a while, let the syrup reach room temperature.

Pastry Cream:

  • In a saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, cornflour, and all the ingredients for the pastry cream. Stir thoroughly.
  • Put it over medium heat and whisk until it comes to a boil and thickens to a creamy consistency. Turn off the heat.


  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, or 400°F.
  • Cut the Kunafa dough into one-inch pieces. Alternatively, pulse the dough three to four times in a food processor.
  • Using your hands, attempt to keep the shredded Kunafa from sticking together after placing the dough in a large mixing bowl.
  • Using your hands, combine the dough with the confectioners' sugar.
  • By rubbing the dough between your fingers, be sure to coat all of the dough after adding half of the ghee and mixing well.
  • Mix well after adding the other half. Once the ghee is added, the volume of the Kunafa dough will somewhat decrease.
  • Grease or butter a 9- or 10-inch baking pan well. When baking, the oil or butter would turn the Kunafa a golden colour, even if the pan were nonstick.
  • Spread out a little over half of the Kunafa dough equally in the pan that has been buttered. To make edges, try pressing the dough down and towards the sides.
  • To guarantee optimal pressing of the Kunafa, cover it with parchment paper, set a smaller pan (8 inches or 6 inches) on top of the paper, and begin pressing, working your way from the centre to the corners.
  • Using a spatula, spread the pastry cream evenly over the Kunafa that has been previously made.
  • Scatter the leftover Kunafa dough on top of the pastry cream and use your hands to gently press it down.
  • Depending on how hot your oven becomes, bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 50 minutes. Here, turning the bottom of the Kunafa golden is the aim.
  • After taking the Kunafa out of the oven, give it six minutes to cool in the baking pan.
  • Turn the kunafa over onto a platter and equally cover it with syrup. Set aside a small amount of syrup. Some people enjoy their kunafa with extra syrup added.
  • Add chopped or crushed pistachios as a garnish.
  • Serve warm or hot alongside tea or coffee.