Sweet Cheese Kunafa

Kunafa is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert.  It is popular in Syria, Egypt and Palestine. It is made of thin noodle-like pastry, or semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts.

This dessert is different from other desserts because it must be eaten hot, right after it is cooked. The cheese used most be unsalted so that it complements the sweetness of the dessert. It is one of the favored desserts in Ramadan.

Kunafa uses a white-brine cheese or mozzarella cheese with a cream filling. It is prepared in a large round shallow dish; the pastry is colored with orange food coloring, and sometimes topped with crushed pistachio nuts. Bake till golden brown and enjoy warm for best flavour.


Orange blossom simple Syrup

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp orange blossom water or 1/2 tsp rose water (optional)

Cream filling

1cup milk

1 cup cream or heavy cream

1 tsp sugar

4 tsp cornstarch

2 1/2 tbsp milk (to dissolve cornstarch)

250 g mozzarella cheese, grated


250 g kataifi (shredded phyllo) pastry

3/4 cup melted butter


1- Preheat oven to 280c. Heavily grease a 12cm round cake pan with ghee or butter. A larger pan size, the kunafa could also be split over (15cm) pans. You could bake one now and freeze the other for later.

2- Shred the kunafa dough into 1inch/ 2.5cm long pieces in a large bowl.

3- Pour the melted ghee evenly over the kunafa. If using butter instead of ghee, for fresh, extra thin kunafa dough, just pour the yellow liquid (butterfat) of the melted butter, leaving behind the white layer (milk solids). If using thicker, frozen kunafa, just pour all the butter in. Mix the butter evenly with hands, into the kanafeh shreds, making sure it gets well coated and every strand is glistening.

4-Transfer two-thirds the amount of kunafa in the prepared pan and firmly press it on the bottom and up the sides. Make a wall with the kunafa around the sides of the pan; this will help contain the filling during the baking process and prevent it from burning. Pack the kunafa as tightly as possible.

5- Pour in half of the cooled semolina pudding into a thin layer. Top with the cheese mixture and pat down into an even layer. Cover with the remaining semolina pudding.

6- Scatter on the remaining third of the kunafa over the cream filling, lightly press it on to adhere.

7-Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the top and sides of the kunafa are deep golden brown in color. Use a knife to push the side of the kunafa, to check the color.

8- Remove the kunafa from the oven and immediately pour on about 3/4 of the scented syrup, starting from the edge and moving towards the center, in a circular motion, making sure to cover the entire surface. Reserve leftover syrup for drizzling over individual servings.

9- Let the konafa rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow for the syrup to soak in, then flip on to a serving platter. Decorate the edges with halved pistachios, Cover the entire surface with ground out pistachios.

10- Cut into wedges and serve hot.


 Hamsa Zughib