Kunafah is a Middle-Eastern dessert. A cheese-based pastry, made with crispy kataifi dough, salty akawie cheese, and gooey ricotta; all soaked in a rosewater syrup for a sweet and floral finish. It’s popular all over the Middle East, and is a staple dessert at special events (with good reason!).
Happy Ramadan! (…And Eid Mubarak too!)
For those of you not aware, we’re approaching the last few days of the month of Ramadan where Muslims all over the world abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours to better understand piety and humility, purify the soul, refocus attention to God, and practice self-discipline. And if you’re reading this during Eid, Eid Mubarak!
And if you’re reading this at any other time of the year, howdy!
Can I be honest with you, bestie? There’s something that’s been worrying me for a few years now. I worry that as modern life gets faster and simpler, we’ll forget how to slow down enough to make beautiful foods filled with traditions, history, and flavour.
This Kunafah recipe takes close to 8 hours to make from start to finish (don’t run away! It’s mostly waiting time!). I find that a little daunting, and honestly, I really shouldn’t. And neither should you.
So, let’s make it together.
(That said, this is likely an unfamiliar recipe for many people outside of the Middle East, so I’d recommend having a read of my How to Read a Recipe Post (Properly) post before you start.)
That said, if you want to go all out and prepare a delicious Middle Eastern savoury recipe too, check out this Shakshuka. It’s sure to elicit at least 4 oohs, and 6 ahh’s!
What is Kunafah / Kunafa?
Kunafah (also spelled, kunafa, knafeh, kanafeh) is a Middle Eastern/Arab dessert made with a shredded pastry dough (kataifi), soaked in a sweet syrup (often infused with rose water), and layered upon with cheese and other toppings.
How to pronounce kunafah
The exact pronunciation of kunafah varies from region to region. The most common way to pronounce it is “ko-na-fa”, but you will also often hear “ken-ne-feh”.
Just make sure you never, ever say “kenna-fay”. Because that’s not correct anywhere in the world (except on Tastemade, apparently).
The most challenging part about making kunafah in North America has been getting all the right ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, everything is available, but sometimes it means just having to look a little harder:
- Akawie Soft Cheese
- Kataifi Shredded Dough
- Ricotta cheese
- Granulated sugar
- Fresh lemon juice
- Rose Water
- Shelled pistachios
How to make kunafa
This is one of those fun recipes where it’s harder to explain what you need to do than to actually do it. I’ll do my best to give you a brief summary of how to make kunafah here (the more detailed steps are available in the recipe card):
- Prepare the akawie cheese.
- Prepare the kataifi (shredded dough)
- Layer with cheeses and more kataifi
- Prepare the sugar syrup, and drizzle over the baked kunafah!
Common kunafah questions
Kataifi is a type of pastry dough commonly used in the Middle East – it is made of shredded strands of phyllo dough. (You can find it in the freezer section of most larger grocery stores/supermarkets.)
Ready to eat Kunafah doesn’t last very long, 2-4 days before it starts to go stale and dry.
Unbaked kanafa can be frozen for up to two months. Allow it to thaw slightly before baking it, and you’ll be golden.
Though it is originally a Middle Eastern dish, the dish has long been a part of Greek, and Balkan food histories.
Akawie (also spelled, akkawi) is a white brine cheese, originating in the Middle East. It has a salty-flavour, which is occasionally watered-down prior to baking.
Typically, this is due to food coloring. If you visit Middle Eastern stores, you’ll find that there are specific dyes available to be used for kunafa – the most popular colors are orange and red.
There’s no special equipment required for this recipe. BUT…!
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Have you ever tried kunafah? Or any Arabian desserts? Comment below, and let me know your favourite!Print
This post was originally a sponsored post for No Frills® and Real Canadian Superstores®. They were even kind enough to provide this Kanafeh recipe! All opinions expressed were my own.