Knafeh Recipes: Middle-Eastern Syrup-Soaked, Crisp Crust, Cheese Dessert
Popular throughout the Middle East and in Lebanese restaurants, this syrup-soaked cheese dessert is usually encased with kataifi pastry.
Also known as kanafeh or kunefe, this sweet dessert with a crispy, crunchy top and base, looks as good as it tastes. It is easy to make at home using the fabulous range of recipes provided below.
There are several simple options for making the crust and base, the cheese filling and the unique sauce often made with rosewater, rose petals and pistachio nuts.
This dessert is high in calories, fat and sugar. But you can make healthier versions by using low-fat cheese and sugar substitutes. Vegans can also enjoy this dish, using Vegan cheese, soy milk and vegetable oil to replace the butter. Enjoy!
Nutrients in Knafeh
The table opposite shows the calories in a 240 g serving of Knafeh. You can opt for healthier various by using low fat cheese and cream. You can also use less sugar or a sugar substitute.
Nutrient Summary for a 240 g Serving of Knafeh
Nutrient for 240 g Serve
Percent of Daily Allowance
Calories from Fat
Simple, Easy Knafeh Recipe with Corn Flakes Used to Make the Base and Crust
- 4 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 3/4 cup fine semolina
- 1 tablespoons cornflour
- Pistachios, for serving
- 2 1/2 cups thickened cream
- Rose petals (dried; optional)
- 1 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
- 160 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, melted
- 440 g (15 oz) Corn Flakes, finely crushed
- 500 g (1 lb) mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
For the sugar syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon rosewater
- 440 g (2 cups) caster sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Place the Corn Flakes in a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands to combine well. Press about half of the mixture evenly onto the base of a 24 cm x 34 cm x 4 cm (9 in x 13 in x 1.5 in) tray. Set aside in the refrigerator until needed. Add the sugar, milk, semolina and cream to a large saucepan. Dissolve the cornflour in one tablespoon of warm water and add to the mixture in the saucepan. Heat the saucepan over moderate to low temperature and cook, stirring continuously for 10-12 minutes, until the mixture very thicken. Remove from heat and mix in the rosewater. Allow to cool a little. Next, start to assemble the dish by spooning half of the semolina mixture over Corn Flake base. Then, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top, spreading to form an even layer. Add the remaining semolina mixture on top, and then scatter the remaining Corn Flake mixture on top of everything.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (355 degrees F). Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until mixture starts to brown on top and bubble around the edges. Remove from oven and set aside to allow to cool completely. Then, chill over night in the refrigerator. Just before serving, make the syrup by placing the 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Heat over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Then, Bring the mixture to the boil, and quickly reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook while simmering and stirring for 8-10 minutes, until the syrup thickens. Remove from heat and set the syrup aside to cool completely.
Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees C (390 degrees F). Cut the cold knafeh into 20 slices in the pan. Then, remove the pieces and distribute over large oven trays. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese just starts to ooze from the sides. Place the knafeh slices on a serving plate. Drizzle generous amounts of the syrup over the slices and scatter rose petals and pistachios on top. Serve immediately.
Knafeh Dessert Recipe using Kadaif Noodles for the Base and Top Crust
Note: Kadaif noodles are found in the freezers of Middle Eastern stores, or speciality food stores. You can use shredded wheat cereal, but it need to be soaked in milk to soften.
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons rose water or 2 teaspoons orange juice
- 900 g (2 lb) ricotta cheese
- 450 grams (1 lb) kadaif noodles
- 1- 1/2 cups unsalted butter
- 1 cup syrup (recipe below)
- 2/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts
For the Syrup
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoons. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon rosewater or orange flower water
Prepare the syrup by combining 1 cup water with the sugar, lemon juice and rosewater in a medium-size saucepan. Heat the saucepan over medium heat until the mixture boils, and the reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, until the syrup thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Set the syrup aside to cool.
Next, combine the sugar, milk, cream and cornstarch in a medium-size saucepan. Heat and stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and add the rosewater or orange juice. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool and then, add in the ricotta cheese, mixing until the filling has blended together.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F). Prepare the noodles by shredding in a bowl or by pulsing them in a food processor. The pieces should be quite small (just larger than rice grains). Next, melt the butter over low heat, until it has just melted, and the pour butter over noodle strands. Mix with a wooden spoon or hands to ensure all the strands are coated with the melted butter. Spread half the buttered strand mixture over the bottom of a 3-quart (3-liter) baking dish. Push the mixture firmly over the base the pan and in the corners. Next, spread the ricotta mixture over noodles in the base of the pan. Then, spread the rest of the buttered noodle mixture on top of the cheese and press down firmly. Bake for 70-85 minutes or until top is golden and the cheese has started to melt. Remove the knafeh from the oven. Pour the cold syrup over it while hot as this will heat the syrup and distribute it through the knafeh. Sprinkle pistachios over the top and slice the knafeh into slices and serve warm.
Knafeh Recipe Made with Shredded Filo Dough, Ricotta Cheese and Pine Nuts
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 package of filo dough
- 1/2 pound of butter melted
- 2 lb (1 kg) ricotta cheese
Note: Use the sugar syrup recipes provided in the previous recipes
Firstly, defrost the Shredded Filo dough a little. It is available in speciality food stores and Middle Eastern shops. Gradually separate the shredded filo as it defrosts into the melted butter in a bowl until all the filo is defrosted and shredded. Combine the mixture and divide into two equal halves. Press one half of the mixture into the base of a baking pan, spreading to form an even layer. Next, spread the ricotta cheese and pine nuts over as a second layer. Add a top layer using the rest of the shredded filo. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake the knafeh for about 45 minutes. Flip the knafeh over onto a second baking tray and bake until both the top and bottom are brown and crisp. Serve with a sugar syrup.