Knafeh is a Palestinian dessert made of phyllo pastry filled with cream cheese and topped with a sweet syrup.
Akawi cheese is traditionally used to fill knafeh, this is a popular cheese in the Middle East with a consistency similar to mozzarella. The akawi is soaked in water before the dessert is made to remove its slightly salty flavor.
Origin & Cultural Significance
This dessert is believed to have originated in Nablus, a city in the West Bank of Palestine. It is often referred to as “knafeh Nabalsiyeh” in reference of the dish’s origin.
For many families, knafeh is enjoyed as a weekly treat for gatherings with extended relatives and neighbors. It is also served at special occasions, such as weddings.
Knafeh is popular across the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Lebanon, as well as in Turkey and Greece. Although, the recipes vary with each country.
Palestinian Knafeh Recipe
- Phyllo dough - 1 lb
- Akawi Cheese (or mozzarella) - 2 lbs
- Butter - ½ cup
- Orange food coloring - 1 tbsp
- Water - 2 cups
- Sugar - 3 cups
- Rose water - 1 tbsp
- Orange blossom water - 2 tbsp
- Crushed pistachios - ½ cup
- Slice the akawi or mozzarella cheese and soak in a bowl of water for 60 minutes to remove the salt. Be sure to drain and dry the cheese after soaking.
- Shred the phyllo dough into tiny pieces, you can use a food processor to make this as fine as possible.
- Melt the butter in a bowl and allow to cool.
- Next, add the orange food coloring to the butter until it is bright orange.
- Pour the melted butter into the fine phyllo dough and rub the butter into the phyllo using your palms and fingers, until it is completely incorporated.
- Cover the bottom of a pan or cake tin with ⅓ of the dough and press it down flat.
- Press the cheese pieces down on top of the dough, distributing them evenly across the pan.
- Spread the rest of the dough on top, make sure that all of the cheese is totally covered.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, the cheese should be melted and the dough should be turning golden-brown.
- Meanwhile, make the syrup by adding the water and sugar to a large saucepan and heating over high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved fully.
- Add the rose and orange blossom water to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Allow the syrup to heat for 5-10 minutes, until it is slightly thicker.
- Remove the syrup from the heat.
- Once the knafeh has cooked, take it out of the oven and transfer onto a serving plate.
- Generously drizzle the warm syrup evenly over the knafeh and sprinkle with crushed pistachio nuts to serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 585Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 611mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 1gSugar: 43gProtein: 17g