Knafeh: A Look into This Delectable Dessert


Sweet desserts are commonplace, but cheese makes Knafeh stand out. Besides cheesecake, you would rarely think of putting cheese in a dessert. The signature pistachio topping gives a unique garnish to this Middle Eastern delicacy.

Whether the menu in front of you says Knafeh, Kunafa, Kanafa, or Kanafe, you are looking at the same sweet cheese pastry. And just like the multiple pronunciations, chefs worldwide have endless variations of Knafeh. Some have a smoother crust, others are extra cheesy, but nothing beats the original Palestinian recipe.

If you want to expand your dessert options, try Knafeh; you’ll be glad you did. Let’s look into this delectable dessert that is kunafa.

Lets make Knafeh

What Is Kunafa Made Of?

You need a few simple ingredients to make Kunafa.
Kadaif/kataifi (finely shredded phyllo dough)

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Simple syrup
  • Pistachio (for topping


Kadaif is a noodle-like phyllo strand. They are made by mixing flour and water, then cooked lightly on a cooking tray. Kataifi is a main character in several Middle Eastern desserts. Even though it is the dough you used to make Kunafa, it can also refer to the dessert. You can find phyllo noodles at a grocery store near you. Check the freezer or Middle Eastern foods section if they have one.


Mix the kataifi well with the butter to prevent it from sticking together when baking. Some prefer salted butter to add to the seasoning, but that’s a choice. Also, if you want the signature orange color, mix the natural food color with the melted butter.


Finding Nabulsi/Akawi, the sweet cheese Middle Easterners used to make Knafeh, isn’t easy. You can substitute it with mozzarella or ricotta cheese. At Miriam Restaurant, ricotta is our go-to replacement.

Simple Syrup

You can make your syrup at home. Just mix water and sugar ratio 1:1 and cook slowly over medium heat while stirring until the sugar dissolves. You may adjust the ratio to 1:2 if you prefer. You can add a flavor of your choice. Use leftover syrup in your iced tea, cocktails, or pancakes.


Pistachio is the crown on top of this beauty. We’ll say it’s not optional if you want to experience the real Knafeh.

Let’s Make our Delicious Knafeh

With your ingredients in one place, it’s time for the fun part.


  1. Prepare the Kataifi: Shred it with your hands, separating the strands and breaking them into smaller pieces (about 2-4 inches long). If you want a smoother crust, blitz the kataifi in a food processor a few times.
  2. Place the shredded kataifi in a large bowl. Pour in butter and mix well with your hands until every piece is well coated.
  3. Coat the pan with a thin layer of butter.
  4. Place half the kataifi into the baking tray as the first layer. To compact, use a flat-bottomed glass to press down the kataifi.
  5. Next, add the cheese layer. Make sure this layer doesn’t touch the edges of the pan to prevent the cheese from sticking to the pan as it cooks.


  1. Layer the top with the remaining kataifi making sure to fill the space around the edges in the cheese layer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Place in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes. After the 20-minute mark, check periodically. Your pastry is ready when the top of the kunafa is golden brown.
  4. When cooked, remove from the oven, and drizzle with sweet syrup.
  5. Allow cooling as the syrup sips into the crust.
  6. Garnish with raw or roasted pistachio kernels. You can use whole, roughly chopped, or finely ground pistachios.
  7. Serve hot or cold. Enjoy.

What Does Knafeh Taste Like?

We prefer to say Knafeh tastes heavenly. But, to break it down, Knafeh is sweet, crunchy, and soft on the inside with a definitive ooey-gooey surprise.

Which Country Made Kanafa?

Palestine is the birthplace of this beloved pastry. Some people think it’s Turkey, but the evidence shows that Knafeh existed in the Palestinian region long before it set foot there.

The taste of the Middle East has always fascinated us here at Miriam Restaurant. And when we discover these mouth-watering recipes, we bring them to you so you can join in the fun. We top our Knafeh with ice cream so you can get the whole dessert experience.

Join us for brunch or dinner. We also deliver if you’re stuck in the office or home