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The Heavenly Cheese Dessert – Knafeh

Being from America, when I think dessert, I think of fudge, ice cream, brownies, cookies, cakes and pies. Well, that isn’t really how desserts are in Jordan, where my husband is from.

Once, my father-in-law sent us some Arabic sweets. One dessert was round and orange. Jad said it had cheese inside. I was confused. Cheese??? Well, I tried it and it wasn’t half bad. It was called knafeh.

Knowing it was one of Jad’s favorite desserts, I looked for a recipe so I could make it myself. One year, I surprised Jad by making it for his birthday breakfast. It was amazing, and way better than what we had first had.

We don’t eat knafeh often, but when we do, it is usually a special occasion. It is one of those desserts you just don’t want to share.

I got the recipe here:

Below is how I use this recipe:


(Yield:  9 by 13-inch pan of knafeh)
  • Sugar syrup (see below)
  • 1 lb (16 oz) mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz kataifi (shredded phyllo dough)
  • 8 TB (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 c shelled pistachios, chopped (Sometimes I use them and sometimes I don’t. It is delicious either way.) 

Sugar syrup:

  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 tsp orange food coloring (use half red and half yellow if you don’ have orange)
  • 2 tsp rose water (definitely add this)
  1. To make sugar syrup:  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, sugar, food coloring, and honey.  Bring it to a boil (stirring occasionally), then turn down the heat and let it simmer until it gets a syrupy consistency (about 15 minutes).  Turn off the heat and stir in the rose water; let the syrup cool while you prepare the knafeh.  
  2. Prepare the kataifi:  Preheat oven to 450F.  Use your fingers to gently separate the strands of kataifi, then use your hands to gently combine the melted butter and kataifi.  Transfer the buttered kataifi to a large baking sheet (if you only have 9X13-inch baking sheets you can use two sheets and divide the kataifi between them); bake for about 10-12 minutes until the dough is golden and crispy, making sure to stir dough every 2-3 minutes so that the edges do not burn. (Definitely do this because the edges will burn!)
  3.  Make the knafeh:  Preheat oven to 425F.  Cut the mozzarella into slices.  Spread slightly more than half of the kataifi in the bottom of the 9X13X2-inch casserole dish.  Arrange the cheese on top of the kataifi, then evenly sprinkle the remaining kataifi on top of the cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Remove from the oven and immediately (and gently) pour the syrup on top (be careful because the cheese will probably bubble up).  Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes, then cut it up and serve (It definitely is best served when it’s hot and fresh out of the oven).

Give this dessert a try. You will fall in love.



Thank you for sharing!