This style knafeh is distinctly Palestinian though it is enjoyed throughout the middle east. The sweet cheese pastry is as delicious as it was unusual. What looks like noodles is really a flaky shaved phyllo like pastry, surrounding melted cheese, topped with a sweet syrup and pistachios. Most every bakery and shuk in Israel sold knafeh. Huge pans of it, bright orange on top, just waiting to be sold in squares to passers by.

Photo taken at a knafah vendor in the HaKramel shuk in Tel Aviv circa 2017

Look at that gooey cheese pull!
 And while it is my absolute favorite dessert ever, it's not something this I had ever attempted to make at home. Not because it's difficult, it's not at all, but finding the right ingredients is difficult to make it properly. And so when I found a market that carried both the pastry and the cheese I was ecstatic. The pastry, called kataifi, is sometimes available in the larger chain stores but the cheese, that is a bit harder. There are substitutes that are still fairly awesome, so please, make knafeh! But a little more about it, it had the texture somewhere between mozzarella and feta and tasted like mascarpone or panna cotta, that really clear sweet cream flavor. It is amazing.

The other amazing thing is you can make a tiny individual portion or a really large, jumbo sized, individual portion, I mean, plate for a crowd.

Make sure and combine the butter and the coloring before adding to the pastry or it's really hard to mix in. If you have the powdered coloring made specifically for knafeh you don't need to worry about it, that solves the problem.

8 oz cheese*
8 oz. kataifi dough
1 stick butter
Red and orange food coloring

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 - 1 tsp. orange blossom water

In a saucepan cook the sugar and water until bubbling. Add in the lemon juice and cook until the water is clear and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, stir in the orange blossom water, and pour in to a clean jar. Chill in the fridge, at least 2 hours before using. 

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. 

Melt the butter and stir in the orange food coloring. Cut the kataifi dough at about 2 inch intervals and then pull apart really well with your hands. Make sure all of the dough is separated. Pour the butter around the dough and mix really well, with your hands, until the dough is uniformly coated and mixed in. Rubbing to combine worked well for me here. 

Brush the bottom of a 9 in pan with a tiny bit of butter. Press a fourth of the orange kataifi in to the pen and press firmly to flatten. The cheese should crumble easily, if not grate it on top of the dough. Evenly spread the remaining dough over the cheese and press firmly to flatten. 

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle with the cold sugar syrup. Garnish the top with chopped pistachios, a small pile in each square serving. Cut in to squares and eat immediately. 

*If you can't find knafeh cheese cut 6 ounces of mozzarella cheese in to chunks and rinse really well. Allow to sit in the fridge covered in water overnight to remove some of the salt. Grate or crumble and combine the 6 ounces of rinsed mozzarella and 3 ounces of mascarpone cheese. Drop over the bottom layer of dough and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Original Picture - Post Updated 4/2/2019


  1. Wow. I never would have guessed at those flavours from the pictures, but it does sound good.

  2. Oh wow, this recipe sounds really interesting and delicious. Love all the ingredients you used here. Will be fun to make this for my family that's why I'm saving this recipe.

  3. I have never heard of this before but it sounds delicious!


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