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Kunafa كنافة

Cheese and cream filled kunafa with golden shredded vermicelli soaked in a rosewater scented sugar syrup 
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8



  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar 500 g
  • 1 1/4 cup water 300 ml
  • squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water


  • 1 1/2 cups milk 350 ml
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 180 ml
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoon semolina
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater


  • 400 grams mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon rosewater


  • 500 g kunafa or kataifi/kadaifi pastry frozen (thaw just slightly before using)
  • 1 cup ghee, melted - I used butter flavored 226 grams


TO MAKE THE SUGAR SYRUP - can be made up to 1 week in advance

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Set on a stovetop over medium high heat. Stir just to combine then let it be. If sugar isn't dissolving you can stir a couple times but as soon as it starts to boil stop stirring. 
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from stove immediately once 10 minutes is over. It should have thickened to the consistency of maple syrup.
  • Once off the heat, stir in rosewater an orange blossom water, and transfer to a container to cool.


  • In a small saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, sugar and semolina. Dissolve the cornstarch in the 1 teaspoon of water and add to the mixture.
  • Place over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, and continue cooking for about 3 more minutes or until mixture thickens into a pudding like consistency. Remove from heat and stir in the rosewater. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the kunafa.


  • Stir together the mozzarella cheese, rosewater, and sugar.


  • Preheat oven to 200 C/390 F, and grease either two 9 inch pans or a 12 inch pan with ghee or butter. I baked one 9 inch pan and assembled the second and froze it before baking. Yay! Future kunafa party.
  • In a large bowl, shred the konafa dough into 1inch/2.5 cm long pieces. I like doing this with kitchen scissors, and Cleobuttera recommends the kunafa pastry be semi frozen while doing this so If it has thawed completely stick it back in the freezer for an hour or so.
  • Pour the melted ghee over the shredded pastry, and toss with your hands until all strands are evenly coated and glistening with fat. Stir well!
  • Transfer 2/3 of the pastry into the bottom of the prepared pan, and firmly press it down around the bottom and sides. Pack it in tightly, try using the bottom of a measuring cup to get it even and smoothed out.
  • Pour in half of the cooled, semolina pudding and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with the cheese mixture and pat down into an even layer. Cover with the remaining semolina pudding.
  • Scatter on the remaining third of kunafa dough evenly over the semolina pudding, pressing lightly to stick it down.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a deep golden brown. When you think it's done, lift the sides away from the pan with a knife and make sure the sides and bottom are golden brown too. 
  • Remove from oven and immediately pour on 3/4 of the syrup, going in a circular motion to evenly disperse it. Serve the kunafa with the extra syrup for those who want to top up their slice (always me)
  • Garnish with pistachios and serve warm! You can store leftover kunafa in the fridge and reheat in the oven or microwave but there's nothing like that first slice out of a piping hot fresh kunafa.


Makes either one 12 inch pan or two 9 inch pans (you can make one and freeze the other before baking for the future)
Recipe adapted from Cleobuttera