Kunafa is the dessert of choice in most Muslim households during Ramadan. If you’ve ever spent iftar (“breakfast”) at an Arab’s house during Ramadan, you know exactly what we mean. Indeed, there’s nothing quite like the taste of homemade kunafa still hot from the oven. But wait a minute. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. After all, we haven’t even explained what kunafa is for those of you who’ve never had this delectable Arab dessert.

So, What Exactly is Kunafa?

Kunafa is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert. What’s more, Arabs make it in a variety of ways depending on the region in which they live. For example, in Cairo you’ll most likely find this sweet dessert made according to the Egyptian kunafa with nuts recipe. However, there are also the kunafa recipe with semolina and the alternatively spelled knafeh recipe with vermicelli. Even so, no matter how it’s made, you’ll find all types have one thing in common. They’re all soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts. Today, however, Kaleela is going to show you how to make our personal favorite – is kunafa filled with cream and ricotta cheese. It’s really easy to make and incredibly delicious. 


For the Kunafa:

  • 1/2 kilo (1 lb.) kunafa strands (sometimes also called kunafa hair; “shredded wheat” in English )
  • 250 gm (1 cup) butter
  • 200 gm (¾ cup) cream
  • 200 gm (¾ cup)  ricotta cheese

For Syrup:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Cooking Instructions

First, preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Next, melt or soften butter in a pan. Then, shred the kunafa either by hand or chop it with scissors and mix it well with the melted butter. Divide this kunafa/butter mixture into two halves. Lay one half in a round or a rectangular pan, pressing it gently with the palm of your hand on the surface, setting the other half aside.  Next, mix the ricotta cheese and cream in a bowl. Then, spoon the cheese mixture the kunafa, spreading it out evenly with the back of the spoon. Now, on top of this, place the kunafa you set aside on top of the mixture, once again pressing it down with the palm of your hand. Finally, place this into the oven. You’ll know it’s done when the sides shrink and turn a nice golden color.

Once it has turned golden brown, remove the pan from the oven and flip the kunafa upside down onto a plate with the golden side facing up and let it cool a little while you make the syrup.

The syrup is made by mixing the sugar and water and heating it in a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring often. Once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the lemon juice and let this boil until it begins to thicken. You’ll know it’s thick enough when you put a drop on an angled surface. If it runs, let it boil a bit longer until it’s thick and kind of heavy. Afterwards, let this cool completely before pouring the syrup all over the kunafa. Cut into pieces and enjoy. Sahtayn!

Helpful Hints for the Perfect Kunafa

  • Be sure to dip the spoon in a glass of water before spreading the cheese mixture. Otherwise, the filling will stick to both the spoon and the kunafa.
  • Either the syrup or the kunafa must be very hot when you pour the syrup on top. If not, things will get soggy.
  • You don’t have to use all the syrup, but pour enough to make the kunafa moist or to taste.

What’s a good recipe for learning Arabic? Why, of course it starts with the basics – the Arabic alphabet, Arabic grammar, Arabic words and phrases and Arabic dialects.  Combine this with a convenient, easy-to use app that you can use anytime, anywhere and you’ve got the Kaleela Arabic language app. Download this recipe for successful Arabic language learning from Kaleela and start speaking Arabic today!

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