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Easy Kunafa – Middle Eastern Cheese Pastry

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 30 mins Rest Time 10 mins Total Time 50 mins
Servings: 8
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


I simply love kunafa! I have tried it when I visited UAE for the first time and I instantly fell in love! What I did not like about traditional kunafa is that this dessert is pretty high in fat and sugar and I stopped having it after 2-3 bites😅

As much as I liked it, I was sad that I could not enjoy it because of the big amount of butter and sugar syrup. So after so many years I decided to make my own and I am so happy with the result! With a reasonable amount of butter, just enough to hold the kataifi together (the wheat vermicelli) and with a very light sugar syrup + reasonable amount of cheese. I have used low fat butter and low fat mozzarella, but you can use full-fat, it's your choice.



  1. Preparing the kataifi

    Start by adding the kataifi pastry in a food processor and process them until they become really small. Back when I made the kunafa my food processor was broken and I could not do this step, so I cut them manually as fine as I could. You could also do this, but keep in mind that this might contribute to dezintegrating the kunafa slices easier when you cut them. If the kataifi pastry is properly minced, then it will not desintegrate while cutting (tested the recipe 3 times, so trust me on this one).

    Once the kataifi has been minced, start mixing it with the melted butter. Add the melted butter gradually to the kataifi and mix with your hands, making sure that each noodle is fully coated with butter. Note: If you use regular vermicelli, which is dry, you can reduce the butter quantity by 25-30g, since it will not soak up so much butter as the kataifi. However keep in mind that vermicelli will not hold the kunafa together like the kataifi does, because they are dry and do not soak the butter. So if you have the chance to buy kataifi, use that.

  2. Making the kunafa

    Take a 24-cm diameter cake tin and grease it with a little bit of butter. Add half of the kataifi that we coated with butter and press the layer gently into the tin so that you will get a neat surface.

    Mix the cream cheese with 1 tablespoon of rose water and spread it on the surface of the kataifi layer, without going to the margins of the tin. Grate the mozzarella over the cream cheese layer and then top everything up with the remaining kataifi, pressing everything nicely to ensure it's compact. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.

    In the meantime, make the syrup*. In a pan, add the sugar and the water and boil until it starts bubbling and the sugar is melted. From this point onwards, boil for 3 more minutes, then turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of rose water. Pour the hot syrup over the hot kunafa and let it absorb the syrup for 5 minutes. It is important to do this while the kunafa is still hot. After 5 minutes, you can turn the kunafa upside down (it should slide down easily) and decorate with pistachio. Slice and serve warm. Enjoy!

    *Note: This syrup will not sweeten the kunafa too much, so if you have a really sweet tooth, you might want to double the quantity. I don't like my desserts sweet so this is why I added only 60g of sugar to the entire kunafa. For me, that was moe then enough. Anything sweeter than that is a big no-go for me.

My name is Andreea and I live in Bucharest, Romania. Born with a passion for cooking, I grew a fondness towards global cuisine and the local food consumed around the world. Not only would I like to share this passion with you all but also introduce recipes from around the world that you can try and discover how incredibly good these dishes can be.