3-Cheese Middle Eastern Knafeh (Kunafa)

Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
8-10 servings

Knafeh or kunafa is a pastry-like dessert hailing from the Middle East. This sweet cheese dish comes in a variety of forms and is typically served for Iftar, the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. There are two different types of Knafeh: na’ameh and khishneh. It combines the flavours of regional cheeses, pistachios, cream, and a floral syrup into a universally loved dessert. Knafeh is commonly served in countries and regions such as Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

Like those celebrating Ramadan this year, I hold a special place in my heart for this beloved recipe. During my time living in Mauritius, I celebrated Ramadan with my colleagues and friends and experienced new cultural practices, and some new foods like knafeh as well. The sweet, floral and cheesy combination of flavours blended together the best parts of why I love desserts. A decade later, I’ve learned how to create this dish for friends and family as I reminisce on fond memories I’ve shared with both.

My version combines Akkawi and Nabulsi cheese — most commonly produced in Palestine. I’ve coupled these cheeses with a floral syrup, opting for orange blossom water instead of rosewater. Lastly, I chose to make it in the style of khishneh — more common in Lebanon and Turkiye. I’ve always valued the diversity in Middle Eastern cuisine, and wanted to pay homage to those cultures through this shared recipe.

Related: Our Favourite Halal Restaurants in the Toronto Area




pack kataifi
cup unsalted butter, melted
cup Akkawi cheese, crumbled
cup Nabulsi cheese, shredded
cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
cup heavy cream
Tbsp cornstarch
Pistachios, to garnish

Orange Blossom Syrup

1 ½
cup granulated sugar
1 ½
cup water
cup orange blossom water



Kataifi is shredded pastry dough that can be purchased at most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean grocery stores along with Nabulsi and Akkawi cheese.

Step 1

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Step 2

In a large bowl, use your hands to combine kataifi and butter until fully integrated and strands of pastry dough aren’t clumped together. Set aside.

Step 3

In a small bowl, combine Akkawi, Nabulsi and mozzarella cheese. In a separate bowl, mix together heavy cream and cornstarch until combined. Pour heavy cream mixture into cheese bowl and mix until cheese is fully coated.

Step 4

In a greased 9-inch baking pan, add a thick layer of kataifi-butter mixture. Make sure there aren’t any gaps on the bottom layer. Add a layer of the cheese mixture to completely cover the bottom layer of kataifi. Add a final layer of kataifi to enclose the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Step 5

Meanwhile, make the orange blossom syrup. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Simmer until syrupy. Add orange blossom water and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 6

Remove kunafa from oven. Garnish with chopped pistachios and drizzle with orange blossom syrup.

Step 7

Serve piping hot or warm with more pistachios to taste.

Rate Recipe

My rating for 3-Cheese Middle Eastern Knafeh (Kunafa)