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Turkish künefe from Hatay

Kenafeh (Arabic: كنافةkanāfah, Turkish: künefe, Greek: κα(ν)ταΐφι kadaïfi/kataïfi), also spelled knafeh, Kunafeh, kunafeh, knafeh, or kunafah, is a Levantine cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup, typical of the regions belonging to the former Ottoman Empire.[1] It is a dessert specialty of the Levant, especially in Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Israel (especially among Israeli-Arab villages), Syria and northern Egypt. It is a first cousin of the Greek kadaifi and the Turkish künefe and ekmek kadayıfı. [2]


khishnah kanafeh

Kanafeh pastry comes in three types:

  • khishnah (Arabic خشنه) (rough) - crust made from long thin noodle threads;
  • na'ama (Arabic ناعمة) (fine) - semolina dough;
  • mhayara (Arabic محيرة) (mixed) - a mixture of khishnah and na'ama.

The pastry is heated in butter, margarine or palm oil, then spread with soft white cheese, such as Nabulsi cheese, and topped with more pastry. In khishnah kanafeh the cheese is rolled in the pastry. A thick syrup of sugar, water and a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water is poured on the pastry during the final minutes of cooking. Often the top layer of pastry is tinted with orange food coloring. Crushed pistachios are sprinkled on top as a garnish.


Ka'ket Kanafeh[edit]

Turkish künefe and Turkish tea (çay)

This variant is popular across the Levant and Turkey, where it can be eaten for breakfast or even for dinner as a main meal; but it is primarily considered a dessert. Eaten as a layered treat or helwah,[clarification needed] it may also be placed in a special bread[which?] and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is traditionally served alongside, or drenched in, a thick, sugar-based, honey-based, or glucose-based syrup called qattar or attar.

The city of Nablus is especially renowned for its kanafeh.[3]

Kadayıf and künefe[edit]

The Turkish variant of the pastry kanafeh is called künefe and the wirey shreds are called kadayıf. A semi-soft cheese such as mozzarella is used in the filling.[4][5] In making the künefe, the kadayıf is not rolled around the cheese; instead, cheese is put in between two layers of wiry kadayıf. It is cooked in small copper plates, and then served very hot in syrup with clotted cream (kaymak) and topped with pistachios or walnuts.


In this variant, called also καταΐφι or κανταΐφι in Greek (kataïfi or kadaïfi), the threads are used to make pastries of various forms (tubes or nests), often with a filling of chopped nuts as in baklava.

Jerusalem Kanafeh in a pan

A kadaif pastry is made by putting down a layer of wire kadaif, then a layer of a filling of chopped nuts, then another layer of wire kadaif. The pastries are painted with melted butter, baked until golden brown, then drenched in sugar or honey syrup.[6]

Kanafeh in Jerusalem[edit]

Knafeh in Nablus 2009

Jerusalem kanafeh is a neon orange pastry with a crust of shredded phyllo dough or semolina filled with soft goat cheese and drenched in syrup. It is especially popular during Ramadan.

World records[edit]

The largest plate of kanafeh was made in Nablus[7] in an attempt to win a Palestinian citation in the Guinness World Records. It measured 75×2 meters and weighed 1,350 kilograms.

See also[edit]