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Kanafeh Nabulsieh.jpg
Kanafeh Nabulsieh from Nablus, Palestine
Alternative names kunafeh, kunafah, knafeh
Type Dessert
Region or state Arab world, Caucasus, Turkey, Greece, Balkans
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Sugar, cheese, pistachio, rose water, kaymak
Variations Multiple
Cookbook: Kanafeh  Media: Kanafeh

Kanafeh (Arabic: كُنافة‎, [qūˈnā:fā] (About this sound listen), dialectal: [knāˈfei]) is a traditional dessert made with thin shredded or noodle-like pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region.[1][2] It is popular in the Arab world,[3] especially in the Levant and Egypt,[4] principally in Palestine.[5] In addition it is found in Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans,[6] as well as in the Caucasus.

In Arabic, kanafeh (also knafeh, kunafa or similar spellings) may refer to the string pastry itself, or to the entire dessert dish. In Turkish, the string pastry is known as tel kadayıf, and the cheese-based dessert that uses it as künefe. In the Balkans, the shredded dough is similarly known as kadaif,[7] and in Greece as kataifi, and is the basis of various dishes rolled or layered with it, including dessert pastries with nuts and sweet syrups.

One of the most well-known preparations of kanafeh is knafeh nabilsiyeh, which originated in the Palestinian city of Nablus,[8][9] and is the most representative and iconic Palestinian dessert.[10][11] Kanafeh Nabulsieh uses a white-brine cheese called Nabulsi.[12][13] It is prepared in a large round shallow dish, the pastry is colored with orange food coloring, and topped with crushed pistachio nuts.


Traditional kunafa maker in Cairo

A common story is that the dish was created, and prescribed by doctors, to satisfy the hunger of caliphs during Ramadan. The story is variously said to have happened in Fatimid Egypt in the 15th Century, or in the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus in the 10th Century. Others insist that Nablus is the historical origin of all versions of kanafeh.[1] It is also reported to have been mentioned in writing as early as the 10th century Fatimid Caliphate in Tunisia, and to be of Fatimid origin.[14][15][16]

According to The Oxford Companion to Food, kanafeh has its origins in a dish similar to a pancake or crêpe, also known as qata'if, made with a thin unleavened batter cooked on a large metal sheet sometimes known as a mirror. This is still known in the Middle East. It was developed at least as early as the 9th century, and known during the Abbasid Caliphate. 13th-century recipes served them hot with butter and honey, and some recipes called for them to be cut up into small pieces. In the later Middle Ages, a new technique was created, with the batter being dripped onto the metal sheet from a perforated container, creating strings. The contemporary kunafa is descended from this. These are fried together with butter and fillings or toppings such as nuts, sweetened cheese, or clotted cream, and mixed with rosewater and sugar. The pastry spread from the Arab lands to neighboring countries including Iran and Greece, and to Turkey where the string pastry itself is known as tel kadayıf, also used in related pastries such as dolma kadayif.[17]


The Arabic word kunāfah (Arabic: كنافة‎) is derived from the Arabic verb Arabic: كَنَف‎, translit. Kanaf, meaning to shelter.[18]


mbrwma (twined) kanafeh

There are many types of Kanafeh pastry:[19][20][21]

  • khishnah (Arabic: خشنة‎, 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.
  • mbrwma (Arabic: مبرومة‎, twined): It is prepared with noodle.

The pastry is heated in butter, margarine, palm oil, or traditionally semneh and 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 red food coloring (a modern shortcut, instead of baking it for long periods of time). Crushed pistachios are sprinkled on top as a garnish.


Kanafeh Nabulsieh[edit]

A siniyyeh (tray) of Kanafeh

Kanafeh Nabulsieh originated in the Palestinian city of Nablus,[22][23][24] hence the name Nabulsieh. Nablus is still renowned for its kanafeh, which consists of mild white cheese and shredded wheat surface, which is covered by sugar syrup.[25] In the Levant and Egypt, this variant of kanafeh is the most common. The largest plate of kanafeh was made in Nablus[26] in an attempt to win a Palestinian citation in the Guinness World Records. It measured 75×2 meters and weighed 1,350 kilograms.[27][28]

Kadayıf and künefe[edit]

Turkish künefe and Turkish tea

The Turkish variant of the pastry kanafeh is called künefe and the wiry shreds are called tel kadayıf. A semi-soft cheese such as Urfa peyniri (cheese of Urfa) or Hatay peyniri (cheese of Hatay), made of raw milk, is used in the filling.[29][30] 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 the Turkish cuisine, there is also yassı kadayıf and ekmek kadayıfı, none of which is made of wiry shreds.

Riştə Xətayi[edit]

This type of Azerbaijani variant is prepared in Tabriz, Iran. "Riştə Xətayi" consists of meshed shreds, and is typically cooked in Ramadan in the world's biggest covered Bazaar of Tabriz. It is made of chopped walnuts, cinnamon, ginger, powder of rose, sugar, water, rose water and olive oil.[31]


Greek kataifi

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

A Bosnian style 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.[32]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Bassel, Mona (20 May 2018). "An Idiot's Guide to the Origin of Kunafa". Qahwet Masr. Retrieved 2018-06-18. 
  2. ^ Albala, Ken (2016). At the Table: Food and Family around the World: Food and Family around the World. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610697385. 
  3. ^ Alliance, The Austin Food Blogger (26 March 2013). "The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook". Arcadia Publishing. 
  4. ^ "Knafeh". Time Out Sydney. 
  5. ^ "Cuisine". TRAVEL PALESTINE. 3 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Albala, K. (2011). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. 1. Greenwood. p. 311. ISBN 9780313376269. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  7. ^ Encyclopedia of food and culture. Scribner. 2003. p. 159. OCLC 50590735. 
  8. ^ Alliance, The Austin Food Blogger (2013). The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781625840349. 
  9. ^ Edelstein, Professor Retired Nutrition and Dietetics Department Simmons College Sari (2010). Food, Cuisine, and Cultural Competency for Culinary, Hospitality, and Nutrition Professionals. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. ISBN 9781449618117. 
  10. ^ Nasser, Christiane Dabdoub (2013). Classic Palestinian Cuisine. Saqi. ISBN 9780863568794. 
  11. ^ "Is Knafeh Israeli or Palestinian?". Haaretz. 4 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Tamime, editors, R.K. Robinson, A.Y. (1996). Feta and related cheeses. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Pub. ISBN 1855732785. 
  13. ^ Magazine, Culture; Miller, Laurel; Skinner, Thalassa (2012). Cheese For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118145524. 
  14. ^ Roufs, Timothy G.; Roufs, Kathleen Smyth (2014). Sweet Treats around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 464. 
  15. ^ Wright, Clifford A. (1999). A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 Recipes. William Morrow Cookbooks. ISBN 978-0-688-15305-2. 
  16. ^ Al-awsat, Asharq (4 October 2007). "The Ramadan Experience in Egypt - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive". ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive. Retrieved 2018-06-18. 
  17. ^ Davidson, Alan (2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 33, 661–662. ISBN 9780199677337 – via Google Books. 
  18. ^ Team, Almaany. "Definition and meaning of Kanafeh in Arabic in the dictionary of the meanings of the whole, the lexicon of the mediator, the contemporary Arabic language - Arabic Arabic dictionary - Page 1". www.almaany.com. 
  19. ^ "Knafeh". Nivin's Kitchen. 21 July 2014. 
  20. ^ "Kunafa". Sampateek. 9 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "Arabic knafeh". Chef in disguise. 18 March 2016. 
  22. ^ Edelstein, Sari (2010). Food, Cuisine, and Cultural Competency for Culinary, Hospitality, and Nutrition Professionals. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 575. 
  23. ^ Arafat-Roy, Sahar (2013). "Sweet Baked Phyllo With Cheese (Knafeh)". In Broyles, Addie. The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook. The History Press. p. 43. 
  24. ^ Abu Shihab, Sana Nimer (2012). Mediterranean Cuisine. AuthorHouse. p. 74. 
  25. ^ Cuisine Archived 2007-08-04 at the Wayback Machine. Institute for Middle East Understanding
  26. ^ WEST BANK: Palestinian Knafeh enters Guinness World Records.
  27. ^ "Largest-ever kunafa to break Guinness world record in Nablus". Maan News Agency. 
  28. ^ France-Presse, Agence. "Giant West Bank cake aims for Guinness record". ABS-CBN News. 
  29. ^ http://www.politikcity.de/forum/internationale-k%FCche-d%FCnyanin-mutfa/19192-k%FCnefe.html[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "Künefe – ein außergewöhnliches Dessert". nobelio.de. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  31. ^ Behnegarsoft.com. "اهراب نیوز - تصویری/ رشته ختایی؛ شیرینی مخصوص تبریز برای رمضان". ahrabnews.com. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  32. ^ "Kadaif | Kuhar.ba - Hrana, recepti, zdravlje". kuhar.ba. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Kanafeh at Wikimedia Commons