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What is Knafeh (Kanafa)?
Knafeh is popular Lebanese and Middle Eastern dessert made with a layer of shredded Phyllo dough, a layer of sweet cheese and a special knafeh filling mixture. Lebanese knafeh is then topped with a simple syrup, making a delicious savory and sweet dessert. It is also known as kanafa, kunafa, kanafeh or knafe.
In Middle Eastern cuisine Knafeh is a traditional breakfast, much like waffles or pancakes in the US. This impressive dessert is best served hot or warm. Making knafeh looks more intimidating that it actually does. The hardest part about this recipe, is finding the ingredients, especially the phyllo dough.
Ingredients you Need to Make Lebanese Knafeh:
Shredded Phyllo Dough:
Shredded phyllo dough can be found at any Middle Eastern store or you can order it online. Our local Middle Eastern store carries Ziyad Brand Kataifi. Shredded phyllo dough comes frozen or dried, both work for this recipe. If you buy the frozen one, make sure it’s completely thawed and at room temperature before using. Once it’s thawed, you can then break it up into smaller pieces by pulsing it a few times in your food processor.
A mix of ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
To mix it with shredded phyllo dough and create the knafeh crust.
To make the knafeh filling.
Few tablespoons to sweeten the filling mixture.
Cream of wheat:
Or fine semolina flour, works as a thickener for the knafeh filling.
Can be easily made with sugar and water. I like to add rosewater and a slice of lemon for extra flavor.
How to Make Lebanese Knafeh Recipe:
- Make the Sugar Syrup: The first step to making this knafeh recipe, starts with making this simple sugar syrup- combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and place on a medium high heat, mix well until sugar is well dissolved and bring mixture to a boil. Stir in lemon juice, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 8-10 minutes. remove from heat, stir in rose water if you’d like and set aside to cool down. Sugar syrup needs to be completely cooled down before topping the knafeh.
- Prepare phyllo dough crust: Place thawed phyllo dough in a food processor to finely shred it into smaller pieces. Transfer to a medium sized bowl, and mix with melted butter until all pieces are coated with butter.
- Prepare the cheese Mixture: In a medium size bowl, mix together shredded mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese. I like to shred my own mozzarella cheese, but you can use the already shredded mozzarella bag. Make sure they are not salted.
- Make the knafeh cheesecake Filling: In a small non-stick pan, over medium heat combine milk, cream of wheat or fine semolina and sugar, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Bring mixture to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes and until the mixture thickens.
Assemble the Kanafa:
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Coat the bottom of a 9-inch baking pan with baking spray.
- Add a layer of the buttered shredded Phyllo dough to bottom of the pan, spread it firmly and evenly.
- Add a layer of the shredded mozzarella and ricotta cheese mixture.
- Top the cheese with a layer of the knafeh filling.
- Bake until bubbly and browned a little on the side and top- about 40 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and wait a few minutes just until its comfortable to handle but still warm.
- Using a butter knife, scrape the sides of the knafeh, if they are sticking to the sides of the pan.
- Invert (you might need kitchen mittens) the pan into a serving plate. The shredded Phyllo dough will be the top of the Knafeh.
- Pour half of the cooled sugar syrup over the knafeh and garnish with crushed pistachios on top of the knafeh, if using. Reserve the rest the sugar syrup for serving with each piece on the side.
More Lebanese Desserts?
Lebanese Milk Pudding- Mahalabia
If you like this knafeh Lebanese style recipe or any other recipe on The Salt and Sweet Kitchen, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! You can also follow me on my Instagram page for more recipes!
Hi i tried this recipe and the pastry is Chewy rather than crunchy? Is this how it’s meant to be? Thanks
No, Knafeh is not supposed to be crunchy 🙂
Yes Knaffe is rather chewy over crunchy
Thank you so much for the recipe! Everyone at home loved it. I thought it would be complicated, but it was easier than baking a cake. Not to mention your instructions were very clear, I love it!
So glad to hear you’ve made and enjoyed my Knafeh recipe 🙂
Hi ! I’ve never made kunafa this way. Is it possible to assemble in advance and bake the next day ? Thank you
Yes, you can assemble the Knafeh the night before, warp in an airtight plastic wrap and place in the fridge till the next day. Try to bring it to room temperature before baking or just increase the baking time by few minutes. Knafeh is best enjoyed warm, so this is actually the best way to ensure you eat it fresh! Hope this helps.
Thank you so much for the prompt reply, will follow your advice !
Ofcourse! Let me know how it turns out for you 🙂
I made it last night for a hard to please family members and everyone liked it.
Easy recipe to follow and delicious.
Wow, Mike! You’re on the roll with trying all these Lebanese recipes! So happy you and your family have been liking The Salt and Sweet Kitchen’s recipes 🙂 Knafeh is a favorite of mine!
Store bought shredded mozzarella cheese bag comes salted, is it okay to use it?
I didn’t find unsalted bag.
Do I have to do something to it before baking ?
Shredded salted mozzarella cheese won’t work for knafeh. If you are located in the US, I always buy BELGIOIOSO CHEESE, it works great. If not, I know in Lebanon, they buy regular salted mozzarella, and they soak it for few days in water in the fridge. Keep changing water, until it loses most of its salt. Hope this helps!
My only question is what about the ricotta cheese as you haven’t mentioned whether to put it along with the mozerella oR not. The rest sounds very good especially the cream of wheat – will definitely try after I hear from you thanks a lot
Hello Mila, sorry about that. Yes, I add Mozzarella and ricotta cheese together. Hope this helps, let me know how it turns out for you!
I made this knafeh recipe with my husband. We loved how simple yet delicious it turned out to be! Thank you for sharing a recipe.
So happy to hear you tried and enjoyed my knafeh recipe.
This kunafa recipe was exceptionally good! I love that you make the semolina Pudding with it. Other recipes only include cheese! So good.
Hello Mona, so glad you enjoyed my knafeh recipe! 🙂
Delicious Lebanese knafeh recipe! We server it warm with rose water syrup! So good!
Knafeh is best enjoyed warm! I agree, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.
Great recipe, very easy and my husband said it tasted just like Lebanon. I skipped the ricotta and used “sweet cheese” that I got at a middle Eastern grocery store
So glad to hear! Thanks for taking the time to leave a review 🙂