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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 Apollo Kataifi and kadayif. 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 Knafeh:
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Coat the bottom of a 9-inch cheesecake springform 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 25-30 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and wait a few minutes just until its comfortable to handle but too warm.
- Invert ( you might need kitchen mittens) the pan into a serving place and loosen the Knafeh from the rim of the springform pan. 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.
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