Allspice and Nutmeg

Knafe (Middle Eastern Sweet Cheese Pastry)

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Knafe, the queen of Middle Eastern pastry.

knafeLight crunchy layers of pastry surrounding glorious, gooey cheese fondly saturated in citrus simple syrup.

If you’re invited for dinner at the home of a Middle Eastern family, it’s a holiday or a special occasion, you will most likely be served knafe.

It’s usually pre-assembled and popped into the oven to bake while everyone is feasting on stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and stuffed cabbage.  Eating it almost immediately is a necessity.  Gooey cheese!

The amazing thing about this.  It has only 4 ingredients.  Four.  That’s it.

1. pastry (shredded phyllo dough)

2. cheese

3. butter

4. lemon zest

5. okay five.  simple syrup (which consists of sugar, water, lemon juice.  One ingredient).

So without further delay let me show you how easy this is to make.

You will need:

a) Shredded dough also known as kataifi dough.

b) Sweet cheese or fresh mozzarella.

The cheese and the dough can be found at a Middle Eastern grocery near you.  The dough can also be purchased online.

c) a 9 inch springform pan (with the bottom wrapped in foil)

d) citrus simple syrup – recipe follows


The strands are long so you’ll want to whirl it in the food processor for a minute or two.


Now melt the butter and put some red or orange food color in there.

You will combine the whirled dough with the colored butter.  The best way to do this is to rub it between your hands to make sure every strands gets colored.

layers knafeSpread half of the colored dough into the bottom of your pan.  On top of that you’ll spread the cheese.

By the way, I ran the cheese through the food processor too.

Cover the cheese layer with the rest of the colored dough.

Then to the oven.

And wait….



When it comes out of the oven pour on the citrus simple syrup.

……Wait…..again…..for it……to……soak…..up…..that…..syrup….

about 10 minutes.

Dig in.
knafeWasn’t that worth the wait?

5.0 from 4 reviews
Knafe (Middle Eastern Sweet Cheese Pastry)
Serves: 8
  • ¾ of the package of kataifi
  • 1 stick butter melted
  • Red or orange food coloring
  • 1 pound sweet cheese or fresh mozzarella
  • lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. prepare springform pan: wrap the bottom in foil to avoid spillage in your oven.
  3. Shred the dough in a food processor. About 45 seconds.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon lemon zest and whirl around another 5 seconds.
  5. Transfer to a large bowl.
  6. Add the cheese to the bowl of the food processor and whirl for a few seconds to chop it into small pieces.
  7. Melt the butter and mix in the food coloring.
  8. Combine the colored butter with the dough making sure all strands are colored completely.
  9. Spread ½ of the dough into the springform pan.
  10. Spread the cheese on top (2nd layer)
  11. Spread remaining dough on top of the cheese (3rd layer).
  12. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until golden.
  13. Meanwhile make the SIMPLE SYRUP
  14. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water.
  15. Heat on medium-high until sugar is dissolved. DOES NOT NEED TO BOIL.
  16. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.
  17. Pour onto the hot dessert while syrup is still hot/warm.
  18. Let it soak in for about 10 minutes.
  19. Eat!

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A Dish of Daily Life
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29 thoughts on “Knafe (Middle Eastern Sweet Cheese Pastry)

  1. Amira

    Great Konafa – that is how we pronounce it in Egypt. Konafa is the queen of desserts specially in Ramadan. We make it with Ashta – sort of sweet cream -, ricotta cheese or loaded with nuts and in Egypt we never color it we leave it shine with its golden color :) . Beautiful anyway …

  2. Chantal

    Hi Norma,
    I’am a huge fan of Knafe, I usually buy them from oriental bakeries in Paris.
    Your look so yummy and I like the color as well.

  3. Joanne

    I’ve never seen anything quite like this, but now I won’t be able to get it out of my mind until I can TASTE it! Must seek out that dough!

  4. Elizabeth @

    W-O-W. What a gorgeous dessert! I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this before. I regularly shop at an Armenian market that I am sure has the pastry and cheese this recipe calls for–I’m excited to give it a try and expand my horizons!

    1. Norma Dimsey Post author

      Isn’t it though? I wish I had a piece now. We had 1 piece between us then I gave the rest away. I need to re-think that in the future. :)

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