Cheesy Kunafa

written by Sneha Modi 14th May 2019

Kunafa (or konafa, kanafeh, knafeh) is a Middle-Eastern/ Mediterranean pastry made from shredded, vermicelli-like phyllo dough that crisps up into this beautifully golden dessert when baked. It almost always comes with a surprise filling and sweetened with simple syrup.

A not-so-authentic cheese kunafa made with everyone’s favourite mozzarella cheese!  Crunchy shredded pastry filled with a gooey mixture of mozzarella and a secret ingredient that keeps the cheese from hardening even after it cools.  A rose and orange blossom water-scented sugar syrup, sweetens and perfumes this scrumptious Middle Eastern favourite.

Photography by Kaniz Sheikh


For the scented sugar syrup:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp rose water (more or less according to taste)
For the Cheese Pudding:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 150 ml heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
For the Crust:
  • 1 packet of sevaiyyan (cooked semolina noodles)
  • 2 tbsp butter



For the scented sugar syrup:
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and lemon juice. Set on a stovetop on high heat.
  2. Avoid stirring as it heats to prevent crystallization from happening, but if the sugar is not dissolving, then help it out with a few stirs. Once it comes to a boil, stop stirring.
For the cheese pudding:
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the milk & heavy cream. Dissolve the cornstarch in the 1 teaspoon of water and add to saucepan.
  2. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil, and continue cooking until the mixture thickens into a bechamel-like consistency.
  3. Lower the heat & add the cheese. Keep stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Remove from heat and stir in rosewater. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the kunafa.
For the crust:
  1. Heat the butter in a large pan & add the crusted semolina noodles. Keep cooking till it’s evenly cooked & turns all brown. Keep aside for later.

To Prepare The Kunafa:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 200C/ 390F.
  2. Put one layer of semolina crust in a baking tray & top with the cheese mixture. Spread evenly with the help of a spatula or spoon. Top a thick layer of crusted semolina over that.
  3. Place this in the oven for 20 minutes. The longer it bakes, the crunchier it gets. So bake it for less time if you prefer a softer crust.
  4. Once it’s done pour the sugar syrup over it evenly.
  5. Let the kunafa rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow for the syrup to soak in. Decorate the edges with halved pistachios.
  6. Cut into wedges and serve right away, while still hot, passing along extra syrup, as desired.

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