Halva: A Middle Eastern Sesame Candy

Halva: A Middle Eastern Sesame Candy in a dish

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Cooling Time: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 8 to 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
175 Calories
8g Fat
25g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 175
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 6mg 0%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 21mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Halva is probably the quintessential favorite candy dessert in the Middle East. The recipe, however, can vary greatly from region to region and country to country. For the most part, it is a dense, sweet confection and the two most common variations are flour-based halva and a nut and seed-based halva. Halva with flour is often more gelatinous, whereas the nut and seed butter halva tends to be drier, with a more crumbly texture.

The most typical nut and seed base is made from sesame seed paste, or tahini, which is combined with sugar or honey and heavy cream. Then, it can be either flavored with vanilla or with bits of chocolate swirled throughout to create a marbled effect. It also often includes bits of pistachios. In the United States, halva is often sold pre-packaged in specialty stores or in freshly made blocks in gourmet and food stores specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine. In the Middle East, however, the candy is more likely to be homemade.

The flour-based recipe, commonly found in Iran, Greece, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, uses semolina, butter, and sugar. It's often flavored with spices such as saffron and aromatics such as rosewater. Cornstarch is sometimes used in the Greek version.

Nut-based halva is common in Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, but it's almost always made with sesame seeds. Sunflower seed versions, however, are popular in eastern European countries. Tahini-based halva is the one most commonly sold in the United States.

In addition to being a delicious confection on its own, the halva candy makes a delicious base for a batch of chocolate brownies, an ingredient in chocolate chip cookies, or as the flavoring in homemade ice cream.

The recipe below uses flour. It's rich and sweet and very aromatic from the addition of rosewater and saffron. Halva is great on its own, but even better when enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea after a meal.

Easy Halva Candy/Tester Image

"The dense, slightly chewy texture of this flour halva is very different from the crumbly texture of sesame halva, but it's delicious in its own right. It's almost like rosewater and saffron flavored cookie dough. I could see sliced toasted almonds or pistachios being a great addition."—Danielle Centoni

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons rosewater

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

  • 1/2 cup (4-ounces) unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups (about 7-ounces) all-purpose flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Halva: A Middle Eastern Sesame Candy ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Allow to boil for 1 minute.

    Sugar and water in a saucepan on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. Remove from heat and stir in the rosewater and the saffron. The texture will be like syrup.

    Rosewater and the saffron added to the water and sugar mixture in the saucepan, stirred with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  4. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

    Melted butter in a saucepan on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  5. Add the flour slowly, mixing with the butter to make a crumbly paste. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture takes on a light golden color and smells toasted, 15 to 20 minutes.

    Flour and butter mixture in a saucepan on a burner, with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  6. Reduce heat to low and slowly add the rosewater-saffron mixture, stirring continually. Mix until well blended. Remove from the heat.

    Rosewater-saffron mixture mixed with the flour and butter in a saucepan, with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  7. Immediately pour the mixture into individual ramekins or onto a serving plate. Make decorative indentations along the surface with a spoon or knife.

    Halva poured into a dish, and a design is created on top with a knife

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  8. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove the halva from the ramekins or cut into small serving pieces and serve.

    Halva on a platter, and a small piece of halva on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati