Kataïfi: Greek Almond and Walnut Pastry in Syrup

Kataïfi: Almond and Walnut Pastry in Syrup Recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Cool Time: 3 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 24 servings
Yield: 24 pastries
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
303 Calories
19g Fat
33g Carbs
3g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 303
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 7g 36%
Cholesterol 28mg 9%
Sodium 111mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 28mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 82mg 2%
*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.)

Alongside baklava, kataïfi is one of the most popular Greek desserts and is beloved in other Balkan countries and Middle Eastern regions as well. The dessert is made with a special pastry dough also called kataifi, which are delicate, thin strands made out of shredded phyllo dough. Rounded out with a nutty filling, this decadent dessert is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious. Kataïfi dough, similar to angel hair pasta in its appearance, is assembled by stuffing and rolling up nests of dough. Like many Greek dessert recipes, simple syrup is poured over after baking to add a sweet finish but also to preserve its freshness, allowing the pastry to last longer.

When baked, the finished product looks like shredded wheat. Perfectly crunchy, kataïfi makes a great finish to any meal, but also a treat to have during a coffee break or in an elegant tea time display. With today's commercially packaged dough, kataïfi is fairly easy to make as the dough comes as a long strip, about three inches wide, making it easy to fill and roll up. 

This kataïfi is a great recipe for beginner bakers, and although complex in look, assembling it is not at all difficult. Kataifi is delicious as is and doesn't need anything else to be an amazing sweet treat, but many opt to top the pastry with other toppings such as whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, custard, ganache, or fruit preserves.

Ingredients

For the Syrup:

  • 1 1/4 cups water

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 thin strip lemon peel

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 1 tablespoon honey

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

  • 1 cup almonds, coarsely ground

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

  • 1 tablespoon brandy

For the Dough:

  • 1 pound kataifi dough, defrosted per package instructions

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this kataifi dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Syrup

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Kataïfi: Almond and Walnut Pastry in Syrup ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Heat the water in a saucepan over low heat. Add 2 cups of sugar and stir to dissolve.

    water and sugar in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, and whole cloves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

    lemon juice, lemon peel, and whole cloves added to sugar syrup in the saucepan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Stir in the honey. Remove from the heat.

    honey added to the syrup in the saucepan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck


  5. Place a fine-mesh colander over a bowl and strain the syrup. Set aside to cool.

    strain the syrup through a fine-mesh colander into a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Filling

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, ground clove, egg white, brandy, and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Stir well with a wooden spoon.

    walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, ground clove, egg white, brandy, and sugar in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Assemble and Bake the Kataifi

  1. Lay the long strip of thawed dough out on a clean work surface and divide it into 18 to 24 pieces, gently spreading the strands out a bit if they clump together. Each piece will be used to create an individual kataïfi roll. Keep the unused dough covered with a piece of waxed paper topped with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.

    Lay the long strip of dough out on a clean work surface

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish.

    greased baking dish

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Brush a strip of dough with melted butter.

    Brush a strip of dough with melted butter

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Place a tablespoon of the filling at one end of the strip and roll it up into a cylinder, tucking in any stray pieces of dough. Carefully roll the pastry tightly so the filling is securely enclosed. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

    roll the dough around the filling

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Place the rolls seam-side down in the prepared baking dish, close together but not squashed, and brush well with butter. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and crispy looking.

    bake the Kataïfi: Almond and Walnut Pastry

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Remove from the oven, pour the cooled syrup over the pastry, and drape the pan with a clean towel. Let cool about for 3 to 4 hours as it absorbs the syrup.

    Kataïfi: Almond and Walnut Pastry in Syrup in a baking dish with a towel on top

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Enjoy!

Can I Substitute the Kataifi Dough?

Yes. Although finding it at specialty stores or in the freezer aisle of Middle Eastern markets should be easy, if buying it is difficult, use thawed phyllo dough to replace it. Roll it up tightly and slice it as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. Although it won't have the same texture or appearance as the original dough, it will still make a beautiful and tasty dessert.

Make-Ahead Kataifi

This is also a great make-ahead dessert:

  • Prepare the syrup and assemble the rolls the night before, cover tightly with wrap, and refrigerate without baking.
  • Bake as instructed when you need to and add the cold syrup on top. Expert cooks suggest always pouring cold syrup on hot pastry for best results. Allow it to rest for 3 to 4 hours.