|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 56g||72%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||38%|
|Total Carbohydrate 119g||43%|
|Dietary Fiber 7g||26%|
|Total Sugars 95g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||24%|
|*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.|
Halvah—the Arabic term for "sweet"—is a general term used around the world for a sweet treat that can take many forms. The most famous version of this tasty confection is the Middle Eastern sesame sweet, but each region where the concoction exists has a different take on it, from flour-based to semolina, rice, or cornstarch. Halvah is found in Asia, Northern Africa, India, and the Balkans. And, luckily, this sweet treat is easy to make at home—no need to travel across the globe.
A common version is made with tahini, sugar or honey, spices, and most times added nuts or extracts. The flavoring in halvah is as big as your imagination because it is flexible and open to personal interpretation, but delicious and satisfying no matter the recipe. Halvah can be flavored with chocolate, coffee, vanilla, rose water, lemon zest, poppy seeds, or orange oil, just to name a few. Add pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, or black sesame seeds for crunch, or flavor it with coconut, vanilla, peanuts, or dried fruits.
Our version is simple enough to follow but does require some candy-making skills, a candy thermometer, and a day or so to crystallize. Toast the nuts beforehand, as this contributes to the rich taste of this treat, and use good-quality honey and tahini because the preparation has so few ingredients that high-quality components are key. Once you make the halvah, there is more you can do than simply eat it on its own, such as crumbling and sprinkling it over ice cream or parfaits or using it as a topping for freshly baked brownies, cupcakes, or cakes.
Gather the ingredients.
Lightly oil a 6-cup mold, loaf, or cake pan.
Heat the honey in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it reaches 240 F or the soft-ball stage: when a bit of the syrup is dropped into cold water it should form a soft, flexible ball.
Allow the honey to cool slightly and add the vanilla and nuts.
Gently fold in the tahini and stir until the mixture is well blended.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cool completely.
Wrap the halvah well and refrigerate it for 24 to 36 hours so the halvah’s characteristic crystallized texture can fully develop.
Cut the halvah into slices while it’s cold but serve at room temperature. The halvah will keep in the refrigerator for several months.
How Do I Toast Pistachios?
Toasting nuts and seeds help intensify their flavor. It is key to toast the pistachios before adding them into the mixture:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Place in a single layer of nuts on a baking sheet.
- Bake until golden brown, or for approximately 7 minutes, checking halfway to make sure the nuts don't burn.
- Remove from oven and allow them to cool slightly before using.
It can be a challenge to achieve the flaky texture found in Israeli halvah, so if your version ends up having more of fudge or caramel-like consistency, don't fret—it will still have that delicious, signature taste. Some cooks claim that allowing the honey to reach 270 F will achieve the signature texture.
Additional Ingredients and Flavorings
At the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, you will see tables piled high with several different varieties of halvah, some studded with nuts, some flavored with extracts, and some even tinged with color. Because our recipe is somewhat a blank slate, the possibilities are nearly endless. Here are a few of our favorite additions:
- Add flakes of coconut, raisins, currants, sour cherries, chopped dates, or nuts like hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, or pine nuts.
- Add instant coffee, powdered cocoa, lemon zest, or edible essential oil to add a different flavor profile.
- Coat the slices of halvah with melted dark chocolate and add nuts or sprinkles on top before the chocolate sets for a festive touch.