|Nutrition Facts (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 word 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, such as this one, is made with tahini, sugar or honey, spices, and most times added nuts or extracts. Halvah can take on a wide variety of flavors, including chocolate, coffee, vanilla, rose water, lemon zest, poppy seeds, or orange oil.
This recipe 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, high-quality components are key. Once you make the halvah, you can do more 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.
Toasting nuts and seeds helps intensify their flavor and is key to creating the halva's rich taste.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Place 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 the oven and allow them to cool slightly before using.
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 this recipe is somewhat a blank slate, the possibilities are nearly endless. Try some of these additions:
- Add flakes of coconut, raisins, currants, sour cherries, or chopped dates.
- Instead of pistachios, try hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, peanuts, or pine nuts.
- Mix in black sesame seeds for another layer of sesame flavor and interesting appearance.
- Add instant coffee, powdered cocoa, lemon zest, or edible essential oil to create 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.
Should I Worry That My Halvah Isn't Flaky?
It can be challenging to achieve the flaky texture found in Israeli halvah, so if your version ends up having more 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 flaky texture.