Tahini Halvah

Sesame Tahini Halvah

 The Spruce

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Chill Time: 36 hrs
Total: 36 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
994 Calories
56g Fat
119g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 994
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 56g 72%
Saturated Fat 8g 38%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 164mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 119g 43%
Dietary Fiber 7g 26%
Total Sugars 95g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 5mg 24%
Calcium 153mg 12%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 737mg 16%
*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.)

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.


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Sesame tahini halvah recipe ingredients
    The Spruce 
  2. Lightly oil a 6-cup mold, loaf, or cake pan.

    Loaf pan
    The Spruce
  3. 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.

    Heating the honey
    The Spruce
  4. Allow the honey to cool slightly and add the vanilla and nuts.

    Nuts and vanilla added to the heated honey
    The Spruce
  5. Gently fold in the tahini and stir until the mixture is well blended.

    Tahini added to the honey and nuts
    The Spruce
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cool completely.

    Sesame tahini halvah in the loaf pan
    The Spruce
  7. Wrap the halvah well and refrigerate it for 24 to 36 hours so the halvah’s characteristic crystallized texture can fully develop.

    Halvah in a loaf pan covered with plastic wrap
    The Spruce
  8. Cut the halvah into slices while it’s cold but serve at room temperature. The halvah will keep in the refrigerator for several months.

    Slices of sesame tahini halvah
    The Spruce
  9. Enjoy.

Toasting Pistachios

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.