How to Make Halva, the Middle Eastern Treat

Updated: Sep. 09, 2022

The classic confection can be found in international markets, but it's super easy to make at home with this halva recipe.

It’s both fun and fulfilling to explore cuisines from cultures all over the globe. Next time you want to whip up a new sweet treat, try halva! You can make your own at home with the easy halva recipe below.

Here’s our roundup of dozens of the best comfort foods from around the world.

What Is Halva?

Halva is a traditional Middle Eastern fudge-like confection made with tahini (sesame seed paste), sugar, spices and nuts. In fact, the Arabic word halva translates to “sweetness.”

Halva’s semisweet, nutty flavor and crumbly, fluffy texture are what make it a uniquely delicious treat. This iconic candy can be found in many Middle Eastern grocery stores and street markets.

How to Make Tahini Halva

This recipe comes to us from Najmieh Batmanglij, author of Cooking in Iran. There, Najmieh shares a handful of halva recipes, but this one’s the most basic. Here’s how to make it.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup pistachio kernels
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 cups tahini paste (find it in the same aisle as nut butters or on Amazon)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (available at specialty cooking shops or on Amazon)

Step 1: Toast the Pistachios

In a wide skillet over low heat, toast the pistachio kernels by shaking the pan back and forth for about 15 minutes. Stir in the cardamom and cinnamon. Remove the spice-coated nuts from the heat. Set aside.

Here are a few other handy ways to toast nuts.

Step 2: Make the Candy Base

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for 30 to 40 minutes. The mixture will be a thick, stretchy, caramelized syrup with a honey-like consistency. Add the lime juice and cook for one more minute.

Pro tip: If you’re using a candy thermometer, the mixture should be at 250˚F when ready.

Step 3: Beat the Ingredients

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the tahini paste, rose water and two tablespoons of the syrup for five minutes. Add the remaining syrup and mix for 15 to 20 minutes until stiff.

Step 4: Mold the Candy

Thoroughly fold in the pistachio and cardamom mixture with a spatula. Transfer the paste to the mold, cover with plastic wrap and press down to even it out. Allow the halva to dry at room temperature overnight. Remove the plastic wrap and unmold onto a platter.

Step 5: Serve and Enjoy

Cut the halva loaf into about 20 slices. To keep your halva fresh, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

tahini halva on shelvesCourtesy Najmieh Batmanglij

How Can I Enjoy Halva?

Halva can be enjoyed alone or as a mix-in or topping! Here are some ideas we recommend trying:

  1. Enjoy with coffee or tea.
  2. Crumble up some halva bits and sprinkle atop homemade ice cream.
  3. Dip slices in melted chocolate and top with sesame seeds. Let the chocolate dry before enjoying.
  4. Mix halva pieces into your cookies, brownies, cakes, scones and more.
  5. Add some sweet crunch to fruit salad.

Given its versatility and perfect sweetness, halva might just be the next treat you try at home!

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