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Ultra Creamy & Stringy Middle Eastern Knafeh

Ultra Creamy & Stringy Middle Eastern Knafeh

Let me just start off by saying that cheese is the actual soundtrack to my life. So sweet, melty cheese in dessert form? I mean, come on.

What i really love about this knafeh recipe is that 1) it’s incredibly approachable with simple and easy to find ingredients 2) it’s so good that even non-cheese lovers are obsessed. I have actually tested this on a few test subjects that refuse cheese and they loved it. It’s just that good.

Now even though this recipe is super easy, it takes just a few tricks to master it. I dont want to ramble on and on about my love for knafeh or how i’ve eaten this a hundred times in sweet shops in the middle east and i’ve recreated my own version here… blah blah blah (even though all of that is true). I want to leave you with some tips and tricks on making the perfect knafeh every time. Ready?

  • it’s best to use a deep rimmed pan for the knafeh. I recommend a 12’’ round pan with a 2’’ rim.

  • you can find your kataifi/shredded phyllo dough at most international grocery stores. I often find it at publix as well, though. Here is picture of the dough if you’d like for reference:

  • use your food processor to break down your shredded phyllo/kataifi dough. It’s the easiest way. Sure, you can use scissors or a knife, but you’ll be left with a sore hand. Just use a food processor.

  • you can process your dough to as fine as you like it. I like it to be fine, but not too fine. So i leave a bit of texture in the dough instead of pulverizing it completely.

  • we’ll need to mix some softened butter with our shredded phyllo/kataifi dough and i highly suggest you put on some food grade gloves and do the massaging by hand. When you work the butter into the dough by hand, your dough completely absorbs the delicious flavors from the butter and softens up from the inside, out.

  • when you make your cream filling, it will harden slightly once it’s cooled, making it difficult to spread in your tray. To solve this, put it back on the heat and add 1-2 tbsp of water. Allow the mixture to soften and then spread over your shredded phyllo/kataifi dough.

  • if you’d like for your knafeh to have that traditional orange color, you can use a coloring specifically made for knafeh to color the dough. I prefer it without, but if you want to, you can find the coloring here.

  • use your hands to mold the shredded phyllo/kataifi dough to the pan. Try your best to form a layer around the rim. Your goal is to almost completely enclose your filling inbetween a top, rim and bottom layer of dough. This will allow your filling to steam up on the inside and ooze when you cut through.

  • once you bake the knafeh thoroughly, you’ll flip it into a pan/tray and then brown the top by broiling it under the oven for 2-5 minutes.

  • drizzle your cold syrup over the hot knafeh at the end right before serving.

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Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 10 servings


1. 1 box shredded phyllo dough/kataifi dough

2. 8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick)

3. 2 cups milk

4. 1/3 cup fine semolina

5. 2 tbsp sugar

6. 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese

7. 1 lb or 16 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese

7. 1 cup chopped pistachios for topping/decorating


1. 1 1/2 cup sugar

2. 1 cup water

3. Splash of orange blossom water

4. 1 teaspoon lemon juice

For syrup:

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and allow to simmer. The syrup will slightly thicken after 10 min. Remove from heat and let cool.

For knafeh:

1. Set your butter on your countertop and allow the butter to soften to room temperature.

2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. In a food processor, pulse your kataifi dough to your desired consistency. The easiest way to do this is to handle the processing in 4 parts so you do not overload the processor.

4. in a medium pot, combine your milk, semolina and sugar until your sugar has dissolved and your semolina has absorbed some of the milk. After about 2 minutes on the stove, add your cream cheese and allow to melt into the mixture. Mix well. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. In a large mixing bowl massage your softened butter into your pulsed kataifi/shredded phyllo dough until well combined.

6. Remove 2 cups of your shredded dough that you’ve massaged with butter and set aside.

7. form a thin layer of dough, with your hands on the bottom and around the rim of your baking pan. Press firmly to create a crust.

8. Warm your semolina mixture up on the stove if it has cooled by adding 1-2 tbsp of water. Once the mixture has softened, gently spread over the crust you’ve formed with your dough in your baking pan. Be very gentle when spreading to make sure you dont ruin the crust you formed.

9. Sprinkle all of your mozzarella cheese over your semolina filling ensuring all areas of the pan are well coated with cheese.

10. using the remaining 2 cups of shredded phyllo dough, sprinkle over top of the cheese, forming a top crust.

11. place your pan into the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the dough begins to turn a light golden color and when the filling feels soft and tender when you press over the top. This indicates the cheese is fully melted.

12. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 1 minute before carefully flipping the pan overtop another larger baking pan. Be gentle ensuring you dont break the knafeh “cake” when you flip and remove the pan, exposing the shredded dough crust you formed.

13. Place under the broiler in your oven for 2 minutes until the top crisps slightly.

14. Remove from oven and drizzle with your cooled syrup. Slice and serve immediately.

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