This glorious syrup soaked, cheese filled pastry strands, Kunefe, is one of the signature dishes of my hometown, Antakya, and it was one of the highlights at my recent Turkish cooking class.
I spent many happy holidays in Antakya in my childhood; I can still remember getting the freshly baked Tel Kadayif (the pastry strands) from the local bakery, watching the delicate strands forming from the huge sieve from Long Market (Uzun Carsi) in Antakya. And the golden memories of my grandmother cooking Kunefe in her stone oven in her garden, and, we, her grandchildren excitedly waiting for any leftovers of the butter soaked pastry strands is still vivid in my memory, glorious days.
Tel kadayif is a dough, pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, which looks like vermicelli and when soaked in butter and baked, resembles golden shredded wheat. It is the basis for many desserts but this is the most impressive. The hot cheese should ooze out giving an interesting contrast to the syrup soaked, crunchy casing. Any unsalted cheese which melts easily can be used – fresh mozzarella works well. I also like to add a little clotted cream; my mother would add the wonderfully thick cream we get in Turkey, called Kaymak. Kunefe can be baked in one big pan or smaller ones as individual portions.
You can get Kadayif, packs of pale strands that look like vermicelli- in Middle Eastern stores (like the Turkish Food Market in Cheam, Surrey – England), online Turkish supermarkets carry them.
This Kunefe recipe and many more are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, along with stunning photography and personal stories. Signed copies are now 20 % OFF for a limited time at this link and delivered worldwide.
If you live in the US, Canada or Mexico, you can order a hardback copy here with lower shipping rates.
Here are also other festive dishes like baklava and other festive desserts if you would like some more inspirations.
Syrup Soaked, Cheese Filled Pastry Strands – Kunefe
Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 45-50 minutes
225gr/8oz ready-prepared kadayif pastry, thawed if frozen
145gr/5oz melted butter
300gr/12oz fresh mozzarella, sliced (dil peyniri in Turkey or the white kunefelik peynir in southern Turkey works great if you can get)
3 tbsp kaymak or clotted cream – optional-
For the syrup:
120ml/4fl oz water
Juice of 1/2 small lemon – about 2 tbsp (you can use less, if you prefer)
1-2 tbsp crushed pistachios for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C/350 F
First make the syrup. Place the sugar and water in a pan and simmer over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice, reduce the heat through and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it coats the back of the spoon. Then remove from the heat and leave the syrup to cool. The syrup needs to be cool when poured over the cheese filled pastry strands.
Using some of the melted butter, grease a large baking tray.
Soak the pastry strands well in the melted butter. Use more butter if necessary, as it is important that it is well soaked in order to prevent it burning during the baking time. Divide the pastry strands in two. Spread half of the strands in the base of the baking pan, press it down with your fingers.
Spread or crumble the slices of the fresh mozzarella cheese and the clotted cream (if used) over the top of the pastry and cover with the remainder of the pastry, pressing down firmly.
Bake the pastry in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the strands are a deep golden color.
Cut the hot, baked pastry strands into portions and pour the prepared cool syrup over it. Serve immediately whilst still hot and the cheese is gooey. You can decorate with a sprinkling of ground pistachio nuts over the top if you like.
That memories! 🙂 delicious memories!…
I know this but haven’t eaten yet because we don’t have kadayif to make it here…
But there are something like that made from rice just fried in oil and adding some suger powder on it…
Thank you for the comment, the rice version of the dessert sounds interesting, haven;t had that one, hope to try one day. This dessert brings so many memories for me too:)
I want to make this! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Really a delicious dessert; you will need that special very thin vermicelli like pastry called kadayifi or kunefe strands, Turkish or Middle Eastern shops would have it, I plan to teach an online zoom class to show how to make it, if you are interested, thank you, Ozlem
This is a mouthwatering dessert! The best of Turkey! I love these style of desserts. Turkish cuisine is so interesting and so Mediterranean. I love it.
thank you Alida : )
that looks so delicious!
thank you Jaz:)
This looks delightful. I have no doubt that I would enjoy this dessert. I know that the best foods are those that spark fond memories.
Thanks Velva, I feel the same; I have strong emotional attachments with certain food, and kunefe is definetely one of them!
I love kunafa, here called osmallieh, probably from the Ottomans who ruled us for four centuries and introduced the joys of kunafa to the Arab world. anyway, would love to make it again, I don’t make it often enough, and especially would love to visit your hometown that I visited at least 30 years ago; maybe on your next tour?
Hello there, thanks for your lovely comment; we do share a great cultural and culinary heritage, thanks to the Ottomans, hope you can try kunefe again. And I would be delighted to explore my homeland together sometime!
This sounds absolutely delicious. I’ve never tried using kadayif pastry but I’ve really got to get round to it.
Thanks Phil, it really is a treat; you must go to the Cheam market to get your pastry:)
Delicious kunefe… thank you, it`s sound like easy and I must give a try :* My best favourite sweet ever
Many thanks Antoanella, this is my favorite too!:)
[MARKED AS SPAM BY ANTISPAM BEE | Server IP]
Künefe is the most popular dessert on my Istanbul Eats Old City Walks! I try not to indulge but it’s hard! It’s so yummy with that cheese oozing out .. Özlem, I don’t want to know how to make it!!!
Lovely to see you here; I would love to be at one of your Istanbul Old City Walks! Kunefe indeed is a treat, and I know hard to resist!:)
Merhaba to all,
Just came back from a short break with friends yesterday and stumbled on this dessert by accident, after the restaurant owner offered it for free! Only tried it as it was free! Cheese, I said with SYRUP!?But we were hooked on it for the rest of the holiday! Missing lovely Istanbul with the lovely people x
Merhaba, delighted to hear you enjoyed Kunefe – it is indeed a delicious combination of Antakya’s melted cheese with syrup, Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem
Mutlu bayramlar! This is one of my favorite Turkish desserts. I love cheese and dessert so you put the 2 together and it’s like a dream come true.
Mutlu Bayramlar to you too Joy! This is one of my favorite too 🙂
This is one of my favorite desserts…but I’ve never tried to make it! Looking at your pictures made me realize how much I missed it!!! I will definitely try this once I get the chance! Ellerine saglik!! :))
Merhaba Tuba 🙂
Many thanks for stopping by, hope you can give it a go sometime, very easy 🙂 glad the post inspired, Mutlu bayramlar!
[MARKED AS SPAM BY ANTISPAM BEE | Server IP]
I agree with the addition of kaymak, makes it so much better. Better to eat it instead of dinner rather than after a meal.
I like your idea of eating kunefe instead of dinner – it is a treat after all, and I am usually full after my dinner! So either a small appetizer or straight into kunefe for a sweet treat of dinner : )
love kaymak in kunefe, especially those you can get in Turkey:)
[MARKED AS SPAM BY ANTISPAM BEE | Server IP]
Oh how we would love to go to Antakya to try their künefe. That would be a great foodie experience. Not sure İ’m brave enough to attempt to make my own just yet. Yours looks great.
İyi Bayramlar. 🙂
Iyi Bayramlar Julia: ) Truly hope you can make it to Antakya – with a big apetite!:) Making Kunefe is easier than you think – and it may get addicted 😉
Love Kunefe, Ozlem! I remember how beautifully creamy and delicious it was when we made it together! What a treat:) yummy! Hopefully someday we will eat it in Turkey on our journeys there…dreaming on! xx Peri.
Thank you Peri; enjoying kunefe together has been very special; that’s why I love this dessert, as it appears on special times – or making anytime so special:) I so can’t wait our journey to Turkey, know we will make it happen : ) xx Ozlem
Mmmmmm soooo delicious..Kunefe is definitely my favorite Turkish dessert…and perfectly tied to Antakya..It’s the Antakya signature! It was time you post about it ÖZLEM 🙂 Thx and MUTLU BAYRAMLAR!
Many thanks for stopping by; you are right Kunefe is Antakya’s signature dish, and one of my favorites too 🙂 Mutlu Bayramlar !!
Looks delicious! My aunt was Greek and would make baklava on the holidays.
Thanks for stopping by Marie, I love the fact that we have a wonderful culinary heritage to share 🙂
Yum! I’ve only had kunefe a few times (and really enjoyed it), but I’ve never made it… this post was inspiring!
Very kind, thanks Alison – glad the post inspires!:)
[Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
Im living in Turkey so I was wondering what cheese do the Turks use? Im pretty sure its not mozzarella.
Hello Peggy, thank you for stopping by. In Antakya, there is a special white cheese – similar to mozarella, that is used only for Kunefe, it is called kunefelik beyaz peynir – it is unsalted and mild. It may be not easy to find this in other parts of Turkey, in that case, dil peyniri works well. I also like to add a little thick Turkish clotted cream called kaymak. Hope you can give it a go and enjoy it.
When you said to shred the kadayif, do you do this by hand or a blender?
Merhaba Cali, this kadayif comes shredded in a pack, it looks like a pack of vermicelli strands. Abroad it usually comes frozen – hope you can get some!:)
can you use regular phyllo dough and if so, how do you prepare it for making this dish? I live in the central US, surrounded by farms and small farm towns. We don’t have many options for getting foreign foods to cook with, and those we have are very small selections. We have to travel about 100 miles to get to the closest big town with a good selection of international foods/groceries.
Merhaba Erica, many thanks for your note. Regular phyllo dough would be hard to work in this dessert as the texture will be different. A friend recently used shredded wheat to replace the pastry strands; with their vermicelli like texture, it was actually quite good. I would treat it like in the recipe and soak in butter. It will break as it is dry but it will give a similar texture to this festive dessert. I hope this helps, my best wishes, Ozlem
Does it make a huge difference in taste if the clotted cream is not used?
I found out about this when watching Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations. Andrew tried it and liked it and I thought it looked good so I want to try to make it.
Hello Jasper, thank you for stopping by, traditionally in Southern Turkey, our thick clotted cream, kaymak is used. Though I have seen many versions throughout Middle East, where only nuts – mainly walnuts – used in syrup, if you’d like to try out.
My mom is from Antakya so this has been one of my favorite desserts. I’m going to try to make it, so thanks for sharing the recipe
My pleasure, hope you enjoyed kunefe – afiyet olsun, Ozlem
thanks so much for sharing and your kind words!