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A Very Festive dessert; Syrup Soaked, Cheese Filled Pastry Strands – Kunefe

Glorious syrup soaked, cheese filled pastry strands, Kunefe, a centerpiece for special occasions.

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.

Proudly showing and sharing the kunefe at my Turkish cooking class on October 20th – many thanks to dear Nadia for the photo!:)

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.

The Master at work in Long Market, Antakya. The dough is pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, called Tel Kadayif.

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.

Kunefe can also be baked in individual portions, like Sultan Sofrasi in Antakya does wonderfully.

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

Serves 6

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:

225gr/8oz sugar

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 to prevent it burning during baking.

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.

Cover with the remainder of the pastry over the cheese spread, pressing down firmly.


Once you spread the remainder of the pastry over the cheese and pressed down firmly, it is ready to be baked.

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.


Afiyet Olsun,


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54 Responses to A Very Festive dessert; Syrup Soaked, Cheese Filled Pastry Strands – Kunefe

  1. Saei October 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    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…


    • Ozlem October 22, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      Merhaba Saei,
      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:)

      • Debbie March 24, 2021 at 1:37 am #

        I want to make this! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

        • Ozlem Warren March 24, 2021 at 4:14 pm #

          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

  2. Alida October 22, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    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.

    • Ozlem October 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      thank you Alida : )

  3. jaz October 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    that looks so delicious!

    • Ozlem October 23, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      thank you Jaz:)

  4. Velva October 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    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.


    • Ozlem October 23, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks Velva, I feel the same; I have strong emotional attachments with certain food, and kunefe is definetely one of them!

  5. TasteofBeirut October 23, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    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?

    • Ozlem October 23, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      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!

  6. Phil in the Kitchen October 23, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    This sounds absolutely delicious. I’ve never tried using kadayif pastry but I’ve really got to get round to it.

    • Ozlem October 23, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      Thanks Phil, it really is a treat; you must go to the Cheam market to get your pastry:)

  7. Antoanella October 23, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Delicious kunefe… thank you, it`s sound like easy and I must give a try :* My best favourite sweet ever

    • Ozlem October 23, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      Many thanks Antoanella, this is my favorite too!:)

  8. Claudia October 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    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!!!

    • Ozlem October 23, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      Merhaba Claudia,
      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!:)

      • Rukayah September 28, 2019 at 10:54 pm #

        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

        • Ozlem Warren October 11, 2019 at 12:48 pm #

          Merhaba, delighted to hear you enjoyed Kunefe – it is indeed a delicious combination of Antakya’s melted cheese with syrup, Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem

  9. Joy (My Turkish Joys) October 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    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.

    • Ozlem October 24, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      Mutlu Bayramlar to you too Joy! This is one of my favorite too 🙂

  10. Tuba October 24, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    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!! :))

    • Ozlem October 24, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      Merhaba Tuba 🙂
      Many thanks for stopping by, hope you can give it a go sometime, very easy 🙂 glad the post inspired, Mutlu bayramlar!

  11. BacktoBodrum October 24, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    I agree with the addition of kaymak, makes it so much better. Better to eat it instead of dinner rather than after a meal.

    • Ozlem October 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

      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:)

  12. Turkey's For Life October 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    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. 🙂

    • Ozlem October 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      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 😉

  13. Peri October 25, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    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.

    • Ozlem October 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      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

  14. Asi October 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    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!

    • Ozlem October 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Merhaba Asi,

      Many thanks for stopping by; you are right Kunefe is Antakya’s signature dish, and one of my favorites too 🙂 Mutlu Bayramlar !!

  15. Marie October 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Looks delicious! My aunt was Greek and would make baklava on the holidays.

    • Ozlem October 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by Marie, I love the fact that we have a wonderful culinary heritage to share 🙂

  16. Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) November 16, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    Yum! I’ve only had kunefe a few times (and really enjoyed it), but I’ve never made it… this post was inspiring!

    • Ozlem November 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Very kind, thanks Alison – glad the post inspires!:)

  17. Peggy April 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    [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.

    • Ozlem Warren April 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      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.

  18. Cali January 28, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Merhaba Ozlem!

    When you said to shred the kadayif, do you do this by hand or a blender?

    • Ozlem Warren January 28, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      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!:)

  19. Erica October 7, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    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.

    • Ozlem Warren October 8, 2015 at 9:33 am #

      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

  20. Jasper April 17, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    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.

    • Ozlem Warren April 17, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

      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.

  21. AG June 13, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    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

    • Ozlem Warren June 14, 2017 at 8:20 pm #

      My pleasure, hope you enjoyed kunefe – afiyet olsun, Ozlem

  22. Ozlem Warren June 8, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    thanks so much for sharing and your kind words!


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