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Semolina Halva with Pine Nuts – Irmik Helvasi

The semolina halva, Irmik Helvasi, is amongst the foods  that is dear to my heart. I love the comforting Semolina (Irmik) halva and its inviting aroma takes me right back home. Semolina Halva is also the traditional dessert during religious occasions and Holy Nights in Islam, where it is customary to share the halva with family and friends.

Buttery semolina with crunchy pine nuts and cinnamon, delicious and comforting - takes me right back home

Buttery semolina with crunchy pine nuts and cinnamon, delicious and comforting – takes me right back home

Irmik Helvasi, Semolina halva is one of the most well known halvas in Turkey. Halva (helva) signifies good fortune and is made not only during religious festivals, but also events like moving houses. It is also traditional for a bereaved family to offer semolina halva to friends when a family member passes away.

Although Irmik helvasi, Semolina Halva, is made with such simple ingredients like semolina, butter, sugar and pine nuts, it requires skill to get it right and is regarded by some as a culinary masterpiece. The silky blend of buttery semolina with crunchy pine nuts offers such a wonderful blend of texture and taste; the dust of cinnamon over halva complements really well too.

Many versions of semolina halva are available in different cuisines; Turkish version of semolina halva uses coarse semolina, rather than the semolina flour. You can find coarse semolina in Turkish, Middle Eastern shops; even at shops specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. In the US, the online Turkish store also carries coarse semolina.

I hope you enjoy this comforting, delicious semolina halva.

Adapted from Ghillie Basan’s The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking

Serves 6-8

110gr/4oz/1/2 cup butter

60ml/4 tbsp light olive oil

450gr/1 lb. /scant 2 ¾ cups coarse semolina – irmik –

45ml/3 tbsp pine nuts

900ml/1 ½ pints/ 3 ¾ cups milk – whole milk preferred-

335gr/12oz/1 ½ cup sugar

10 ml/ 2 tsp ground cinnamon to decorate

15ml/1 tbsp sautéed pine nuts to decorate – optional


Stir in the pine nuts and semolina to cook with the butter and olive oil.

Stir in the pine nuts and semolina to cook with the butter and olive oil.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy pan, stir in the pine nuts and semolina and cook over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until lightly browned.

In the same time, warm the milk in a separate pan and stir in the sugar, mix well and let the sugar dissolve. Turn the heat off once the milk is hot (but not boiling) and sugar is dissolved.

Pour the milk & sugar mixture into semolina & pine nuts mixture and lover the heat. Mix well and cook over low heat until the milk has been absorbed; stirring continuously for about 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat off. Place a paper towel over the pan and cover with the lid, let the helva rest for about 10 minutes – the paper towel will absorb all the excess moisture-.

If you like, sauté 1 tablespoon pine nuts in a drizzle of olive oil for a few minutes. Spoon the semolina halva into individual bowls, and serve with a dust of cinnamon and a few sauteed pine nuts over them.

Coarse Semolina Halva - Irmik Helvasi

Coarse Semolina Halva – Irmik Helvasi

Afiyet Olsun,


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30 Responses to Semolina Halva with Pine Nuts – Irmik Helvasi

  1. Claudia June 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Dearest Özlem, our hearts are beating right here in Turkey too… this is a momentous time for this country but we hope that the PM rises to the occasion. So far, he hasn’t. What will happen next is anybody’s guess. Lovely post xxxx

    • Ozlem Warren June 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      thank you so much Claudia, I am grateful to this blogging world that we share – fingers crossed, all for pure humanity. My heartfelt thanks xxx Ozlem

  2. Barbara June 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    I’m all with you, Özlem – closely following what is happening in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir etc. And yes, our hearts are with you, Turkey!

    • Ozlem Warren June 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      thank you Barbara, means a lot

  3. BacktoBodrum June 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    If only food could solve political problems – this helva would be top of my list of comfort cures.

    • Ozlem Warren June 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Wouldn’t that be great? Food has a great power to connect individuals, folks all around the world – there is always hope.

  4. Phil in the Kitchen June 4, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    I’ve been very concerned as I’ve followed the news from Turkey. I’ve never been there but, although it sounds odd, I feel as if I know the country through the food now. I’m hoping for the best possible outcome for the people of Turkey.
    I’ve seen coarse semolina, but I didn’t know that it was used in this way. It sounds wonderful.

    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

      Cheers Phil, your kind words are much appreciated. Amazing isn’t it how much food can reveal about a nation, its cuisine and culture – Turkey is a beautiful land and I hope you make it there sometime; likewise, we all hope for the best for Turkey.
      If you can get coarse semolina, do give this one a go sometime; it has a lovely texture and a delicious, comforting taste.

  5. senior dogs abroad June 5, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Özlem, What a warm, comforting recipe to post at this difficult time Turkey is going through. It really made us feel great. B to B said it all – if only good food could solve political problems! Thanks for the lovely post.

    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      Merhaba; thank you so much for stopping by and your very kind words- I hoped the post convey these feelings, I am so glad you felt the same – thank you, means a lot.

  6. Turkey's For Life June 5, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    So hard for you to be away from Turkey right now, Özlem. Like you, we are feeling hopeful and proud, too, of the Turkish people.

    We had never seen helva served like this before but we were given lots of it in a lokanta we were frequenting when we were in Patnos recently.


    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Merhaba Julia, many thanks, we are all in the same page, wishing for the best and hopeful- I think we need to be; I love the Turkish saying “Umidim olsun yeter” – which means – “As long as I have hope..” so true.
      This is a traditional way of making helva in my family; it is lighter, fluffy and delicious, you may enjoy it: )

  7. Maureen June 5, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    I love helva! What a great dish for such a tumultuous time. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Thanks Maureen, your kind words mean a lot – hope you enjoy this helva 🙂

  8. Alan June 5, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    . . the people of Turkey are being carried shoulder-high by so many admirers around the world. Our country is at a tipping point and, with every day that passes with numbers growing, should point, not to a perfect resolution of all demands, but at least to a more dignified and inclusive future. The Turkish Arslan has, for years been intimidated by the whips of a virtual police state – Gezi and the beating of a few ‘tree-huggers’ has proved to be a provocation too many – the lion has not just risen – it has ROARED and has turned on its tormentor!

    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Thanks Alan, we are very good get uniting when things get tough, we’ve seen a great example of it, so proud. Let’s now hope a resolution and agreement for humanity and a dignified way of living – many thanks for stopping by.

  9. Ilke June 5, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    We are there…we are everywhere with these feelings…
    Hope everything is resolved soon in a peaceful way!

    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Sagol Ilke, can’t agree more – I feel the light coming, and it feels good

  10. senior dogs abroad June 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Özlem, Thanks for such a lovely, warm and comforting recipe during these difficult days. I just wish that, as B to B says, good food could solve our political problems. In the meantime, thanks for the great recipe. (If I’ve already submitted this comment, please ignore. I submitted one this morning and I wasn’t sure it went through.)

  11. Peri's Spice Ladle June 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    My dear Ozlem, I feel your pain at being away from home at a time like this…even from far, your support for the troubles in Turkey will mean a lot to them, praying for a quick resolution to this issue.

    This absolutely delightful helva reminds me of sheera, a similar Indian treat made using ghee as a base and almond/raisins. I love the look of your Turkish version and will soon be trying it out:) nothing like a warm helva (or halwa, as we call it in India) to sooth all pains! XxPeri.

    • Ozlem Warren June 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks Peri, grateful for the support and all the kind words – I am hopeful and so proud of all the brave Turkish citizen.
      Re the helva, once again, absolutely love seeing the similarities and different versions, I loved your Indian version – raisins and almonds are a great addition: ) Ozlem xx

  12. Alida June 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Yes I have been following what’s going on in Turkey. These are really difficult times and we all hope it will be resolved somehow. My heart is with you and with all the Turkish people.
    I love semolina and love the way you have prepared it. It is such a versatile cereal XX

    • Ozlem Warren June 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Thanks Alida, your kind words are much appreciate it; we are hopeful and wish for the best.
      Indeed semolina is delicious, and I agree, it really is versatile. Ciao, Ozlem xx

  13. Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe May 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    A favorite of my sister and I. Reminds us of our grandmother making it for us when we were kids. I was not aware of the tradition of serving it at the time of a death – interesting.

    We had a chocolate version of farina show up in markets in the US a while back, and it seemed odd to me to eat chocolate Cream of Wheat for breakfast, so I switched things up to make this halva with the chocolate farina and almonds for a change of pace. 🙂

    So sorry to be seeing/hearing about everything going on in the wake of the recent Soma tragedy.

    • Ozlem Warren May 23, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

      Merhaba Chris, thanks for stopping by – this halva brings a lot of memories for me too. Yes, it is a comforting dessert served for various occasions at home. Thank you for your sympathy for the Soma tragedy, really is very sad. One would hope all the aid efforts to reach out to folks up there soon.

  14. Fusun Sulzbach August 5, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    iThank you for this recipe which is 90% similar to my mother’s. I have not made irmik halvas in years, but today is the 40th anniversary of my father’s passing, plus the birthday of a favorite nephew, plus my son’s Sundance ceremony in South Dakota. I look forward to making this recipe today as I pray for my father’s spirit, my nephew’s life, and strength and endurance for my son on the Lakota reservation.

    Sag ol Ozlem hanim!


    • Ozlem Warren August 7, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

      Merhaba dear Fusun, thank you so much for your lovely note – what a special way to remember your dear father and celebrate your nephew’s birthday and your son’s ceremony, do hope you all enjoyed Irmik helvasi, my very best wishes and afiyet olsun, Ozlem

  15. Leo February 26, 2018 at 2:21 pm #

    Merhaba! Just made this semolina halva for my Turkish language class!

    Cok tesekkurler!

    • Ozlem Warren March 1, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

      Merhaba, I am delighted to hear it, hope you all enjoyed it – Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem


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