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Turkish Cheesecake – Künefe

Künefe or Kanafeh

Cuisine: Turkish
Region: Common

Künefe or Kanafeh is the Middle Eastern version of Cheesecake. Unlike the Western iterations of the concept Künefe does not contain cream as a cooking ingredient. There are many ways to make Künefe. Some call for a frying pan or skillet; others use the oven; most of them use sugar; others use honey; some suggest to serve Künefe with Kaymak (buffalo milk cream); others don’t care about cream – and so on, and so forth. Our Turkish Cheesecake recipe is made in the oven and uses honey syrup instead of sugar syrup.

Serves: 6
Cooking time: approx. 30 min
You need: a small oven pan, a large bowl, a small saucepan and a small pot.


For the Pastry

  • 250g (9 oz) kadayif or kataifi (angel hair) pastry.
  • 250g (9 oz) fresh mozzarella* cheese, shredded to pieces. See Notes.
  • 125g (4+1/2 oz) clarified butter, melted and cooled until lukewarm.

For the Syrup

  • Scant 3/4 cup honey.
  • 1/2 cup minus 2.5 Tbsp of lukewarm water.
  • 1/2 Tsp baking soda.
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice.
  • 3-5 drops of rose water (optional).
  • 1/8 Tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

For Serving

  • A handful of ground green pistachios, about 1/4 cup (or less, or more – it’s up to you).


First, Make the Syrup

  1. Put the honey and the lukewarm water in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir until honey has dissolved.
  3. Turn on the fire to low-medium heat.
  4. Place the saucepan over the fire.
  5. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring it.
  6. Add the baking soda; wait for a few beats and then add the lemon juice; wait for another few beats and add the rose water and/or nutmeg if you’re using them.
  7. Continue to simmer and stir in low-medium fire for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Set it aside to cool off.

Then, Make the Künefe Cheesecake

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Turn on the oven (to preheat) at 190C/374F.
  3. Take a medium oven pan and butter its bottom. Don’t overdo it. Put it aside.
  4. Take a large bowl.
  5. Untangle the kadayif (angel hair) pastry.
  6. Take a pair of scissors and cut the kadayif (angel hair) pastry into short, 1 to 2 cm or 1/2 to 3/4 inch, lengths into the bowl.
  7. Mix the lukewarm melted butter into the shredded kadayif pastry. Work the butter through the pastry evenly.
  8. Separate the now shredded and buttered kadayif pastry into two equal portions.
  9. Spread the first portion of the kadayif pastry over the bottom of your buttered oven pan.
  10. Cover the pastry with the the cheese.
  11. On top of the cheese layer spread the second half of the kadayif pastry.
  12. Put the pan in the oven and bake for approx. 30 minutes or more, or less, depending on your oven.
  13. You need the kadayif pastry to turn adequately golden or golden-brown so, do check progress, without leaving the oven door open for long: you don’t want to lose much heat.


  1. Turn off the oven.
  2. Take the golden or golden-brown pan of Künefe out of the oven and onto the stove.
  3. Pour the room-temperature honey syrup over the Künefe. Pour it evenly.
  4. Cut the Künefe into wedges or squares.


  1. Sprinkle the ground green pistachios on top of the Künefe.
  2. Serve hot. (Not piping hot… just hot.)

Notes on Turkish Cheesecake – Künefe

  • Kadayif pastry is also known as Angel Hair pastry or Kataifi pastry. You can find it in Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern grocery shops.
  • Regarding the type of cheese… hmm. In Turkey they use Kashar (the Greeks call it Kaseri). Alternatives to Kashar or Kaseri: the Bulgarian Kashkaval, Italian Mozzarella (although it’s a bit bland), Mascarpone or even Pecorino Romano. The latter is saltier, so, go for it only you’re into more “salt & sweet” flavours than the rest of us.
  • For the differences between Honey and Sugar, click here.

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