Knafeh, a beloved Middle Eastern dessert, is a symphony of textures and flavors that captivates the palate. Featuring layers of shredded phyllo dough or semolina. The dessert is generously filled with sweetened cheese, typically goat or sheep cheese, and cooked to golden perfection. What truly elevates knafeh is the drenching of the warm pastry with a fragrant sugar-based syrup. This syrup is infused with orange blossom or rose water. Garnished with crushed pistachios for added richness and visual appeal, knafeh stands as a quintessential indulgence, embodying the sweet traditions of Middle Eastern cuisine.

What type of cheese is used in knafeh

Traditionally, a combination of goat and sheep cheese, such as Nabulsi or Akkawi, is used. These cheeses provide a rich and creamy element to the dessert, complementing the sweetness of the pastry and the aromatic syrup. However, I understand these types of cheese are only found at middle eastern grocery stores. As an alternative, I use a combination of pizza mozzarella soaked in water, and fresh mozzarella. The reason I soak the pizza mozzarella is to get rid of the salt in the cheese.

What type of dough is used in knafeh

There are a couple different types of dough traditionally used. The first is shredded phyllo dough which is my favorite and the second is using semolina flour. From experience, you can really only find the shredded phyllo dough at Mediterranean or middle eastern grocery stores. It comes in the frozen section and looks similar to noodles.


Knafeh is a type of cheese dessert that is extremely popular in the middle east. After I tried it for the first time, I knew I had to recreate it.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Arabic, Middle Eastern


  • 250 g shredded phyllo dough
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp ghee
  • 400 g regular mozzarella
  • 100 g fresh mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • pistachios


  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 3 drops rose water


  • Into a bowl grate your mozzarella then soak in water while you prepare the remaining steps. This will remove the salt.
    400 g regular mozzarella
  • Cut your fresh mozzarella into small cubes. Set on a paper towel to dry.
    100 g fresh mozzarella
  • Cut your shredded phyllo dough into 3 inch segments. Use your hands to split them apart.
    250 g shredded phyllo dough
  • Add 1/2 cup ghee to your phyllo dough and mix well until each piece has some ghee.
    ½ cup + 1 tbsp ghee
  • Into your 9.5 inch pan, brush on 1 tbsp ghee along the bottom and sides.
  • Add your shredded phyllo dough into your pan and using a flat item or cup, press in the dough until very compact.
  • Strain out your shredded mozzarella cheese and dry it using paper towels. Make sure the cheese is as dry as possible.
  • Season the cheese with sugar and mix well.
    2 tbsp sugar
  • Add your cheese on top of the compacted phyllo dough making sure to leave 1 inch of space along the edge of the pan so that the cheese doesn't melt into the pan.
  • Add your fresh mozzarella on top then place over the stove on med-low heat.
  • Continue keeping it over the stove for 25-30 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the bottom golden brown.
  • While the knafeh is cooking, add sugar, water, lemon juice, and rose water into a pan. Heat it up until sugar is dissolved.
    ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, ½ tsp lemon juice, 3 drops rose water
  • Once cheese is melted, flip it upside down back onto a plate so that the dough side is facing up.
  • Pour over the rose water syrup and top with crushed pistachios.
Keyword cheese, dessert, eastern, knfaeh, kunafa, middle, middle easterm