Halva: Properties and Recipes with the Favorite Candy Dessert in the Middle East

Halva, also known as halwa, is a fragrant confection with unexpected health benefits

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By Jane


Halva, or halwa, is a highly aromatic pastry, popular especially in many Middle East countries. It’s a wholesome snack packed with essential nutrients, that provides a distinctive feeling of satiety.

This preparation is derived from two culinary traditions: the Turkish one based on tahini (sesame paste) and the Indian one containing semolina. If you’re tempted by this dessert, discover it in detail: from its nutritional values to its benefits, including its composition and recipe ideas, here are all the secrets of halva!

What is Halva?

Halva is an oriental confection made from sesame seeds kneaded into a fine paste after being roasted. Rich in fats, this specialty is also very sweet. This dessert can be prepared with many other ingredients such as vegetables, nuts, sunflower seeds, and more.

Halva is very calorie-dense. This compact pastry comes in different variations: it can be made with tahini, semolina, honey, chocolate, or butter. It can also be filled with almonds or pistachios according to culinary traditions.

Halva: Calories

Rich in calories, halwa contains fats, carbohydrates, and sugars. In 100 grams, there are:

  • Calories: 469 kcal

And also:

  • Fats: 22 g
  • Sodium: 195 mg
  • Potassium: 187 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 60 g
  • Proteins: 12 g
  • Calcium: 33 mg
  • Magnesium: 218 mg
  • Iron: 4.5 mg

You will also find vitamin B6 and vitamin C.

The Benefits of Halva

Even though it is rich in calories and sugar, halva has some interesting health benefits. It is notably rich in calcium and quickly provides a feeling of satiety. By eating a small amount of this pastry, you will feel satisfied quickly.

If you are on a weight loss diet, you can indulge in this pastry, but be careful to consume it in moderation!

Halva: How to Eat It?

This specialty is a dessert. To consume it, you can cut it into small cubes and enjoy it as it is. But remember: it should be eaten in limited quantities because it is very calorie-dense.

Halva: The Best Recipes

Do you want to taste this pastry? If you enjoy cooking, you can prepare it yourself. Here are some recipe ideas for you to savor.

Greek Sesame Halva

This is an easy recipe you can try at home:

  • First, boil at 115°C: 200 g sugar, 100 ml water, the juice of half a lemon, and the flavor of your choice.
  • Let it cool, then heat 340 g of tahini to 50°C.
  • Add it to the previous mixture, then mix well.
  • As soon as the paste starts to harden, knead it with a spoon.
  • Pour your halva into an oiled loaf pan and refrigerate for 36 hours.

Semolina Halva

Here is the recipe for this variant:

  • Pour 400 ml of water into a saucepan;
  • Add 150 g of sugar, a lemon zest, and half a cinnamon stick;
  • Bring to a boil and let the sugar completely dissolve;
  • Simmer for 5 minutes covered;
  • Heat in another saucepan 75 ml of corn oil;
  • Add 150 g of semolina and let it roast (stir constantly);
  • Incorporate 25 g of chopped almonds and continue cooking for 3 minutes;
  • Turn off the heat and strain the sugar syrup (to remove cinnamon and lemon zest);
  • Pour it over the semolina while constantly stirring;
  • Let it cook (the syrup should be absorbed by the semolina);
  • Turn off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes;
  • Pour your preparation into ramekins and let it cool completely;
  • Sprinkle with 10 g of almonds and a pinch of cinnamon powder. Last, enjoy!
Here are some must-try halva recipes for you to make at home!

Pistachio Halva

For this recipe, only three ingredients are needed:

  • 270 g of tahini
  • 85 g of pistachios
  • 125 ml of maple syrup or agave syrup


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C. When it’s hot, place your pistachios on a baking sheet and toast them for 8 minutes.
  • In a saucepan, bring your syrup to a boil. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, incorporate the tahini and mix until you get a smooth paste. Chop the pistachios and add them.
  • Spread your mixture on a baking sheet (or a dish lined with parchment paper). Freeze for a minimum of 3 hours, then serve after cutting your halva.

Vanilla Halva

Here’s a simple recipe everybody should try at least once:

  • Pour 340 g of tahini into a mixing bowl;
  • In a saucepan, mix 280 g of powdered sugar and 100 ml of water;
  • Turn on the heat under your saucepan and monitor the temperature (it should reach 125°C);
  • Add a tablespoon of liquid vanilla extract to the sugar mixture;
  • Remove from heat when the temperature reaches 125°C;
  • Slowly pour the tahini into the syrup while stirring with a beater;
  • Pour your preparation into a mold, cover it, and refrigerate for 2 days.

Almond Halva

For this recipe, you need to:

  • Melt a little butter (about 150 g) in a pan and brown 150 g of almond powder;
  • Melt the remaining butter, then pour 200 g of fine semolina. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring;
  • Boil 25 cl of water and milk and add 250 g of sugar, a vanilla pod, and 6 cloves;
  • Pour the semolina and almonds into this liquid;
  • Thicken this mixture and stop the heat as soon as it comes off the edges of the pan;
  • Sprinkle with a teaspoon of cinnamon;
  • Mix and pour your preparation into a mold (press it down);
  • Chill for 12 hours before serving.

Halva: Where to Buy It?

If you don’t want to prepare your halva yourself, you can find Halva at various grocery stores, specialty food shops, or online retailers that offer international or Middle Eastern food products. Check local markets or explore online platforms for a diverse selection of Halva brands and varieties.

Some stores offer this pastry with ingredients from organic farming. It will be a bit more expensive.

Halva: Storage Tips

You can store your halva in a box in the fridge. Before serving, allow it to come to room temperature for the best taste and texture.

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