You don't have any fancy ingredients in your pantry but you are craving something sweet so badly? Give this simple Turkish Halva Recipe (un helvasi) a try. You only need 4 ingredients (butter, flour, sugar and water) and a little time for this thick and creamy dessert.
Un helvasi is the easy homemade version of traditional Middle Eastern halva made of tahini aka sesame paste.
Halva or helva as we say in Turkish, is one of the oldest Turkish desserts. It has several varieties: Classic tahini halva, semolina halva and this flour halva, un helvası.
This is a very easy but wonderful dessert especially when you have limited ingredients. If you don’t have much time or enough ingredients for making something special for your guests at an afternoon tea party, this un helva recipe made with flour and syrup is just for you.
What is Halva Dessert?
Halva, helva, halwa or halvah is originally a dessert in Middle Eastern countries. It is made of sesame seed paste also known as tahini and sugar. It has a dense and crumbly texture and sometimes flavored with cocoa powder or vanilla. Some of them also contain nuts like pistachios or walnuts.
Although it calls for very simple ingredients like tahini and sugar, it is not common in Turkey to make it at home. People prefer to buy it either packaged from markets or freshly made from their local halva shops.
As you can guess, local shops sell the best version of it. On the other hand, they can take the store-bought halva to a whole different level with a simple baking method. Check out our baked tahini halva recipe!
On the other hand, people created two variations of halwa that they can easily make at home. One of them is irmik helvasi (semolina halva), which is made with semolina and sugar syrup. The other one is un helvasi (flour halva), which is made with flour and sugar syrup. And we'll be sharing this flour based recipe here.
Both irmik helvasi and un helvasi are mostly served at funerals, but also known as a family dessert. They are grandmother type of desserts, so either of them is a staple at family gatherings. My grandma was really good at making this simple dessert and it always reminds me of her. So I'd like to share this helva recipe in memoriam of my dear grandma.
Interested in Turkish food and want to learn more? Go check out our Turkish delight recipe too!
About The Ingredients
You basically need 4 ingredients to make it: Butter, flour, sugar and water. These are the ingredients for traditional un helva. Nothing else is needed.
You can substitute oil for butter if you are not after a buttery taste but we love it with butter.
On the other hand, it is a quite customizable recipe and younger people are likely to make additions. For example, you can add nuts into it and top it with something like pistachio or cinnamon if you want to enrich your halva.
Prepare the syrup first. Combine sugar and water in a pan and bring it to boil. Let it simmer for a few minutes and then remove from the heat.
Melt butter in a large pan and add in flour and nuts if you are using. Stir it well using a wooden spoon and bring it to very low heat and keep stirring until the flour gets golden brown and you feel a toasted aroma. Remove it from the heat.
Pour in the hot syrup when the flour is golden brown and remove from the heat. Keep stirring it as it cools down. You will see it holds together and forms a ball. Traditionally, you can give it an oval shape using a tablespoon or you can just serve it in bowls or on plates. You can top it with coconut flakes, ground pistachio or cinnamon.
Note: We always make this halva with all-purpose flour but I wonder whether a gluten-free flour would work too. Will have to try it. Please share it here if you try it earlier. I'd love to hear the result!
If you want to take this un helva to a next level, you know what you need: Chocolate! Melt dark chocolate in a heat-proof cup over simmering water. Add this into the halva when you pour the syrup into it and follow the same steps mentioned above. If you are a chocolate fan, I'm sure you will love that version even more.
Turkish Halva vs Persian Halva
Although their methods and the main ingredients are almost the same, these are not exactly the same treats. Unlike Turkish halva, Persian halva has two more flavors: saffron and rosewater. These are added in the syrup while it is boiling.
As for the serving, it is almost a must to serve halva with Turkish coffee or Turkish Tea. It balances the sweetness of the dessert when you drink it without sugar.
- Is There Dairy In Halva? No, there isn’t dairy in traditional tahini halva. It is basically made of tahini and sugar. On the other hand, the flour based or semolina based version that we make at home include butter. It is not a must though. You can substitute a plant based oil for butter in those recipes.
- Is Helva Gluten Free? The one made with tahini and sold packaged at markets is gluten-free. However, there are several variations of it, so you had better read the labels to understand whether it is gluten-free or not. As for the homemade halva recipes like the one we are sharing here, we can clearly say that they are NOT gluten-free because they are made of wheat flour or wheat semolina. That being said, there are gluten-free halva recipes using cornmeal or chickpea flour but never tried them.
- Is Halva Vegan? Well, it depends on the type. Sesame seed halva is totally vegan as it is made of tahini and sugar whereas the homemade versions based on flour or semolina contains butter, so they are not vegan. But if you want to make it vegan, just substitute oil for butter.
- How Do You Eat It? In Turkish culture, tahini halva is considered as a breakfast food, snack or dessert. It is especially served at fish restaurants to make a sweet end. People say that the sweet tahini flavor is the best treat to have after fish. There is even a special dessert made out of it at these restaurants: Baked Sesame Halva. It loses that crumbly texture and gets melting in your mouth. As for the ones made at home with flour and semolina, you can either eat them as they are or with a dollop of ice cream.
As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!
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Turkish Halva Recipe (Un Helvasi)
A super easy Turkish dessert with 6 ingredients.
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 17 minutes
- Total Time: 19 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 50g butter
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup walnuts or peanuts, optional
- Ground pistachio for topping, optional
- Put water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes over medium low heat and remove from heat.
- In another large non-stick pot, melt the butter. Then add flour and peanuts in it and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes or until golden, or you feel a toasted aroma, stirring continually. When it’s done, bring it to the lowest heat and pour the boiling syrup into the pot. Be careful not to burn yourself as it might splash out of the pot.
- Stir it with a wooden spoon as fast as you can until smooth. When it gets thicker than pudding, it’s done.
- Remove from heat and let it cool.
- Serve them in small cups or shape them using a tablespoon or with your hand as in the picture before serving.
- Top with ground pistachio, coconut flakes or cinnamon.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 272
- Sugar: 25 g
- Sodium: 69.1 mg
- Fat: 13.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 35.9 g
- Protein: 3.1 g
- Cholesterol: 17.9 mg
Keywords: halva, halva recipe, halvah recipe
Thank you for this recipe. If I make a large batch up, how long can it keep for please? Thinking ahead, it would be lovely to give as small gifts for my nieces inside christmas hanging tree decorations a little like advent daily treats
Zerrin & Yusuf says
Hi Natalie, it would be a gorgeous edible gift. Never thought of that before. Brilliant idea! It keeps for 4-5 days at room temperature.
Yes, the Persian recipe is almost identical except we add rose water, saffron, and a hint even of cardamom. And we also eat it at funerals... I remember as I child looking forward to this part when they would pass out halva at such events... beautiful how we can share similar customs with their own slight differences 🙂
FARIDA BANU says
Nice hlava recipe.
I only know halva the way we buy it in the Turkish shops around here, the way I used to eat it as a child as well, my grandma was a fan, so we had it often. But it is made with sunflower seeds, firm and crumbly... I suppose there are different kinds of it. This halva looks delicious, so soft and comforting.
Hi Adina! Never heard of halva made with sunflower seeds, interesting. There are various types of halva in our cuisine though. Maybe it's something I'm not familiar with. This one is the simplest version.
Aysegul Sanford says
Looks so SO dreamy. This is exactly how my mother used to make it. 🙂
Thanks canım! I'm so happy to hear that this was your mother's recipe too. I'm sure hers was even tastier.
very simple but yummy dessert! they do remind me of cookies too
What a wonderful delicious looking dish, this looks perfect with tea as you said!
Tangled Noodle says
These look so delicious and easy to make! They're like shortbread cookies but the method is different and unique. Thank you for sharing!
Daily Spud says
I love the fact that I am pretty much guaranteed to always have all of the ingredients for this to hand, definitely increases the chances that I will try it out!
Natasha - Just as you say, this easy dessert is a great saver.
Christelle Vaillant - Thank you so much. Glad you like our cuisine and my recipes. Halvah doesn't have an English meaning, the word is originally Arabic, meaning a dessert made from butter, sugar and flour or semolina. (I'll ad the semolina version later.)
Reeni - It was just how you describe.
Sophie - Grandma used to teach several dishes to me when I was a little child. I wish she could see this.
Zerrin, I bet you made your grandmother pride!!!!! Well done!!
This dessert is easy & looks so yummie:)!! & Thanks for this wonderful story!!!
Christelle Vaillant says
I follow your blog via rss, I love it 🙂 I love turkish food, and i am so pleased you post lots of home dishes :)))))
This halva sound moister than the usual one, I'll give it a try :))
What does halva mean?
Natasha - 5 Star Foodie says
I often find myself in this situation when I am short of time because I focus too much on the main course and then I am in need of a easy and delicious dessert just like that! Thanks for this recipe!
I bet these just melt in your mouth!! I would love to try them!