Unless you have Lebanese roots or really know Middle Eastern cuisine, you may have never heard or tried some Lebanese dishes.
Other world cuisines are incredibly popular in the U.S., but Lebanese cuisine often gets overlooked, and it’s a shame because their dishes are delicious, and their desserts are no exception!
Common ingredients in Lebanese desserts include cheese, pistachios, and rosewater, which makes for some rich, crunchy, and aromatic desserts.
We’ve rounded up 10 of the best traditional Lebanese desserts for you to broaden your culinary horizons. After all, there is no such thing as having too many dessert recipes! So without further ado, let’s get started!
Let’s start with a dessert you’re probably already familiar with – baklava! This recipe is a great way to dip your toe into Lebanese cuisine, as Lebanese baklava isn’t too different from baklava you’ll find in other cuisines.
It’s still layered phyllo dough, and filled with crushed pistachios, rosewater, and a sugary syrup.
While in Lebanon they enjoy baklava with Turkish coffee, we recommend serving this crispy, rich dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Moving onto a Lebanese dessert that is similar to baklava, but with a twist.
Shaabiyat is a beloved dessert all over the Middle East, and consists of layers of phyllo dough that are brushed with a combination of butter or ghee and shortening, and then filled with Ashta before baked until they’re golden brown.
Shaabiyat is also known as Warbat Bil-Ashta in some countries and is a popular dessert to serve during the month of Ramadan.
While baklava often contains butter and pistachios, Shaabiyat contains a filling that is cheesy, super creamy, and gooey and is a touch on the sweet side.
The orange blossom water and rose water also makes Shaabiyat seriously aromatic, and it tastes just as good as it smells!
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Halawet El Jibn is the very definition of mouth-watering. It’s basically a small pillow of sweet cheese that is stuffed with clotted cream and has aromatic rose petal jam and crushed pistachios on top.
Trust us, if you serve these at any party they’re going to be gone within seconds! They are extremely sweet but not off-puttingly so, and are so rich and sumptuous.
While you’ll often find Halawet El Jibn in the windows of Arabic pastry shops, the truth is they are easily achievable at home.
Not only are they easy enough to prepare at home, but they can be ready in under half an hour.
Semolina Cake goes by many names all over the Middle East. To some it is known by its Arabic name of Basbousa, while in Greece it is referred to as Ravani.
Other Middle-Eastern countries refer to it as Harissa, although this shouldn’t be confused with the Assyrian dish Hareesa which is similar to oatmeal.
Assyrians, however, refer to Semolina Cake as Nammoura, which is very similar to cornbread only – dare we say it – better!
It has a near identical texture to cornbread, but Nammoura is a lot sweeter. Not even the sweetest cornbread can compete with the sweetness of Nammoura!
And that’s before you douse Nammoura in rosewater syrup and sugar, although you can use honey too.
You only need simple ingredients to make Nammoura. In fact, the hardest ingredients to get your hands on may be the rose water and semolina.
But the almonds, coconut, rosewater, and vanilla extract make for a divine combination, and while you may not be used to a cake being so crumbly, trust is, it works!
While Aish El Saraya is a Lebanese bread pudding, it’s wildly different to any bread pudding you would have tried before.
In fact, it’s more comparable to a cream puff cake or a whipped cream pound cake in terms of consistency.
It’s a cool, light dessert that makes a refreshing treat in the summer, with a delightful crunch from the chopped pistachios.
The base is made from rusks, which is a sweet bread that is dry and hard, and is soaked in a syrup consisting of lemon juice, orange zest, and rose water.
Then the next layer consists of a creamy, thick custard with a beautiful aroma. Add another layer of both before placing in the fridge to chill. Easy!
If you’re trying to cut down on your sugar intake, then look no further than this beautiful dessert.
Maamoul, or Ma’amoul, is an ancient cookie that is enjoyed in Lebanon, as well as Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria.
You can have a variety of fillings in these cookies, with the most popular being pistachios, spiced date paste, and walnuts.
You can make 20 cookies with this recipe, and while it isn’t the quickest recipe on our list, it is so worth the time spent baking!
They will keep fresh for several weeks before they lose their flavor and become stale, and while these cookies use several ingredients, they are still simple, chewy cookies that pack plenty of flavor despite being low in sugar.
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You may be put off by the appearance of this dessert, as the pistachios mixed with syrup don’t exactly make for the most appealing color, but trust us, our eyes can be deceiving, as this dessert is absolutely delicious!
Plus, it’s a fairly simple recipe that can be ready in about 20 minutes, although it does need to be chilled for a couple of hours before serving.
The soft, semolina pudding layer is topped with ashta, which is a silky, rich topping that is reminiscent of whipped cream.
The final topping is crushed pistachios, and the dessert is then doused in orange blossom water or sugar syrup.
While it may not be the most visually appealing dessert on the list, it is certainly appealing to your taste buds and smells incredible.
Now, Kanafeh is one beautiful dessert! It has a unique look, and of course, has the astounding smell you expect from Lebanese desserts.
While some ingredients for this recipe may be hard to come by in your local supermarket, they are available online and in Middle-Eastern specialty stores.
However, getting the right ingredients is key, otherwise it’s not going to taste how it’s supposed to.
So what is Kanafeh made of? It’s made of akawi cheese, kadaïf which is also known as angel hair, and ghee or samneh which is clarified butter.
Once the kanafeh is baked it is drizzled with a syrup that has a rosewater scent and is topped with crushed pistachios, or walnuts if you prefer.
Kanafeh is crispy on the outside, and gooey on the inside, with a beautifully mild scent.
Another unique dessert, Znoud El Sit, is almost a combination of baklava, cannoli, and crêpes. This may seem like a strange combination admittedly, but it has a scrumptious flavor, and a delightfully crunchy texture.
Plus, it doesn’t take long to whip together, but the process does take a little practice that you’ll soon pick up.
However, as we all know, flavor is much more important than appearance, so even if you don’t nail the look straight away, the flavors are sure to be a joy on every attempt.
Znoud El Sit is a common feature in most pastry shops in Lebanon, and they’re especially popular during the month of Ramadan.
They’re commonly enjoyed as a post-iftar treat after a long day of fasting, especially when accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea.
Znoud El Sit is delicious at room temperature or cold, which makes it an excellent dessert to make ahead of time.
Sfouf is a simple cake that can be prepared in just 15 minutes, and takes 40 minutes to cook. It’s a fluffy, moist cake with a nutty, sweet flavor that takes less than 10 ingredients to make.
You don’t need eggs to make this dessert, and after a hearty main course, it is a perfect, light dish.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Stop Baklava From Being Soggy?
To reduce the chances of your baklava becoming soggy, cut the baklava with a pointed knife before baking. Be careful to only pierce the bottom layer with the knife and not cut through it.
This makes sure that the syrup only settles on the bottom and properly soaks the nuts.
How Long Can You Store Semolina Bread?
You can store semolina bread for up to three days as long as it is well-sealed and kept at room temperature.
However, you can also freeze semolina bread in a freezer bag for up to a month.
How Do You Make Baklava Crispier?
To make baklava crispier, you need enough fat in the pastry. Baklava is a greasy dessert, and this is entirely on purpose.
However, to keep baklava healthy, you can pour honey or syrup on the baklava when serving, so it stays crispy without turning soggy.
We hope that our above picks have given you some new, Lebanese desserts to try at home!
Not only are Lebanese desserts rich, creamy, and aromatic, but they’re also relatively simple to make and can be ready in no time.