In Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda shuk (outdoor market), you can finds stands full of halvah

Halvah is really the epitome of Jewish cuisine. Since about two mellenia ago, the Jews have been in exile, moving from one place to another, finding a new home whenever they were kicked out. While all this was happening, they incorporated the local food from the region into their diets. So, for example, traditional Ashkenazi food is very similar to Polish, Germany, Hungary, etc food (eg, kosher dill pickles). Halvah is no exception – the Jews borrowed it from their neighbors and changed it a bit.

Halvah probably originated in India. Traders from there brought this treat over the the middle east, and hence the name Havlah is derived from the Arabic word meaning sweet. In each country, this sweet dessert has a different base: semolina, beans, and pumpkin, for example. Though I am not sure, I would imagine that Jews in middle eastern countries (Mizrachim) have been munching on this sweet for centuries. But since the early 1900s, it has been a mainstream all-around Jewish treat. As a matter of fact, the first US halvah factory was established in… you guessed it… Brooklyn in 1907. Today, Jewish halvah, as opposed to others, is made from sugar/honey and tahini (sesame paste). Jewish/Israeli Halvah is fairly distinct in that it is dairy-free (pareve), as the Jews took a great treat and adapted it to fit their dietary needs.

When it comes to desserts, I am a schlemiel – I always seem to screw it up. I figured that this though, couldn’t be too hard. But…. well… Anyway, be sure to heat the sugar syrup to the corect temperature (click on the link to read more), and be sure to have ample time to allow for refrigeration.

Recipe after break…


Cook time: 45 mins


  • 1 ¾ c sugar
  • ½ c honey
  • ½ c water
  • 16 oz of tahini (usually one jar)
  • Seasonings: ½ tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1 ½ tsp vanilla, or anything else (all optional)
  • 1/2 c sesame seed (optional)
  • 3 oz chocolate (optional)


  1. Prepare container for halvah (tuperware, cake pan, etc), and line with oil or parchment paper
  2. In small sauce pan, heat sugar, honey, water to “softball stage” (246-248 F).
  3. (Optional) Stir in chocolate or nuts here (pistachios are good; use about 1/2 c)
  4. Whisk in 16 oz of tahini (mixer recommend; hand whisk ok)
  5. (Optional) Add remaining seasonings and sesame seeds, as desired
  6. Place havlah in prepared container
  7. With no lid, cool in refrigerator for 36 hours





Filed under Dessert, Israeli, Jewish, Parve, Sephardic

10 responses to “Halvah

  1. gordon

    Mazel tov on the mixer

  2. dafna

    wow i wish i could have been there to make this with you, it looks like it was a lot of fun. how’d it turn out?

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  6. Annette

    Fabulous! Almost as good as the halva I ate in Israel :)

  7. Hello, thanks for the recipe. Can you please tell me if the result is the flaky dry halvah typical from Israel? That is the one I’m trying to make. Please help


    • amiee

      Its about as close as you can likely get in a home kitchen. The texture in the Israeli halva has a lot to do with a kneading or stretching step before it is molded and cooled, but it must be kept at a heated temperature during this, which is difficult to replicate at home. Some commercial halva also includes soapwart root powder which is difficult to buy retail.

  8. kamlesh

    Ohh my goodness. I had it at hotel crown plaza in Tel Aviv Yafo n was wondering ever since what it was! Now got it here😃. Thank you so much. Will make it myself at home.kaml

  9. Marjorie Scollins DeStasio

    A store just opened in our neighborhood, it has HALVAH. I was so surprised to see it. Have not thought about it since my sister would buy it every week, with her allowance money, in our Jewish Deli when we were kids. I have gone back twice to this store in a two week period to buy it. I will have to mail some to my sister. If you never tried it, try it

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