Greek Halvah: How different it is from Egyptian Halawa

Halvah is a vegan, no bake and  Greek dessert that is made of four simple ingredients: semolina, sugar, oil, and aromatics.

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Meet My Blog Guest

Please meet my lovely Greek-American guest: Despina Yeargin. Despina is a Greek food maker. Check her account on Instagram @despodoodle.  Despina is a writer, cooking coach, & storyteller with a Greek cookbook in the works.

To know more about the interesting life of Despina that led to her culinary passion, listen to this interview with her here .

Despina is sharing with us in this blog post her favorite vegan dessert recipe, which is Halvah.

Now, I will let Despina tell you more about her heritage recipe.

What Is Greek Halvah?

Halvah is a Greek and vegan dessert made of four simple ingredients: Semolina, sugar, nuts, oil and aromatics.

There are many versions of Halvah. Some are cake-like and are baked in the oven, others are prepared like a candy, and the last is made on a pot on the stove and molded before serving, which is my favorite because it comes together so easily. 

The basic stovetop recipe for Halva is quite easy to prepare and easy to remember. Most people use the 1-2-3-4 ratio, which is 1 cup oil, 2 cups semolina, 3 cups sugar, and 4 cups water plus the aromatics.

Is Halvah Originally Greek?

The word Halvah itself means “sweet”.

Alan Davidson says in his book “The Oxford Companion to Food” a marvelous encyclopedia of food terms, names, ingredients and more; that the word Halvah can be traced back to 7th-century Arabia, and that it comes to us from the Arabic root for “sweet.”

However, Halvah is the name of different desserts in different countries. For instance, Greek Halvah is different from Egyptian Halawa as the latter is made of sesame paste, sugar and sometimes nuts.

So to answer the question above, Greek Halwa shares the name with other cuisines but the recipe of Greek Halvah is different.

A Family Signature Recipe 

My mother adapted a recipe for Halvah from the most popular Greek cookbook by Sophia Skoura. I am grateful to have my mother’s copy, which was published in 1967.

What I am sharing with you today is my version of my mother’s adaptation for Greek Halvah. I enjoy it both warm and cold, just out of the fridge.

During cooler weather it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but it has a very refreshing quality served cold. It’s my favorite way to eat Halvah.

Success Secrets 

  • Aromatics

There are multiple aromatics that you can use to jazz up halvah, such as cinnamon, lemon, orange, rosewater, mastic.

  • Oil

To make Halwa, some people use vegetable oil, others use olive oil, while I prefer the Greek tradition of using extra-virgin olive oil.

  • Nuts & Dry Fruits 

Most recipes call for toasting the nuts prior to cooking or not toasting them at all. The third option would be adding the nuts to the hot oil first and then toast them along with the semolina.

As for dry fruits, raisins and dried cranberries and grated carrots are options. 

Halvah Is Perfect For Beginner Cooks & No Bakers 

The halvah recipe is a no bake, fairly easy endevour for beginner cooks, as it only takes simple steps to make.

Start by making the simple syrup and setting it aside. Second step would be toasting the semolina and nuts together, while the third step is to simply mix in the simple syrup with the semolina-nuts mixture.

The fourth and last is to dump this sticky mixture into a mold or to serving cups. Cool, chill, and serve. Voila!

Get in Touch With Despina 

To learn more about Despina’s delicious and authentic Greek recipes, check:

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For more Greek recipes, check: 

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Disclaimer:Chez Nermine blog is an Amazon Associate. We earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Our commission doesn’t affect the price of the product you purchase.

Greek Halvah

Recipe Credit to Despina Yeargin 


  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 cups semolina (fine or coarse or a combination)

 For The Syrup:

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 whole cloves
  • The rind of one lemon
  • 1 cup raisins, Dry cranberries, or other dried fruit
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Grated zest of one unwaxed/unsprayed lemon

For The Garnish

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or toasted ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder


  1. Make the simple syrup: In a small pot, combine the syrup ingredients. Stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for no more than five minutes. Once ready, turn off the heat and set the simple syrup aside. Let the whole spices inside the syrup to impart their flavors until you are ready to assemble the dessert in step 3.
  2. Toast the semolina and almonds: Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the almonds to the oil. Stir the almonds and toast for thirty seconds. Stir in the semolina and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue stirring and cooking until the almonds and semolina have turned to a golden-brown hue or darker (according to your choice). Remove the pot from the heat. Now it is time to add the simple syrup.
  3. Combine the syrup and the semolina-nuts mixture:  At this point, remove the aromatics from the syrup. Off the heat, pour the syrup carefully into the semolina-nuts mixture and stir vigorousily until the bubbling and steam subside. Move the pot back to the stove and continue stirring until the semolina has thickened and is coming away from the pot when you stir. Turn off the heat and add lemon zest if using. Cover and allow the mixture to dry out and cool a bit.
  4. Mold the Halvah: In a bundt cake pan or a deep fluted tart pan, add a layer of toasted ground almonds and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and then turn out all of the semolina mixture and smoothen it with a metal spoon or spatula. This way the almonds and cinnamon will adhere to the warm mix.
  5. Cool & chill the Halvah: Leave on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes. The Greek celebrity chef, Akis Petrezikis, waits only five minutes. Now you can unmold your Halvah onto a plate. Once it has cooled for about an hour, slice and serve, or chill in the refrigerator before serving.


  • If you don’t have a fancy pan, you can use a simple cake pan or a bowl. You can also use muffin baking cups, or Greek coffee cups. When I use the coffee cups, sometimes I turn it out onto the small plate and top it with aromatics and nuts at serving time. Other times, I leave the halvah in the cup. 

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