Vegan Kunafa (Knafeh) | Shredded Phyllo and Sweet Cheese Dessert
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The vegan version of kunafa (knafeh), a traditional Middle-Eastern shredded phyllo dough and sweet cheese dessert, soaked in orange blossom syrup and topped with pistachios!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: about 20 slices
Ingredients
Kunafa Dough:
  • 1 lb kataifi (shredded phyllo dough)
  • 1 cup vegan butter
Sweet Cheese Filling:*
  • 1¼ cup cashews (soaked for at least 2 hours if you don't have a high speed blender)
  • 5 cups warm water
  • ¾ cup tapioca starch
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp salt
Orange Blossom Syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups coconut or raw sugar (normal sugar will work fine as well, but brown sugars give it the caramel color)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water**
Toppings:
  • Crushed pistachios
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Chop the kataifi into segments to fit inside the food processor. Process until the dough is shredded into small, crumbly strands instead of clumped together.
  3. Melt butter in the microwave or over a saucepan. Place the shredded dough into a large bowl. Pour melted butter over the dough and mix together until the dough is completely coated with butter. This works best if you use your hands.
  4. Lightly grease the sides of a 9x13in baking dish or 12 in round baking pan. Divide the dough in half. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with half of the dough, and press with your hands to pack it down. Press some of it up the sides of the pan as well.
  5. Put all ingredients for sweet cheese filling in a high speed blender. You may need to separate it into 2 batches so it will fit in the blender. Blend until completely smooth, 1-2 minutes.
  6. Once it has all been blended, pour the filling into a pot or large saucepan, over medium high heat. Constantly stir. After a few minutes, the mixture will begin to separate. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes an even, stretchy, melted mozzarella-like consistency. This will take about 5 minutes. Once the stretchy cheese consistency has been achieved, pour this filling over the layer of dough in the baking pan.
  7. Wait about 5 minutes for the cheese to begin to cool. Then, sprinkle the other half of dough evenly over the cheese layer. Press it down softly to even the layer out.
  8. Leave out for 5 more minutes before putting it into the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top of the dough is visibly browned.
  9. While the kunafa bakes, prepare the orange blossom syrup. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and stir constantly. Bring to a boil. Once it boils, add lemon juice and simmer for 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange blossom water. Set the syrup aside.
  10. Remove kunafa from the oven, and let cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to flip the dessert. Flipping it is optional, but will make the finished dessert more visually appealing. First, loosen the kunafa from the edges of the dish with a knife. Cover the top of the baking dish with a large, flat baking sheet or other large, rectangular serving dish. Flip the baking dish while it is covered by the sheet, so it will end up on the baking sheet.
  11. Top the kunafa with crushed pistachios. Pour ¼-1/3 of the orange blossom syrup evenly over the dessert (depending on how sweet you would like it.) Serve immediately while still hot, with extra syrup on the side. Slice, drizzle with extra syrup, and enjoy!
Notes
**Available from international grocery stores or online!
Recipe by Zen and Zaatar at https://zenandzaatar.com/vegan-kunafa-sweet-shredded-phyllo-and-cheese-dessert/