This kanafa, or knafeh, recipe is a favorite Palestinian dessert. Crunchy shredded phyllo dough is baked with a layer of creamy sweet cheese and then drenched in rosewater syrup. It's simple yet impressive. The cheese filling is traditionally made from Nabulsi cheese that is desalted. The ricotta-mozzarella mix is a great substitute, and lower-fat products can be used. If you have access to a Middle Eastern grocery, you can probably find kanafa dye, which turns the dough into the orange or reddish color that is the signature of kanafa.

Kanafa on white plate
Prep Time:
25 mins
Cook Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs
1 9x13-inch pan



  • 1 (16 ounce) box shredded phyllo dough (kataifi)

  • 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • cup white sugar

  • 12 ounces unsalted butter

Rosewater Syrup:

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • ½ cup water

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • teaspoon rose water (Optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

  2. Prepare kanafa: Finely chop frozen, shredded phyllo dough using a food processor until the strands are about the size of a grain of rice. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

  3. Mix together ricotta, mozzarella, and sugar in a separate bowl.

  4. Place butter in a large, microwave-safe liquid measuring cup or bowl with a spout. Heat in a microwave until completely melted, and let it sit for several minutes until a thick white foam has formed on top. Clarify butter by using a spoon to skim off the foam.

  5. Carefully pour butter into the bowl of phyllo dough. Avoid pouring in the white milk solids at the bottom of the clarified butter. Use your hands to mix butter and dough together. Make sure butter is absorbed by taking handfuls of the dough and rubbing it between your palms.

  6. Evenly spread buttered phyllo dough into a 9x13-inch pan and firmly press it into the bottom and edges. Spread cheese mixture onto the dough, avoiding the edges of the pan.

  7. Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is slightly golden and the edges of dough are brown and bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes.

  8. While the kanafa is baking, prepare the syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in lemon juice. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture turn golden and caramelize. Remove from heat and add rose water; set aside.

  9. Remove kanafa from the oven. Place a large platter or baking sheet over the baking dish. Using oven mitts, carefully invert the baking dish onto the platter so phyllo is on top. Pour syrup over kanafa. Cut into pieces and serve while hot.

Editor's Note:

Shredded phyllo dough (kataifi) is available in the freezer section in many grocery stores.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

664 Calories
42g Fat
59g Carbs
13g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 664
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 42g 54%
Saturated Fat 26g 128%
Cholesterol 116mg 39%
Sodium 278mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 59g 22%
Total Sugars 34g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 266mg 20%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 90mg 2%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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