Semolina halva with petimezi, or grape syrup, is a perfect vegan Greek dessert
Σιμιγδαλένιος χαλβάς με πετιμέζι. We are so excited to share this recipe with you! We realize that it’s the first recipe we post using the very special Greek ingredient called petimezi (peh-tee-MEH-zee) , or grape syrup / molasses. Petimezi is pure, concentrated grape juice made from grape must and is perhaps the world’s oldest sweetener. It is a delight!
We love to get creative with halva. Once you get the basic recipe down, you can get very creative with the extra ingredients that will make your halva unique and special. This recipe is inspired by another dessert made using petimezi called moustalevria, a thick pudding made of grape must. Moustalevria is oven served with walnuts and sesame seeds, and so we have incorporated those two ingredients here as well. We hope that you love our semolina halva with petimezi as much as we do!
Use a combination of vegetable oil and olive oil for this halva.
The other halva recipes we have already posted call for only olive oil, but we like using a combination of rich olive oil and a milder oil for this semolina halva with petimezi. This way, the mild but distinctive flavour of the grape juice and the petimezi really shine through.
Make your semolina halva with petimezi pretty by using a fancy mould.
You can set your halva in any container, even a plain loaf pan would work! But we think that if you have fancy cake moulds, this is a great way to showcase them. Unlike baked cakes that can be stressful to remove from cake pans, halva usually comes our very cleanly and easily so even the most intricate mould will be amazing! Silicone moulds work well with halva too.
Don’t make halva with children or pets close by!
Adding the syrup to the cooked semolina can be treacherous!! Follow our instructions and be sure to remove the semolina from the heat and add only a little of the syrup at a time. Once you have added about half the syrup, the bubbling and sputtering should subside.
Increase the amount of sugar if you would like a sweeter semolina halva.
Our semolina halva with petimezi is only lightly sweetened – we love it this way. The grape juice and petimezi flavours are not overpowered by the sugar. However, if you are looking for a very sweet dessert, increase the amount of sugar by 1/4 or even 1/2 cup.
Frequently asked questions
What is petimezi?
Petimezi is a thick (though not as thick as traditional molasses), dark and sweet syrup made from grapes. The exact flavour will depend upon the grapes used but in general it is unique, sweet and have a touch of a caramel aftertaste. After the grape harvest in Greece between August to October grape juice is boiled in large vats for days until reduced to about 1/5 the original volume. This results in a concentrated taste and rich flavour.
Where can I purchase petimezi?
If you are in Montreal or another large city you can likely find petimezi in most Greek markets or Mediterranean food stores. You can also find it online, and it is available for purchase through Amazon.
What is a good substitute for petimezi?
Nothing really compares to the flavour of petimezi, and so it is fortunate that you can purchase it online. However, if you are keen to try our semolina halva with petimezi….without petimezi either dark corn syrup, regular fancy molasses or maple syrup could work. The result will be very different from what we have here however.
Can I substitute the walnuts for something else in this semolina halva with petimezi?
Yes! If you don’t like walnuts or have a nut allergy, consider using 1 cup of raisins instead – this will tie in with the rest of the grape theme.
What is semolina?
Semolina is flour made from durum wheat (Note: the regular all-purpose flour you are probably more familiar with is made from regular wheat). The main difference between regular flour and semolina flour is that semolina tends to be coarser than regular flour and the colour is also different (semolina flour is usually darker). Semolina is also higher in gluten and protein than regular flour. You can learn more about semolina here.
In some parts of the world semolina is referred to as farina.
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Semolina halva with petimezi
- Cake mould
- 3 cups (750 mL) grape juice
- 3 cups (750 mL) water
- ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cups thick or course semolina
- ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
- ½ cup (125 mL) olive oil
- 1 cup (140 grams) coarsely chopped walnuts
- ½ cup (125 mL) petimezi or grape syrup / molasses
- 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
- cooking spray for the bundt pan
- In a small pot bring to a boil the 3 cups water, 3 cups grape juice, 1/2 cup of sugar and the 2 cinnamon sticks.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and set aside.
- Prepare your bundt pan by spraying it lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle the bottom with the sesame seeds. Set aside.
- In a large pot, combine the 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup olive oil, and the 2 cups of coarse semolina.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to ensure that your semolina does not burn. Cook until the semolina is a light brown colour and it smell toasty.
- Add the 1 cup of chopped walnuts and cook along with the semolina for a minute. Remove from heat (but leave the element on).
- Very carefully add a ladle full of the water / grape juice liquid at a time to the cooked semolina. It will bubble and splatter initially. Slowly transfer all of the liquid to the semolina.
- Reduce heat to low medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the semolina thickens. When you run a spatula across the bottom of the pot you will notice the semolina separating and slowly coming back together.
- At this point, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of petimezi or grape syrup / molasses.
- Once the petimezi is fully incorporated, transfer the cooked semolina to your prepared bundt pan. Be sure to press down with the back of a spoon every so often to ensure that your halva takes the form of your pan - this is particularly important if your mould is intricate.
- Allow the halva to cool slightly and then transfer to the refrigerator until fully cooled and set.
- To serve the halva carefully invert your mould onto a serving platter or plate - the halva should come right out.
- You can drizzle with some additional petimezi if desired, and some chopped up walnuts.