Halva (Χαλβάς)

Halva (Χαλβάς)

Greek halva is a simple Greek vegan dessert made with semolina.

Have you ever made a bowl of Cream of Wheat cereal and not been able to eat it right away?  Maybe you had to tend to a fussy baby, a pesky telemarketer or a parcel delivery (hurray for on-line shopping).  No matter the interruption, when you finally settled in to add milk to your porridge, you were faced with a solid mass of wheat semolina.  The fact that, as semolina sits it firms up, is what halva banks on.

The Greek halva recipe which we are sharing here is grain-based and not the same thing as the nut butter or tahini based crumbly dessert with which it is often confused (no kidding, since they both go by the same name!).  This halva is semolina based and has a soft and somewhat gelatinous texture.  It is a great dessert to pull together when you have unexpected company or a sudden onset of sweet tooth-itis.  Because halva is not baked, it can be made quite quickly, and is ready to eat as soon as it cools and retains it’s shape.   An added bonus is that halva does not contain eggs or any dairy products, making it a wonderful treat for anyone following a vegan diet or for those abstaining from eggs and dairy during lent.

Helpful hints

We don’t want to scare you away from making this recipe, but we do want to be sure you are aware that when you combine the sugar syrup to the semolina mixture, you may have some splattering.  For this reason, it is very important to cook the semolina in a large, deep pot, and to add the liquid syrup slowly, and off the heat.


When we make halva we usually allow it to take shape in a bundt pan or a jell-o ring mould. You can use anything to shape this dessert however.  We have made halva by pouring it into a rectangular baking pan, and then cutting square serving pieces. We have allowed it to set in silicone teddy bear moulds (just because we had them). We once even used a small cookie scooper to make balls of halva which we allowed to cool on a baking sheet.  The possibilities are endless, however we still find that the bundt pan or round jell-o mould give the prettiest presentation.  No matter what you use, be sure that it is heat resistant as you will add the halva to it while it is still hot.

Halva (Χαλβάς)

We have noticed that some halvas appear to be a bit darker than our parents is.  We think that this is because many people add ground cinnamon to their halva, whereas our parents use cinnamon sticks to flavour the syrup; this way you get a more subtle cinnamon taste without darkening the halva too much.

Our parents like to add raisins to their halva, but consider the semolina base to be your blank canvas; you can experiment with your add-ins.  In case you would like some inspiration, we have also made halva by adding slivered almonds, dried cranberries, pine nuts and various combinations of these.

Halva (Χαλβάς)
Halva (Χαλβάς)

Looking for another Greek halva recipe? Try these:

Chocolate halva

Apple and raspberry halva

Halva with cactus pear walnuts and lavender

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Halva (Χαλβάς)

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Halva (Χαλβάς)


Greek halva is a simple Greek vegan dessert made with semolina.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cooling time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 24 pieces
Author: Mia Kouppa


  • medium sauce pot
  • large sauce pot
  • Bundt pan


  • 6 cups (48 ounces or 1.42 liters) water
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • peel of one lemon
  • peel of one orange
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 1 cup (250 mL) Greek olive oil
  • 2 cups thick semolina
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) orange blossom water


  • In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, lemon and orange peels, cinnamon sticks and cardamon pods.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer, covered, for approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool. Remove spices and peels from the syrup and discard them.
    2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar, 6 cups (48 ounces or 1.42 liters) water, peel of one lemon, peel of one orange, 3 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamon pods
  • In a large pot heat the olive oil and the semolina over medium heat.  Stir well and cook, stirring constantly until the semolina starts to brown slightly and smells toasty.  Move pot off of the burner for the next step.
    1 cup (250 mL) Greek olive oil, 2 cups thick semolina
  • Very carefully, add the syrup to the pot with the semolina and oil. It will likely splatter, so be very careful and be sure that there are no children or pets near the oven.  Once all of the syrup has been added, return the pot to the heat.  Reduce heat to low-medium.
  • Add in the raisins and the orange blossom water.  Stir constantly.  The mixture will thicken and begin to pull away from the sides as you stir it.  When it has reached this consistency, remove from the heat and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
    1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins, 1 tbsp (15 mL) orange blossom water
  • Ladle the mixture into a lightly greased mould, such as a bundt pan or a jell-o mould. You can use any mould you like, so long as it is heat resistant.  Let the halva cool and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Remove from mould and cut into serving pieces.
  • Enjoy!

Thanks for sharing!


  1. There is an Indian dessert very similar to this one, it uses milk instead of water and different flavourings… I love the use of a mold here!

    1. miakouppa says:

      That sounds delicious!

  2. Yes, there is an indian dessert that is similar. I made this yesterday (half quantity) and the citrus adds a very nice flavor. I will use your recipe again. txs.

    1. miakouppa says:

      That’s super, so glad you liked it!

  3. ehklambiris@gmail.com says:

    Perfect recipe. In my family instead of raisins we add almonds (toasted before Semolina in oil).

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thank you 🙂 Sometimes we use almonds too…it’s delicious. In fact, we will often use what we happen to have. We have even used dried cranberries which are good too.

  4. olivesandfeta says:

    Xalva was the very first thing I learnt to make. It was an afternoon tea dish in my village. Love your recipe. 💜💜💜✨✨

    1. miakouppa says:

      Thank you so much! It’s definitely a favourite of ours…especially when it’s really warm out and you don’t want to turn on the oven…you can still have dessert 🙂

  5. Is the orange blossoms water optional? What can be used instead?

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Margaret, it’s totally optional! You don’t have to add it 🙂

  6. I used your Greek Halva recipe to make dessert for my dinner party because in my rush I couldn’t find my Νενε’s recipe. Yours is delicious and much like my grandmother’s and my guests(ξένη) really enjoyed it too! I did add almonds with the raisins and I grated in some orange zest in place of the orange water. Thank you!

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Susan! Glad to hear that you were able to turn to our recipe 🙂 and that your guests loved it! Nice idea to use orange zest in lieu of orange blossom water! Have you seen our other halva recipes? We’ve got plenty on the website! xoxo Helen & Billie

  7. Hi! Could you substitute honey for the sugar?

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Despina, Yes, in theory you should be able to – just not sure how much honey you would use as we have not done this before. You can try for an equal substitution and then adjust from there if too sweet (or not sweet enough). Enjoy and let us know how it goes! xoxo Helen & Billie

  8. Stephanie Marinos says:

    Hi girls! One of my favorite Greek desserts! But my mother always made halva with butter and not oil. My Thea, my mom’s sister, always made it with oil. With my taste buds there is no comparison, butter is sooo much tastier!! You should try it sometime! Yum

    1. miakouppa says:

      Hi Stephanie! We are sure that it is amazing with butter and we may try that one day! For us however, halva is a very typical dessert to enjoy during periods of lent, when we typically don’t consume dairy products. xoxo Helen & Billie

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