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Cactus pear, lavender and walnut halva (Χαλβάς με φραγκόσυκο, λεβάντα και καρύδια)

Classic Greek semolina dessert with a seasonal twist
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Setting time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: cactus pear, cactus pear, lavender and walnut halva, Greek dessert, halva, Mia Kouppa dessert
Servings: 1 halva
Author: Mia Kouppa


  • Spring form pan


  • 2 cups semolina or 340 grams
  • 1 cup olive oil or 250 ml
  • 6 cups water or 1500 ml
  • 2 cups sugar or 400 grams
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp dry lavender or 3 grams
  • 1 1/2 cups cactus pear puree, seeds removed from approx. 6 cactus pears, see Notes or 375 ml
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or 50 grams

To decorate

  • 2 cactus pears, sliced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or 25 grams
  • 1 tsp dry lavender or 3 grams


  • In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and dry lavender.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer, covered, for approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool. Remove cinnamon sticks and lavender (if desired) from the syrup and discard them.
  • 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.
  • 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 the cactus pear puree and the chopped walnuts to the pot and stir well to combine.
  • 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. See video here.
  • Ladle the mixture into a lightly greased spring form pan.  Before the halva has set decorate the top with sliced cactus pear, walnuts and lavender. Let the halva cool and refrigerate for at least one hour.  
  • Remove the side of the spring form pan and serve.
  • Enjoy!


To make cactus pear puree: Peel 5 - 6 cactus pears and chop them into large chunks.  Place in a blender and puree.  Pass the cactus pear puree through a fine sieve and discard the seeds.  Puree enough cactus pears so that you end up with 1 1/2 cups of seedless puree; you will likely need about 6 cactus pears.