Cheese Knefe – The Ultimate Lebanese Breakfast

I’ve been putting this post off for so long. I just didn’t want to write about knefe (or knefeh) in Australia because I couldn’t possibly have done it justice. Let me start by explaining what knefe is. First of all, though it is sweet, knefe is not considered to be dessert; it’s a meal all on its own and it’s most commonly eaten for breakfast. A layer of ground kataifi pastry is kneaded with ghee, laid on top of a layer of akkawi cheese (de-salted) and is baked until the cheese goes super-stretchy and the pastry a deep, golden brown. The huge tray the knefe is baked in is called a sidr, and the sidr is displayed outside most patisseries: showing off your knefe creates a swift trade. When you order a knefe, a special sesame seed bun called kaakeh is stuffed till it explodes with cheese and pastry and is then doused with sugar syrup. Knefe needs to be eaten on the spot, hot and stretchy.

To witness peak demand on knefe, you only need to go clubbing in Beirut till about 4am and then on your way back, find yourself a Sea Sweet patisserie. There you will see lines of Lebanese boys and gals queueing up for a post alcohol feast. In reality, nothing is as good as a knefe after a big night out. You really must watch the video of the talented knefe guy in Saida doing his thing. You’ll get an idea how raucous things can get when people are queueing up for the good stuff. I took this video at Jardali patisserie in Saida, but I buy my knefe from Al Basyooni, which has a great knefe and is much more civilised. The knefe cost 2,500LL, which is less than $3 AUD.

If you want a knefe in Sydney, go to Sea Sweet in Parrammatta, or try the Turkish kunefeh at Efendy in Balmain, which is absolutely amazing.


  • That video was awesome! The guy was making those ‘knafe sandwiches’ with such speed, really brilliant. The first time I tried knafe in sesame bread was when we visited a baklava factory in Dubai. One of the best revelations to a foodie palate ever, and your post reminds me why I need to find some and relive the experience more often!

  • This sounds awesome. Cheese is my favorite food. I have even been known to put it on a curry. Cheese for breakfast sounds like a great idea

  • Ay! Knafe for breakfast, my ultimate indulgence. My Seedo makes the absolute best (everyone has their favorite after all)… still looking for one that matches it in Melbourne! Great photos, really captures the stretchiness of the cheese.

  • Hi Pamela. No exact recipe really. A guideline I can offer though as it should be pretty straightforward. Buy some akkawi cheese, or if you can’t find it, halloumi. Soak in water until it’s no longer salty. Get some knefe pastry if available, otherwise kataifi pastry which you should mince in a mincer if you can. Rub the pastry with butter and layer the cheese and pastry bake until the pastry is golden and then serve it with sugar syrup flavoured with rose water.

    Joumana, yes the kaakeh looks like a pita, but it is a kaakeh pastry. That’s the standard way they eat it in Saida, which I prefer because it is thinner. I don’t like thick kaak. You must try this one. Al Baba tries to be posh with what is essentially street food… 🙂 But they do have good knefe there too.

  • Thanks for the tips Fouad! Really appreciate it… Now, is Knefeh usually made with Kataifi pastry or smeed?

    I want to try to get it as close as possible to the original recipes found in Lebanon…


  • Knefeh is such an awesome and creative dish! When I visit lebanon I can’t but have it. Have you tried the AShta knefeh at AbdulRahman Hallab in Tripoli? It’s the best I’ve tried so far.

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