Halva is a traditional Middle Eastern fudge-like confection made with tahini (sesame seed paste), sugar, spices and nuts. In fact, the Arabic word halva translates to “sweetness.” Halva’s semisweet, nutty flavor and crumbly, fluffy texture are what make it a uniquely delicious treat.
Halva can be found in ethnic Indian, Jewish, Arab, Persian, Greek, and Turkish community stores and delicatessens. It is increasingly offered by upscale restaurants in some areas.
Although it calls for very simple ingredients like tahini and sugar, it is not common in Turkey to make it at home. People prefer to buy it either packaged from markets or freshly made from their local halva shops. The famous brands are Kafkas and Koska. We are selling halva of those known brands.
In Turkish culture, tahini halva is considered as a breakfast food, snack or dessert. It is especially served at fish restaurants to make a sweet end. People say that the sweet tahini flavor is the best treat to have after fish. There is even a special dessert made out of it at these restaurants: Baked Sesame Halva. It loses that crumbly texture and gets melting in your mouth. You can also eat them as they are or with a dollop of ice cream.
- Is There Dairy In Halva? No, there isn’t dairy in traditional tahini halva. It is basically made of tahini and sugar. On the other hand, the flour based or semolina based version that we make at home include butter. It is not a must though. You can substitute a plant based oil for butter in those recipes.
- Is Helva Gluten Free? The one made with tahini and sold packaged at markets is gluten-free. However, there are several variations of it, so you had better read the labels to understand whether it is gluten-free or not. As for the homemade halva recipes like the one I’m sharing here, I can clearly say that they are not gluten-free because they are made of wheat flour or wheat semolina. That being said, there are gluten-free halva recipes using cornmeal or chickpea flour but never tried them myself.
- Is Halva Vegan? Well, it depends on the type. Sesame seed halva is totally vegan as it is made of tahini and sugar whereas the homemade versions based on flour or semolina contains butter, so they are not vegan.