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Kataifi is a Greek dessert made of kataifi pastry dough. A filling of nuts, sugar and aromatic spices are rolled and baked in a buttered dough. The dough nests are then drizzled with sugar syrup. The result is a sweet, buttery and crispy treat.

What is kataifi?

Kataifi (Greek spelling καταΐφι, pronounced: ‘kata-IE-fie’) is a Greek dessert made from kataifi pastry, which is otherwise known as string pastry. Inside, there’s a filling of nuts, sugar and fragrant spices, which are rolled and baked within the buttery pastry dough. As if that wasn’t good enough, the dough itself is drizzled with a sugar syrup. The end result is a sweet, buttery and deliciously crispy dessert that’s hard to resist. 

Greece is not the only country where this delightful dough is enjoyed. In Turkey, a similarly sweet treat made with vermicelli dough called kunefe is popular, with cheese being the preferred filling. In Canada, it’s prawns and seafood that serve as the favoured filling.

This dessert is traditionally eaten in Greece on important Greek-Orthodox holidays, such as Christmas and the first day of fasting, Kathara Deftera. 

Did you know...

Most Greeks don’t make their own kataifi dough at home. There used to be special shops where little else but the dough itself was made. Today, however, most supermarkets stock it. Elsewhere in the world, Turkish supermarkets are likely to stock it under the name ‘kadayif’. 

How to make kataifi

Kataifi has many forms which vary by chef, region and season. Depending on what nuts are available locally, the filling can be based on almonds, pistachios or walnuts. Dough can be buttered with ordinary butter, although butter made from sheep and goats milk can also be used. During fasting periods, vegan-friendly oil or margarine are often used. Sugar syrup used in the recipe traditionally contains honey and can be infused with vanilla, lemon or cinnamon. 

The basic version is made as follows: A sugar syrup is made with sugar, honey, lemon peel and lemon juice, along with a stick of cinnamon. A filling of chopped nuts and sugar is then prepared, with a touch of something extra like rosewater, cinnamon or cloves. As a final step, the signature strings of the dough are formed. 

Now the kataifi can be assembled. Some chefs make them in the palm of their hand, while others prefer to use a flat counter surface. A layer of dough is laid down and then brushed with melted butter. Then a spoonful of filling is planted on top. The dough is then rolled up and placed on a baking tray. After baking, and while the kataifi is still warm, syrup is sprinkled over the top. Once it’s been absorbed, the kataifi is ready for tasting.

How to eat

Perfect as a delicious dessert or served with coffee. 

Please consider

Baklava and kunefe are reminiscent of kataifi. Try the different versions and discover the regional
and national delicacies of these three sweet delicacies.

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