• Chocolate nut halva cake: another great use of tahini. (John Laurie)Source: John Laurie

Derived from the Arabic word for “sweet”, the term halva or similar is used in countries around the world to refer to countless varieties of nut- or flour-based confectionery. This sesame-based version, popular throughout the Middle East, is from Lebanon and is swirled with chocolate, slivered almonds and pistachios.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (248 votes)

The flaky texture of store-bought halva is difficult to re-create at home because many traditional recipes include a meringue-like substance made from sugar syrup and boiled soapwort roots, however this version comes about as close as you can get. 


  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 385 g jar hulled tahini (see Note)
  • 125 g pistachios, chopped
  • 115 g slivered almonds
  • 100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You will need a sugar thermometer for this recipe.

Chilling time 2 hours

DRINK Osborne Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry, Jerez, Spain, ($13)

Place sugar and 80 ml water in a pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then cook for 4 minutes or until mixture reaches 140ºC on a sugar thermometer. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place tahini in an electric mixer. With motor running, immediately add sugar syrup to tahini in a thin, steady stream. Continue whisking for a further 30 seconds or until mixture starts to crumble.

Stir in nuts, then add two-thirds of the melted chocolate and lightly stir to marble.

Press mixture into a greased 20 cm round cake pan, then drizzle with remaining melted chocolate. Using a knife and a swirling action, marble the chocolate on the surface.

Cover surface with plastic wrap and press to compact. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Cut into wedges and serve with coffee or sherry. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.


• Hulled tahini, available from supermarkets, delis, health food shops and Middle Eastern food shops, is a paste made from sesame seeds.


Also written by Wendy Quisumbing and Peta Gray. Photography by John Laurie. Drinks suggestions by Dan Coward.