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  • Writer's pictureSibel

Irmik Helvasi (Turkish Semolina Halva)

Irmik Helvasi (semolina halva) is a traditional Turkish dessert which is typically made with coarse semolina, sugar, butter and pine nuts. This dessert requires minimal effort to prepare and you only need a few basic ingredients to make it. This delicious dessert can be served warm for a comforting winter dessert or you can serve it chilled during the warmer months.

Irmik Helvasi is very popular in Turkish culture and it’s one of many Turkish dishes that I grew up eating as it was a staple in our house during every celebration. The smell of the semolina and pine nuts being toasted in the melted butter creates the most beautiful aroma which instantly takes back to my childhood.


This dessert is commonly made on Eid or to commemorate important life events.

Helva is a dessert that is made to be shared as it’s traditionally cooked in large batches and given to friends and neighbours as a way to celebrate these events.

Helva is the name given to a group of dense desserts based on ingredients such as semolina, starchy flours or sesame seeds. A basic Turkish Semolina Helva is made with simple ingredients like semolina, butter, sugar and pine nuts. It's a very versatile dessert so you can add additional flavours such as cinnamon, cardamom, rose water, lemon zest or orange zest. Helva can be formed into decorative shapes or it can be served loose in bowls.


As a lover of Helva, I can go on for hours about the beauty of this dessert, but I shall try to give you a brief description. The pine nuts and semolina are toasted in the vegan butter and then left to gently simmer with the sugar and milk until the semolina becomes tender and plump. You get an intense buttery and nutty taste from the toasted pine nuts and a soft and creamy texture from the cooked semolina. This delicious dessert is comforting, delicately sweet and it’s incredibly easy to prepare!


It certainly can! I’ve used granulated sugar for this recipe but if you’d like to make it free from refined sugar you can use carob syrup, date syrup or sweeteners such as Stevia or Erythritol. If you’re going to use an alternative to sugar, just make sure it’s a relatively neutral tasting alternative.


If I’m serving the Helva warm, I like to serve it loose in bowls, and of course, no warm Helva is complete without a big scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream! When I serve cold Helva, I like to shape it using silicone moulds to create decorative shapes. When the Helva is left to chill, the texture firms up and becomes more dense so it’s easier to remove from the moulds. If you’re trying Helva for the first time, I would recommend you try some hot when it’s freshly cooked, and also try some cold as the taste and texture of Helva will vary quite a bit depending on how you choose to serve it, so it’s worth trying both ways to see which one you prefer.


*Make sure to toast the pine nuts and semolina before adding the liquid – Toasting the pine nuts will give them a beautiful golden colour and will intensify their nutty flavour. It’s important that you toast the semolina for a few minutes before adding the liquid as it will prevent the semolina from becoming too mushy and clumping together.

*Get creative with the flavours – This is a very versatile dessert so you can add different flavours to it such as cinnamon, cardamom, rose water, lemon zest or orange zest.

*Use a silicone mould – The flexibility of the silicone mould will make it easier to remove the Helva once it has set. You could also shape the Helva into small balls using a wooden spoon or an ice cream scoop.


-320g coarse Semolina (2 cups)

-310g sugar (1 ½ cups)

-500ml plant-based milk (2 cups)

-50g pine nuts (½ cup)

-130g vegan butter (1/2 cup)

Optional Garnish:

-2 tbsp crushed pistachios

-1 tbsp pomegranate seeds



Combine the plant-based milk and sugar in a large bowl and set aside for later.


Melt the vegan butter in a large saucepan, add the pine nuts and toast for 5 minutes on a medium heat, until lightly browned. Add the semolina and toast for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly, until the colour of the semolina darkens slightly.


Pour the milk and sugar mixture over the semolina, stir and put the lid on. Cook over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn around the edges.


Remove from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes until the semolina has absorbed all of the liquid.


Fill the silicone moulds with about 3-4 table spoons of the semolina mixture and place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to set. Remove the Helva from the silicone trays, garnish with crushed pistachios and pomegranate seeds and serve. Alternatively, you can serve the Helva warm in loose piles.


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