Monday, April 7, 2014

Halawa Dihiniyya: Iraqi-Style Fudge

حلاوة دهينية

Delicious dessert!
So steeped in scrumptiousness and history

Also goes by the names dihniyya and dihina, all derived from the name of the clarified butter (dihin hurr) traditionally used in making it, which gives it its characteristic enticing aroma. Nobody makes it at home. You can find it wherever traditional sweets are sold, but, without dispute, the best is purchased from the confectioners in the bazaars adjoining the Shiite holy shrine in Najaf, south of Baghdad, which explains why it is sometimes referred to as halawa Najafiyya. Indeed, visitors from outside Najaf are always expected to bring back with them boxfuls of it for family and friends.

Its ingredients are simple and basic, mainly flour, sugar, date syrup or honey, and clarified butter (dihin hurr), cooked in two stages, first on the stove, and then finished in the oven.

 From extant recipes going back to the eighth century- the time of the Abbasid rule - we know that similar desserts were made, albeit named differently. Back then they were called khabees (خبيص) and faludhaj (فالوذج). [see for instance chapters 93 and 94, in my English translation of Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's cookbook, Annals of the Caliphis' Kichens]. I have even found a recipe in 15th-century cookbook Kitab al-Tibakha (كتاب الطباخة) by the famous historian Ibn al-Mubarrid of Damascus. Interestingly, he even called it halwa duhniyya (حلوى دهنية). The 19th-century Lebanese cookbook Kitab Tadhkirat al-Khawateen wa Ustadh al-Tabbakheen (كتاب تذكرة الخواتين وأستاذ الطبّاخين), contains a recipe for khabees made with date syrup/sugar, p. 120.  So this dessert, even in name, has certainly been around for many centuries. One difference, though, prior to the 20th century no oven was involved in making it, just the stove, and while the neighboring countries abandoned it, the tradition of making it continued in Iraq.  

Here is how to make it (Makes about 15 generous squares):
(Recipe adapted from

1 cup milk
1 cup fat (I use 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup canola oil)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons date syrup (may be substituted with honey)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup walnut halves

Preheat oven to 340 degrees F.

1. Put milk, fat, sugar and date syrup (or honey) in a small heavy pot. Stir and let mix boil until bubbly over medium heat (about 10 minutes). Then take the pot away from heat and right away start adding flour gradually, using electric mixer, like you do with cakes. Mix in cardamom.

2. Grease a 12x7x2 -inch pan (or approximate size), and spread the bottom with half of the coconut. Scatter the walnut halves all over it. Then, pour the batter, and cover its surface with the rest of the coconut.

3. Put the pan on the middle shelf, drape it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil, and let bake slowly for 40 to 45 minutes.

4. Take it out of the oven, and let it cool down completely on a cooling rack. Cut it into 15 squares and serve. Store the leftovers in a plastic container and keep in refrigerator, where it will stay good to eat for several weeks (if you can resist the temptation).


Indulge responsibly!


  1. Thank you, Thank you. I have been looking for a daheen recipe for two years.

  2. Mine is not browning like yours.
    Is there a reason why did i do something wrong? Should i cook it longer until it browns.

  3. Yes, I suggest you leave it until it looks brown around the edges. Or, you may turn up the heat a little bit more, as you know not all ovens behave the same way.

  4. Do you have recipe for ballourie baklava? I've been looking everywhere for it.

  5. I have not tried it personally, but there are lots of videos showing how to do it. Even if one does not know Arabic, they can easily be followed.

    Here is one of the links:

  6. I made this, LOVED it, thank you so much!!

  7. Thanks for the feed back! I am glad you enjoyed it.

  8. If I want to make a large tray or pan of it
    Should I add more ingredients

  9. You certainly do need to multiply the amounts of all ingredietns, depending on how much more you want to make.

  10. Do you know if I can try substituting the sugar for a mix of honey and another granular sweetener like stevia?

    1. I cannot see why not. But this needs a bit of experimenting, as the stevia is much sweeter than real sugar.

  11. I made this last night for my Iraqi husband. He and I loved it! Thanks for the awesome recipes. Can't wait to receive your cookbook I ordered.

  12. You are welcome. I am glad you liked it. Enjoy the book!

  13. can you take out the walnuts if you dont like then or are alergec to it.

    1. You definitely can. There will still be the coconut shreds which will give it a nutty flavor.

  14. My husband told me he was craving this, sonInwemt on the hunt for the recipe. So glad to have found you post! I’ll be giving this a try soon! I love cooking your recipes, and your cookbook is one of my favorites!

  15. Many thanks Lauren! I am sure you will like it. It is truly delicious.

  16. I thought I had posted yesterday, but don't see my question. I have a friend who does not like walnuts, and am considering using 1/2 cup pistachios (called for in the medieval recipe) and 1/2 cup pecans. Also, using 50/50 sugar and granulated Splenda, which should be measure for measure the same sweetness as sugar.

  17. I do not see why this should not work.