Basic Halva


Living Raw Food

Published by William Morrow

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The word halvah is derived from the arabic word for “sweet.” The confection comes in a variety of different types, but this recipe models itself after a halvah made with sesame paste and sugar that is popular in countries such as Greece, Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine. In this recipe, raw honey and date sugar are used as a natural, unprocessed alternative to white sugar. Stevie Blake, a talented Pure Food and Wine pastry sous chef, first created carob-marbled halvah and chocolate-covered pistachio halvah, but using the basic recipe you can get creative and make any other varieties you can dream up. Try adding lemon or orange zest or a touch of grated ginger, all of which also go well with the chocolate coating. These recipes call for a mix of both hulled and unhulled sesame seeds, which together give the halvah an ideal texture and flavor. However, if you use all of one or the other the results will still be great. Sesame seeds are remarkably rich in calcium and also contain significant amounts of zinc, iron, phosphorus, protein, niacin, and many B-complex vitamins. Hulled sesame seeds are milky white and softer, and have about 60 percent less calcium than their unhulled counterpart. They are also less shelf stable, so store them in the refrigerator.


Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party

Recipe Coursedessert, snack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, high-calcium, kosher, lactose-free, low cholesterol, peanut free, raw, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentblender, dehydrator, spice grinder

Five Ingredients or LessYes


Taste and Texturebuttery, chocolatey, nutty, sweet

Type of Dishdessert


  • 2/3 cup unhulled sesame seeds
  • 1¼ cups hulled sesame seeds
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons finely ground date sugar or maple sugar (optional)
  • 1 batch of basic halvah
  • 2 tablespoons carob powder, or cocoa powder, preferably raw
  • 1½ cups pistachios (or almonds)
  • ¼ cup orange-flower water (or rosewater)
  • 1 batch basic halvah
  • 2 cups chocolate oil (below)
  • Makes about 2 cups
  • 1¼ cups coconut butter/oil, warmed to liquefy
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
  • 3½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • High-speed blender with dry blade or spice or coffee grinder
  • Dehydrator (for Chocolate-Covered-Pistachio recipe only)


  1. For the basic halvah:

  2. If you have a Vita-Mix blender with a square dry blade, use it to grind the sesame seeds in two batches. You will need to use the plastic plunger that comes with it, too, to keep pushing the seeds into the blades. If you don’t have the dry blade, or a Vita-Mix, you can grind them in small batches in a spice or coffee grinder-either way, be sure that no whole seeds remain.

  3. Transfer the ground sesame to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, taking care to sift the date sugar.

  4. Mix thoroughly by hand and shape into a 1-inch-thick rectangular slab.

  5. Refrigerate the halvah until solid (1 to 2 hours) and cut into approximately 25 cubes. Store the halvah covered in the refrigerator.

    For the carob-marbled halvah:

  6. Prepare the dough for the basic halvah recipe.

  7. Roll 2/3 of the dough into a rope approximately 2 inches thick.

  8. Knead the carob powder into the remaining ½ of the dough until very thoroughly mixed. Roll the carob halvah into a rope equal in length to the plain halvah rope.

  9. Fold and twist the ropes together until marbled, then shape into a 1-inch-thick rectangular slab.

  10. Refrigerate the halvah until solid (1 to 2 hours)’ and cut it into approximately 25 cubes.

    For the chocolate-covered pistachio halvah:

  11. Place the pistachios in a small bowl or container with the orange-flower water and add enough water to cover. Allow the nuts to soak overnight.

  12. Drain the nuts, place them on a mesh-lined tray, and dehydrate for 1 or 2 days, or until dry and crunchy.

  13. Coarsely chop 1 cup of the dehydrated pistachios and knead them into the halvah until evenly distributed. Reserve the remaining ½ cup of the whole nuts for the garnish.

  14. Shape the halvah into a 1-inch-thick rectangular slab.

  15. Refrigerate it until solid (1 to 2 hours), and cut it into approximately 25 cubes.

  16. Coat each piece with chocolate oil. Top with a pistachio and place in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.

    For the chocolate oil

  17. With a higher proportion of coconut butter/oil, this chocolate oil will harden nicely as a coating on cakes, tarts, cookies, bars, chocolates, nuts, bananas, or other fruits. Dip fresh stemmed strawberries in chocolate oil, then refrigerate for an easy fast, and sexy dessert.

  18. Blend all the ingredients in a blender until smooth and fully emulsified.

  19. Store covered in the refrigerator. To soften before use, place it in the dehydrator or in a hot water bath. (If the room is warm, simply let the chocolate oil sit at room temperature.)


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