Saray Helvasi – Royal Halva

Halva is the generic term for flour and/or butter and nuts based dense sweets in various world cuisines including Ottoman cuisine. This one is called royal halva and it is made of butter, wheat flour, caster/icing sugar and ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts). It obviously tastes somewhat like shortbread cookies, as they both contain the same ingredients, but method of preparation is what separates the two.

Ingredients (makes around 25-30 pieces of halva):

500 g (4 cups) of plain sifted white flour

250 g butter, at room temperature

200 g (1 cup) of caster/superfine sugar

200 g (1 cup) finely ground unsalted fresh almonds (or hazelnuts)- soak in hot water and peel before grinding

Roast flour in a non-stick pan on the stove-top on low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spatula to avoid uneven browning. Once all the flour turns into a slightly yellowish ivory color remove the pan from the heat. Be careful not to burn or brown it. There shouldn’t be any floury smell left either. Keep stirring for around 5-6 minutes after removing from the heat. When it cools off a bit, add in the sugar, butter and ground almonds. Knead until sticky and even for around 4-5 minutes.  Wear plastic gloves if it’s still too hot.  Transfer halva mixture into a 2-3cm-deep and 30-35 cm wide non-stick tray. Spread the halva evenly and press hard with your fingers until nice and smooth. This step is the tricky part, the denser the better. Slice it into 3-4 cm pieces. Diagonal slices or squares look fine. Leave it on the kitchen counter for about 10 minutes, cover and put into the refrigerator. Serve the next day or at least 5-6 hours later, topped with unpeeled almonds.

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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great site and beautiful posts, I ve added this site to my bookmarks already.

  2. I discovered your blog on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue the very good work. I just add your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!

  3. This looks much closer to the Halva recipe that is found in the size of a candy bar. It’s getting harder and harder to find them. My problem is the sugar, so I’m going to try Xylitol in these. Most of the recipes say to make a sugar syrup, but I don’t see that in yours; you just add the sugar in and then kneed the whole lot. This does seem more like what I want, so I’ll give it a try. Plus I suspect that the commercial halva is pressed. You can see some of these presses online and they are large contraptions, certainly something I wouldn’t consider. Thanks again.
    Jo Zee

    • No, this recipe does not require a sugar syrup. The trick is to keep the ingredients as finely ground as possible so that pressing the halva mixture with your hands or a simple kitchen tool becomes relatively easier. Good luck with xylitol and pls let me know how it turns out.

      • I will let you know how this works. Do you find this halva to have that almost dry gritty flaky texture that melts in your mouth? That is what I’m looking for actually.

        • Yes, that’s exactly how it turns out, it’s dry, flaky and has a nutty flavor that melts in your mouth, you just need to follow the recipe. Bon appetit in advance :). Cheers.

  4. I discovered or rather, rediscovered Saray Helvasi while I was shopping in the “International” section of the grocery store in Cape Town. The reason I say rediscover is because I remember having it as a child back in Burma, a whole continent away. I had forgotten what it was called and thought it was only available in Burma but when I tried it I was ecstatic at finding something that was one of my favourite sweets as a child. I haven’t been back nor do I know when I’ll be going back to Burma but now that I know I can have this outside of the country is like one of the best things that could’ve happened.

    So what I’m trying to say is – thanks for posting this recipe up!

    • Hİ Nyain, you’re welcome. Do they make it the same way in Burma!? Wow, quite interesting. I hope you try and like it. I would be happy to hear your version of this sweet.

      Apparently Turks have adopted these sweets from Arabs, because original Turkic (Central Asian) cuisine had almost no sweets, Central Asians did not have a sweet tooth at all, but now in Turkey we love baklava, helva and all those milk based sweets.

  5. As an 35 year old Turkish guy with Ottoman roots, I have to say that; unfortunately, almost none of these recipes are authentic. Ottoman Fusion would be a better name. On the other hand, I am sure these are all delicious recipes as well.

    • Hi there, thanks for the comment. Maybe you’re right, yeah. I don’t claim to be an ‘authority’ like yourself. I believe and I have already stated that in my ‘manifesto’,i.e. in the about section, that Ottoman Cuisine can be defined as a ‘fusion’ cuisine already, a fusion of the Balkans, Anatolia, Caucasus, Greece, Armenia, Arabia, Persia and even China. This is what is so good about having a complex multinational heritage, isn’t it? This website is about food from those lands, from the past and from the present, as stated in the about section. So, recipes of food from tables of both 15th century palace people and 19th century city dwellers are included into this website. Those people all were Ottomans, right? Still, I’d appreciate it if you point at exactly what is ‘wrong’ in what specific recipe. Cheers.

      • thanks for this wonderful web site.i am a 33 year old turkish woman with ottoman roots but i appreciate your effort here.i think this is one of the best turkish cuisine recipe source in english language on web.thanks again.

        here is what i learned from mama about this recipe.
        ” just a little pinch of salt is necessary to maintain the delicate taste.”.but the most delicate part of a matter is the color of the halva…
        in Turkey we put the butter into the pan first.
        we add flour into melted is like frying the flour in pan…until all the flour turns into a light brown color we keep stirring at a low heat..when the flour turns to brownish color we add the other stuff into the pan..
        this is the order for cooking halva which is brittle and disperses in the shouldn be in yellowish color because that means flour didnt cooked well
        color supposed to be like:

        • Thanks for the wonderful comment of yours. Adding a pinch of salt to sweets is a great trick to achieve a well-balanced taste. Well, for saray helvasi keeping the flour light colored and cooking it very well is somewhat tricky but preferred over making brownish colored halva. You can ‘roast’ the flour pretty well and still keep its color yellowish ivory, the key is stirring continously and cooking on the lowest heat possible. Just like soganli yumurta, if you’re patient enough, cook the flour on almost candle light and for over an hour to achieve the ideal texture for your un helvasi or saray helvasi.

  6. Sayin Elif Hanim, benim adim Öznur, 38 yasindayim ve almanyada oturuyorum. Burda dogdum ve büyüdüm. Ailem Izmirden. Almanyada bir komusuz vardi, Resmiye teyzemiz. Kendisi Karadenizliydi ve benim cocuklugumda muhtemelen 75-80 yasindaydi. Resmiye teyzemin un helvasini cok ama cok seviyordum. Cocuklugumdan beri un helvasina bu yüzden hayranim. Malesef simdiye kadar Resmiye teyzemin un helvasinin tadini hic bir un helvasina bulamamistim. Ama sizin helvanizin tarifi benim cocukluk hatiralarimi tekrardan uyanmasina yol acti. Bu sabah tarifinizi göre un helvasini yaptim ve inanin biraz evvel esimle cay ile yedigimizde cocukluguma yolculuk yaptim. Resmiye teyzem nur icinde yatsin. Kendisini ve sizi bundan itibaren bol bol anicagim. Simdiden diger tariflerinizi yapma heycanini yasiyorum. Websiteniz icin ellerinize saglik. Dostca selamlar Öznur

    • Öznur Hanım, çok naziksiniz, yorumunuz için çok teşekkür ederim. Bu sitedeki naçizane çabamın insanların hayatlarına böyle dokunabilmesi beni nasıl mutlu ediyor bilseniz… Bir kaç aydır çeşitli meşgaleler yüzünden ihmal ettiğim siteye yeniden sarılma şevkini verdiniz, bunun için de çok sağolun. Bu arada, İzmir dediniz de, bu sabah çok sevdiğim İzmirli (Girit muhaciri) yengem orada enginarların olduğunu haber verdi. 🙂
      Sitedeki diğer tarifleri de denediğinizde yorum ve eleştirilerinizi bekliyorum.
      En içten sevgilerimle

  7. I can’t believe no one has mentioned that you are confusing halva with royal halva. What you got on that photo is regular halva cut into royal halva shapes, but the food itself is pretty different in reality. I’m a 23 year kid in college with no cooking experience whatsoever, so I can’t really tell you the difference in recipes and cooking, but here’s a photo of what it’s supposed to look like;

    The green stuff – which I’m assuming is pistachio – is optional of course, but notice the ‘thready’ texture. “…a dessert with a tenture similar to cotton candy that is mixed with butter and compressed into smaller pieces.”

    Saray helvasi denilen sey, tereyagi ile sekil verilmis pismaniyedir. ’30 yasindayim, acaip Osmanli’liyim, ben iyi bilirim’ diyorsunuz da, daha neyi okudugunuzun farkinda degilsiniz.

    Either than that, your halva looks quite good 🙂

    • Hello Ugur, if you carefully read the recipe in detail, you’ll notice the difference with regular un helvasi and saray helvasi. This is not how you make regular helva. The picture you refer to is the industrial version of what is given up here. That is the reason for a better threaded look. Pls follow the recipe and try this one, you’ll see it’s the real thing, just not made with heavy industrial machinery. You just need to knead the halva really well and press it very hard while still hot. That’ll give the crunchy, thready texture you mention in your comment.
      Sorry if you did not like the site, but please note that nowhere I claim to be an authority.
      If you know anyone from Kastamonu where çekme helva/saray helvasi is still being made at homes, you can ask them.

      • Oh no I like the site very much, don’t get me wrong. I was just disappointed, because I didn’t read thoroughly and the photo deceived me. I sincerely apologize, and thank you for the explanation. To prevent any unnecessary confusion for more idiots like myself, you may delete my comment along with this one. Keep up the good work!

        • Estagfirullah Ugur, rica ederim oyle demeyin. Ev yapimi olanin goruntusu boyle oluyor, ama inanin kiyir kiyir bir dokuya sahip oluyor bu tarif, sadece servisi guzel olsun diye sicakken cok guzel bastirip boyle siki bir hale getirmek gerekiyor. Kas gucunuz fazlaysa ve hele sicaga dayanabiliyorsaniz bu sekildeki cekme/saray helvayi fabrikasyon olanlara asla degistirmezsiniz inanin!
          Yorum konusu da tamamen size bagli, siz nasil derseniz oyle yaparim.

  8. Just made this recipe and the dough even taste great already! Thank you for uploading this recipe :D..

  9. Hey Elif,

    You don’t use water for this recipe?

    I do it almost the same , but use a little bit of water before adding sugar otherwise it gets a bit hard.
    Anyway I love halva and i will definitely try this recipe.


    • I know :), this one is a bit different than regular flour halva. This saray helva is very hard, crumbly, crispy tastes like shortbread cookies. Try this, you’ll love it. I havent encountered anyone that doesnt like this version. The trick: press it veery firmly and while still hot. Cut before it cools off.

      • Now that I remember, when i was a child, i used to eat this kind of helva, it was a diamond shape.
        Thanks for your prompt reply
        Greeting from Tirana

        • Yes, exactly! Diamond shaped glory! 😉

  10. It’s hard to say

  11. Terrific article

  12. world is changing

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