If you’re looking for delicious low-calorie Kunafa with cream, this recipe is for you! Featuring two different layers with a buttery flavor with creamy and velvety pastry cream (Ishta), which is also egg-free!
What’s best is that to make this recipe, you don’t have to buy Phyllo dough. We are going to use slices of sandwich bread. You’ll still get an authentic flavor at home with much lower calories! This Kunafa is also known as Kunafeh Kadabeh.
Traditional Arabic Kunafa is made from Phyllo dough filled with either pastry cream or sweet Arabic cheese, served on special occasions, like Eid, the Holy month of Ramadan, and weddings.
❤️ WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
Low-calorie: The calories in the traditional kunafa are high; one serving of the original recipe is around 580 to 630 calories. This Kunafa recipe has 277 calories per single serving.
Easy: This Kunafa With Cream recipe is easy to follow, even for beginners. The step-by-step instructions are clear and concise, making it virtually failproof.
Versatile: It can be customized to suit individual tastes. You can adjust the sweetness level by adding more or less sugar and experimenting with different fillings such as Nutella and fruit.
Delightful: The combination of crispy pastry and creamy filling is simply irresistible, as the recipe strikes the perfect balance between sweet and savory.
Authentic: This recipe uses traditional Middle Eastern ingredients and techniques, giving authentic flavor and texture.
You only need simple ingredients from your pantry to make this delicious kunafa with a cream recipe at home. Let's look at them in more detail:
For the Egg-Free Pastry Cream
Low-fat milk: It will provide the base for the thick and creamy texture of the pastry cream. Do not use almond or soy milk.
Sugar: We'll also need some sugar to sweeten our pastry cream.
Cornstarch: This will act as our thickening agent. Do not substitute it with flour or potato starch.
Unsalted Butter: Yes, here is butter, but we will use a reasonable amount, just enough to get the flavor.
Vanilla or rose water: You'll need some to add a delicate and aromatic flavor to the kunafa.
For the Phyllo Dough Substitute
Breadcrumbs: This is the secret ingredient, and it will replace the phyllo dough. Don’t be surprised; using breadcrumbs in making kunafa will not alter the taste or the texture. I recommend using white bread crumbs.
For the Syrup
Water: The water will be combined with the sugar to create a simple syrup poured over the finished dessert.
Rose water (optional): To add a floral note to the finished dessert, we can stir a small amount of rose water into the syrup.
🔪 HOW TO MAKE
Let’s start by making the syrup; it needs to cool down before pouring it over the kunafa.
Making the syrup
First, add the water and sugar to a pan, stir once, and then let it come to a boil. Let the ingredients boil for 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Add rose water or the flavor you prefer and stir.
Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
Making egg-free pastry cream
Add the sugar, milk, and butter to a saucepan. Mix and let it come to a simmer.
Mix the vanilla extract with the cornstarch mixture. Add it to the simmering milk and keep on stirring to avoid creating lumps.
The milk will get thicker and should cover the back of a spoon. Run your finger across the spoon, and when the line stays clear. The pastry cream is ready.
The pastry cream will get thicker after it cools, remove it from the heat and pour it into a plate. Cover the cool pastry cream with plastic wrap.
Making the phyllo substitute and assembling the kunafa
Use a square or round 7x7 inch baking nonstick pan. Grease the bottom of the pan with melted butter.
Add two tablespoons of melted butter to the breadcrumbs and mix with your hand.
Spread the breadcrumbs evenly in the greased baking pan. Press it down with your hand.
Evenly spread the cooled pastry cream over the crust.
Bake the kunafa in a preheated oven at 350F/180C. Bake until the bottom is light brown almost half an hour.
Take out the Kunafa from the oven. Keep it in the baking pan for 10 minutes. Flip the kunafa on a serving plate.
Pour the cool syrup over the hot Kunafa. Use only ¼ cup of syrup; it will be enough.
Garnish this dessert with crushed pistachios.
👩🏽🍳 PRO TIPS
- Use sandwich bread to make the breadcrumbs. It's best to avoid using milk bread.
- You can use ghee instead of butter.
- Do not use almond or soy milk; it will not taste the same.
- You can use rose water, vanilla, lemon zest, or cardamom powder for flavoring.
🍽️ HOW TO SERVE IT
- Serve the warm Kunafa with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Top kunafa with cream with a drizzle of honey or syrup and a sprinkle of chopped nuts, such as pistachios or almonds, for added texture and flavor.
- Pair kunafa with cream with a cup of hot, strong coffee or tea for a classic Middle Eastern dessert experience.
- Use kunafa with cream as a base for a dessert pizza. Simply top it with sliced fruit like strawberries or bananas and a whipped cream dollop.
Nutella: Spread a layer of Nutella on top of the crust and then add the cream filling.
Pistachio: Mix ¼ cup crushed pistachio with the cream filling before spreading it over the crust.
Coconut: Mix ¼ cup of shredded coconut with the cream filling. Then spread over the crust before placing it in the oven.
To store leftovers of kunafa with cream, first, we must let it cool down to room temperature. Then, cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in the refrigerator. Kunafa with cream can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.
Place the kunafa on a microwave-friendly plate and heat for 20 seconds to heat in the microwave.
It is not recommended to freeze kunafa as the texture and taste may change after thawing and reheating.
📣 MORE DESSERT RECIPES YOU'LL LOVE
Kunafa Recipe with Cream
EGG-FREE PASTRY CREAM INGREDIENTS
- 2 cups low fat milk
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 3 ½ tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup low-fat milk
- ½ teaspoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla or rose water
- 170 grams breadcrumbs Around one cup. Read notes.
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
THE SYRUP INGREDIENTS
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- A few drops of rose water optional
MAKING THE SYRUP
- In a saucepan, add both water and sugar, mix for a few seconds and let it boil for 5 minutes. Keep aside to cool.
- If you wish to add a flavoring to the syrup, like rose water or vanilla, do so after taking it off the heat.
MAKING THE EGG-FREE PASTRY CREAM
- In a pan, add the milk, butter, and sugar. Stir for a few seconds and let it come to a simmer.
- Add vanilla to the cornstarch mixture, add it to the milk and keep stirring to avoid forming lumps.
- When the milk is thicker and covers the back of the spoon, and a straight line made by your finger stays clear, it is done.
- Remove the pastry cream from heat, pour in a plate, wait for it to cool, cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge.
MAKING THE CRUST
- Grease a 7x7 inch square or round baking pan with butter and keep aside. It's best to use a nonstick pan.
- Add two tablespoons of butter to the breadcrumbs and mix by hand; rub the mixture between your hands until well combined.
- Evenly spread the breadcrumbs in the greased pan and press it down with your hands or the back of a spoon.
- Evenly spread the cool pastry cream over the breadcrumbs.
- Bake the kunafa in a preheated oven at 350F/180C for half an hour or until the bottom is light brown. Make sure that the oven plate is placed instead of the oven rack. Oven plates usually come with the oven. Placing the oven plate in the oven and then heating it allows the kunafa crust to get that beautiful golden-brown color.
- Take out the Kunafa from the oven. Keep the kunafa in the baking pan, and after 10 minutes, flip it on a serving plate.
- Pour cool syrup on the hot Kunafa. Use only ¼ cup of syrup; it will be enough. You can use the whole half cup if you wish, though.
- Garnish with crushed pistachios and serve.
- Do not use skim milk; it will not tolerate the heat in the oven or on the stovetop and might burn quickly.
- Do not use almond or soy milk.
- Use white bread. Remove the brown edges before processing the bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.
- Make sure the oven is preheated, or the kunafa will take a longer time.
- Before preheating the oven, place the oven plate in the oven instead of the oven rack. Heating the oven plate before placing the kunafa makes sure that you will get a golden-brown color to your kunafa.
- Never pour hot syrup over hot kunafa. It will become soggy.
- The syrup can be prepared ahead. It keeps well for a month in the fridge.
- The pastry cream can stay up to 4 days in the fridge. Make sure to place the plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to prevent the forming of hard skin over it.
- This post was originally published in 2014. Updated with more details.