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Halva: Taste, Uses, Consumption, Production, and Storage

Article author photo Elen Khachatrian by Elen Khachatrian | Last updated on August 20, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan


Halva is a dessert that originated in Iran and was initially created for the beauties of harems by kandalatchis (dessert makers). Its unique taste and high-calorie content eventually made it a staple food for warriors, providing them with the strength and energy they needed (you can also read the article "nutrition of halva" if interested). The Europeans first encountered halva during the Crusades in the 11th–13th centuries. 

Types of cooking

Halva is an amazing dessert with two main recipes that have captured the hearts of people all over the world. One recipe is based on oilseeds or nuts, while the other is based on flour and sugar.

The nut- or seed-based halva is sweetened and mixed with licorice root or herbs to give it a fibrous structure. This kind of halva, also called tahini, a delicacy based on sesame, is popular in the Mediterranean.

For the preparation of flour halva, medium flour is used from wheat, corn, or rice. After adding the oil, the mixture is boiled in sugar syrup. 

Taste, Appearance, and Use

In general, halva has a creamy and delicate texture with light nutty or fruity notes. The taste of halva is sweet but not oversweetened, with a slight bitterness from the sesame paste.

It should be noted that the taste, appearance, and flavor of halva are determined by the ingredients added during preparation. Here are a few examples:

  • Sesame or peanut halva is made from raw tahini, sugar syrup, and occasionally honey. The components are combined to form a solid, fatty lump that melts easily in heat, separates easily, and becomes easier to make. It's the most popular type of halva in Israel and usually shows the marble lines made by mixing fat and sugar;
  • Semolina is an ingredient frequently used for making halva in Eastern countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, and India. It is created from wheat bran starches and commonly mixed with soybean oil, syrup, or honey to add sweetness. In Iraq, this type of halva is frequently served with Iraqi pita before a meal. Indian and Pakistani halva may also contain vegetables, mainly carrots.
  • In the northern regions of the East, root vegetables are often used to prepare halva: beets, potatoes, and beans;
  • Turkish halva, known as "halilya", often includes the addition of rose water and fragrant spices such as cinnamon or cardamom
  • Iranian halva, known as "halvah-e bastani", may contain saffron and rose petals for flavoring;
  • In Lebanon and Greece, it is a usual practice to prepare halva using goat cheese.

With so many variations to choose from, halva is truly a dessert that everyone can enjoy.

The texture of the halva is similar to a unique take on fudge. While halva has a thick, dense mouthfeel, it is messier and crumblier. 

Halva is a popular dessert or sweet snack found in cafes, pastry shops, markets, and street stalls. It can be enjoyed on its own or used as a filling for cakes, pies, or other sweets.

Storage, Production, and Consumption

Iran is one of the world's top producers of various halva sesame bar types.

Iranian halva sesame bar varieties have flourished in recent years, with exports to many neighboring countries and European countries. Halva is also the most widely available in the United States.

The natural oils in halva will begin to separate at warm temperatures over time, so store it in the refrigerator for up to six months without becoming oily or losing its crumbly texture. The recommended storage temperature is 8–15 °C with 45–60% relative humidity. It is best to keep or store it in a cool, dry place. It is vital to keep halva from becoming dampened. Once the original halva package has been opened, the cover must be tightly closed, and any air contact avoided to avoid losing the desired sensual features of the halva. It is recommended that products be kept out of direct sunlight and that heavy loads not be placed on packages.

Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Education: Nutrition & Microbiology at YSU
Last updated: August 20, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Grigoryan
Data provided by should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.