Qatayef Asafiri

Muzna Bishara

2 hours

About 20 pieces

Small pancakes folded over cheese and finished with pistachios

Qatayef Asafiri. Photo by Matan Choufan.

Qatayef Asafiri. Photo by Matan Choufan.

During the month of Ramadan, qatayef, or small pancakes that are stuffed, fried, and given a quick plunge into sweet simple syrup are made across local Arab communities. There are several varieties of the sweet, including the classic stuffed with nuts and cinnamon. Qatayef Asafiri, which translates to little bird qatayef, originated in Syria and Lebanon, according to Asif columnist Muzna Bishara. They are filled with kashta-ashta, a fresh cheese made from ricotta mixed with milk. In some homes, cooks skip the frying step and drizzle the qatayef with simple syrup or honey, which produces a softer and lighter dessert. Meanwhile, frying the pancakes and tucking them into simple syrup, makes for a unique crunchy and sticky texture that’s hard to resist.


  • For the sugar syrup:
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) lukewarm water (cab also be flavored with a cinnamon stick or geranium leaves)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • For the batter:
  • 1½ cups (210 grams) flour
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) semolina
  • ½ teaspoon yeast
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1½ cup (360ml) water + ½ cup (120ml) milk (or 2 cups/ 480ml water)
  • 2-3 cups vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • For the kishta cheese filling:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ tablespoon citrus blossom water 
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon roasted pistachios, finely chopped
  • 200 grams (7 ounces)  store bought or home-made ricotta (see recipe below)
  • For the homemade ricotta:
  • 1 liter (1qt) milk
  • 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream 38% fat
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar, 5% acidity 
  • For serving:
  • 100 grams (3½ ounces)  ground pistachios


  1. Prepare the sugar syrup (as it needs to cool down): place the sugar and water in a pot (and any additional flavoring agents, if using), and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, simmer for 2 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat and cool. Refrigerate. The syrup needs to be cold in order for the qatayef to maintain its crispness. 
  2. Prepare the homemade ricotta: bring the milk and cream to a gentle simmer, making sure they do not boil. Turn off the heat, add the vinegar and stir once (this will cause the curds to separate from the whey). Let stand for 10 minutes
  3. Using a mesh strainer spoon, gently transfer the curds to a bowl lined with a cheesecloth and let drain in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Prepare the kishta cheese filling: mix the milk and cornstarch in a pot until smooth. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer while continuously stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon. When until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens to the texture of pudding, remove from the heat. Add the citrus blossom water, orange zest, chopped pistachios and ricotta and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Transfer to a piping bag.
  5. Prepare the batter: Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Place half of the mixture in the bowl of a food processor (or in a separate bowl – if using a stick blender), add the liquids and mix for 2 minutes. Add the remaining dry mixture and mix 5 minutes to a smooth batter. Let rise at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  6. Heat a non-stick skillet over a high heat. Transfer the batter to a squeeze bottle or a jug. Reduce to medium heat, and pour ¼ cup of the batter to form small circles, each measuring 5cm (2-in) in diameter and 5mm (0.2-in) thick. When bubbles appear on the surface and the batter is completely dry do not be tempted to flip them over- transfer to a tray, bubbles-side facing up, and cover immediately with a clean towel to prevent drying. Repeat these steps with the remaining batter.
  7. Fold each dough circle in half, and pinch the edges together halfway, to form cones.
  8. Heat oil for deep frying and fry the cones until golden and crispy, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a sieve lined with a paper towel to drain any excess oil. Dip in the cold sugar syrup and, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a cooling rack, to drain any excess syrup (in many areas Qatayef Asafiri is made without the deep-frying step – the soft dough is simply drizzled with thick sugar syrup or honey).
  9. Fill the dough cones with the kishta cheese filling, dip in the ground pistachios and place on a serving plate. When ready to serve, drizzle the thick, cold sugar syrup on top.

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