[hahl-vah, hahl-vah]
Halva / Halava(Turkish:Helva)

Balkan style tahini-based halva with pistachios
Albanian (Shqip) hallvё(halva)
Arabic (عربي) (ḥalāwa) حلاوة
Armenian (Հայերեն) հալվա (halva)
Azeri (Azəri) halva
Bengali (বাংলা) হালুয়া (halua)
Bosnian (Bosanski) halva(halva)
Bulgarian and Russian
(Български & Русский)
халва (khalva)
Czech language
Cypriot Greek
Estonian (Eesti) halvaa
Finnish (Suomi) halva
Greek (Ελληνικά) χαλβάς (chalvás)
Hebrew (עברית‎) (halvah) חלבה
Hindi (हिंदी) हल्वा (halvā)
Kurdish (كوردی) helaw
Lithuanian (Lietuvių) chalva
Macedonian and Serbian
(македонски & српски)
алва (alva)
Malayalam (മലയാളം) അലുവ(aluva)
Maltese (Malti) ħelwa tat-Tork
Persian (فارسى) (halva)
Tamil (தமிழ்) அல்வா(alva)
Urdu (اردو) حلوا (halvā)
Polish (Polski) chałwa
Romanian (Română) halva
Slovenian (Slovenščina) (helava)
Slovak language
Turkish (Türkçe) helva
Ukrainian (Українська) халва (halva)

The word halva (alternatively halwa, halvah, halava, helva, halawa, ħelwa etc.) (Tamil: அல்வா, pronounced ['ɑlvɑ:]), originally derived from the Arabic root حلوى ḥalwā (sweet), is used to describe many distinct types of sweet confection, across the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Balkans. Halva based on semolina is popular in India, Iran, Turkey, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Another common type, based on tahini (sesame paste), is popular in the eastern Mediterranean and Balkan regions, in countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria (тах'ан халв'а), Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Northern Cyprus, Syria, Central Asia, Caucasus region and Turkey. Halva may also be made from a variety of other ingredients, including sunflower seeds, various nuts, beans, lentils, and vegetables—such as carrots, pumpkins, yams, and squashes.


Most types of halva are relatively dense confections that are sweetened with sugar or honey. However, their textures are quite different. For example, semolina halva is gelatinous and translucent, while sesame halva is drier and more crumbly.


This halva, produced and served in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran and surrounding countries (different versions of it are also found in Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia and Turkey), is usually made with wheat semolina, sugar or honey, and butter or vegetable oil. Raisins, dates, or other dried fruits are often included. Nuts such as almonds are also commonly added to semolina halva. The halva is very sweet with a gelatinous texture similar to polenta; the added butter gives it a rich mouthfeel. The classic proportions of semolina halva are 1:2:3:4, i.e. 1 part fat (a vegetable oil or butter), 2 parts semolina, 3 parts sweetening agent (e.g. sugar or honey) and 4 parts water. The semolina is cooked in the fat while a syrup is being made of the sweetener and water. Then the two are mixed carefully, extras added and the halva is left to settle.

Though semolina halva is considered to be essentially a "Northern" confection in India, it is also quite popular in South India. A prominent South Indian version of halva (or "alvaa", as it is called in Tamil) is from Tirunelveli, a city in the state of Tamil Nadu. A closely related semolina preparation widely enjoyed throughout South India is called Kesari or Kesari-bath.

In India, carrots (for gajar halwa) or mung beans (for moong dal halwa) or bottle gourds (for doodi halwa) for example, may be used instead of semolina. Prepared with condensed milk and ghee, without semolina to bind it together, the end result has a moist yet flaky texture when freshly prepared and bears some resemblance to a British pudding.


Sesame halva is popular in the Balkans, Middle East, and other areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The primary ingredients in this confection are sesame seeds or paste (tahini), and sugar, glucose or honey. Soap root (called ‘erq al halaweh in Arabic; çöven kökü in Turkish), egg white, or marshmallow root are added in some recipes, to create a distinctive texture. Other ingredients and flavourings such as pistachio nuts, cocoa powder, orange juice, vanilla, or chocolate are often added to the basic tahini and sugar base.

Floss halva

Pişmaniye (Turkish) or floss halva is a traditional sweetmeat, prepared in Kocaeli, Turkey, made by flossing thin strands of halva into a light confection. Made primarily of wheat flour and sugar, the strands are continuously wrapped into a ball shape and then compressed. The result is a halva with a light consistency, similar to cotton candy. Floss halva can be found in regular and pistachio flavors, and there are brands with halal or kosher certifications.

A similar pistachio-based version of Floss halva is popular in North India. It tends to be slightly denser and is often referred to as "Patisa" or Sohan papdi.


Sunflower halva, popular in countries from Eastern Europe, such as Belarus, Romania, Republic of Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, is made of sunflower seeds instead of sesame.

Cornstarch halva

Cornstarch halva, is popular in Greece and has many variations. The Farsala recipe is the most well known. It is quite sweet, with caramel like syrup.

Etymology and cultural use

Halva is the most common modern English spelling and the transliteration from most Balkan languages. Other transliterations include: halava (Sanskrit), halvah (Hebrew), halwa or halwi (Arabic), helva (Turkish).

The Hebrew spelling, halvah, may at times be used to refer specifically to the Kosher variety.

The word 'halawa' (حلاوة) in Arabic means 'sweetness' while the word halwa (حلوي) means sweets or candy. The word halva comes from the Arabic word halwa; the root word is hilwa meaning sweet. The root word is also the basis for the Arabic word for "good" (helwa').

Halva in Albania is usually sweet and eaten as a dessert at the end of a meal. It is made with mostly chocolate, but also with vanilla (white halva made with either vanilla or just sugar), or a mixture of half and half. Many stores all over Albania sell this popular sweet in large, fresh and in-expensive blocks. Its taste is creamy, yet melt in your mouth. The ingredients are flour, butter, sugar, and other flavorings.

In Bahrain, the most popular form of halwa is Halwa Showaiter, also known as Halwa Bahraini in neighboring countries.

Halva is widely used in Bosnia, and is available in different forms and flavours.

Halua as it is known in Bangla, is quite popular among the Bengalis. There are many types of haluas that are savoured, among the common ones are: semolina (shoojir halua), carrot (gajorer halua), chickpeas (booter daaler halua), flour (neshestar halua) and almond (baadamer halua). Many Bangladeshis and Indian bengalis also eat halua made from papaya (peper halua). Halua is usually eaten as a rich dessert, but it is not uncommon for Bengalis to eat halua for breakfast with traditional breads (rice flour, porota/paratha etc..)

In Bulgaria the term halva (халва) is used for several varieties of the dessert. Tahini halva (тахан халва) is most popular and can be found in all food stores. Two different types of tahini halva are made - one using sunflower seed tahini and another using sesame seed tahini. Traditionally, the regions of Yablanitsa and Haskovo are famous for their halva. Semolina halva (грис халва) is made at home and can be found only in some pastry stores. A third type is white halva (бяла халва), which is made of sugar. White halva is popular on the last Sunday before Lent (Sirni Zagovezni; Сирни заговезни), when a piece of white halva is tied on a string. All the children at the party stand in a circle and must catch the turning piece of halva with their mouths. Almost all types of halva in Bulgaria are flavoured with essence of Good King Henry (чувен).

Halva is a sweet that is consumed in Croatia. It is not uncommon to come across the specialty in the regions of Slavonia, Kordun, Lika and Baranja or regions that at one point came in contact with the Ottoman empire. Halva is especially popular in Slavonia during "kirvaj" or local church fairs.

In Egypt, the name is halawa tahiniya (حلاوة طحينية). The word 'halawa' in Arabic means 'sweetness' while the word halwa (حلوى) means sweets. It has many varieties such as plain blocks, and fine fibrous halawa called halawa hair. Other varieties with pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds exist in big blocks or pre-packed consumer portions, or more recently energy bars (chocolate bar size). Halawa is a very popular sweet enjoyed by a lot of Egyptians. It is eaten for breakfast and dinner, and enjoyed with hot bread, sandwiches, and sometimes with the Arabic equivalent of clotted cream (قشطة, pronounced ishta in Egyptian Arabic). It is a staple food that is enjoyed all over the country as it does not need special storage conditions, and can be kept in ambient temperature with no risk of spoilage.


In Greece and Cyprus the term halva (Χαλβά) is used for both varieties of the dessert. Sesame halva was produced in classical times. The dish was popular in the Byzantine Empire, and it is very popular throughout the country especially during Great Lent and other fasts. Halva is considered one of the most delicious Greek desserts which is appropriate under Orthodox Christian fasting guidelines.

Various types of halva from India are distinguished by the region and the ingredients from which they are prepared. One of the most famous is Sooji halwa. Carrot halwa (called gajar halwa is a popular sweet throughout India. Halwa of Calicut kozhikoden halwa) Kerala, and Tirunelveli Halwa, produced in Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu are also famous.

In Iran halva usually refers to a confection made from wheat flour and butter and flavored with rose water. The final product has a brownish shade of color. Halva usually gets served on funerals and such ceremonies, often with almonds or coconut dressing on the top.

One variation from the Caspian region of Gilan is called Asali Halva (literally honey halva). It is different from other types of halve prepared in Iran since it is based on rice flour rather than semolina, and instead of suger, it is sweetned with honey.

Heavily sesame-flavoured tahini halvah (חלבה) is very popular with Israelis in Israel and among people all over the world. Spelled "chalvah" in English, it usually comes in slabs or small packages and is available in a wide variety of flavours, chocolate and vanilla being very common. The halvah is almost always parve, meaning it does not contain any meat or dairy ingredients, ensuring that it can be eaten with/after either milk or meat dishes according to the laws of Kashrut. Israeli halvah will usually not contain wheat flour or semolina but will contain sesame tahini, glucose, sugar, vanilla and saponaria root extracts (Soapwort) which are not always found in other recipes.

and and

In the region of the Levant - which includes Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians, halva is typically the sesame- or tahini-based form, which can be flavored in various ways and may include pistachios or almonds. A large quantity of halva is exported from Lebanon throughout the world.

In Libya, it is called حلوى شامية halwa shamiya or simply shamiya which means Levantine sweet, whereas the word halawa is never used.

In Malta, the term ħelwa tat-Tork (Turk's sweet) is used to refer to a tahini-based block confection sometimes containing pistachios or almonds. It forms part of the Maltese cuisine and is a common sweet snack on the islands, especially served at the end of wedding celebrations.

There are various types of halva (Urdu: حلوا) in Pakistan, distinguished by the region and the content from which they are prepared. Most is made from semolina, ghee and sugar. Carrot halwa (called gaajar halwa is also popular, as is halva made from tender bottle gourds . Karachi Halva is a specialty dessert from Karachi, Sindh.

& &

In Romania, Slovenia and Republic of Moldova, the term halva is used to refer to a sunflower-based (in Republic of Moldova it's mostly referred to as as "halva de răsărită". In Romania it's known as "halva de floarea soarelui") block confection sometimes containing pistachios, almonds or chocolate.

Soft sesame halva is made from sugar syrup, egg whites, and sesame seeds. Solid sesame Halva is made from pulled sugar, repeatedly stretched to give a white colour; prepared sesame is added to the warm sugar and formed on big trays.

The term helva is used by Turkish people, to describe tahin (crushed sesame seeds), flour, or semolina halva, called "tahin helvası", "un helvası", and "irmik helvası", respectively. Yaz helvası is the one made of almond or walnut. Semolina halva (garnished with pine nuts) has a cultural significance in Turkish folk religion and is the most common type. Traditionally, halva prepared with flour un helvası is cooked and served upon the death of a person. In addition, some sweets and desserts are also called helva such as pamuk helva or Kos helva, a sweet like dessert which is widespread in Turkey. In Safranbolu kos helva is also called "leaf-halva".

Cultural references

In Turkey and Iran, after the burial ceremony, on the seventh and fortieth day following the death of a muslim, and also on the first anniversary, flour helva is cooked and offered to visitors and neighbours by relatives of the deceased. For this reason, flour (un) helva is also called "ölü helvası" meaning "helva of the dead". The expression "roasting the helva of someone" suggests that the person referred to died some time ago.

There is a Greek saying Ante re halva! ("Άντε ρε χαλβά!" - could be translated as "get lost halva"), which is used when the speaker wants to offend someone, usually a man by calling him coward and/or chubby. Another saying, dating from the period of Ottoman domination, states that "Ρωμαίικος καβγάς, τούρκικος χαλβάς" (roughly translated as "A fight among Greeks is a Turk's delight").

See also

External links


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