What Is Halva And What Does It Taste Like?

Those of you who live in or have traveled to the Middle East have probably seen halva in the markets. Wheels of the treat are often displayed for sale there, according to the New York Times. Though halva is an ancient sweet that originated in the region, it is quite popular and common throughout the Balkan peninsula, North Africa, and India too (via Halvamania).

While halva is often thought of as a confection or treat, some consider it to be one of the oldest food supplements in the world. The candy is most commonly made from a nut-base, though a flour-based halva exists as well (via The Kitchn). Ancient halva was made from dates and milk or sesame seeds and honey. Today, it's usually made with crushed sesame or sunflower seeds and sugar syrup, and potentially has added flavors like cocoa powder, vanilla, other nuts, or even dried fruits. Halva made with a sesame seed base contains a lot of essential minerals, fatty acids, dietary fiber, proteins, amino acids, and other good nutrients — even if it is sugary enough that you should still eat it only in moderation.

Halva has an interesting texture

While halva certainly has a unique flavor, the texture usually becomes the focal point to those who are new to the candy. The flavor of this treat is largely determined by any add-ins such as chocolate, vanilla, or pistachio, according to The Kitchn. However, plain or original halva primarily has the mild flavor of tahini, or ground sesame seeds. Instead of the taste of plain tahini (which Cook's Illustrated says is sometimes bitter), the sugar syrup — and any other added ingredients like lemon zest and vanilla — balances the flavors beautifully, according to the New York Times.

Apart from the flavor itself, the texture of halva is sort of like a cross between honeycomb candy and fudge. Halva can have both a crumbly and fluffy texture all at once, according to The Kitchn, yet it is softer than crunchy-yet-airy honeycomb candy (via The Pioneer Woman). The softness of halva is what most resembles fudge, especially when you cut through it. According to The Kitchn, there is no other candy exactly like it, so if you plan to try halva, buy a flavor you know you like such as vanilla or pistachio and get ready for an sweet, unique experience.