20 Traditional Iraqi Sweets And Desserts In Iraq To Try

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While the country is well-known for its religious values, customs and traditions, here are some interesting Iraq facts you may not know. Most Iraqi sweets and desserts are rooted in Persian culinary customs. Many of these delicious delicacies date back to early Medieval times but are still popular today.

What’s Special About Iraqi Sweets And Desserts?

In the early times, most Iraqi desserts and confectionery used expensive and high-grade components. Today, local ingredients give these treats a spectacular and tempting presentation. 

Iraqis love cream, honey and filo pastries to a great extent. Many desserts in Iraq solely consist of these three ingredients. Iraqi sweets also mostly include honey and saffron as well as crushed pistachios as a topping. Furthermore, fruits, jams and jellies are common in almost every Iraqi household. 

Most Popular Iraqi Dessert 

Mann Al-Sama (Nougat Bars)

One of the famous desserts in Iraq is mann al-sama. It is a traditional Iraqi confectionary made of manna, also known as heaven’s food. Manna is considered to be the food of God that comes from the sap or lichen of a tree.

Mann al-sama is an Iraqi nougat candy with a very sweet vanilla flavor and chewy texture. The treat is cut into mini squares. The candy is also covered with flour and adorned with chopped pistachios.

This Iraqi dessert is widely popular throughout the country. Locals once considered it a divine sweet that inspired unity in the country. Trying the heavenly taste of mann al-sama from Iraqi sweet shops is a must when you visit the country. 

Filo Desserts In Iraq

Baklava (Filo Pastry)

Baklava or baklawa is a Middle Eastern dessert enjoyed in several Arab countries. It is known as the dessert of celebrations in most Arabian households. It is made of filo dough, nuts and sweet sugary syrup. 

This Iraqi dessert features layers of filo pastry stuffed with chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios or cashews. It is flavored with cardamom, honey, rose water and sweet syrup. 

The Iraqi baklava feels crunchy and flaky and is delicious to eat with tea. Similar to mahalabia (milk pudding), baklava is served during Ramadan and Eid. 

Knafeh (Spun Pastry)

Knafeh, a spun pastry, originates from the Fatimid Caliphate and is mostly eaten in the countries of the Levant. In Iraq, it is typically served during the holy month of Ramadan and for Eid celebrations.

This Iraqi dessert features a shredded filo exterior stuffed with cheese or clotted cream and pistachios. It is soaked in a sweet syrup flavored with rose water or orange blossom water. Knafeh is also topped with chopped pistachios or walnuts. 

This Middle Eastern dessert has a creamy and crunchy texture. This heavenly combination delivers an extraordinary blast of flavors. Iraqis prefer eating this dessert fresh and hot with Arabic coffee, so it’s an ideal choice for your evening snack. 

Osh El Bulbul (Bird’s Nest Dessert)

Our next item is a unique Iraqi dessert known as osh el bulbul. It is an Arabic term that means “nightingale’s nest,” which is a perfect description of this dish. Due to its beautiful circular nest-like shape, it is considered a specialty of dining tables during family dinners and religious festivals.

Osh el bulbul is similar to a baklava or shredded pastry stuffed with chopped pistachios. Like many other Iraqi sweets, it has a buttery and flaky exterior covered with chopped roasted nuts.

This dessert is savory and considered to be the lightest sweet of the Middle East. You can easily eat dozens at a time because it is very light.

Kahi (Iraqi Crepes)

Kahi is a popular breakfast dessert from the southern region of the country. It is also considered the national breakfast of Iraq, where locals enjoy it in the morning with tea or coffee.

This Iraqi dessert features stacked filo pastry with butter in every layer and looks like a crunchy puff pastry. It varies in shape from square to rectangular, but the taste is mostly the same everywhere. 

This luxurious Iraqi dessert is usually served lukewarm alongside warm honey and clotted milk cream known as kaymak or geymar. It is commonly served in local Iraqi markets.

Halawat Sha’Riyya (Vermicelli Noodles)

Halawat sha’riyya is a popular Persian confectionery from ancient times. This famous Iraqi food is a simple golden and sweet noodle dish consumed by many residents regularly. Although it doesn’t contain filo, its appearance is similar to any filo dessert in Iraq. 

This generously sweet dish contains staple Iraqi ingredients. The vermicelli is cooked sweet and soft and paired with rose water and crunchy nuts. Vermicelli are thin strands of pasta that are commonly added to Middle Eastern sweets. 

This heavenly Iraqi dessert shows off the fragrance of flower waters and the earthy flavor of roasted nuts. Halawat sha’riyya and its many variations are popular items in Iraqi sweet shops. 

Znoud El Sit (Cream Filo Rolls)

Znoud el Sit are rolls of filo dough stuffed with a sweet traditional cream called ashta. The name of this dessert refers to a lady’s ”upper arms” because it is similar in appearance. 

The dough rolls are fried or baked and have a crispy texture. It is drizzled with sugar syrup and topped with nuts. As you bite into the crispy filo roll, you get a mouthful of soft cream flavored with rose water.

It is one of the popular Ramadan desserts in Iraq. 

Iraqi Desserts – Cookies

Kleicha (Iraqi Date Cookies)

Kleichas are Iraqi desserts that look like Swiss rolls with delicious paste filling. The typical spiral shape of kleichas give them an appetizing look. 

You can get different filings, but the ones with date and nut paste are the most popular. Walnut and coconut-flavored kleichas are also commonly found in Iraqi bakeries. So, they are not only delicious but are also a healthy snack to munch on. 

These Iraqi cookies are a celebratory dessert, often made during Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The Christian community bakes it during the Christmas holidays. 

Hadji Bada (Iraqi Jewish Almond Cookies)

Hadji bada are Iraqi Jewish almond cookies, also known as Israeli cookies. These Iraqi sweets are round and small with a white or golden color. They are among the few Iraqi desserts that are unleavened and don’t contain dough or milk, which is ideal for a person on a diet.

As the name suggests, almonds are the main ingredient of these cookies. However, blanched walnuts are often used as a substitute. Other ingredients include egg whites, honey and a few spices, which shows how healthy these cookies are. 

They are sometimes topped with whole almonds and pistachios, and cinnamon and fresh rose water might also be added. These soft Iraqi cookies are often dusted with powdered sugar. They are top-listed among Iraqi sweets and desserts. 

Iraqi Desserts – Pastries And Cakes

Daheen (Iraqi Fudge Pastry)

Daheen is a famous Iraqi fudge-like pastry. The confectionery receives its name after its main ingredient, dihin hurr, or clarified butter. This butter makes daheen quite different from other Iraqi sweets. 

It originates from Najaf, where it is sold in the local markets like other traditional Iraqi desserts. Out of all of them, the markets next to the Shiite Holy Shrine are the best for buying daheen. 

The fudgy texture of this Iraqi dessert teases the rich flavor of its ingredients. It is made with flour, sugar, milk, date syrup and clarified butter. It is often served in small squares with a sprinkle of grated coconut.

Zalabia (Funnel Cake)

Zalabia is a popular funnel cake believed to have originated from Persia. This Iraqi dessert features a typical spiral shape and an attractive bright reddish color. 

In Iraq, this dessert is prepared with a batter made of flour and yogurt. The batter is poured in sizzling hot oil in a circular pattern and fried till golden brown. Finally, it is doused in sugar syrup and sprinkled with chopped nuts. 

This Iraqi sweet is known for its crispy orange exterior rich with sweetness. Zalabia is served on special occasions, but you can easily find it throughout the year from any local market.

Basbousa (Semolina Cake)

Basbousa is an authentic Egyptian sweet dish and a popular Iraqi dessert. The word “basbousa” is a Middle Eastern term that refers to a very sweet semolina cake. In Arabic, you call your loved ones “basbousa,” so the treat can be enjoyed with them to show your affection.

This dessert is made from semolina batter and shredded coconut baked together. The cake is then cut into squares and drizzled with orange blossom water, rose water or plain sugar syrup. 

Qatayef (Stuffed Pancakes)

Qatayef is another popular and classic Iraqi dessert. It is a Middle Eastern stuffed pancake or dumpling filled with a variety of flavourful ingredients, such as nuts and cheese. 

This sweet food is made with yeast batter. After frying, the pastries are stuffed with walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sweet cheese, cream and raisins. Then they are drizzled with a sugary syrup.

Similar to other desserts in Iraq, qatayef is prepared during Ramadan and other festivals. It is tender and has a porous texture like pancakes. Order them with your evening tea and you will understand why everyone loves qatayef in Iraq. 

Iraqi Desserts – Puddings

Mahalabia (Milk Pudding)

Mahalabiya is a sweet milk pudding similar to French blancmange and found in many Arabian cuisines. This Iraqi dessert is enjoyed in different forms in the Arabian Peninsula and other parts of the Middle East. 

In Iraq, this pudding is made with milk and sugar, cooked in rice flour and thickened with gelatin. Orange blossom and rose water are also added for floral flavors and aromas. Finally, it is garnished with pistachios, almonds, shredded coconut, cinnamon or raisins. 

This creamy Iraqi dessert is served cold in cute mini glasses or bowls. It has a silky, ice cream-like texture that is perfect for a warm day. 

Zerde (Rice Pudding)

Zerde is a sweet Mesopotamian dish eaten in various countries. It is a milk-free rice pudding, which makes it different from typical Middle Eastern puddings. 

This traditional Iraqi dessert features saffron-infused boiled rice. The saffron gives the rice a bright yellow color with an intense aroma and flavor. It is served garnished with pine nuts and pistachios.

In Iraq, this sweet rice dish is largely consumed during celebrations like weddings and birthdays. It is especially popular during the religious months of Ramadan and Muharram. You can get this soul-warming rice pudding from many restaurants and dessert shops. 

Iraqi Desserts – Candies And Sweets

Lauzinaj (Almond Candy)

Lauzinaj or lawzinaq is another delicious addition to the list of Iraqi sweets. These are almond-flavored candies that originated from Arab cuisine.

In the past, these delicious treats have been described as the food of kings. They are also considered the cousin of the sanbusaj, a famous samosa dough. 

This almond candy is prepared in the same way as the Middle Eastern baklava and knafeh. Lauzinaj has a taffy-like texture and a delightful flavor. 

Halawat Timman (Roasted Rice Flour Sweet)

Halawat timman means “sweetness of rice.” It is also known as sulemnai halwa in Iraq and other parts of the Arabian Peninsula. 

This traditional Iraqi dessert is known for its sweetness and unique texture. It is a perfect way to experience the authentic taste of Iraqi food. It is made from roasted rice flour and every bite has a dominant flavor of rose water, cardamom and saffron. 

It is usually enjoyed cold and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. In Iraq, halawat timman is a must-make dessert for special occasions and large gatherings. It has so many variations that every time you have it, you’re likely to experience something new.

Halawet El Jibn (Sweet Cheese Rolls)

Halawet el jibn is a delectable Iraqi dessert made of sweet cheese. It originates from Syria and is eaten all over the Middle East. This Iraqi dessert is a feast for cheese lovers, as it features soft and sweet cheese rolls. These rolls are made from semolina and cheese dough and topped with crushed pistachios and rose petal jam.

You will enjoy the regal experience provided by the delicious clotted cheese with nuts and floral jam. The dessert has a creamy consistency that doesn’t feel heavy on the stomach. 

This exquisite treat is served for special occasions, such as Ramadan or Eid, at your host’s house. Otherwise, you can always buy it from local dessert and sweet shops. 

Jazarieh (Iraqi Carrot Dessert)

Jazarieh is an Iraqi dessert that originated in the country. The name jazarieh stems from the word jazar which means carrots. This Iraqi dessert consists of grated carrots, but in Lebanon, it might contain grated pumpkin shreds instead.

In addition to carrots or pumpkins, it also contains nuts and high-quality clarified butter. All the ingredients are cooked in a sugar syrup like traditional Iraqi puddings. 

It also has a soft consistency somewhere between jam and pudding. The garnishing of walnuts, pistachios or blanched almonds gives it the typical appearance and flavor of Iraqi desserts. You can get it from any local confectionery shop in Iraq. 

Luqmat Al Qadi (Fried Dough Balls)

Luqmat al qadi, also called lokma, is said to have originated in Egypt, Greece or Turkey. It is an authentic Iraqi dessert but is more popular among Turks and Arabs. It has the same name and appearance in Syria and Jordan, though it is prepared with different techniques in Gulf countries. 

Lokma is a deep-fried dough ball eaten as an Iraqi dessert and for breakfast. The recipe dates back to early Medieval times and appears in many cookbooks of the 13th century. It includes leavened dough balls that are fried, dipped in sugar syrup or honey, and garnished with cinnamon.

These sweet balls have a soft and porous texture like a doughnut. They have a beautiful golden-brown color and might differ in size and taste across the country. 


Discovering Delicious Iraqi Sweets And Desserts In Iraq

Apart from the desserts adapted from neighboring countries, Iraq also has authentic desserts of its own. From baklava and knafeh to almond cookies and traditional date cookies, Iraqi sweets have a lot to offer. Although many Iraqi desserts have the same ingredients and cooking techniques, each offers a different texture and taste.



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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