Crispy Halvah Cookies With Chocolate Chunks And Sea Salt

Crispy Halvah Cookies With Chocolate Chunks And Sea Salt

UPDATED These are halvah cookies. Halvah, also known as “halwa,” “halva,” “halava,” and “helva,” is a broad term used to describe a dense, sweet confection made with a base of flour or nut butter, sometimes vegetables (typically carrots), but most commonly with sesame tahini. Halvah is eaten in many countries: all across the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, the Balkans, the United States and Israel.

halvah cookies

Here in the U.S., a sesame-based version is by far the most common. Halvah was originally brought here in the early 20th century by Jewish immigrants. Although I’ve never made it, this form of halvah is simple to make from scratch and consists primarily of tahini, ground sesame butter and sugar or honey. This was the kind of halvah I grew up eating in New York City, which we normally got from the world-famous Zabars.  It was fresh, easy to locate and came in a variety of flavors.halvah cookies

Halvah is not your typical confection, and has an interesting texture. Halvah is a bit crumbly, but also fluffy at the same time.  My favorite is marble, with chocolate swirled in, although the pistachio is not bad either.  I wanted to try halvah in a cookie since I Iove cookies and halvah, and I have never seen the two put together.  Halvah mixed into the dough makes these cookies slightly crispy yet delicate when baked, with great nutty chocolate flavor.halvah cookies

When I was last in New York, I stopped by Chelsea Market, one of my favorite places on earth.  There is now a booth there, Seed + Mill, that is dedicated to only sesame seed products, including tahini and lots of halvah. Seed + Mill’s selection includes traditional halvah varieties like marble, pistachio or rose oil as well as unique flavor combinations like white chocolate & lemon, ginger, cardamom or sea salt dark chocolate. Their halvah is gluten-free and kosher, and many are also vegan.

halvah cookies

I had trouble locating this sweet confection in Northern California, but recently learned it is out here: apparently you can find it at World Market in their International food section–who knew?!?!  The best halvah, if eating plain, is fresh halvah. So, if you feel motivated, I suggest you make your own.  Melissa Clark posted a great recipe in The New York Times on how to make this sweet treat–this is the one I would try.

halvah cookies

Unless you are planning a trip to NYC or Israel, you may need to look hard to find the good stuff  My son’s amazing teacher is from Isreal and plans to go back to travel there in a few months for a bar mitzvah. She gave these cookies a big thumbs up–I take that very seriously!  She said that she will bring me some traditional Israeli halvah after her trip.  I can’t wait.  But don’t let the halvah stop you, for this recipe, you certainly can get by with the store-bought version.  The delicious sesame flavor will be there as well as the wonderful crispness.

Crispy Halvah Chocolate Chunk Cookies

October 21, 2017
: 20
: 15 min
: 15 min
: 30 min
: easy


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate disks
  • 1 cup marble or plain halvah, roughly chopped, divided
  • flaky sea salt
  • Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Step 2 In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, baking soda and dash of salt. Mix well and set aside.
  • Step 3 Using a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid, fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and both sugars. Beat low until well incorporated.
  • Step 4 With the mixer on low, add the egg and vanilla and 3/4 cup of the halvah, beat until incorporated. Add the flour-mixture. Mix on high till well blended and fluffy.
  • Step 5 Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup of halvah. Do not over-mix.
  • Step 6 Using your hands, scoop about 2 tablespoons of the dough and roll into a dough ball.  Repeat with the remaining dough. Sprinkle some salt flakes on each cookie. Do not overcrowd the cookies, they will spread.
  • Step 7 Bake cookies for about 12 minutes, do not over-bake. Remove from the oven and let cool. The cookies will firm up once they sit for a while.

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