Atayef, or qatayef, are Middle Eastern pancakes that are deep-fried until golden brown and drizzled with simple syrup. It's one of the most common desserts in Egypt during the holy month of Ramadan, and it's absolutely delicious!
This atayef recipe can be stuffed with all sorts of things like crushed walnuts, cheese, or ashta (cream). This recipe covers making these stuffed pancakes with walnuts or shredded cheese- you pick!
What I Love About This Recipe
I remember being so excited about Ramadan as a kid because it always meant crispy, fresh, deep-fried stuffed pancakes called qatayef (atayef). And when I learned how to make them, they stopped being a Ramadan dessert because they're my go-to whenever I have special guests.
Atayef is always a crowd-pleaser. There's something so satisfying about the crispy deep-fried pancake drizzled with sweet syrup and stuffed with a salty melted cheese filling or the crunchy cinnamon walnut filling.
- Semolina: You can use either coarse or fine semolina for this recipe, but it's one of the key ingredients.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the best option, but I've also used wholewheat flour before and got the same results. Stay away from coarser flours like wholemeal and cornmeal, though.
- Sugar: You'll need a little bit of white sugar for the qatayef batter itself, some for the walnut stuffing, and some more for the simple syrup. I like to keep the simple syrup on the side instead of soaking the qatayef in it after frying. This way each person can decide how sweet they prefer theirs.
- Yeast: This recipe only needs about a teaspoon of instant yeast. It's what makes the atayef dough soft and moist.
- Baking Powder: This ingredient helps the dough puff up a little bit while cooking.
- Rosewater: This part is optional. I like to add 2-3 tablespoons of rosewater to my atayef batter because I think it gives it a special flowery aftertaste. If you don't like rosewater, you can just skip it.
- Orange Blossom Water: The secret ingredient to Arab simple syrup. A tablespoon goes a long way and will leave your syrup tasting fresh.
- Lemon Juice: Always use fresh lemon juice, and not the fake-tasting store-bought kind. It will help thicken your syrup and intensify the flavor.
- Walnuts: One of the stuffing options in this recipe is cinnamon walnuts. You'll need to crush them with sugar and cinnamon to make sure they're fully coated.
- Cheese: Traditionally, you'd want to use Nabulsi or Akkawi cheese. But since both are really hard to find here in Cairo, I use the slightly saltier shelal cheese. You can also use fresh mozzarella.
- Oil: Use your favorite frying oil.
Refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact quantities.
How to Make Atayef
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Then add the wet ingredients (warm water and rose water). Mix until you get a slightly runnier consistency than pancake batter (you might need slightly more water). Cover the pancake batter with a towel to rest for an hour.
Prepare the simple syrup by mixing all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil while mixing it frequently until it thickens. Set the thick sugar syrup aside to cool.
After your atayef batter has rested, heat a non-stick pan to medium heat. Scoop the batter using a measuring cup (¼ cup) or ice cream scoop. Do not flip the pancake! Remove once small bubbles have formed.
Once the batter has bubbled and changed in color slightly, take the pancake off the stove and cover it with a towel. Keep the bubbly side up and drape a tea towel over the pancakes so they don't dry out. Repeat until the batter is finished.
Mix the ingredients together to make the walnut stuffing. Chop or crush the walnut filling until you get a rough mixture.
Scoop about one heaping teaspoon onto one half of the pancake.
Do the same if you're filling them with cheese.
Fold over the pancake and pinch the sides together firmly with your fingers.
Put the stuffed pancakes on a plate.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, and test it by dropping a tiny piece of dough into it. If it starts bubbling, the oil is hot enough.
Drop the filled atayef in the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden, then remove from the oil with a slotted spatula to a plate lined with paper towels.
Drizzle the aromatic simple sugar syrup on top. Serve immediately.
Tips and Tricks
- Prepare the syrup ahead of time. The syrup in this recipe is the same simple syrup I use for my basbousa, as well as almost any Middle Eastern dessert. The best time to prepare the syrup is while the batter is resting, this way you'll be time-efficient, and you'll give the syrup enough time to cool and thicken before you pour it onto your qatayef.
- Let the batter rest. Since the batter has both yeast and semolina in it, you're going to have to be patient and let it rest for at least 45 minutes, but preferably around an hour. This gives time for the yeast to activate, which gives qatayef their signature bubbly texture, and for the semolina to absorb liquid and soften.
- Use a measuring cup or ice cream scoop to pour the batter. To get perfectly-sized atayef every time, I use a ¼ cup measuring cup to pour the silky atayef pancake batter onto the nonstick pan. This will also help get perfectly round pancakes that will fold easily.
- Cover cooked pancakes with a towel. This makes sure your qatayef pancakes don't dry out and stay soft and flexible for when you stuff them.
- Don't stack cooked pancakes. Since these pancakes are only cooked on one side, they tend to be very delicate. Place them side by side or slightly overlapping to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Variations and Substitutions
- Stuff these deep-fried pancakes with a variety of cheese: nabulsi, akkawi cheese, mozzarella, shelal, ricotta, or plain white cheese.
- It's also common to fill atayef with homemade ashta cream which is what's more common in Egypt. Ashta is the same as clotted cream.
- Non-stick skillet or pan
- Deep pan or pot for frying
Make a double batch of atayef and store one in the freezer. Cook, stuff, and fold the pancakes, then place them in a freezer bag or airtight container. Then, defrost and deep fry them before serving. They'll store well for up to 2 months in the freezer.
Yes, atayef can be frozen for up to 2 months in the freezer. Freeze the stuffed pancakes unfried. When ready to make, thaw the stuffed pancakes and deep fry.
Atayef is a stuffed pancake that is deep-fried and then drizzled with a sugary simple syrup. It's a common dessert for the month of Ramadan
Middle Eastern Desserts
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Atayef Middle Eastern Stuffed Pancakes
Qatayef Pancake Batter
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup semolina
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1-2 tablespoon rosewater optional
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup crushed walnuts
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ cup nabulsi akkawi, shelal, or mozzarella cheese
Sugar Simple Syrup
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the warm water and rose water. Mix until you get a consistency that's slightly runnier than pancake batter (you might need slightly more water). Cover the pancake batter with a towel and let it rest for an hour.
- Prepare the simple syrup by mixing all the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil, and cook while mixing frequently until it thickens. Set aside to cool.
- After your atayef batter has rested, heat a nonstick skillet or pan to medium heat. Scoop the batter using a measuring cup (¼ cup) or ice cream scoop. Once the batter has bubbled and changed in color slightly, take the pancake off the stove and cover it with a towel. Repeat until the batter is finished. Do not flip the pancake!
- To make the walnut stuffing, mix the ingredients together, and chop or crush until you get a rough mixture. Scoop about 1 heaping teaspoon onto one half of the pancake, fold over, and pinch the sides together firmly with your fingers.
- Do the same if you're filling them with cheese.
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, test it out by dropping a tiny piece of dough into the oil. If it starts bubbling, the oil is hot enough.
- Drop the qatayef in the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden, then remove from the oil with a slotted spatula to a plate.
- Drizzle the simple sugar syrup on top. Serve immediately.
- When cooking the pancakes, make sure the side facing up is no longer shiny before taking it off the heat. Don't flip the pancakes.
- The pancakes can stick together, don't lay directly on top of each other.