Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (Vegan+GF)
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
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So last week was sister’s birthday and I wanted to try something sweet that would be nostalgic to her and the first thing that came to mind was the sunflower halva that she used to love. I guess I should mention, for those of you who don’t know this, that two of my sisters were born in Ukraine. You’d never guess it now though because they seem every bit as North American as I am.
This post is all about Ukrainian Halva, a European favorite.
Halva it’s not a common thing in the States but, as it happens, there are a bunch of Ukrainians that live in the Spokane area which is really close to where we live in Idaho. I really don’t like Spokane, in fact, I more than dislike it. We have this inside joke that my mom can never drive there again because the few times she has, and I mean very few, she seems to become some kind of cop target and ends up with absurd tickets. My mom is a very good and safe driver by the way so that has nothing to do with it.
But back to my point, there was this one time that we got sort of lost and took a “short cut” in Spokane. We stumbled upon this little Kiev market where they had authentic Ukrainian halva sold by authentic Ukrainians. (I sort of have this thing for accents and languages and I could just sit and listen to them talk all day. It’s so cool to me.) Anyway, Lela loved it and said it tasted just like when she was little. I’ve wanted to recreate it ever since.
What is Halva or Halvah?
You’re probably wondering what halva even is. From what I’ve read halva is made all over Europe but there are many variations. In the middle east they make it with sesame seeds but in eastern Europe (i.e. Ukraine) they make it with sunflower seeds. It’s a really simple candy and it only takes a few minutes to make. I have no idea if this is even close to how they do it overseas to be honest. However, Lela said it tastes like what she remembers so I thought I’d share it for you to try.
I think the key is to use fresh or roasted sunflower seeds and grind them in a food processor if you want the correct texture. However, if you’re in a rush and don’t mind a slightly more fudge-like texture, you can skip this step and just use sunflower seed butter. Either way, the flavor ends up delicious.I hope you try it.
You’ll definitely want a candy thermometer for this one. You can buy one very cheaply from Amazon.
This post was all about Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva
Okay here’s the recipe:
Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (Vegan+GF)
- 2 cups roasted sunflower seeds
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line a standard standard loaf pan with parchment and set aside. Put sunflower seeds into a food processor or blender and blend until very fine and beginning to look like really thick nut butter (but not quite). Use a spatula to scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the vanilla and salt.
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium low heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 to 7 minutes until a candy thermometer reads 245 degrees F (it may take a bit longer depending on your stove but be sure to get the sugar to the right temperature or it will not candy properly.). Remove from heat and quickly, but carefully, pour the syrup into the sunflower seed mixture while mixing on low speed. Mix just until combined then quickly scrape the entire mixture into the prepared pan then flatten down with spatula. Lay a second piece of parchment over top and press down firmly for a minute or two until very tightly packed.
Allow to cool completely at room temperature before cutting into pieces and serving. Store in an air-tight container.
If you'd like to skip the step of grinding the seeds you can try using sunflower seed butter instead. The texture will be slightly more fudgy but the flavor is very much the same. Simple replace the 2 cups of seeds with 1 cup of the sun butter.
This is very different, I bet it tastes wonderful! I’d never heard of halva before today!
Hi alison do the seeds have to be raw. Or lightly baked…
Becky Winkler (A Calculated Whisk)
Cool!! My dad loves halva and I never liked it as a kid, but I think I might like this sunflower seed version better than the sesame ones I’ve tried. Who could resist those big, chunky wedges??
Whoa!!! Are you talking about the same Spokane that, in my view, is quite lovely and has a beautiful river flowing through it?? 😉
I lived in Spokane my whole life up until about 4 years ago when my family moved to Ecuador. You and I actually have a bit in common! Although, I myself do not dislike Spokane, I LOVE it! Northern Idaho is a great place too, I know it well!
I came across your blog via Pinterest and I was immediately drawn to your blog name, “Gringalicious”, since I am a “gringa” here too! You have inspired me to want to start my own food/life in EC blog even more.
It is sometimes difficult to use normal recipes here in Ecuador because certain ingredients are not found here. That is one of the main reasons why I am following your blog, being that you live in Chile you probably have similar ingredients as I do.
Halva sounds kinda like something they sell here in Ecuador, they’re called bocadillos. Do you have bocadillos in Chile? I will definitely have to try your halva but I think I will try substituting the sugar with honey. Do you think that would work? I am constantly searching for simple gluten free and sugar free recipes and this one caught my attention because of its few ingredients!
Thanks for sharing! I really enjoy reading your blog!
Hi, Allison! That is so cool that you and I have so much in common! I totally agree that Spokane is an absolutely gorgeous place to live. When I said don’t like it I was thinking more about the public than the landscape but I didn’t mean to offend.
Thanks for following my blog. In the beginning I was trying to use local ingredients in my recipes but then I realized that the majority of my readers are from the States and it was hard to explain. Now I usually list ingredients that you can find easily in the States but if you have any questions about substitutions feel free to ask.
I’m not sure about bocadillos but it sounds familiar so maybe we do have them here. Oh, and I think honey would probably work but I would use less honey than the amount of sugar called for.
Thanks again, Allison!
Oh no, I must have come across as though I was offended! Trust me, I was not! 🙂 It makes no difference to me whether you like Spokane or not. 🙂
Great to know that the honey should work! I’ll be trying your recipe out soon!
I have to try this recipe. Looks delicious!
Thank you, Simona!
Maikki // Maikin mokomin
Looks tasty! I love the simplicity of the recipe 🙂
I adore halva, I’m currently living in Russia and I tried it for the first time a few days ago! It’s delicious. Do you know how long it lasts? DO you need to keep it in the fridge?
Wow, Russia, that’s so cool! I think it can last for a while, I’d say at least a week at room temp and up to a month in the fridge.
I recently picked up a halva from a Polish shop in PA. I am used to the sesame seed version. To my surprise the halva I purchased was made with sunflowers. What a different taste. I thought something was bad or something. It also contained licorice extract, I am glad I found this sight. Talk about eating a big amount of something that wasn’t quite right. It could have been rat poison for all I knew. I am glad this halva actually exists and I will live. LOL! I will stick to the sesame version. Feeling relieved. Why does halva have to be so high in calories? That stuff is so darn good.
Also, the halva container reads “Do not store in direct sunlig. Store in dry cool rooms which are well ventilated, not infected with wreckers” I assume sunlig means sunlight, but what the heck is wreckers? Sounds scary.
Oh my goodness, that’s hilarious! I don’t know what a wrecker is but I definitely feel like it’s going to become favorite new nickname of mine for when someone is being annoying. Have a great weekend D!
Haha, I’m glad I helped you figure out the difference and possibly saved you from a visit to the doctor. I also totally agree with you on that pesky calorie thing!
Sorry, but i was disappointed. Not even close to the halva i grew up with. I believe it was made with unshelled sunflower seeds. It was dark, full of fiber, and delicious.
I’m sorry to hear that also Larissa, I’m glad to get your feedback though and thanks for trying it. Hey, do you happen to have a recipe for the traditional halva that your used to because I’d love to try it! My sisters from Ukraine really liked this recipe for what it was but they also said it was missing something from what they remembered.
My wife is from Russia and we eat halva (she pronounces it halvar) all the time, but it has always been store bought. I will have to surprise her with some homemade halva now!
That’s so great to hear! I hope she enjoys your surprise!
Was there any luck using honey in place of the sugar?
I’m thrilled to find this recipe making one of my favourite sweets with sunflower seeds instead of sesame. I wanted to start making it to sell, but I only use local ingredients in my products and I think it would be next to impossible to grow sesame in Canada… Fortunately here in Ontario we have an abundance of sunflowers!
That’s wonderful Maggie, I’m so glad you like this recipe. I’ve never personally used honey but if you want to try it I think it would work. I would use slightly less liquid to make up the difference though. I hope it works well for you and I’d love to hear your results.
We lived in Eastern Europe for nearly two years. In Ukraine a dish of Halva sat in the middle of every table. Every one broke off a piece after the meal. It was made with sunflower seeds and honey. Occasionally, one would have peanuts or another nut chopped into it as well. They always told us it aided in digestion. We loved it!
TORI, thank you very much! I really liked the recipe, I took it to my recipe book)
That’s so great to hear Alyssa! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!
Tori, it’s really awesome! This will quickly become a favorite in our house!
Too much water! I was super stoked to try this recipe, but the final mix is just…glop floating on top of yet more water. 1:1 ratio of water to sugar is simply too much for my ground sunflower seeds to absorb. I followed the recipe amounts exactly and boiled the sugar syrup for the full 7 minutes, though I never got above 225F. Any suggestions as to where I went wrong?
I’m so sorry to hear about your challenge with this recipe. The syrup does need to get above 225 for the sugar get to the right stage and become a syrup. As mentioned in the recipe, it needs to reach 245. The 5-7 minutes is an approximate amount of time but time will vary based on your stove. I will update the recipe to say that.
Thank you for posting the recipe, but I also had trouble getting it right. Even thought the sugar water boiled for well over 15 minutes it never got to 245 degrees. So the result was a rather unappetizing runny dish.
I’m very sorry to hear that. It is important to make sure the sugar reaches the right temperature or it will not candy properly. Thank you for letting me know about your experience so I can add notes to the recipe.