Few desserts provide the same comforting bear hug of warmth and deliciousness that a slice of kunefe can provide. This gooey, stretchy Middle Eastern treat consists of a crispy exterior of kataifi (shredded phyllo dough) and a melty cheese interior. That all then gets drenched in a floral syrup and garnished with plenty of pistachios to give you a festival of textures, flavors, and feelings all in one bite.
Growing up in a Middle Eastern church, kunefe has always been one of my favorite desserts. It's also one of the most difficult out there to get right, as everything has to be in the correct ratios and cooked to perfection. While I usually leave this science and wizardry up to the way more talented bakers at my church, there's apparently a version of kunefe at Trader Joe's that makes this sweet way more convenient.
Folks have been spotting kunefe in the freezer section of Trader Joe's for the past four days or so, which, to be honest, surprised me. Kunefe is a pretty niche dessert, even though it's been gaining popularity on Instagram, particularly with Turkish and Middle Eastern accounts. Sure, that cheese pull makes it eye-catching, but I had no idea that there was enough appeal for a major grocer to create their own take on it.
In terms of similarities, it seems like the Trader Joe's team stuck pretty close to how kunefe is typically made. The outer crusts are made of kataifi, while the interior is a blend of two cheeses: mozzarella and myzithra, a ricotta-like cheese made from sheep or goat milk.
Inside the package also comes a small amount of ground pistachios for garnish, as well as a packet of syrup to soak the entire pastry in once it's baked. Thus, the full kunefe experience is now available in freezer form, making this dessert way more accessible to the average American consumer.
While I haven't taken this kunefe on a test run yet, I'm curious to see just how close this Trader Joe's version comes to the real thing. Stay tuned.