`Ataif ~ Stuffed Arabic Pancakes

August 21st, 2011

These stuffed pancakes are a favorite all over the Middle East. There are about twenty ways to say and spell `ataif (qataif/`atayef/qatayef…) and about fifty ways to prepare them. They can be large or small, open or closed, baked or fried, filled with cream, nuts or cheese.

According to Claudia Roden, these Arabic pancakes are a medieval dish which has remained unchanged to this day. (Some things never change.)

`Ataif are a festive sweet served during happy occasions and celebrations. I associate them most with Ramadan. The first time I experienced `ataif (qataif in Palestinian dialect), was during my first Ramadan in Palestine in 1988. I was mesmerized by the qataif maker in East Jerusalem, who made thousands of these uniform pancakes.

During Ramadan, ready-made pancakes are available in bakeries and supermarkets all over the Middle East. However, the pancakes are easy enough to make at home.

These pancakes come in various sizes. The small ones are filled with cream, pinched at one end and garnished with pistachios.

Below is our family recipe. For this recipe, buy medium-size `atief pancakes (about 4” or 10 cm wide) or make the pancakes from scratch.

`Ataif ~ Arabic Pancakes Stuffed with Walnuts

Makes approximately 18

Pancake Batter

The stuffed pancakes are dipped in a scented simple syrup when they come out of the oven. Prepare the `atar syrup in advance.

1 sachet active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)

1 teaspoon sugar

1½ cups warm water

1½ cups flour

pinch of salt


1 cup chopped walnuts

4 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

To Finish

1/3 cup melted clarified butter (or regular butter)

1½  cups `atar, scented syrup `Atar Recipe here



1.  To make the batter, blend yeast with sugar and ¼ cup of the warm water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve. Sift flour into medium mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour remaining water, salt and yeast mixture into well. Stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Use whisk to remove any lumps.

2.  Cover bowl with cloth and let rise for one hour in warm place. The batter will expand and the surface will become bubbly.

3.  Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat and lightly grease with oil. While pan is heating, beat the batter a little bit with a whisk. If batter is too thick, add a few extra tablespoons of water.

4.  Using a ¼ cup measurer, pour enough batter to make one pancake. With the measuring cup, spread the batter into a circle. Pancakes should be approximately 4” (10 cm) wide.

5. Bubbles will start to form on the top. Pancake is finished when the top beccomes dry without any shiny spots. Cook on one side only. Place finished pancakes browned side down on a clean dish towel to cool. Stack on a plate and cover until ready to use.

6.  To make the filling, combine nuts, sugar and cinnamon.

7.  To stuff the pancakes, fold a pancake in half (cooked side on the outside). Pinch at the corners to make a pocket. Spoon approximately 1 Tablespoon filling into the pancake. Bring edges together and pinch firmly all around to form a crescent. Arrange in one layer on a shallow baking pan. At this point, the stuffed pancakes can be covered and set aside for several hours until time to bake.

8.  Bake stuffed pancakes in a moderate oven, 350°F (180°C). While the oven is preheating, brush the stuffed pancakes (both sides) with the melted clarified butter. For softer `ataif, bake for 15 minutes. For crispier `ataif, bake for ten minutes on each side.

9.  While still hot, briefly dip the stuffed pancakes one by one into the `atar syrup. Arrange on a serving platter and serve warm with extra `atar syrup on the side. 

Tips for Entertaining: Double the pancake recipe. Have two frying pans going at once. Prepare the pancakes in advance (same day). Stuff the pancakes several hours before needed, cover and set aside. Just before baking, brush with butter. The `atar syrup can be made a week in advance.

Questions: How do you like to prepare `ataif? What is your favorite Ramadan sweet?

  1. August 21st, 2011 at 23:26 | #1

    Mmmm, love the gatayef (Sudanese pronounciation:) fab photos and easy to read post…… My favorite dish is and always will be ‘Umm Ali’ can’t get enough of it… Reminds me of my childhood in Croatia and breakfast of country bread soaked in milk with a touch of coffee. LOL Don’t ask! 🙂

  2. August 22nd, 2011 at 09:07 | #2

    WOW, thanks Holly for sharing the atayef pancake recipe! Having lived in egypt all my life, it never occured to me to make them because they are everywhere in Ramadan, even the newspaper man starts selling atayef pancakes (hahaha…just kidding) … You can get them here in Dubai but they are not as fresh and nice as the ones we got back home, so I think I will try to make them.

    We love the savory atayef as well. My MIL also serves them stuffed with ground beef and cheese. For the ground beef cook with grated onions, garlic, pinch of cinnamon and all spice then mix with a some raisins and pine nuts (just a little). for the cheese you can use Halloum with dried mint or feta with dried oregano (try also the Egyptian Thalaga cheese, a softer, creamier and less salty version of feta…you can get it at Geant and Carrefour)

  3. Tasqeen Akoo
    August 22nd, 2011 at 10:29 | #3

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. Being a fan of nuts (not the human kind 😉 I love this recipe , my kids too! I have even made it a few times out of Ramadaan because it’s so good. This is not a cloying, heavy dessert/sweet, so its perfect for fasting people. I prefer it crispy and filled with nuts….and sometimes ricotta cheese.

    PS. Just recently, I’ve substituted the walnuts with pecans, and it was just as yummo!

  4. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 22nd, 2011 at 14:51 | #4

    @Zvezdana I’ve never been drawn to Umm Ali. Something about the presentation. But based on your description, I’m going to give it a second try! And when I do so, I will think of you.

    @Soha I have not heard of savory atayef until now. (So much to learn!) Someone else mentioned feta atayef with oregano. I must try that! Thanks for sharing your impressions of Egypt, Soha. Really nice.

    @Tasqeen I agree, it’s a perfect treat during Ramadan. I think I’m going to experiment with pecans. Sounds delicious. Thanks for your comment, Tasqeen.

  5. Emma
    August 22nd, 2011 at 16:20 | #5

    Have always loved these when we had been in Dubai now I can make them at home here in the UK. Loved the two soups that you shared as well, thank you for all the new recipes. My Husband can not believe all the lovely food he’s been getting lol x

  6. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 22nd, 2011 at 16:33 | #6

    @Emma Thank you so much for the sweet comment! So glad that the recipes are working out for you. I have another recipe for an Arabic sweet coming soon. Thanx again, Emma!

  7. August 24th, 2011 at 09:47 | #7

    I would like to make this dish for my “world-travelling” food blog Vegventures. It seems to be quite pan-arabic, but which country do you think it would suit best (as I generally cook one dish per country)? Does the preparation vary more per country or per family? Would this be a particularly Palestinian version?

  8. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 24th, 2011 at 10:24 | #8

    @Maija Haavisto Hi, good question!! This dish varies from country to country AND family to family. I agree, it’s a pan-Arab dish. You could say this version is “Levantine” – From Jordan, Lebanon, Syria & Palestine. More specifically, you could say Palestinian, as I learned to make it from watching Palestinians. However, not all Palestinians make it this way. For example, some fry it … In the mean time, I hope you enjoy making it. I will watch for you blog post on this. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. UmmSami
    August 26th, 2011 at 23:18 | #9

    Jazakh’Allah Khairun for this recipe! I had wanted to learn how to do baked qataif, but didn’t know how. Just baked a batch tonight…and they’re all gone. My husband didn’t even know they were baked vs. fried. LOL 🙂

    Do you have a good recipe for kahk? They’re an Egyptian (maybe pan-Arab) Eid cookie as well. I think the Copts eat them on Easter too.

  10. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 27th, 2011 at 00:25 | #10

    @UmmSami Thank you for stopping by. So glad the qataif recipe worked out for you. I just posted my recipe for ma’amoul (Eid cookies or kahk) You should be able to find it on the home page. Thanks again for reading!

  11. February 25th, 2012 at 09:15 | #11

    Holly, this looks wonderful. I didn’t know that katayef contains yeast! You’ve got some great pictures. I will be making these, and soon!

  12. September 1st, 2012 at 21:33 | #12

    I love qatayef. I tried the homemade version once and the “half-moons” were so delicious, they got over in no time. I deep-fried them at that time but I would love to try the crispy, baked version. Your mouthwatering pictures remind me that I haven’t had any in a long time, so I’ll make them again soon. Talking about Palestine, did you know it holds the world record for the largest qatayef? I couldn’t believe the size of it:)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      September 5th, 2012 at 21:30 | #13

      HI Adriana, Thank you for stopping by. I hope you try the baked version of qatayef. They are healthier (and tastier in my opinion!) As for the world’s largest qatayef, somehow I’m not surprised that Palestine holds this title! Thanks for the comment & bye for now.

  13. Jaime
    July 20th, 2013 at 03:38 | #14

    Hello, I was looking at your recipes and wanted to try this one. I got confused on the first step for the pancakes. It’s says blend yeast with sugar… Except the pancake ingredients don’t list sugar. Please help.


    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      July 20th, 2013 at 04:40 | #15

      Hi Jaime, Sorry about that! It’s 1 teaspoon sugar. I hope it turns out well for you. Ramadan Kareem, Holly

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