Saffron, Pistachio, and Rose Petal Helva

This Turkish semolina pudding is scented with saffron and cardamom and dotted with pistachios.

Saffron, Pistachio, and Rose Petal Helva

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Shell Royster

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 5 mins
6 servings

This flour helva is a popular dessert at senior drinks editor Oset Babür-Winter’s table. She and her family eat it at holidays and on special occasions, appreciating its luxurious creamy texture. This helva gets its golden color from the saffron, which is dissolved in warm milk and stirred into the pudding to get the most from its color and floral flavor. Butter-toasted pistachios give it a bit of crunch, while a scattering of edible dried rose petals make it stand out.


  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, divided

  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw pistachios (about 3 ounces)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • Pinch of ground cardamom

  • 1 cup (about 5 1/2 ounces) semolina

  • 3 tablespoons edible dried rose petals


  1. Bring 2 tablespoons of the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium. Pour hot milk over saffron threads in a small heatproof bowl, and set aside until milk is a golden color, about 30 minutes.

  2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over high. Add pistachios, and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, and wipe skillet clean.

  3. Heat sugar, cardamom, and remaining 2 cups milk in a medium saucepan over low; stir until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron milk. Remove from heat.

  4. Melt remaining 8 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium. Add semolina, and cook, stirring constantly, over low until mixture darkens slightly, about 8 minutes. Whisk in milk mixture until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cover skillet, and let mixture stand in a warm place for 15 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup pistachios, and top evenly with rose petals. Chop remaining 2 tablespoons pistachios, and sprinkle evenly over top.

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