Basbousa with Coconut
Middle Eastern Baked desserts Desserts Saudi Sweets

Middle East Coconut Basbousa

What is basbousa

Basbousa is a sweet cake with syrup that is popular in the Middle East. Basbousa is considered an Arabic dessert, a cake, or simply categorized as sweet. It is either called basbousa cake or semolina cake or oftentimes, just basbousa.

The basbousa recipe is characterized by two main ingredients: semolina flour and the sugar syrup poured over it after baking or cooking. Making basbousa varies: it can be cooked in a pan or baked in the oven. With the addition of an ingredient or two, basbousa changes its name and character. Coconut basbousa is one of its varieties with the addition of desiccated coconut, which is what you would have in this post.

Where is basbousa recipe from?

There is no definite record of where the recipe came from; some say it is a Turkish dish, and others say it is an Egyptian dish. As the Middle East has varied basbousa recipes, each boasts of their authenticity, to wit basbousa is called harissa in Jordan. However, harrisa is a completely different dish in other parts of the Middle East!

Basbousa ingredients

All basbousa recipes call for semolina flour – that is basic. Some use semolina by itself, while others add all-purpose flour (APF) for a nice mix. One of the reasons you would want to mix semolina with APF is the touch in the mouth: it is a bit finer and smoother, while without the APF, you would have a coarse basbousa version.  For some reason, coarse basbousa is what most expect because of how the syrup permeates between the spaces of the basbousa’s grains. Below are the three basic ingredients for basbousa:

  • semolina flour

This is the most basic. No basbousa recipe is without semolina flour. Semolina came from wheat. It is coarse when converted into flour. The same wheat is used to make wheat flour, pasta, and even noodles. The color of semolina flour ranges from cream color to light brown, sometimes, it looks golden brown.

  • plain yogurt

Yogurt is not only for the taste of the basbousa, it also makes the texture of semolina flour a little softer. Yogurt also helps in making the semolina stick to each other. Although, it is the syrup that primarily does the sticking work, yogurt assists in the process as well.

  • sugar syrup

Sugar syrup is made by caramelizing granulated sugar with a little less than an equal amount of water using a saucepan over medium heat. Additional ingredients, such as vanilla extract, cinnamon, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and powdered cloves. If you were to use cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, you can remove them after the sugar syrup is done by straining them or scooping them away using a spoon. If you have any simple syrup available at home, then you can skip this step and use what you already have.

other ingredients

  • baking powder

As basbousa qualifies as another type of cake, the baking powder becomes a necessary ingredient. It helps in making the cake softer and less dense.

  • desiccated coconut

Adding desiccated or shredded coconut to basbousa gives it a different taste. With the coconut, this recipe becomes coconut basbousa by name. We use unsweetened coconut in this recipe.

  • nuts

Nuts are optional, except for the whole almond seeds that are used to decorate the cake as a topping. If you opt to include more nuts in this recipe, you can grind almonds, pistachio, or cashew nuts and add them during the first step of mixing.

  • rose water or orange blossom water

These, of course, are optional. If you love either rose or orange essence, this recipe is perfect for them. Add either of them while caramelizing the syrup.

How to cook basbousa

As already mentioned, there are two ways to make basbousa:


Baking time is important in making basbousa. Do not be discouraged, though. I bet you that after you have tried it once, you would comfortably do it the next time. The first foolproof way is to bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees on the middle rack. The cake would be a little golden by then, and that is enough. Take the baking dish out of the oven immediately, otherwise, the texture would be hard.

On a saucepan

This is another way to cook basbousa without baking. Following the same directions as in baking, however, substituting “baking” with “cooking on a saucepan” using very low heat for around 50-55 minutes, and you have the same basbousa you would love to serve your family, friends, or even new friends in a potluck get-together.

How to serve basbousa

Basbousa when baked, are usually cut into diamond shapes or squares with the use of a sharp knife. This is done before baking and immediately after getting the cake out of the oven and before pouring the syrup on top. Decorate each piece with one whole almond in the middle, and your dessert or delicious cake is done! Watch how the syrup seeps into the hot cake and enjoy the feeling – it is like all your prepping time for the basbousa recipe has gone away.

You can serve basbousa with additional syrup on the side, for those who prefer it a little sweeter.

However, basbousa cannot be without the poured syrup after cooking because it might be bland and dry.

How to store basbousa

Basbousa is served either hot or cold, mostly cold. Cover your basbousa with a cake dome until serving time, and it is perfect. Another way to store it is to leave it in the same baking dish, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate it. It might be a little hard, but it would be equally delicious, especially after it gets to room temperature after a while.

Leftover basbousa can be kept in an airtight container, either in the fridge or out. They last for close to a couple of weeks. Having said that, it is nicer to finish off the basbousa in just 3 days.

Cooking tips for basbousa recipe:

  • Using fine or coarse semolina is a matter of choice. Both are okay with this recipe.
  • Use unsalted butter. Salt in butter might slightly change the taste of basbousa.
  • Substitute yogurt with buttermilk or plain milk.
  • Caster sugar is a good substitute for white sugar, however, cut the measurement to at least 2/3rd in the recipe.
  • When caramelizing sugar for the syrup, use hot water on the pan then add the sugar. This will lessen cooking time.

Basbousa with Coconut and Philippine Macaroon

Coconut basbousa is very much similar to Philippine macaroon, at least in taste, although they are done a bit differently.  Below is basbousa recipe, while here is the recipe for coconut macaroon.

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Basbousa with Coconut

Middle East Coconut Basbousa

  • Author: Magida
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
  • Total Time: 9 minute
  • Yield: 16 servings 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Baking or cooking
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern


Delicious cake made from fine or coarse semolina flour, and syrup and garnished with roasted almonds.


  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 1 ⁄2 cup sugar (or condensed milk)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • whole roasted almonds for garnish


For The Syrup

  • 11/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • A pinch of cloves powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13X9X2″ pan then spread the tahini paste onto it. The tahini paste will prevent the basbousa from becoming burned. Set aside. Without the tahini is still okay, though, so no worries at all.
  • Mix all the basbousa ingredients, except the whole almonds in a large bowl. No need to use a mixer as you can achieve this with a good ladle, spatula, or even your hands. Make sure that all ingredients are well mixed.
  • Transfer the semolina mixture onto the greased baking dish and press using the back of a spoon. You may need to wet the spoon with water every now and then so that it slides easily on top of the batter.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the batter into diamond shapes and design with an almond each.
  • Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until it becomes golden in color.
  • Make the syrup while the cake is in the oven. Mix all the ingredients for the syrup and heat in a small casserole pot until it reached boiling point. Stir constantly. The syrup is done when it is a little more than half its original amount or if the mixture has thickened enough. Tip: cold syrup runs better on the hot basbousa. Sometimes, I put the syrup in the freezer for a few minutes while the cake is being baked.
  • Run the sharp knife onto the slits you had done before baking the basbousa so that they are separated. Pour the syrup over the hot basbousa.
  • Let cool and serve.

Keywords: coconut basbousa, basbousa recipe, basbousa with coconut, semolina cake

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