Layali Lubnan (Semolina Pudding)

Layali Lubnan is one of the most famous Middle Eastern desserts, along with Knafeh and Balkawa. It’s hugely popular during Ramadan, but not only. This creamy semolina pudding is a hit year round, be it as a dessert for your family or at gatherings. Layali Lubnan combines some of the signature flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine: semolina, cream (Ashta), rose water and pistachios.

Sounds delicious? Let’s dive right in.

Layali Lubnan

What is Layali Lubnan?

Layali Lubnan is undoubtedly one of the most popular desserts in the Middle East, particularly in the Levantine countries such as Lebanon. The name Layali Lubnan translates to “Lebanese Nights”.

Layali Lubnan is a traditional Middle Eastern semolina pudding. It’s made of two layers: semolina and clotted cream (ashta). It’s then sprinkled with pistachios and drizzled with a simple sugar syrup for a hint of sweetness. Layali Lubnan is a cold dessert (no baking) and is very easy to make.

By the way, if you’re familiar with Middle Eastern desserts, you might wonder what’s the difference between Layali Lubnan and Mahalabia. Traditionally, Mahalabia is thickened with cornstarch and doesn’t have ashta. Layali Lubnan on the other hand has semolina and a layer of ashta.

Arabic semolina pudding Layali Lubnan

Layali Lubnan Ingredients

Below is an overview of the ingredients needed to make Layali Lubnan. Note that some of them are needed for more than one layer (e.g. milk is needed for the semolina layer and the cream layer). The semolina layer and the sugar syrup always have to be homemade. As for the cream, I strongly recommend you make it yourself (it adds about 15 mins to your prep time), but you can also use store-bought cream.

  • Semolina: The main ingredient for the lower layer is semolina. You can use fine or coarse semolina. Both work well. Using coarse semolina makes the lower layer a bit firmer. I personally prefer the texture of fine semolina in this pudding.
  • Whole milk: Whole milk (full fat milk) is used for the semolina layer and to make the cream (ashta). Whole milk yields a creamier result than skimmed milk.
  • Whipping cream: Whipping cream is required to make the cream layer (ashta).
  • Sugar: The amount of sugar in the semolina layer and cream layer is on the low side. Sugar is mainly needed to make the simple syrup.
  • Rose Water & Orange Blossom water: Both are used in all layers and for the syrup. While they are optional, they are part of the traditional recipe and give this semolina pudding its unique, floral taste. You can find them at any Middle Eastern store or online.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch (e.g. Maizena) is used to thicken the cream. It won’t affect the taste.
  • Water: For the syrup.
  • Lemon: Optional, a few dashes of fresh lemon juice helps break down the sugar when making the syrup. The lemon won’t affect the taste.
  • Pistachios: Last but not least, the finished dish is topped with some chopped pistachios. Be sure to use unsalted pistachios. Pistachios are traditionally used for Layali Lubnan, but other types of nuts (e.g. walnuts) would work just as well.

Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.

How to Make Layali Lubnan (Step-by-Step)

Ready to make Layali Lubnan? Yallah, let’s get started!

Step 1: Make the Cream Layer (Ashta)

You could start by preparing the cream layer or the semolina layer, both are fine. I usually prepare the cream layer first. That’s because it needs some time in the fridge before we add it onto the semolina layer.

In a non-stick saucepan, combine milk, whipping cream, cornstarch and sugar. Whisk the ingredients thoroughly to ensure a smooth mixture without any lumps before you turn on your stove.

Now turn on the stove to medium heat and begin heating the mixture. Allow it to cook for approximately 10-12 minutes to get a thickened consistency. Continuously whisk the mixture during this process to prevent the formation of a crust on the ashta.

Once the ashta has achieved the desired thickness, turn off the stove. Stir in the rose water and orange blossom water. Adding them at the end will allow them to enfold their full flavors.

Carefully transfer the prepared ashta from the saucepan into a bowl and cover it. Allow the ashta to cool, preferably in the refrigerator, for about 20-30 minutes while you proceed to prepare the semolina layer.

Step 2: Make the Semolina Layer

Next, we’re going to make the semolina layer, which will be the base layer of your Layali Lubnan.

Begin by heating milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the milk is heated (but not boiling), add semolina (ideally fine semolina) and sugar to the milk. Whisk the ingredients together thoroughly to achieve a uniform mixture.

Continue cooking the combined mixture on medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until it reaches a thickened consistency. Ensure that the consistency remains pourable – not too runny, but not overly thick.

After achieving the desired thickness, turn off the heat and stir in the rose water and orange blossom water. Again, adding them to the cooked semolina-milk mixture allows them to enfold their flavors.

Pour the semolina mixture into a flat sheet or pan, spreading it evenly to create a uniform layer. By the way, the thickness of the semolina layer can vary based on personal preference and regional variations. Most commonly, the semolina layer will be about twice as thick as the cream layer, but I’ve also seen much thinner versions with a thin semolina layer. A thickness of about 2-3 cm (1 -1 ⅓ inch) is a good indication for the semolina layer.

Allow it to cool for 20-30 minutes, preferably in the refrigerator. During this time, the semolina layer will continue to thicken.

Step 3: Make the Syrup

While the semolina layer and the ashta cream are in the fridge, we’ll proceed with the sugar syrup. This is drizzled over the finished dish and is where the dessert gets its sweetness from (the layers are low in sugar).

Heat water in a saucepan and add lemon juice and sugar. Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves completely. The lemon is completely optional. It helps break down the sugar, but it won’t affect the taste, as the amount is very low. You can omit it if you don’t have lemon available.

Simmer the mixture on low heat, allowing it to thicken. This process typically takes around 10 minutes. Once the syrup has thickened, add rose water and orange blossom water to enhance its flavor. Stir the ingredients together. Allow the syrup to cool.

Step 4: Assemble, Garnish & Serve

After some time in the fridge, it’s time to assemble the layers for your semolina pudding.

Spread the Ashta evenly onto the semolina layer. Place small amounts of the cream on the semolina and then spread out to keep the first layer in shape. Sprinkle crushed pistachios over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours before serving.

How to Serve

When serving, add a bit of sugar syrup (ensure it has cooled completely) onto the Layali Lubnan. Serve the remaining syrup alongside. Preferences vary, with some people prefer a sweeter taste, while others may opt for less sweetness.

Layali Lubnan is traditionally served as a dessert. While it comes together quickly, its an absolute crowd pleaser. That said, it’s commonly served on special occasions, such as during Ramadan (at Iftar), dinner parties or at gatherings.

Arabic semolina pudding Layali Lubnan

Make Ahead & Storage

Layali Lubnan can perfectly be prepared ahead of time. In fact, chilling in the fridge for a few hours before serving is highly recommended for the dessert to thicken. It lasts in the refrigerator for about 3 days. Be sure to drizzle the sugar syrup only when serving.

Any Questions or Feedback?

If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.

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Layali Lubnan

Layali Lubnan (Arabic Semolina Pudding)

Kitty Ramasamy
Layali Lubnan is a sweet-floral semolina pudding with cream flavored with rose water and orange blossom water. It’s one of the most popular Middle Eastern desserts and is commonly served during Ramadan and at gatherings.
Rate this recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Time 3 hours
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Middle Eastern, Lebanese
Servings 10 servings
Calories 396 kcal


Semolina Layer

  • 1500 ml (6 cups) whole milk
  • 160 g (1 cups) fine semolina
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp rose water
  • 2 tsp orange blossom water
  • ½ cup pistachios unsaltened, crushed

Ashta Layer

  • 240 ml (1 cup) whole milk
  • 240 ml (1 cup) whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp rose water optional
  • ½ tsp orange blossom water optional

Simple Syrup

  • 240 ml (1 cup) water
  • 200 g (1 cup) sugar
  • ¼ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp rose water
  • ½ tsp orange blossom water


Ashta Layer

  • Add milk, whipping cream, cornstarch and sugar to a non-stick saucepan. Whisk to combine (to make sure there are no lumps) before you turn on the stove.
  • Heat the mixture on medium heat. Cook it for about 10-12 minutes until it thickens. Keep whisking continuously to avoid the ashta from developing a crust.
  • Once the ashta has gotten the thick consistency, turn off the stove, stir in the rose water and orange blossom water (if using).
  • Transfer the ashta from the saucepan into a bowl and cover. Leave to cool (ideally in the refrigerator) for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the semolina layer.

Semolina Layer

  • Heat milk in a saucepan.
  • Once heated (not boiling!), add fine semolina and sugar (see amounts in the ingredients list for the semolina layer). Whisk to combine.
  • Cook the mixture on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until it thickens. Stir regularly. The consistency should remain pourable (don’t leave it too runny, but don’t let it thicken too much either).
  • Once it’s thickened, turn off the heat, then stir in the rose water and orange blossom water.
  • Pour the mixture into a flat sheet or pan and spread it evenly. Leave it to cool for 20-30 minutes, ideally in the fridge. The semolina layer will thicken further.

Simple Syrup

  • To prepare the sugar syrup (from which the dessert gets its sweetness), heat water in a saucepan and add lemon juice and sugar. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  • Simmer on low heat until it thickens (takes about 10 minutes).
  • Add rose water and orange blossom water to the syrup. Stir to combine.
  • Leave to cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Assemble & Serve

  • Remove the sheet with the semolina layer from the fridge. Spread the Ashta evenly onto the semolina layer. Place small amounts of the cream on the semolina and then spread out to keep the first layer in shape.
  • Sprinkle crushed pistachios.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.
  • When serving, add a bit of simple syrup (has to be cooled completely!) onto the Layali Lubnan. Serve the remaining syrup alongside (some people like it very sweet, while others don’t).


Calories: 396kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 10gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 77mgPotassium: 386mgFiber: 1gSugar: 37gVitamin A: 671IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 247mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.

Keyword Layali Lubnan, Semolina Pudding
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