Zalabia (Middle Eastern Mini Funnel Cakes)

Zalabia (Middle Eastern Mini Funnel Cakes)

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Today I’m sharing a favorite recipe from my cookbook; Home-made Zalabia. They’ve been described as fritters, dumplings, and pancakes. But a more fitting description of these beauties is Mini Funnel Cakes, with a Middle Eastern flair. I started with a quick research online to see how many recipes are already out there. I was surprised to find so many versions and spellings, including Zlabia and Zalabya. The recipe names included Lebanese Sweet Fritters, Yemenite Fried Dough, Zalabya (A Jordanian Dessert), Hanukkah Fritters, and Jalebi (the Indian version of this popular Middle Eastern treat). Needless to say, this recipe is popular throughout the Middle East and is enjoyed by many cultures. However, this is an updated version of the recipe in my cookbook (Mom’s Authentic Assyrian Recipes).

fried zalabia in tongs

What Do Zalabia Taste Like?

As mentioned earlier, Zalabia can be compared to a mini funnel cake (minus the powdered sugar). The batter is made with ingredients that aren’t known for their flavor (corn starch, flour, yeast, salt, and baking powder). However, the irresistible flavor comes from the fried, crispy batter, and the rosewater-flavored syrup that the Zalabia is soaked in. The result is a sticky, gooey treat! Whenever I have one, I’m instantly transformed back to my childhood. In fact, as a kid in Iraq, I always looked forward to my sister Beni’s in-law’s visit. They always brought a large tray full of store-bought Baklava and other sweets, including Zalabia, with them. Not only did I enjoy this sweet couple’s visit, but I also enjoyed the delicious sweets that were always guaranteed with those visits!

a plate full of zlabia

How to Make the Perfect Zalabia

Making Zalabia is very simple, and only requires a few special ingredients and tools. Unlike, Jalebi, which have a distinct cardamom flavor and food coloring added, this Middle Eastern version is known for its rosewater flavor. So be sure to have a bottle of rosewater on hand before starting on this recipe! Another helpful item would be a plastic condiment squeeze bottle. You will use the bottle to squeeze out the batter into swirls as you fry them.

hand holding a plastic bottle
Plastic squeeze bottle for the batter.

Directions

We will start off by making the syrup, them allowing it to cool while we make the batter.

Syrup

  • Mix sugar, water, lemon juice, and rose water in a small saucepan.
  • Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Bring to a slow boil for approximately ten minutes, or until it starts to have a syrupy consistency. (If it gets too thick, add a little more water and stir until it reaches the right consistency).
  • Allow the syrup to cool off while you work on the batter.
syrup

Batter

  • Mix yeast, sugar, and water, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Whisk in cornstarch, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  • Cover and place in a warm location for one hour.
batter for zalabia
The batter consistency should resemble pancake batter.
zalabia batter being fried
Make a circular pattern with the batter into the hot oil, while gently squeezing the bottle.

Method

  • Heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees F.
  • Place batter in a squeeze bottle, cut tip if necessary, for a thicker stream.
  • Squeeze batter out of the bottle, into the hot oil, forming 3″ circles resembling funnel cakes.
  • Drain on paper towels.
  • While still warm, you (or a helper) can start dipping the Zalabia into the syrup. Allow the excess syrup to drip off, and place on a platter. Continue until the batter is used up.
You can fry one to four Zalabia at a time, depending on the size of the pan.
After frying on both sides, drain on paper towels.
draining syrup from zlabya
Dip the Zalabia into the syrup, then drain off excess syrup.
zalabia on a plate
Place glazed Zalabia onto another plate.

Do you Pinterest? Please Pin and share!

zalabia pin

You may also enjoy the following Middle Eastern sweets: Middle Eastern Baklava, Mann Al Sama (Nougat Bars), Mom’s Orange Cake, and Shakar Lama (Cardamom Cookies).

5 from 1 vote
a plate of zalabia
Zalabia (Middle Eastern Mini Funnel Cakes)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Resting Time
1 hr 15 mins
Total Time
1 hr 45 mins
 

The perfect zalabia is light, crisp, and drenched in syrup, just like this!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 40 Zalabia
Calories: 80 kcal
Author: Hilda Sterner
Ingredients
Syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. rosewater
Batter
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying (or more as needed)
Instructions
Syrup
  1. Mix sugar, water, lemon juice, and rose water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

  2. Bring to a slow boil for approximately ten minutes, or until it starts to have a syrupy consistency.

  3. Allow the syrup to cool off while you work on the batter.

Batter
  1. Mix yeast, sugar, and water. Cover, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

  2. Mix in cornstarch, flour, salt, and baking powder.

  3. Cover and place in a warm location for one hour.

Method
  1. Heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees F.

  2. Place batter in a squeeze bottle, cut the tip of the bottle if necessary.

  3. Squeeze batter out of the bottle, into the hot oil, forming 3″ circles resembling funnel cakes.

  4. Drain on paper towels. While still warm, dip the Zalabia in the syrup and allow excess to drip off.

  5. Continue until the batter is used up. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

It’s helpful to have someone help you when it’s time to fry the Zalabia. While one of you fries and drains the Zalabia, the other can dip them in the syrup, while still warm, and plate them. 

Nutrition Facts
Zalabia (Middle Eastern Mini Funnel Cakes)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 80 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Total Carbohydrates 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 5g
Protein 0g 0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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