Namoura (basbousa) is a sweet semolina cake from the Middle East soaked in fragrant sugar syrup. It is made with semolina, tahini and yogurt. This basbousa recipe explains both vegan and original versions.
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A decadent semolina cake, this namoura recipe hails from Lebanon and has been adapted to suit a vegan diet.
Mom makes this semolina cake all the time, back when I was a kid I just thought it was always there and thought nothing of it.
It’s not until the last couple of years that I’ve really appreciated this recipe.
What I love about basbousa is that I can put out a platter of it in front of guests and watch the pieces disappear.
My favorite parts are the edges, they are extra caramelized and crunchy.
What is Namoura?
Namoura is a cake made of semolina rather than flour and is drizzled in simple syrup. It is enjoyed across the Middle East and some parts of Europe.
It is also referred to as Harissa or Basbousa. My family calls it either harissa or namoura.
Namoura is pronounced as ‘Nam-moo-ra’ in Arabic and is written as نمورة
😋Why You'll Love This Recipe
- It's dairy free (vegan)
- Super delicious and decadent
- Easy to make
White sugar - this yields the best results (brown will not turn out the same)
Rosewater - for flavoring, you can substitute this with orange blossom water. I always use a good-quality brand such as Cortas (affiliate link).
Water - room temperature and filtered preferred
Vegan butter - traditionally full-fat butter is used.
Coarse semolina - this is preferred as it makes namoura less dense, however, you can opt to use fine semolina too or perhaps even mix both evenly.
Semolina is known as ‘smeed’ in Arabic.
Bicarbonate soda - this helps to leaven this semolina cake
Baking powder - works hand in hand with the bicarb as a leavening agent
Salt - I prefer to use pink salt. Salt enhances the flavor.
Coconut yogurt - this is to replace full-fat yogurt, you can use any dairy-free yogurt.
Almonds - 1 per piece is used as decoration, this can be swapped for pine nuts if preferred.
Tahini - is the paste of sesame seeds and has been widely adopted across the globe.
Only a small amount of tahini is needed to coat the baking tray which helps the semolina cake to not stick to it
Atter - Sugar Syrup
Step 1 - In a saucepan, add water, sugar, vegan butter and rose water, stir through and bring to a boil for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool down to room temp.
Step 2 - In a large mixing bowl add semolina (affiliate link) and vegan butter, combine well using hands until a dough forms. Cover with cling wrap and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Step 3 - Once the dough has rested, crumble it using your fingers and then add, sugar, rose water, bicarb soda, baking powder, salt, coconut yogurt and combine using your fingers.
Step 4 - Coat baking tray with tahini (affiliate link) and flatten the dough as evenly as possible
Step 5 - Use a knife to push the edges down and off the tray and then cut into squares or diamond pieces and place one almond in the middle of each piece
Step 6 - Bake in a preheated oven of 180C (356F), place in the middle of the oven for the first 15 minutes, and then move it to the top for the last 15 minutes. Baking time is approximately 30min or until lightly golden
Step 7 - Evenly pour a generous amount of sugar syrup over baked namoura
Step 8 - Allow to cool down to room temp before taking the pieces out
Using your fingers to combine all the ingredients to the dough is important as it helps to keep the dough light rather than compacted.
Slightly wet the knife when cutting the dough into squares, this helps the dough not stick to the knife
Use enough sugar syrup to completely cover every part of the namoura in the tray.
Alternatively to the previous point, you could soak it just enough and then offer extra sugar syrup with each piece, leaving it up to individual discretion
Namoura should not be dry and will soak in a lot of the sugar syrup
The top layer of namoura is golden and crunchy whilst the inside is pale yellow, soft, and fluffy. The semolina gives a wonderful crunchy grainy texture.
My mother’s hot tip is to make the dough the night before, she explains it produces a less dense cake. So the more resting time the better.
Naturally, tahini will have a layer of oil at the top of the jar, use the top layer of tahini with the oil to brush the baking tray with, this is will help the cake not stick. This also adds a hint of a nuttier flavor
If you wish to opt-out of using the vegan butter in the simple syrup, you can do so. However, this step really helps give namoura a beautiful sheen.
You may need to recut the cut semolina cake once it cools down to take out the pieces.
Namoura pairs perfectly with tea or coffee - try this deliciously easy to make foam coffee.
Add ½ a cup of desiccated coconut when adding all other ingredients to the dough.
Semolina is a ground durum wheat product used in baking, porridges, bread, and pasta. Semolina is available in fine or coarse varieties. Semolina contains gluten and contains many health benefits.
Namoura can be stored in a snap-lock container in a cool pantry for several days. Or covered in the fridge.
This is dependent on your preference, both are equally delicious. Placing the batter into a smaller tray will yield a softer cake-like result, as the batter isn't spread out and will stay moist. For a crunchier namoura, place your batter into a larger tray to allow it to spread thinner (about an inch, 2.5cm).
Namoura is made from semolina, butter, rose water, yogurt, baking powder and baking soda, tahini, sugar and salt. It is then drizzled with simple sugar syrup called atter.
- Haytaliyeh Vegan Lebanese Milk Pudding - A light and fragrant pudding best served cold
- Sfouf Lebanese semolina turmeric cake - A gorgeous golden semolina cake
- Lebanese rice pudding riz bi haleeb - another fragrant pudding but with rice which can be served warm or cold
- Atayef - delicious nut stuffed pancakes from the Middle East
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Sugar Syrup (Atter)
- 2 cups White sugar
- 1 cup Water
- 2 tablespoon Rose water substitute with orange water
- ½ tbsp Vegan butter
Sugar Syrup (Atter)
- In a saucepan, add water, sugar and rose water, stir through and bring to the boil for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool down to room temp.
- In a large mixing bowl add semolina and plant based butter, combine well using hands until a dough forms. Cover with cling wrap and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Once dough has rested, crumble dough using your fingers and add sugar, rose water, bicarb soda, baking powder, salt, coconut yoghurt and combine using your fingers.
- Coat baking tray with tahini and flatten dough as evenly as possible.
- Use a knife to push the edges down and off the tray and then cut into squares or diamond pieces and place one almond in the middle of each piece
- Bake in a preheated oven of 180C (356F), place in the middle of the oven for the first 15 minutes and then move it to the top for the last 15 minutes. Baking time is approximately 30min or until lightly golden
- Evenly pour a generous amount of sugar syrup over baked namoura.
- Allow to cool down to room temp before taking the pieces out
- Using your fingers to combine all the ingredients to the dough is important as it helps to keep the dough light.
- Slightly wet knife when cutting dough into squares, helps the dough not stick to the knife
- Use enough sugar syrup to completely cover every part of the namoura in the tray.
- Alternatively to the previous point, you could soak it just enough and then offer extra sugar syrup with each piece, leaving it up to individual discretion
- Namoura should not be dry and will soak in a lot of the sugar syrup
- The top layer of namoura is golden and crunchy whilst the inside is a pale yellow, soft and fluffy. The semolina gives a wonderful crunchy grainy texture.
N.B., nutrition info is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. This will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.