Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva

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Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (2) Last week I mentioned that it was my sister Lela’s birthday when I made that European food for her. Well, I also wanted to try something sweet that would be nostalgic to her and the first thing that came to mind was the sunflower halva that she used to love. I guess I should mention, for those of you who don’t know this, that two of my sisters were born in Ukraine. You’d never guess it now though because they seem every bit as Norte Americano as me.

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (5)

So halva, it’s not a common thing in the States but, as it happens, there are a bunch of Ukrainians that live in the Spokane area which is really close to where we lived in Idaho for a while. I really don’t like Spokane, in fact, I more than dislike it. We have this inside joke that my mom can never drive there again because the few times she has, and I mean very few, she seems to become some kind of cop target and ends up with absurd tickets. My mom is a very good and safe driver by the way so that has nothing to do with it.

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva

But back to my point, there was this one time that we got sort of lost took a short cut in Spokane and stumbled upon this little Kiev market where they had authentic Ukrainian halva sold by authentic Ukrainians. (I sort of have this thing for accents and languages and I could just sit and listen to them talk all day. So cool!) Anyway, Lela loved it and said it tasted just like when she was little so I’ve wanted to recreate that since we moved here to Chile. I somehow doubt we can stumble upon a Kiev market around here.

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (4) You’re probably wondering what halva even is. From what I’ve read halva is made all over Europe but there are many variations. In the middle east they make it with sesame seeds but in eastern Europe (i.e. Ukraine) they make it with sunflower seeds. It’s a really simple candy and it only takes a few minutes to make. I have no idea if this is even close to how they do it overseas but Lela said it tastes like what she remembers so I thought I’d share it for you to try.

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (6)

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 12 servings

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva


  • 1 1/2 cups shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 2/3 cups granular sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • pinch of salt


  1. Line a standard 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with parchment and set aside. Put sunflower seeds into a food processor or blender and blend until very fine like flour.
  2. Combine sugar, water, and oil in a medium saucepan over medium low heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about 40 seconds then remove from heat and add floured seeds and salt. Stir ingredients together very well and scrape into prepared pan then flatten down with spatula. Lay a second piece of parchment over top and press down firmly for a minute or two until very tightly packed.
  3. Allow to cool completely at room temp or in fridge before serving.


adapted from

Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva (3)

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  1. Allison says

    Whoa!!! Are you talking about the same Spokane that, in my view, is quite lovely and has a beautiful river flowing through it?? 😉
    I lived in Spokane my whole life up until about 4 years ago when my family moved to Ecuador. You and I actually have a bit in common! Although, I myself do not dislike Spokane, I LOVE it! Northern Idaho is a great place too, I know it well!
    I came across your blog via Pinterest and I was immediately drawn to your blog name, “Gringalicious”, since I am a “gringa” here too! You have inspired me to want to start my own food/life in EC blog even more.
    It is sometimes difficult to use normal recipes here in Ecuador because certain ingredients are not found here. That is one of the main reasons why I am following your blog, being that you live in Chile you probably have similar ingredients as I do.
    Halva sounds kinda like something they sell here in Ecuador, they’re called bocadillos. Do you have bocadillos in Chile? I will definitely have to try your halva but I think I will try substituting the sugar with honey. Do you think that would work? I am constantly searching for simple gluten free and sugar free recipes and this one caught my attention because of its few ingredients!
    Thanks for sharing! I really enjoy reading your blog!

    • Tori says

      Hi, Allison! That is so cool that you and I have so much in common! I totally agree that Spokane is an absolutely gorgeous place to live. When I said don’t like it I was thinking more about the public than the landscape but I didn’t mean to offend.
      Thanks for following my blog. In the beginning I was trying to use local ingredients in my recipes but then I realized that the majority of my readers are from the States and it was hard to explain. Now I usually list ingredients that you can find easily in the States but if you have any questions about substitutions feel free to ask.
      I’m not sure about bocadillos but it sounds familiar so maybe we do have them here. Oh, and I think honey would probably work but I would use less honey than the amount of sugar called for.
      Thanks again, Allison!

      • Allison says

        Oh no, I must have come across as though I was offended! Trust me, I was not! 🙂 It makes no difference to me whether you like Spokane or not. 🙂
        Great to know that the honey should work! I’ll be trying your recipe out soon!

  2. clai says

    I adore halva, I’m currently living in Russia and I tried it for the first time a few days ago! It’s delicious. Do you know how long it lasts? DO you need to keep it in the fridge?

    • Tori says

      Wow, Russia, that’s so cool! I think it can last for a while, I’d say at least a week at room temp and up to a month in the fridge.

  3. Dede says

    I recently picked up a halva from a Polish shop in PA. I am used to the sesame seed version. To my surprise the halva I purchased was made with sunflowers. What a different taste. I thought something was bad or something. It also contained licorice extract, I am glad I found this sight. Talk about eating a big amount of something that wasn’t quite right. It could have been rat poison for all I knew. I am glad this halva actually exists and I will live. LOL! I will stick to the sesame version. Feeling relieved. Why does halva have to be so high in calories? That stuff is so darn good.

    • Dede says

      Also, the halva container reads “Do not store in direct sunlig. Store in dry cool rooms which are well ventilated, not infected with wreckers” I assume sunlig means sunlight, but what the heck is wreckers? Sounds scary.

      • Tori says

        Oh my goodness, that’s hilarious! I don’t know what a wrecker is but I definitely feel like it’s going to become favorite new nickname of mine for when someone is being annoying. Have a great weekend D!

    • Tori says

      Haha, I’m glad I helped you figure out the difference and possibly saved you from a visit to the doctor. I also totally agree with you on that pesky calorie thing!

  4. Larissa says

    Sorry, but i was disappointed. Not even close to the halva i grew up with. I believe it was made with unshelled sunflower seeds. It was dark, full of fiber, and delicious.

    • Tori says

      I’m sorry to hear that also Larissa, I’m glad to get your feedback though and thanks for trying it. Hey, do you happen to have a recipe for the traditional halva that your used to because I’d love to try it! My sisters from Ukraine really liked this recipe for what it was but they also said it was missing something from what they remembered.


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