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Xalwo Somali (Halwad) Recipe




Xalwo or halwad is a very popular dessert in Somalia. It is made with cornstarch, which makes it gluten free. It’s also made with ghee (clarified butter), sugar, cardamom and nutmeg. The spices give that flavor and aroma of the holidays. Halwad is served for special occasions such as, weddings, parties and Eid (holidays), etc. Halwad is jelly like, but stickier and very sweet. Sometimes you see nuts or sesame seeds added, which gives the halwad a little crunchiness. Although xalwo is loaded with calories, by far it is my favorite dessert of all time. It took me a very long time to prefect it, many thanks to my sister who taught me how to make it through many phone calls. It was well worth it.



5 cups water

5 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup cornstarch + 1 cup water (to mix the cornstarch)

1 cup ghee

1 cup canola oil

½ teaspoon yellow food coloring

¼ teaspoon red food coloring

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1.5 tablespoons of ground nutmeg


Use a deep pot, set on high heat, combine the sugar, brown sugar and 5 cups of water and stir them.

In a bowl combine the cornstarch, 1 cup of water, food coloring and mix them well.

Using long wooden spoon stir the cornstarch mix into the sugar mix then stir in the ghee and oil.

When the xalwo/halwad starts to boil stir it well, then cover it (to control the splattering) and let it cook for about 10 minutes. (see the video)

Then reduce the heat to medium-low and stir it well for couple of minutes.

After 40 minutes add half of the ground spices and stir them well together.

Make sure to stir every 5 to 10 minutes to avoid lumps

After 2 hours try to remove the ghee and oil floating on top using a ladle spoon.

Last 20 to 30 minutes, add the rest of the spices and stir it well.

Remove any more extra oil/ghee. (see the video)

Pour the xalwo/halwad into a greased casserole dish and spread it.

Let the it cool down for at least 20 minutes before serving.


The total cooking time of the halwad/xalwo is 2.5 to 3 hours, or when the cooking thermometer reaches about 210 to 220 (depending on how soft or thick you like your halwad/xalwo to be).

Make sure to use a long wooden spoon, and maybe kitchen mittens to avoid getting burn. When the halwad/xalwo starts bubbling it goes  flying everywhere and if it hits you, it will burn and HURT, so be careful not to burn yourself!

Categories: gluten free

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