December 21, 2014  • 


Sahlab is the name of a popular drink in Lebanon. It was introduced here by the Ottomans who ruled the region for four centuries. That is why one can find it served at cafés in Istanbul as well as in Beirut. It is made by stirring milk with some sugar and a whitish powder (the actual sahlab), which is extracted from a flower and gives the drink its characteristic creaminess and fluffiness; the actual sahlab powder is not sold in the US (to my knowledge) but one can easily find at middle-eastern or mediterranean stores a sahlab mix in a box. The sahlab mix in the US is usually made of cornstarch instead of the real sahlab, as it is cheaper to produce.
To make the drink from a drink, simply follow the directions on the box. To make it from actual sahlab, mix the sahlab with sugar and add to the milk, stirring continuously till the drink thickens and gets very warm, which can take about 20 minutes.

4 cups milk
1 tablespoon sahlab (or cornstarch, use 4 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rose water
Cinnamon, ground, as a garnish on top

1. Place the milk in a saucepan and add the sahlab previously mixed with sugar. Stir and bring to a simmer, and keep stirring until thickened. Add the rose water and stir to mix. Transfer to cups and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve with crackers or kaak.

NOTE: If the quantity of sahlab is not sufficient to thicken the mixture, add more, 1/2 tablespoon or up to one tablespoon. If unable to source the sahlab, substitute cornstarch and double the quantity (4 to 6 tablespoons cornstarch)


sahlab spice


43 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Noor says:

    I love sahlab and tell all my friends they need to try it. I think it’s right up there up with coffee, tea and, cocoa. Do you all eat the sahlab dessert as well there? I love both!

    • Joumana says:

      @Noor: Which sahlab dessert? there is ice-cream which has sahlab in it. I did a pudding a few years back with sahlab. The problem is in the US not finding it. In Lebanon, it is available “real”. Love it too!

      @Athene: He probably got it in Turkey or somewhere in the ME and is selling it. The color of sahlab is like a very pale grey. The one I showed in this post is mixed with sugar so it looks whiter. I would have never thought of e-Bay, good luck! 🙂

      @Ivy: It is sad to see all these traditions go by the wayside! Love your photo of the sahleb vendor 🙂

  2. Athene says:

    There’s a US vendor on ebay selling unadulterated (or at least that’s what he/she claims) salep (sp.) powder; he/she ships it from Denver CO – see item description of the powder, its purity and provenance. The seller’s store name is mogemici.

    I have no experience with this seller or even with sahlab powder, but I have wanted to try it for a long time. This may be the nudge that I’ve needed.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Ivy says:

    In Greece it is called “salepi” and it is one of those things that I have never tried because it is sold ONLY by street vendors. Salepi is definitely going to extinct in Greece in a few years as there are a handful of them left, I think sahlab is made from the tubers of a kind or orchid. I guess the taste will not be the same if substituted with corn flour.

  4. Noor says:

    I would be happy to send you some from Saudi. Here we get it from Lebanon . Yes, the pudding is what I meant. I have never tried or made it, just heard of it.

  5. Joumana says:

    @Noor: Thanks so much, I am in Beirut so I have access to it. I did a pudding by simply using more sahlab and cornstarch. It is the same taste, just a thicker texture.

  6. Nuts about food says:

    I am reading a novel that is based in Istanbul and they mention so many typical foods and drinks that are not further explaines. I am so happy to have found this catching up on my post holiday blog reading.

  7. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    ça, je ne connais pas du tout … Je demanderai à mes Libanais de la rue Rouaze …

    • Joumana says:

      @Helene: c’est surtout une boisson d’hiver. Mais le sahlab est aussi employé dans les glaces l’été! 🙂

  8. The Waffle Chef says:

    I love sahlab, now that I’m Paleo I thought I would have to give it up but luckily I found a recipe online. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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  13. James says:

    My parents came back from Turkey with some salab! Hooray, I’m not about to spend 400$ for 500g, so i stick to svet musli, shatavari, ashvagandha… But to have this fragrant stuff is a real treat. I dunno if it’s cut with something to prevent caking, but it’s better than nestle ‘salab’, kosher my ass.

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