Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread

This is the Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's Sweet. It's incredible for a number of reasons.

Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread

This is the Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's Sweet, and it's incredible. Millionaire's shortbread is traditionally made by layering shortbread, caramel, and chocolate. It's often shockingly sweet, and overly rich - even by dessert standards. This is different. Imagine a crisp, shortbread base spread thick with a creamy tahini-halva blend, finished with glossy tahini caramel. It's brilliant, and a thin slice makes for the perfect treat.
Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread

A Sourcing Tip

The trickiest part of this recipe is sourcing the halva. There are a couple grocers who stock big slabs of halva here in San Francisco, and you can purchase it by the pound. Call around if you're stumped, and check Middle Eastern markets. Even if they don't have it, they might be able to point you in the right direction.
Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread

Millionaire's Shortbread Components

One of the great things about this recipe is the components. You can make them in stages. For example, you can bake the shortbread crust a few days in advance, if you like. The spread comes together in a flash, so it's less of a consideration. And then you can make the tahini caramel when you're ready. When finished, you can keep the bars, refrigerated, for up to a week.
Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread
Play around with pan shapes, and the like. Individual, tiny versions of millionaire's shortbread are definitely on my list to try. And I can imagine baking in a round tart pan, slicing thin wedges instead of bars. 

If you're after a recipe for classic shortbread cookies, this is a hard to beat. And there are dozens of cookie recipes to explore beyond that! Happy baking all.

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Middle Eastern Millionaire's Shortbread

4 from 6 votes

See the above post for halva sourcing ideas. Also, as mentioned above, you can make the components here over a few days if doing it all at once feels overwhelming.

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 40 grams confectioners' sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons / 35 grams cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons / 40 grams granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup / 170g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups / 250 g flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 7 ounces / 200 g halvah, crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup / 70 grams tahini
Tahini Caramel:
  • 1 cup / 200 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup / 120 ml water
  • 7 tablespoons / 100 g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 1/3 cup / 80ml heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup / 150 g tahini
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C degrees. Line an 8-inch/20-cm square pan (or equivalent) with parchment paper, making sure the paper rises over the edge of the pan.
To make the shortbread:
  1. Sift the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place, then add the granulated sugar and mix on medium speed. With the machine still running, slowly pour in the melted butter and beat until combined. Add the vanilla extract and turn the speed to low, then sift in the flour and salt and continue to beat until the dough comes together. Transfer the mixture into the pan and use your hands to even out the surface. Prick all over with the tines of a fork. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely; this will take an hour or so, so don't start making the tahini caramel too soon or it will have set by the time the shortbread is cool.

To make the halvah:
  1. Place the halvah and tahini in a small bowl and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Spread the mix over the cooled shortbread, and use the back of the spoon to smooth it into an even layer.

To make the tahini caramel:
  1. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and cook --still at a boil-- for about 12 minutes, until the sugar is a deep golden brown (for me this was close to 300°F on the candy thermometer). Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream; take care here, as the mixture will sputter. Whisk to combine and, once the butter has melted, add the tahini and salt. Whisk to combine and, then pour evenly over the halvah layer in the pan, so the all the halvah is covered.

  2. Place in the fridge for 4 hours until set, before cutting into 16 equal bars. Sprinkle a pinch of the flaky sea salt over the middle of each bar and serve.

Makes 16.

With slight adaptations, from Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (recipe by Paulina Bembel), Ten Speed Press, 2017.

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
55 mins
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4 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Hi Heidi- thank you for this recipe! Looks amazing. I’m just wondering if you know how long this would last if made ahead…I’m guessing it could be kept refrigerated? Thanks

Yes, absolutely. For up to a week.

Anna Lai

I made this and the flavors were amazing! but the halva layer (and thus the caramel on top) never melded to the shortbread and just falls off the cut cookies. as a result this isn’t really a functional layer cookie that I can serve to guests. (my husband is just eating all the tops off!) thoughts on what I might have done wrong?

HS: Hi Laura – my guess is that maybe your halva was extra dry? Try upping the amount of tahini next time and see if that helps :)!


http://www.parthenonfoods.com They are located in Greenfield, Wisconsin.
They carry Halva in several sizes and flavors. They are a European Market that has a very large selection of Imported foods from all over the world and all online at their website.

Tammy Koremenos

Looks fab! Have you tried the tahini halvah brownies? The combo of chocolate with tahini is out of this world too.

Becca Lupton

    Adding to my list! 😉

    Heidi Swanson

I live in the boonies and didn’t even know what halva is, so thanks to google, I can even make my own!


This reminds me of the very sweet and delicious. Torrone, Italian nougat which I learned to make when I was a teen. My Mom was surprised and loved it.


Hello Heidi, This looks delicious. How can I make it vegan? Would nuttelex work?
Thanks, Emma

HS: Hi Emma – I think it’s not as simple as an ingredient swap for this one…you’d have to rethink the recipe from the ground up. Perhaps you could poke around and see if there is a good vegan version of Millionaire’s shortbread around, and then merge it with the ideas in this recipe…prob. your best bet. xx!


“Ranch 99” has Sadaf Marbled Halva 16oz plastic box. I was looking for a recipe to use this. I’ll give it whirl. Thanks

Kassandra Box

Hi Heidi-this looks amazing! I’m in SF too-where are you finding good halvah here?

HS: Hi Marcia – Samiramis in the Mission has plain (and other flavors)…

Marcia Lusk

Yum , this is interesting but guess it will be almost as sweet as millionaires as still a lot of sugar in the recipe and halva is basically a lot of sugar!

Still definitely high on sugar, there is something about the tahini that tempers the sweetness though.


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