Turron, Nougat or Halva: What’s the Difference?

As you brush up on your confectionary knowledge, you might have come across some deserts that seem awfully similar (if not the very same!) Sweets such as Turron, nougat, and Halva, for example, have a similar taste, texture, consistency, and often ingredients list. So, what makes them different from one another?

Nougat is made using sugar or honey and roasted nuts and sometimes candied fruit. Turrón is one of the three types of nougat. It is a Spanish nougat made by mixing honey or sugar with eggs and toasted almonds. Halva is another Middle Eastern sweet of a similar consistency to nougat, however, it is not classified as a type of nougat. Halva is made with sesame paste, hot sugar syrup and either flour or nuts (and comes in varieties of flavors.)

Turron, nougat, and halva differ from one another in ingredients, cooking process, and historical significance. However, all three deserts have Middle Eastern origins, and unique consistencies using minimal ingredients.  

What is Nougat?

Nougat on white background
Nougat

Nougat can be traced back to the Middle East, as early as the 8th Century. It is a sweet made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts, whipped egg whites, and sometimes candied fruit.

In addition to pistachio, any variety of roasted nuts can be used to make nougat: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or even macadamia. The word nougat is from the Latin word meaning nutty.

There are three different types of nougats, ranging from fluffy, chewy, to hard as brittle. Similar to how one makes a meringue, the egg whites and sugar and gently and carefully whipped together to create and aerated mixture. When additional heat and oil is added, it hardens to a stiff, hard candy texture.

The Three Different Types of Nougat

Nougat comes in three different varieties, all delicious, sweet, and made from similar ingredients.

  1. White Nougat (Turrón )– Made with beaten egg whites, honey and roasted almonds. It can be soft (blando) or hard (duro). It traditionally appears white, unless mixed with other ingredients (like cocoa). From Spain.
  2. Brown Nougat (Nougat Noir or Crocante) – a firmer nougat made without egg white, is crunchy and dark in color. From France and Italy.
  3. Viennese Nougat (German) – made with sugar, egg white, nut (hazelnut or praline) and chocolate. From Germany.

If you have ever enjoyed any of the following candy bars (Three Musketeers, Miky Way or Snickers) you are familiar with the sweet, creamy, nutty taste of nougat.

The History of Nougat

Nougat originated in the Middle East in the 8th Century and then spread to Europe as Moors and other Arab peoples invaded cities and countries in Europe. Nougat was introduced into Spain in the 15th century, and France in the 17th century. 

While nougat was introduced to Spain and Italy at a similar time (500 years ago), Turrón and Torrone (Italian nougat) vary slightly. While Spanish nougat remains true to its original recipe of honey/sugar, egg white, and roasted almonds, Italian nougat added vanilla and sometimes citrus.

The Italian town of Cologna Veneta is famous for their type of nougat called Mandorlato, made with honey, sugar, egg whites, almonds, but is a unique consistency compared to both Turrón and Torrone. Both Spanish Turrón and Italian Torrone are traditionally enjoyed during Christmas festivities.

Unfortunately, once large candy corporations began including nougat recipes into their candies, the quality and knowledge of nougat suffered. Nougat present in candy bars like Snickers and Milky Way, no longer use honey or syrup, but rather corn syrup.

Luckily, nougat is a relatively easy treat to make at home. It is also incredible inexpensive to make since the ingredients are limited to sugar, honey, eggs, and nuts.

Nougat Recipes

Classic White Nougat

  • 8 oz. white chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 3/4 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar (granulated)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots (or peaches, finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup salted pistachios
  • Optional: 2 lbs. chocolate candy coating or white candy coating for dipping

Mandorlato Venetta

  • 20 wafer papers
  • 200 g sugar
  • 200 g honey
  • 50 ml water
  • 500 g hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • zest from 1 lemon

Nougat Noir

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups country honey
  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almonds

Vienesse Nougat

Hazelnut 

  • 500g hazelnuts
  • 500g sugar
  • 100g chocolate 

Almond Chocolate 

  • 500g almonds
  • 500g sugar
  • 100g chocolate 

Are There Vegan Nougat Recipes?

There are lots of different ways to make nougat without dairy products! One of the most popular ways to do this is to replace the egg-whites with the brine from a can of chickpeas.

Chickpea water is the same weight and density as egg-whites, and is tasteless when whipped to stiff peeks. 

Here’s an excellent example of a delicious vegan nougat:

Egg-Free Almond Nougat

  • 4 sheets edible rice paper
  • 200g blanched almonds
  • 560g (2.5 cups) sugar
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) water
  • 500g jar glucose syrup (or corn syrup)
  • ~80g Chickpea water (or 2 eggs whites)
  • 2 tsp vanilla

What is Turrón?

Various Spanish turrone flavors on a white background
Spanish Turron Flavors

Turrón (white nougat) is one of the three types of nougat, that dates back to the Middle Ages. It is a traditional sweet in Spain made of honey, eggs, sugar, and toasted almonds.

Turrón comes in many different flavors, but there are two man traditional types of Turróns: soft Jijona (Turrón blando) and hard Alicante (Turrón duro).

The Two Different Types of Turrón

Hard Alicante (Turrón duro)

Turrón duro is a hard, thick almond candle similar to peanut brittle. It is made by roasting, chopping almonds, and then mixing the roasted nuts with honey.

This mixture is then simmered overheat, while stirring consistently, then adding egg whites to bind. Once this mixture is cooled, it is broken into bricks (like a brittle.)

Cut turron alicante on white background
Turron de Alicante

Soft Jijona (Turrón blando) 

Turrón blando is smooth and creamy, almost like peanut butter. It is light and delicate. Turrón blando is considerably more work to make.

First, one must make Turrón duro. Once it is cooled, it is ground up in a processor with almond oil, to create a sticky paste. That paste is then reheated, beaten for hours, and then eventually softens.

Egg whites are added to form a binding agent, and finally the Turrón blando cools in square metal containers and is cut into thick slices.

Cut Turron de Jijona on white background
Turron de Jijona

You can purchase both of these types of Turrón in the United States at Amigofoods and Amazon.

The History of Spanish Turron

The history of Turrón can be traced all the way back to the Middle Ages. Though Turrón is a Spanish confection, it was introduced to Spain by the Moors who invaded the country during the Middle Ages.

Food historians agree that Turrón was first made on the Arabic peninsula, as the first references to the confection appear in the 11th century in a document called ‘De medicinis et cibis semplicibus,’ composed by an Arabic doctor. When the Moors invaded Spain, they brought this delicacy with them. 

In the 15th century Turrón wa wildly popular in Spain and was made in two different towns 30 miles apart: Jijona and Alicante (where both types of Turróns got their names.)

In the late 15th century, employers began the tradition of giving Turrón as Christmas treats to their employees, which began the Spanish tradition of enjoying Turrón during winter festivities.

Originally Turrón was made with honey, however, once sugar was discovered in South America, sugar became a substitute for making Turrón. 

Today, Turrón is very commonly made and enjoyed at Christmas time. The towns of Jijona and Alicante still maintain the largest production of Turrón in the country.

In fact, in Jijona, there is even a Turrón museum and factory that offers tours, for visitors to watch the production from the balcony looking over the factory floor.

While large Turrón factories, like those in Jijona and Alicante, certainly make the production of this popular

Confection easier and more streamlined, the recipes remain relatively unchanged since the sweet’s original inception.

Spain places quality ratings on every Turrón made and packaged. The labels are packaged as either “Suprema,” “Extra,” “Estandar,” and “Popular.” Suprema = highest quality.

To earn a Suprema rating, the Turrón blando must contain at minimum 60% almonds, and Turrón duro must contain a minimum of 64% almonds. 

Turrón can be kept for up to a year and comes in such flavors as yema (egg yolk), praline, chocolate and kiwi.

Turrón Recipes

Traditional ‘Suprema’ Turrón Blando

  • 300 g almonds
  • 10 large rectangular wafers
  • 100 g honey
  • 80 g glucose syrup
  • 250 g sugar
  • 2 fresh egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp vanilla aroma
  • Powdered sugar

Traditional ‘Suprema’ Turrón Duro

  • 1 3/4 cup roasted almond slivers (preferably soaked and dehydrated)
  • 1 1/2 cups raw honey
  • 3 egg whites

Are There Vegan Versions of Turron?

Yes! Since Turron is one of the three types of nougat, you can replace the egg-whites for chickpea water. Other variations of this include replacing the egg whites with: coconut oil, molasses or agave syrup!

Here’s an excellent example of a vegan turron that utilizes molases and agave to substitute for eggs:

Vegan Turron Blando

  • 2 1/2 cups whole raw almonds
  • 2/3 cups whole cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons organic molasses
  • 3 tablespoons organic light agave syrup

What is Halva?

Tahini halva with pistachios on white background
Tahini halva with pistachios

Halva is a very dense traditional Middle Eastern confection made with hot sugar syrup, and either flour or nut butter (like sesame paste or sunflower butter).

It is crumbly in texture, yet fluffy, with a faint sesame flavor, though there are many flavors of Halva available. The name ‘halva’ comes from the Arabic word Halwa, meaning “sweet”.

The Two Different Types of Halva

Flour-BasedThis style of Halva is made from grain flour (semolina, corn starch or rice flour), and is slightly more gelatinous. The primary ingredients are ghee (clarified butter), flour and sugar.

Semolina – Semolina based Halva is mixed with sugar or honey, and butter. Often other ingredients such as nuts (almonds or walnuts) or dried fruits are added. This type of Halva comes out somewhat gelatinous and extremely sweet, like a polenta or dried peanut butter.

Corn starch

Halva made with corn starch is also gelatinous in texture, and extremely popular in Greece.

Rice Flour

Halva made with rice flour is common fair in places like Zanzibar. It is made with rice flour and coconut milk, it is dairy free and often known as “pathein halawa.” It is a Burmese delicacy.

Nut Butter-BasedThis type of Halva is made with tahini (sesame paste) or other such nut butters (like sunflower seed butter). The primary ingredients are nut butter and sugar. Other ingredients may also be used, like beans, lentils, and vegetables such as squash or yams.

Sesame

Halva made with sesame paste (tahini) is popular in the Middle East, the Balkans and Poland. It is made with tahini and sugar. In some recipes, ingredients like Marshmallow root or egg white are added to stabilize the oils to create a distinct texture.

China has a similar sweet made from sesame crumbles. The Chinese version of Halva is made with ground sesame, sugar, and is cooked to be much crispier than traditional Halvas.

Some sesame Halvas have flavor added (or other ingredients create variety). These flavors and additions include pistachio, cocoa powder, citrus juices, or vanilla.

Sunflower

Halva made from sunflower nut butter contains roasted ground sunflower seeds, mixed with sugar. The use of sunflower nut butter for Halva has been popularized in Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, and other such Balkan countries. Sometimes additional flavoring is added, like nuts, vanilla, or cocoa powder.

The History of Halva

The first known references to Halva were from the 7th century. However, at that time, Halva was reportedly made with mashed dates and milk. By the 9th century, the word “halva” was applied to any number of confections (most popularly the semolina flour version of Halva.)

Many Persian recipes of Halva were found in an Arabic book titled “Kitab al-Tabikh “(The Book of Dishes), written in the 13th century. The recipe in this book used boiled sugar, honey, sesame oil, and flour. It was then sprinkled with rose water, sugar and pistachios. Yum!

Halva spread across the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Central Asia. One of Halva’s biggest fans was the Ottoman Empire’s sultan during (1520-1566), who had a special kitchen built next to his house that was literally called helcahane (“house of halva.”) 

At this Turkish house of halva, 30 various kinds of halva were produced, one in particular was made with sesame paste (tahini), which was later be passed on to the Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, who would make it a staple confection in later Israel.

The first batch of American Halva was produced by a Jewish man named Nathan Radutsky, who whipped it together in his garage on the Lower East Side in New York. He sold the Halva from his home and via pushcarts around the city. His small sweets business took off, and eventually became the Independent Halvah & Candies company. 

Halvah & Candies eventually changed their name to “Joyva” and remain the leading manufacturer of Halva in the United States and available for purchase online.

While Halva is still enjoyed as is, it is also used by chefs like Momofuku owner, David Chang, who uses halva peanut butter crumbles on top of his soft serve ice cream.

Halva Recipes

Flour-Based Halva

  • 1 ½ cups Water, municipal
  • 1 cup Sugars, granulated
  • ¼ cup rose water
  • ⅓ teaspoon Spices, cardamom, ground
  • 1 pinch Spices, saffron
  • ½ cup Butter, with salt 
  • 1 ½ cups Wheat flour, white, all-purpose, enriched, bleached

Nut Butter-Based Halva

Are There Vegan Halvas?

Yes! There are many variations of vegan halvas. The nut butter-based halvas, like the recipe mentioned above, is totally dairy-free (and glutten free!) As long as one does not have a nut allergy, this type of halva is safe to eat!

If tahini (sesame seed paste) isn’t your thing, simply replace that with the nut butter of your choice (sunflower nut butter if you’re into a more classic Halva, or peanut butter if you want to spice it up!)

The Key Take Away

Cuban Christmas alicante turron nougat candy on cutting board tied with red ribbon
Christmas Alicante turron hard nougat candy

Turrón, nougat and Halva are remarkably similar types of confection. Turrón is one of the three types of nougat, also known as “white nougat.”

It is made of honey, sugar, egg white, and roasted almonds. Nougat is made with honey, sugar, egg white, roasted nuts (of any kind) and sometimes candied fruit. 

There are three types of nougat: white, noir, and Viennese. Halva is unique, in that is made with sesame paste, and is what gives halva its crumbly, dry texture.

All three sweets are of Middle Eastern origin and can be found worldwide. Nougats like Turrón and Torrone (Italy) are a staple during Christmastime.

Interestingly, all three types of confections have two or more iterations of their recipe, distinguishable either by difference in ingredients, texture, or baking process.

To learn about Turrón check out Spanish Turrón – Your Ultimate Guide. We take a deeper dive into all facets of the turrón. Such as flavors, grades, brands, regulations, etc. 

And for all your Turrón needs visit our online store and shop Turrón and various other products and ingredients freshly imported from Spain.

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