The Greek Church in my town hosts an annual Greek Festival during the first week of July. It’s always baking hot, but no one minds! Sometimes the traffic is backed up a mile away. Really, we take this one seriously. The grounds are packed with thousands of people eating delicious Greek food, drinking ouzo, dancing to traditional music, and shopping for Greek wares. One item that has stood out for me year after year were the melomakarona cookies.
After I had my fair share of savory Greek foods, it was time for desserts. It was the weekend, right? The melomakarona cookies came on a thoughtfully-arranged plate with three other Greek desserts. These little cookies stood out to me because they smelled and tasted like honey. Later, I learned that they’re a Christmas must-have in Greece. Once I got home, I knew I had to figure out the recipe. Now I’m able to share them with you, and I know you’ll want to nibble on them all year long!
“Melomakarona” comes from the Greek words “meli,” which means “honey,” and “makaronia,” meaning “blessed.” Honey has often been called the food of the gods, and melomakarona cookies are truly a heavenly treat! They’re moist and crisp and bursting with flavor! Your whole house will be full of the smell of Christmas with orange, honey, cinnamon, and cloves. Everyone will be running to try them and trust me, these sticky Greek cookies will disappear in a blink!
Melomakarona are distinctive for their rich, honey taste. Honey is key in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, right up there with olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Beekeeping came to Greece from Ancient Egypt, and honey has been used as a sweetener since antiquity. In fact, pure honey is the only food that never spoils! It’s been used for medicinal purposes for millennia and offers numerous health benefits.
These Greek Christmas cookies are so easy to make! I do have a few tips for you to make sure they turn out perfect every time. First of all, you’ll want to make sure that your syrup is totally cooled when your Greek cookies come out of the oven. I recommend making it first. You can even make it the day before! It will keep just fine in the fridge.
When it’s time to form the dough into cookies, be gentle with it. If you apply too much pressure or overwork it, the oil will start to seep out and your mixture might separate. Shape the dough into flattened egg shapes and carefully use a fork to make a crosshatch pattern. This will help the melomakarona cookies to absorb the syrup. For the best flavor, I recommend using authentic Greek honey! They say it’s the best-tasting honey in the world. I’m with them!
Step by step photos:
- Gather all the ingredients and have them measured, chopped and ready to go.
- Place the sugar for the dough in a bowl and press the orange zest into the sugar until well combined.
- Add the sugar to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the olive and vegetable oils then mix on slow until well combined.
- While the sugar is mixing, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Add the orange juice and brandy to the mixing bowl. Mix on slow until combined.
- Slowly add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time.
- The mixture will start to pull away from the edge of the bowl and form a soft dough. It should be somewhat dense and not loose, runny or sticky.
- Using a cookie scoop that holds approximately 1 Tbsp, take a slightly heaping scoop. Drop the scoop into your palm, roll a ball then squeeze to an egg shape.
- Place the dough ball on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press with a with a fork to make a criss cross pattern. Bake each batch for 25-30 minutes.
- While the cookies are baking make the syrup in a sauce pan. Add the honey, sugar, water, lemon rind, and cloves to the pan. Stir to combine and set the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil then set the heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes uncovered. Allow the cookies to cool. Next, get a large slotted spoon to soak the cookies.
- After 25-30 minutes check that they are ready. They should be golden brown. The bottom of each cookie will be a bit more brown.
- Once the first batch of cookies come out of the oven and the second is baking, soak each cookie in the syrup. You can drop them in the liquid for 10-15 seconds. Flip them over and soak for another 10-15 seconds. It is fine to soak them while they are still warm. Remove them and place on a tray. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts while they are still a bit wet and sticky. You can lightly press the walnuts into the tops. You can lightly dust a little powdered cinnamon on top of each cookie.
Frequently asked questions:
- How long can I freeze these melomanarona cookies? You can freeze them in an airtight container with freezer paper between layers of cookies. Be sure they are completely cool before you put them away. They will store nicely for up to 6 months. This is a great cookie to make in advance for Christmas.
- Do I have to refrigerate the cookies? No, you do not. You can store these in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week. They are best at room temperature. They can get hard in the refrigerator.
- Can I store the cookie dough? Yes. Store in an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days then remove the dough, scoop then bake.
If you enjoyed my Melomakarona Cookies, be sure to try out my savory Greek recipe, Avgolemono Soup. It is a creamy chicken soup that’s healthy and perfect for the cooler months.
Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Cookie Recipe
Melomakarona are popular Greek Christmas cookies that are covered in a honey syrup and topped with cinnamon and walnuts.Prep Time 30 minutesCook Time 25 minutesServings: Change to adjust-> 60 servingsCalories 170 kcal
Prepare the cookie dough:
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Place the sugar for the cookie dough in a bowl and press the orange zest into the sugar with a fork until well combined.
Place the sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a beater blade on slow, add the olive and vegetable oils until well combined.
Add the orange juice and brandy to the mixing bowl and continue to mix until well combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add the flour to the mixing bowl one cup at a time. The mixture will start to pull away from the edge of the bowl and form a soft dough. It should be somewhat dense and not loose, runny or sticky.
Using a cookie scoop that holds approximately 1 Tbsp take a slightly heaping scoop. Drop the scoop into your palm, roll a ball then squeeze to an egg shape.
Place the dough ball on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press with a fork to make a criss cross pattern.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. The bottoms will be more brown.
Make the syrup:
While the cookies are baking, make the syrup in a sauce pan. Add the honey, sugar, water, lemon rind, and cloves to the pan.
Stir to combine and set the heat to medium-high.
Bring to a boil then set the heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes uncovered.
Allow to cool, remove the cloves and lemon rinds and get a large slotted spoon ready to soak the cookies.
Soak and garnish the cookies:
Nutrition FactsMelomakarona: Greek Christmas Cookie RecipeAmount Per ServingCalories 170 Calories from Fat 81% Daily Value*Fat 9g14%Saturated Fat 4g25%Sodium 20mg1%Potassium 53mg2%Carbohydrates 22g7%Fiber 1g4%Sugar 11g12%Protein 2g4%Vitamin A 11IU0%Vitamin C 3mg4%Calcium 14mg1%Iron 1mg6%* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Once the first batch of cookies come out and the second is baking, soak each cookie in the syrup. You can drop them in for 10-15 seconds. Flip them over and soak for another 10-15 seconds. It is fine to soak them while they are still warm. Repeat for each batch.
Remove them from the liquid with a slotted spoon and place on a tray. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts while they are still wet and sticky from soaking. You can lightly press the walnuts into the tops.
You can lightly dust a little powdered cinnamon on top of each cookie.