Melomakarona are soft melt-in-your-mouth Greek Christmas cookies. Flavored with orange zest, cinnamon, and cloves, then dipped in honey syrup and topped with chopped walnuts, these easy cookies make an excellent holiday treat!
When my grandmother came to the US in the mid-1930’s she didn’t speak a word of English and was in love with a sailor. They met at a theater in Mexico, where she was a flamenco dancer with graceful arms, swirling skirts, and rhythmic castanets. He saw one performance and decided that woman was going to be his wife. Somehow – without having a language in common – they fell head over heels in love and decided to tie the knot. It probably didn’t hurt that Nana looked like Ava Gardner.
Nana was an impulsive woman if you can’t tell. And not afraid of anything. So when my grandfather’s ship set sail again and she found herself alone in a new country, she decided to get herself an education. She learned English, got a college degree, and eventually became a social worker – and Melomakarona cookies helped her along the way.
You see it just so happened that the house my grandfather bought for them was next to an ostrich farm. It was an expanse of some 20 acres where you could look out the window and see flocks of giant birds flying across the fields on long legs. It was a sight to behold, so every morning before her classes Nana would go and watch those birds dancing in the dawn. Eventually, the farmer’s wife noticed, a fast friendship formed, and they started baking together on the weekends. These ladies were foodies before that was even a word. They were both living in a new country and baking was their shared language.
And that’s where these Melomakarona cookies come in – because the farmer’s wife was from Greece, and that was her favorite kind of cookie. So when my Mexican grandmother stayed up late into the night practicing her English, more often than not she had a plate of Melomakarona cookies beside her. (And a giant ostrich egg in the fridge for breakfasts – plural – that week. One ostrich egg equals about 24 chicken eggs! ) Many, many years later she still loved Melomakarona and shared stories about her younger years over cups of Mexican hot chocolate served with Greek cookies.
Melomakarona are Greek cookies that are especially popular at Christmas but can be made any time of year. Their name is a combination of “meli” which means “honey,” and “makarona” which stems from an ancient Greek word that means “blessed.” Melomakarona is pronounced mellow-ma-kah-rona. These cookies are baked, but there is also a version called “finikia” that is deep-fried.
Unlike many American cookies, these Greek cookies are usually egg and dairy-free. They do contain honey though so they are not vegan if you avoid honey as part of a vegan diet.
Most of the ingredients for these cookies you probably already have in your pantry, with one exception – semolina. I’ve added some notes on that below.
For the syrup
- Cinnamon stick
- Orange zest – You can also use clementine zest.
- Honey – If you can find it, I love using orange blossom honey for this but regular honey is delightful too!
For the cookies:
- All-purpose flour
- Semolina – This is a kind of flour made from durum wheat. It is coarser than traditional flour and can usually be found in the baking or “ethnic” aisle of the grocery store. Semolina is the kind of flour usually used to make pasta and has a high water absorption ratio, so using it in these cookies is part of what allows them to soak up the honey syrup.
- Baking soda
- Spices – Ground cinnamon & ground cloves.
- Powdered sugar
- Vegetable oil – You can also use olive oil.
- Orange juice – No pulp is preferrable.
- Walnuts – This is the traditional kind of nut used, but you could also top these with chopped almonds.
Tips for Success
Melomakarona cookies are very easy to make and perfect for little hands, who can help shape the dough and will love dipping the cookies in honey syrup. Here are a few tips for the best cookies:
- Don’t overwork the dough. It is tempting to “knead” this cookie dough since it is shaped into a ball like bread dough, but you don’t want to do that. Overworking the dough will make the oil seperate from the rest of the mixture, which will impact the texture of the cookies. Just gently shape the dough until everything is combined.
- Melomakarona cookies need to be made in one go. This is not the kind of cookie where you can make the dough in advance and bake later that day. If the cookie dough sits for too long the oil will separate out.
- Don’t add more flour. If the dough is too sticky let it rest for a few minutes. If it is still too sticky you can lightly dust it with flour, but don’t add significant amounts of flour to this recipe or the cookies will be tough.
- Make sure the syrup is cold when you dip the hot cookies in it. Dunking hot cookies into cold syrup allows the cookies to absorb more of the syrup.
- You only need to dip cookies in the syrup for a few seconds. Otherwise the cookies will get too soft and may fall apart.
One of the best things about these cookies is how long they keep. Because the syrup is infused with honey, which has antimicrobial properties, these cookies will stay fresh on the counter at room temperature for 5-7 days.
If you want to extend their shelf life even longer, you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.Print
Melomakarona are soft melt-in-your-mouth Greek Christmas cookies. Flavored with orange zest, cinnamon, and cloves, then briefly dipped in honey syrup and topped with chopped walnuts, these easy cookies make an excellent holiday treat!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 24 cookies
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Greek
For the syrup:
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- zest of 1 orange
- 1/4 cup honey
For the cookies:
- 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup semolina
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
For the syrup:
- In a medium pot, add water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and orange zest and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes, remove from heat and add honey, stirring constantly until incorporated.
- Let it cool to room temperature, then place it in the fridge to cool completely while preparing the cookies. Once chilled, remove the cinnamon stick.
For the cookies:
- Preheat oven to 350F and cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl add flour, semolina, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and powdered sugar and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl combine vegetable oil and orange juice.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix well until incorporated. Using your hands, make a ball with the dough.
- Form oval-shaped cookies about 2-3 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Press each cookie with the tines of a fork to make a pattern on top, either dots or a crosshatch (this is traditional but not necessary).
- Place on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden at the edges.
- Remove cookies from the oven and dip them hot into the pot with the cold syrup, making sure to cover both sides with the syrup.
- Remove from the pot and place them on a platter. Let them cool and sprinkle chopped walnuts on top.
- Make sure the syrup is cold when you dip the hot cookies in it.
- You only need to dip cookies in the syrup for a few seconds, otherwise, the cookies will get too soft and may fall apart.
- You can store melomakarona cookies at room temperature for 5-7 days.
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Keywords: greek cookies, christmas cookies, walnut cookies, spice cookies, orange cookies, melomacarona
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