Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Cookie Recipe)
This Greek cookie recipe creates a large batch of Melomakarona. Flavored with walnuts, spices, orange and honey, these amazing Greek Christmas cookies stay fresh up to two weeks!
And these Melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies made with honey, spices and walnuts) will always have a special place in my heart.
I originally discovered them while completing my culinary school final practical exam.
Each student was assigned a country and had to prepare a meal from that country. I drew Greece!
For the exam, I made braised octopus, a fresh salad with lots of oregano and chicken lemon rice soup. But, dessert was the best part.
The dessert for my meal was these Greek honey cookies. They were absolutely delicious, and I couldn’t wait to make them again and again.
I was especially wanting these cookies after my trip to Greece awhile back. I had hoped to find a few melomakarona cookies in their home country, and even took a quick glance into every bakery we walked past.
I didn’t actually inquire about the cookies, afraid that I might pronounce them wrong, or they really weren’t as Greek as I thought.
When I got home, I did some quick research and discovered that melomakarona are Greek Christmas cookies.
Whew. Glad I didn’t ask about them in September like some dumb tourist.
The history of melomakarona:
The word melomakarona is thought to be derived from medieval makaria, which is a meal eaten after a funeral or burial.
The recipe has gradually changed over time to include the addition of dipping the cookies in honey.
Etymologically, the word is derived from the Greek word for honey – “meli.”
About the flavors of this Greek cookie recipe:
In my opinion, the flavor of melomakarona is very similar to baklava (and my mini baklava bites), but in cookie form.
Instead of the crispy flakiness of baklava made with phyllo dough, the same spice and honey flavors are contained in a soft, tender cookie.
The cookie batter is pretty simple, and is flavored with fresh orange juice (juice your own fresh oranges for this, it’s worth it), and some cinnamon and cloves (also the spices used in my stuffed baked apples).
As far as which variety of honey to use, I generally use an all-purpose clover honey for these Greek Christmas cookies.
Taste of Home has a nice article on 9 Types of Honey (and Where to Get Them) to help you choose which honey would be best for your tastes to make this Greek honey cookie recipe.
How to make Greek Christmas cookies:
Nothing about this melomakarona recipe is HARD, but I won’t lie: it is time consuming. I like to spread the work out over two days to make it a bit more manageable.
Plus, the dough is easier to work with if it’s refrigerated overnight (or even up to three days).
So on day one, I make the cookie dough. Then, I chill the dough in the fridge overnight.
On day two, I make and cool the honey syrup. While the syrup is cooling, I make the walnut topping. Then, I start forming and baking the cookies in batches.
As each batch of hot cookies come out of the oven, they are dipped in the honey syrup, transferred to a pan, and then sprinkled with the walnut topping.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to have a second person on hand to help you with sprinkling while you’re doing the cookie dipping, but this Greek cookie recipe is also completely do-able by yourself.
A quick tip about this melomakarona recipe:
You might be tempted to taste one of these Greek Christmas cookies as soon as it comes out of the honey syrup, but try to wait if you can. I don’t want you to be disappointed!
Go to bed and dream about having a melomakarona cookie with your morning caramel coffee, because the REAL magic is what happens when the cookies sit overnight (or even better, several days), and the syrup really soaks into the cookies.
NOW you can try one and take a virtual trip to Greece.
How to store melomakarona cookies:
When these Greek honey cookies are finished, it’s important to store them in an airtight container.
I also like to place sheets of parchment paper or wax paper between layers of cookies, to prevent them from sticking together. They can be kept at room temperature.
How long do Greek honey cookies keep?
Stored properly, these cookies will last up to two weeks. In fact, in my opinion, as I mentioned above, melomakarona cookies get BETTER with age (just like how my mom’s cottage cheese lasagna always tastes better to me the day after it’s made).
I think the flavor and texture hit their peak about four to five days after the cookies are made.
I love the fact that even though these cookies are somewhat time consuming, they’re totally worth it, because I can enjoy them all through the holiday season!
This recipe makes a LOT of cookies! But, you can make a half batch.
In my opinion, this melomakarona recipe is MEANT to be made in a big batch and shared with family, friends and neighbors throughout the holiday season.
Especially because they get better with a few days age on them, Greek honey cookies are really ideal for packing into small tins and giving as gifts. I have NO problem giving away 6 dozen and keeping a dozen for my family.
But, if 6 to 7 dozen Greek Christmas cookies is way more than you need, I totally get it. It’s a lot. This Greek cookie recipe can be made as a half batch, with no changes to cooking times.
Simply divide every ingredient amount by two. Please let me know in the comments if you need any help with culinary math, I am happy to help!
For the Cookie Dough:
- 6-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1-1/2 cups olive oil
- 1 cup fresh orange juice (from about 4 juice oranges)
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
For the Honey Syrup:
- 3 strips orange peel, about 1-inch wide
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 cups honey
- 1-1/2 cups water
For the Walnut Topping:
- 8 ounces walnuts, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- Make Cookie Dough: In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and cloves.
- In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Reduce speed to medium-low. Add eggs one at a time, beating until just incorporated after each addition. Add oil, orange juice and orange zest; mix until combined.
- Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
- Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead 1 minute. Transfer dough to large bowl; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. Dough may also be kept in the fridge up to 3 days.
- Meanwhile, make Honey Syrup: In high-sided pan or large pot, stir together orange peel, sugar, honey and water. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat and let boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and let syrup cool completely.
- Make the Walnut Topping: In small bowl, stir together walnuts, cinnamon and cloves.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For each cookie, take about 1-1/2 tablespoons dough and roll and press it into an oval shape with your hands.
- Place cookies on rimmed baking pan, spaced 1-1/2 inches apart; repeat until baking pan is full. Prick tops of cookies with fork 4-5 times so that tine marks are lightly visible. Return remaining dough to refrigerator between batches.
- Transfer cookies to oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- Line a second rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. In batches, transfer hot cookies fresh from the oven to cooled honey syrup. Let them soak 30 seconds, turning halfway through.
- Using slotted spoon, transfer cookies to parchment-lined pan (you can put them very close together at this stage). Immediately sprinkle with walnut topping. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, honey syrup and walnut topping.
- When completely cool, transfer cookies to airtight containers, with parchment or wax paper between layers (or put each cookie in a paper cupcake wrapper). Cookies will last up to 2 weeks.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 78 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 199Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 52mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 3g