If you visit Greece close to Christmas, you’ll eat far too many of these delicious Christmas honey cookies, or melomakarona. Imagine a cross between baklava and an ooey, gooey pecan pie and you’ve got these. They’re Greece’s best known Christmas cookie, and so perfect for giving as gifts to your neighbours and friends wherever you are!
Why I make these every year
It’s been many years now since I spent a run up to Christmas in Greece – sadly! One of the things I missed the most when I first left were these fabulous traditional spiced Christmas cookies that are dipped in honey and scattered with crushed walnuts.
Every self-respecting Greek household has a huge pile of shop-bought or homemade melomakarona on their Christmas treat table. Thank goodness I’ve now learned how to make them myself! 😉
And, frankly, so should you. They’re: oozy, nutty, spicy (in a delicious Christmas spice sort of way), squidgy, caramel-y, baklava-like bites of sheer delicious that just melt in your mouth. You simply cannot stop at one.
- CROWD PLEASERS – a perfect gift to give to friends and neighbours.
- THE RECIPE MAKES A BIG BATCH. Sometimes I make double and package them up in gift boxes lined with baking paper and give them as a gift.
- THEY KEEP FOR AGES – around a month at least. Move over classic Christmas fruit cake – you have competition!
- THEY’RE SURPRISINGLY EASY TO MAKE. I’d been eating them for years before I finally tried making my own. When I did I was shocked at how simple they were. Make a simple biscuit/cookie and dunk them in an easy-to-make syrup. Just delicious!
What do they taste like?
I find nearly everyone loves these! They’re very different to an average Christmas cookie, but sublimely delicious when made well. I think they taste like a cross between Greek baklava and pecan pie – how delicious does that sound?
I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say that they are healthy treats, but half of the sweetness is honey and they’re made with a mix of olive and vegetable oils, not butter.
They’re also dairy free, and vegan – if you’re OK with honey.
Ingredients in melomakarana
The ingredients in these incredible Christmas treats are surprisingly simple.
This is all you need for the cookie dough:
Flour: Just plain white flour.
Baking powder and soda
Oil: I use a cup of olive oil and a cup of something else, like canola oil, but you can use all one type if you like.
Sugar: Not too much as you’re also going to pour a syrup over the cookies, too.
An orange: Both the zest and juice.
Brandy: A sneaky little bit (well it is Christmas)! But you can easily skip this and add a bit more orange juice instead if you prefer.
Crushed walnuts and cinnamon: To sprinkle over the finished cookies.
And for the syrup:
Half and half honey and sugar: I like to keep the honey content high.
Water and lemon juice
Yummy Christmassy flavourings: Cloves, a cinnamon stick, and a piece of lemon rind. This is the part that will make your kitchen smell like Christmas!
How to make them
When I lived in Greece, for years I was afraid to try making my own melomakarona because I wrongly assumed they’d be difficult.
Here’s how easy it is to make them from scratch:
Step 1: Mix together all the ‘wet’ ingredients.
Step 2: Add the flour and baking powder/soda to the wet ingredients. Do it little by little until a stiff but oily dough forms. Sometimes you might have to add a bit less or more flour, but that’s OK!
This is what the dough looks like:
Step 3: Pinch off little bits of dough and roll them into a ball or oval shape. Use a roughly 1-tablespoon cookie scoop if you prefer. Put them on a baking tray and flatten them slightly into a round or flattened egg shape. Put a criss-cross pattern on them using the tines of a fork (this part isn’t essential but it looks good!).
This is what the unbaked cookies will look like:
Step 4: Bake for about half an hour – just enough time to make the syrup!
The second part of the recipe involves making an easy and very yummy syrup to dip the cookies into. I would normally shy away from a recipe involving a syrup but this syrup is incredibly easy – and it will make your kitchen smell absolutely amazing!
This is what you do to make the syrup:
Step 5: Just boil up sugar and honey with the yummy Christmassy flavours: a cinnamon stick, a few cloves and a piece of lemon rind.
The final steps:
Just a few more simple things to do.
Step 6: This is the fun part! There’s a little controversy around this too. Some people think it’s best to dip the biscuits in the syrup while still warm, and others think it’s best to let them cool. I’ve tried both ways and I think more syrup sinks into the cookies (yum) if you dip them while they’re still hot.
So… drop them into the hot syrup in the pan a few at a time. Flip them over and let them soak up the syrup for about 30 seconds or so.
Immediately place them on a big plate and sprinkle with crushed walnuts and a pinch of ground cinnamon. You can layer them up on top of each other in a kind of pyramid style if you like. I sometimes pour any leftover syrup over the top of the pyramid. Some of the syrup drips down onto the cookies below for extra moisture and flavour. Yum!
This pyramid style is the traditional way to display them. This looks great if you’re going to serve all of them at a Christmas party or other event!
Ways to vary them
This is a traditional way to make these cookies, but every shop and Greek household has their own melomakarona recipe. It’s just one of those recipes, which gives you freedom to create your own!
Usually I make them exactly as described in this recipe, but you can:
- Dip half of (or even the whole!) of the cookie/biscuit in chocolate after you’ve dipped it into the syrup. Then you can either leave it plain or sprinkle over some nuts and cinnamon.
- Vary the type of nuts you sprinkle on the top. It’s no problem to use crushed pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, or a different kind of nut. If you need them to be nut free (like in our house, sadly), you can skip the nuts altogether, or sprinkle with sesame seeds instead.
- You can replace the brandy with something else if you like – such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier, Amaretto, or whiskey. Or just skip it and add more orange juice instead!
Helen’s top tips
- Use a small to medium-sized saucepan to make the syrup. You need enough room to dunk 3 or 4 at the same time but you want the syrup to be deep enough for proper dunking!
- If you like, make the cookie dough a few days ahead. The dough will keep well covered in a bowl or in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. The oil may separate out a bit, but just knead it again before beginning to shape the cookies. Alternatively, bake the cookies, then let them cool and either store them in an airtight container or even freeze them until ready to make the syrup and finish the recipe off.
- Don’t waste any syrup! If you have some left over after dunking all your cookies, drizzle the leftovers over the top of your plate or ‘pyramid’ of cookies!
More things to know (recipe FAQ)
You’ll need to add roughly 6.5 cups of flour, but I usually go by eye. I sometimes add a little less or a little more than this.
Don’t let this worry you, though. Just add the flour little by little until you have a soft but fairly stiff ball of dough that’s still a bit wet and ‘oily’ looking. If you add a bit too much flour, just drizzle in a bit more orange juice. If it’s still too gooey, add more flour.
Don’t overthink this part. Take them out of the oven after 25 to 30 minutes or when the cookies are lightly browned.
I’ve tried dunking them when hot, and dunking them when cooled. I prefer dunking them when they’re just out of the oven as I think they soak up more syrup that way.
This is actually the fun part. Drop 3 or 4 at a time into the hot syrup. Let them soak for around 20 to 30 seconds, flipping them over around half way through. Then quickly and confidently fish them out using either a big fork or a slotted spoon.
It’s fine to store melomakarona in an airtight container at room temperature. If you’d like them to keep even longer, go ahead and store them in the fridge.
Another wonderful thing about these delicious Greek cookies or biscuits (UK!) is that they keep well for a really long time – I’d say around 4 weeks. They rival Christmas cake and Christmas pudding from this point of view. They’re great treats to keep in the house for parties or for every occasion when friends and family pop over to your house over the Christmas period.
This also means they’re perfect for making ahead. Make them a week or two before Christmas and they’ll still be delicious at New Year. I like to make at least a double or triple batch. They don’t go soggy, but they do get gooey-er and squidgy-er as time goes on. But in a really good way, I think.
Oh, and did I mention that Greek honey cookies also make great Christmas gifts? I love to package them up in boxes to give to family and friends!
You can, but it’s better to freeze them before dunking them in the syrup. Just wait for them to cool completely, then freeze them in airtight containers between sheets of baking paper. They’ll keep well in the freezer for up to 6 months.
When you’re ready to finish them off, let them defrost completely then make the syrup and dunk! It doesn’t matter that the cookies will be cold since some people think they’re better dunked cold anyway! 😉
Just make them without the nuts on top! They’ll still be very delicious. If sesame is OK, you could sprinkle some of those on top instead. Otherwise don’t sweat it.
More delicious Christmas treats
- These gingerbread muffins with salted caramel frosting or icing are absolutely delicious, too!
- Make these easy chocolate lollipops to give as gifts!
- These Christmas pudding truffles aren’t fancy to make, but they’re so cute!
- This 30-minute healthy chocolate cake makes a great alternative for people who don’t like Christmas cake. And it’s healthy, believe it or not!
Or click here for all my Christmas recipes.
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Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)
Equipment (affiliate links)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
For the cookies
- ¾ cups sugar
- 1 orange zest of
- ¾ cups orange juice (I used the juice of 2 oranges)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
- ¼ cups brandy (optional – you can add more orange juice instead if you like, or a different liqueur)
- 6½ cups plain flour Approximately. You may need a little less or more.
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the syrup
- 1 cup runny honey
- 1 cup sugar
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 2 inches lemon rind
- lemon juice a few squeezes
for sprinkling at the end
- ¾ cups walnuts chopped/crushed (or use pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, even peanuts or another nut if you prefer)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon approximately
To make the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.
- Zest the orange, then combine the zest with the sugar in a large bowl.
- Pour the oils into the sugar/orange mixture and beat until well combined. Then add the orange juice and brandy and beat again.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder and baking soda, then add to the liquid little by little until a stiff, wet dough forms. You may not need to use all the flour, or you may need a little more.
- Pull off a walnut-sized piece of dough and shape it into a ball / oval in your hands, then place it on a baking sheet. Use a fork to flatten the dough and make a criss-cross pattern on it. Keep shaping and flattening balls of dough until it is all used up.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned.
To make the syrup
- While the cookies are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the honey, sugar, water, cinnamon, lemon peel and cloves in a saucepan, then bring to the boil.
- Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes until the syrup has thickened slightly.
- Take out the cinnamon, lemon peel and cloves and stir in the lemon juice.
Dipping the cookies in the syrup
- While the cakes are still very warm, float them in the syrup a few at a time, turning them over to make sure they soak up plenty of liquid.
- After about 30 seconds, take the cookies out with a fork or spoon with holes in. Put them on a serving plate.
- Press some walnuts into the top and sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon over them.
- Once you’ve covered your plate, you can pile the others on top of each other if you like – this is how they are usually sold and served in Greece!
looks yummy! Can i make it with Gluten free 1 to 1 bobs red mill flour? as im gluten intolorent
Hello Lina! I’ve never made these with gluten free flour but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Go for it!
These were incredible! I poured my left over syrup over the top of my cookies and they were Devine! Thank you so much for sharing such an easy, delicious recipe!
It was my first time making these, I’ve always loved them when purchased from Greek stores, but am glad now I can make them myself!
Hello Stefania! I see that you have a Greek name so I take it as a huge compliment that you thought these were good 😉 I always thought these were too difficult to make but I make them every year now. Thank you so much for the feedback and… Kala xristouyenna! 🙂
Thank you so much for the feedback, Khanh!
Devin Sanchez says
Sounds interesting, I’ve never been to Greece, but I want to try this recipe
Do it, Devin! They’re amazing, and so easy!
[email protected] says
Great Christmas cookies! Simple and easy to prepare ingredients, will try to do it today and save it for the coming Christmas season. Thanks for sharing
Thank you! I suppose you could freeze them for Christmas!!!
Ed Carmichael says
It looks very delicious. I will try this. Thanks for sharing!
Hope you do try them, Ed! They’re delicious!
Thank you so much for sharing the Greek treasures! I am Greek and I can never resist the recipes.. I was surprised to see that our treats have become popular in other places as well! I am so glad you love them!
Some notes if you are interested of taking some advise from a Greek person who is trying to master such recipes even living abroad..
1. It is really crucial to not work the dough very much. In fact the dough that I am doing (a bit different than the one here since there are always some differences in each household) would only take about 10secs to be worked by hand and not vigorously at all. The more gently you are with your dough and the less you work it (just to barely blend everything together and this is it for a few seconds) the better it is since otherwise the oils are coming on top if that makes sense after a while and we do not want that.
2. We make sure that if we need to let the dough to rest because we have something else to do, first we actually form all those small pieces that we will need to have them ready for the oven and separated. If we leave the whole thing standing for a while again the oils will come up on top and we do not want that. If you separate the pieces it is fine to leave them for a while but again do not think that you can leave it for hours or the next day; ideally you want to prepare them once and for all and not let them standing a lot.
3. We normally do not really flatten the dough because it flattens by itself a little in the oven so normally we actually weigh each piece for consistency so that all pieces are ready at the same time in the oven (30gr for each one of the pieces) and we just very gently shape them like small sausages if that makes sense so we do not really flatten them; when they are in the oven they tend to flatten a bit and they get their known shape! Again this is a matter of preference though. The shape on the “melomakarona” can be done by using a fork to create holes all over it so this does not really require flattening if that makes sense. Whatever you decide to do just be consistent and make sure that every piece is the same with the others since this will be important when they are baked.
4. If you do not have air in your oven but a conventional oven without air then you will probably need to add only one batch at a time to accomplish the best result. The time if you have each piece at 30gr is about 20-25mins at 190C.
5. The most important thing from all the above is the syrup!!! Please NEVER EVER add warm or hot melomakarona in warm or hot syrup!!! It has to be one of the other! So either melomakarona will be super hot from the oven and the syrup will be super cold (it should have rested in room temperature at least for 3-4 hours until it is completely cold) or melomakarona can be cold and the syrup very warm. This is so that they can soak up all the syrup without breaking! Otherwise they will fall apart if you do not make sure that they are not both hot or cold!
6. There is a final process that some people do not know about.. it is called “meloma” in Greek and it is when you add honey on top of the super hot melomakarona after you have dipped them in the syrup. They way I do them with my dough at least and the most people I know do not need to dip the sweets more than 10-20secs in they syrup. I have cold syrup and very hot melomakarona always and I dip for around 15 mins because this way they hold very well.. they are super juicy but also do not break! You need to experiment a bit for that! So in fact I take them super hot directly from the oven and dip them for 15 secs in the the cold syrup (pressing on top of them so that they are fully covered at all times) and then I let them stand for a little while (it can be seconds or minutes but I do not let them stand much because I need them really hot still) in a place with holes (I really can not think of the English name right now but you get the point). Then I take a plate where I add some honey on its surface everywhere and then add the melomakarona everywhere one by the other, then add lots of honey again so that they are well covered (not covered as if filled with honey up to the top but as if you would add in a waffle..you get the point). This is “meloma”. It might look as if the honey is just sitting on top of the sweet but since it is hot in a few minutes (and this is even better the next days) the honey will just become like another syrup for melomakarono and sit perfectly all over since the syrup does not have enough thickness or honey for the name to stand really and for all the flavors to arise..! Try it and you will remember this crazy Greek person who wrote and essay in the blog.. lol! Then you can add if you want the walnuts and some people decide not to add them at all! It is a matter of choice! I personally love them!
These are my pieces of advice! I hope it will help someone who tries and keep failing and does not know the reason why!
Best of luck! Keep up the good work! Merry Christmas!!!
Oh Magda!!! Thank you SO much for these tips – you can’t imagine how much I appreciate them! You took so much time and care over this comment and I promise you I read it very carefully!
This is also perfect timing as I am going to make this year’s batch of cookies TODAY! I will try out some of your tips, and then I will amend my recipe accordingly. It’s very special to receive tips from someone like you who has been making these their whole life.
I LOVE melomakarona and hope that I will become as good as you at making them some day!
Thank you so much for the support and encouragement, and Merry Christmas! xx
Thank you for the recipe and the extra tips. I’m trying this week
Let me know how you get on, Magda! I think you’re going to love them!
One of my student said about this cookie in our class .As the recipe uses orange, lemon and honey I was motivated to try the recipe that I have never tasted in my life at all. Today I made my first batch of Greek specialty Christmas cookies following your recipe . It turned out to be good. This year’s season’s , baking started with Melomakarona. Following your recipe I got 70 numbers of cookies. Shared with my neighbors and they all liked it. Thanks again for the wonderful recipe! Even I went through Magda’s inputs . It helped.
I will share the cookies with my student from Greece to understand how it turned out to be!
Hi Femi! I’m so happy to hear that you liked these cookies. I look forward to making them every year, and as you say it’s great that the recipe makes enough to give to neighbours! I hope these become a recipe you come back to year after year.
Thank you for the encouragement!
Happy Christmas to you too!
Laurie L Short says
I made my first batch and oh.my! Need to make it again now that I have Magda suggestions. Easy to make
Amazing, aren’t they?! So glad you enjoyed them, Laurie! Are these going to become a Christmas classic, then?
Katrina Holley says
I am a little confused about this part of your recipe 🙂 is it 15 seconds or 15 mins?
They way I do them with my dough at least and the most people I know do not need to dip the sweets more than 10-20secs in they syrup. I have cold syrup and very hot melomakarona always and I dip for around 15 mins because this way they hold very well.. they are super juicy but also do not break! You need to experiment a bit for that! So in fact I take them super hot directly from the oven and dip them for 15 secs in the the cold syrup (pressing on top of them so that they are fully covered at all times) and then I let them stand for a little while (it can be seconds or minutes but I do not let them stand much because I need them really hot still) in a place with holes (I really can not think of the English name right now but you get the point).
I think it will be too difficult for me to have the cookies hot and the syrup cold so after I cool the cookies I will make the syrup and then do I dunk the cookies in the syrup and leave them there for 15 and then fish them out? I guess my fear is that they will
Hi Katrina! I usually dip my hot cookies into hot syrup for 15 to 20 seconds. I find that that’s enough to get them nice and juicy, especially if I pour any leftover syrup over the top before serving. I hope you enjoy them! Getting ready to make my first batch of the season here! 🙂
YUM!! These look incredible! I will be making them this weekend with my daughters who love to bake!!
So happy to hear this, Krissy! I think you’ll love them!
Susan Dubose says
I have never visited Greece but your instructions make me very interested in this. Maybe I will try this out. Thanks for the recipe.
Hi, Susan! Please do try these out. They’re addictive, last ages, and they’re also great to give as gifts. Let me know how you get on!
I would love to try these but we have someone with a nut allergy. What would you recommend as a substitute for the walnuts on top?
Hi Andrea! I’m so glad you’d like to try these! I’d say just don’t worry about the nuts on top. The recipe doesn’t depend on them. Just leave them out. The cookies will still be absolutely delicious! Good luck!
Sara Sterling says
This looks so delicious and I think I’ve had cookies like this at Greek festivals. I want to make them this weekend. I don’t see how the walnuts stick and stay on top. It seems like they’d just fall off. Is it crazy to put ground up walnuts in the cookie instead of on top?
Hi Sara, so happy you’re going to give these a whirl! Don’t worry about the walnuts sticking on. They do, because the cookies end up being quite sticky after you dip them in the syrup. Also, it doesn’t matter if a few of the chopped walnuts fall off the cookie (they will). If you have them all stacked on top of each other they’ll just fall onto another cookie. This is just how melomakarona are. All sticky and messy, and that’s fine. Just chop the walnuts quite finely in a food processor and sprinkle just a little onto the top of each cookie. You want just a hint of walnut crunch on the top.
I wouldn’t really advise adding the walnuts to the cookie dough because it might change the consistency of it. Also, I think the flavour would get lost. It’s just not necessary.
Give the cookies a go as they are and see what you think!!!
Sara Sterling says
You were right -the nuts just kind of stuck. So delicious. Thanks!
Awesome! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know. I’m so glad you like them!
Janette | Culinary Ginger says
I love everything about this, all my favorite textures and flavors. I think I’d make these anytime. Merry Christmas Helen.
Thank you! Hope you’re having a great holiday break too, Janette!
These sound amazing! I love baklava so I know I’d fall hard for these, too!!
I knew you’d appreciate these, Liz. Hope you have a great holiday!
These cookies are new to me, Helen. The flavor combination and texture are absolutely mouthwatering!
Thanks so much, Marissa. I hope you give them a go some time. I think you’d love them with your lean towards all things Southern Europe!
I’ve had these cookies at Greek festivals but have NEVER made them myself! Normally we make kourabiedes but I think we need to add these to the holiday list. These look so amazing Helen!
Hi Marcie. Thank you so much for popping by – it’s always lovely to hear from you and I must pop by your blog some time! I do like kourabiedes too (so pretty!) but I always found them a bit more hit and miss when I lived in Greece. I LOVED melomakarona and am so happy I’ve figured out how to make them taste the same as they always did in Greece.
Rosemary Large says
Love the “magic button’ – US/metric conversion! Cookies look very good will definitely have s go!
Magic button – great description! Yay! So glad you’re going to have a go at these, Rosemary. I really hope you like them as much as we do!