Making these sweet little Greek honey cookies always makes me realize that it’s Christmas time! Melomakarona are one of the most popular treats in Greece during the Christmas Holidays with their intense homely smell full of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg making every house smelling like Christmas!
These sweet little Greek honey cookies (melomakarona) are super quick to bake, so much fun to make and highly addictive! My traditional Greek melomakarona recipe makes 50 of these delicious, festive Greek Christmas cookies, plenty for everyone to try.
So go ahead, read on to discover how to make my traditional Melomakarona to perfection with my tips and tricks, step by step photos, my chocolate variation, how to store and serve them and of course the recipe!
Melomakarona recipe – A delicious Greek Christmas tradition
As with most holidays in Greece, Greek Christmas also revolves around food! This means that these are these festive days of the year to make all these traditional Greek recipes, like kourabiedes (almond and butter biscuits), vasilopita (Greek New Years cake), diples (Greek Christmas fried pastry with honey), Christopsomo (Christmas Bread with walnuts) and of course these amazing sweet little honey cookies, the traditional Greek melomakarona!
Melomakarona are my absolute favourite Greek Christmas cookies. And how couldn’t they be? These cookies are incredibly soft, moist, flavorsome, and soaked in a delicious honey syrup. Once baked, the intense aromas of the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg spread throughout the house and bring back plenty of fond childhood memories!
What does “melomakarono” mean?
Melomakarona (μελομακάρονα) are traditional Greek Christmas cookies, that are served during Christmas time throughout Greece. The word “melomakarona” is a combination of the two words “meli”, which means honey and “makarona”. “Makarona” comes from the ancient word “makaria” and means blessed.
In the olden days, Melomakarona used to be served on the lead up to Christmas as a Lenten “kerasma” (treat) to enjoy during fasting. Since they have no egg or dairy, Melomakarona are vegan and perfect if you are fasting or are on a vegan diet!
Finally, in some regions of Greece “melomakarona” are also called “finikia”. The traditional recipe for melomakarona and finikia is pretty much the same, with the only difference that finikia are deep fried instead of baked.
How to make the best Greek Christmas honey cookies / Melomakarona?
Making traditional Greek Melomakarona is not difficult at all, but you must pay attention to the following little details.
- Don’t overwork the dough
- Always dunk the hot Melomakarona in cold syrup
- Use semolina in the dough
Preparing the Melomakarona dough
When preparing the Melomakarona dough, it is important not to overwork it. If you mix the dough for too long it will cause the oil to separate from the mixture and result in a cookie that has a very oily taste. Just knead lightly with your hands or a spoon until the flour has incorporated and the dough is really soft.
Also always make and bake your Melomakarona on the same day. If you store the dough in the fridge to bake later, the oil will also separate from the mixture. So set aside about 1 hour, get your melomakarona ingredients ready and let’s bake!
Finally, don’t add any more flour than this melomakarona recipe calls for, as this will make the cookies tough. If the dough is too sticky let it rest for a few minutes and try handling it again. If it is still too sticky, then add a little bit of extra flour. Take a look at my picture below, which shows what the dough texture should be.
Dunking your Melomakarona in the syrup
The fragrant syrup is the essence of Melomakarona. To make sure your Melomakarona soak the syrup all the way in, you need to dunk the piping hot Melomakarona, straight from the oven in a cold or room temperature syrup. This will help the cookies to absorb the syrup and become moist on the inside.
So always start by making your syrup first. When the syrup is ready, take it off the hob and let it cool down. Then start making your Melomakarona dough. That way it will have cooled down by the time your first batch of Melomakarona is ready.
If you are in a hurry, you can put the syrup in the fridge to cool down, while you are preparing the dough for the melomakarona. Just make sure you place your syrup pot on an oven mitt so your fridge shelves don’t crack!
Finally, you’ll need to soak your melomakarona in the syrup for long enough for the syrup to soak through. If you love your Melomakarona juicy and moist, let them soak up a bit more syrup up – 20 seconds in the syrup should do it! To speed up the dunking, bake them in batches so when one cooks the other is dunked in the honey syrup.
Semolina – the secret ingredient to juicier Melomakarona
Have you ever wondered why some Melomakarona are juicier while others taste more like biscuits? It’s because the juicier Melomakarona have some fine semolina in the dough!
Semolina is made from ground up durum wheat and has a very high water absorption ratio. No wonder it is used to make pasta, couscous as well as the traditional Greek halva (semolina cake).
So adding some semolina to the melomakarona mixture will ensure that the dough is more absorbent and will soak up and retain a lot more of the honey syrup. This will make your melomakarona deliciously soft on the inside while also slightly crunchy on the outside!
My favourite variation to the traditional Melomakarona, are Melomakarona covered in chocolate! The bitterness of the chocolate perfectly complements the sweetness of the Melomakarona and makes them even more irresistible! So, if you have a knack for chocolate these are made for you!
Keeping your Melomakarona fresh – How long will they keep?
If want to bake a large batch of Melomakarona or want to have some around for your guests this holiday season you are in luck!
As the honey in the syrup has antimicrobial properties, melomakarona will keep fresh for around 2-3 weeks if stored properly. Just make sure you store them in an airtight container and at room temperature.
So go ahead, try out my traditional Greek melomakarona recipe together with a cup of Greek coffee and let the smell of freshly baked cookies, orange, clove, and cinnamon remind you it’s Christmas! Enjoy!Print
A traditional melomakarona recipe! These Greek Christmas honey cookies (melomakarona) are super quick to bake, so much fun to make and highly addictive!
For the melomakarona
- 150g fine semolina (5.3 ounces, half a cup)
- 500g flour (soft) (17.6 ounces, 4 cups)
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 100g orange juice (3.5 ounces, 1/3 cups)
- 3 tbsps cognac
- 100g sugar (3.5 ounces, 1/3 cups)
- 1 flat tbsp powdered cinnamon
- 1/3 tsp nutmeg (powder)
- 1/3 tsp clove (powder)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tbsp baking soda
- 90g water (3.2 ounces, 1/3 cups)
- 125g olive oil (4.4 ounces, 1/2 cups)
- 125g vegetable/sunflower oil (4.4 ounces, 1/2 cups)
- 50g honey (1.8 ounces, 3 tbsp)
- zest of 2 oranges
For the syrup
- 300g water (10 ounces, 1 1/4 cups)
- 600g sugar (20 ounces, 2 3/4 cups)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 orange, cut in half
- 200g honey (7 ounces, 10 tbsp)
- 200g chopped walnuts (7 ounces, 1 2/3 cups)
- powdered cinnamon (optional)
- powdered clove (optional)
- To prepare this melomakarona recipe start by making the syrup first. In a pot add all the ingredients for the syrup, besides the honey and bring to the boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and remove from the stove. Stir in the honey and set aside to cool completely.
- Prepare the dough for the melomakarona. In a bowl add the semolina, flour and baking powder and mix with a whisk to combine.
- In another large bowl add the orange juice, the cognac, the sugar and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, vanilla) and mix. Add the baking soda and whisk immediately for 5-10 seconds until the ingredients combine and the baking soda dissolves and starts to foam. Pour in the bowl the water, the oil, the orange zest and honey and whisk to combine.
- Now it’s time to combine the two mixtures. Add the mixed flour, semolina and baking powder (from step 2) in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients from step 3 and start kneading the dough for the melomakarona. Knead the dough for the melomakarona using your hands, until the ingredients combine and the dough is smooth and soft and slightly sticky. Be careful not to overwork the dough as they will become tough.
- Preheat the oven at 180C / 356F. Layer the bottom of 4 large baking trays with parchment paper and start shaping the melomakarona. Pinch a portion of dough about the size of a walnut – 30g / 1oz and shape with your palms into a smooth oblong shape, like a small egg. Place on the baking tray, push lightly the top with a fork and pierce three times on top about half way through the dough. Continue with the rest of the dough.
- Depending on how large on oven you have when your first two trays are ready you can start baking them. Place the baking trays with the melomakarona in the oven and bake for approx. 15-20 minutes, until the melomakarona are lightly and evenly browned and cooked through. If you’ve made them bigger, you’ll need to bump up the cooking time!!
- When the melomakarona come out of the oven, dip them immediately in the cold syrup, flipping them with a slotted spoon to absorb the syrup for approx. 10-20 seconds, depending on how syrupy you like them. Remove the cookies using a slotted spoon, place on a platter and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
- While you are dipping your first couple of tray in the syrup add the next two in the oven to bake. Don’t forget to set your timer!!
- Store the melomakarona at room temperature in an airtight container. They will keep for all your Christmas Holidays!
- Serving Size: 1 piece
- Calories: 195kcal
- Sugar: 20.4g
- Sodium: 39.4mg
- Fat: 7.6g
- Saturated Fat: 2.6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 4.5g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 31.2g
- Fiber: 0.9g
- Protein: 2.1g
- Cholesterol: 0m
Keywords: Melomakarona, Greek Christmas cookies, Greek honey cookies, Finikia