Melomakarona recipe (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)

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!

Melomakarona

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.

  1. Don’t overwork the dough
  2. Always dunk the hot Melomakarona in cold syrup
  3. Use semolina in the dough

Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)

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.

Melomakarona dough

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!

Chocolate covered Melomakarona (Greek Christmas honey cookies with chocolate)

Melomakarona variations

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!

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Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)

Melomakarona recipe (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 50 pieces 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek

Description

A traditional melomakarona recipe! These Greek Christmas honey cookies (melomakarona) are super quick to bake, so much fun to make and highly addictive!


Ingredients

Scale

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)

To garnish

  • 200g chopped walnuts (7 ounces, 1 2/3 cups)
  • powdered cinnamon (optional)
  • powdered clove (optional)


Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Prepare the dough for the melomakarona. In a bowl add the semolina, flour and baking powder and mix with a whisk to combine.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!!
  7. 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.
  8. 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!!
  9. Store the melomakarona at room temperature in an airtight container. They will keep for all your Christmas Holidays!


Nutrition

  • 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

Recipe image gallery:


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57 Comments

  1. Soulli Kleanthous

    How many does this make????

  2. Recipe didn’t work out for me. Dough too dry to work with, and did follow all instructions step by step…:(

    • Hi Rita, oh no, let me see what could have happened:

      1. Possibly the flour was sifted and then weighed? Should weigh the flour before sifting
      2. Used a mixer by any chance or kneaded the dough for too long? If yes, gluten has developed and made the dough hard / almost bread like.
      3. Did you use bread flour by any chance? Should be using normal, plain flour
      4. Possibly the cup was too small? It should be 250ml for a cup and if the dough feels a bit dry try adding a little extra oil mixture….

    • The dough needs more liquids. I use 1 and1/4 cups of orange juice and 1/2 cup of brandy in 3 pounds of flour. Yield 93 pieces.

    • Thank you very much, these turned out amazing. I hadn’t had melomakarona since I left Greece 10 years ago!

  3. Demetria Makarios

    Hi Eli Katerina – If I made these in the next few days 8th Dec would them keep until christmas or am I better to make them closer to the time?

    • Thats what I always do every year, make them about 2 weeks before Christmas and they are just fine for the whole holiday season. The problem is that they are never enough and they usually get eaten up pretty quickly!

      Love

      Eli

    • No it’s okay, they last a long time, also I’ve put them in the freezer before adding the honey, actually taste better ,when ready remove from freezer make syrup, make sure syrup is hot and dip each cookie in syrup

  4. For the butter do you use salted or unsalted butter ?

  5. I am having a hard time using the exact amount as is in the recipe because when I convert to cups it doesn’t give me the right amount…. Is there an easier way?

    • Carol Ann Speight

      In my 50 years + of baking I have found that a good kitchen scale is worth its value in gold for certain recipes! (I noted that your post was made in April 2015 BUT also noted that no one had responded!)

  6. This recipe is perfect, I used Kalymnian thyme honey and Iliada kalamata extra vergin olive oil… They were the best that ever came out of my oven. Instead of cognac I used grand marnier liqeur and I had fresh oranges, the ingredients really made the difference I think!

  7. Great recipe except I was left over with lots of syrup and 20 mins was a little too long for me. I think I will make half the amount of syrup next time. Left over syrup is my incentive to make another batch 🙂

  8. I made these on Saturday for our Greek Orthodox Easter, I doubled the recipe and made 65 good sized biscuits.
    These biscuits caused a stir in my family, first my daughter ate 3 before we ate, my brother in law said that they were the BEST melomakarona he has ever had and his mother is a fabulous baker, I ended up breaking two up over really good vanilla ice cream and mixing it through which was heavenly to eat.
    I did change the recipe slightly, I used olive oil, I didn’t use vegetable oil as most traditional Greek recipes never call for vegetable oil and next time I will use less than the 250ml stated. But in saying that, I thank you for sharing a beautiful recipe that will now continue down the generations to come!

  9. Barbara Hadjiapostolou

    I tried them and indeed very nice tasting. Dud not use olive oil because our variety in South Africa is not at all like the Greek ones in Greece and boy do I miss Greek honey! The best tasting honey around. Pity one cannot import Greek honey!

  10. Thank you! I found your veg moussaka recipe, loved it…now I see your Melamakarona look exactly like my yaya’s, tears in my eyes, I couldn’t find her recipe for so long. I’m so grateful ?

  11. Made this the other day. Simply amazing! Loved how soft and juicy these turned out to be!

  12. This is my first try of Melomacarona. The dough somehow became a bit runny. I added some more flour. It was still a bit runny but I shaped them with a bit of difficulty. I couldn’t even fork them. Anyways it turned out soooo well that all 45 cookies finished in 2 days. Maybe the oranges yielded a lot of juice. I wish the measurement was in cups.

    • Hi Hatice,

      It sounds like the liquids where a bit on the high side or the flour used was less absorbent than the one I made them with :). Its OK, measurements don’t need to be exact, just make sure the texture is right, similar to the photos I’ve got in the end of the recipe and they will turn out great!

      Best regards

      Eli

    • Deirdre Karambelas

      A digital scale is what you need. Metric is so much more precise. A cup of flour can vary by a LOT depending on things like how you scoop it into the cup, whether it’s been packed down in your container, or if you whisked it before measuring. Using a digital scale and measuring in grams means no confusion. You know you made the recipe the way the author intended. Also, if you want to double or halve the recipe, it’s a lot easier using metric.

      • Eli K. Giannopoulos

        I fully agree! Cups are useful for liquids but for solids, it can vary a lot, especially with flour!

  13. Hi, I made it for the first time. They are fabolous! I follow the reciepe and changed the orange juice with orange syrup, home made. Extra!

    • So glad you liked it Ula! Merry Christmas to you :)!

      • Thank you so much for the recipe!
        I cooked walnut sized cookies for 15 mins.. the bottoms were browned and the tops were slightly browning. Now that they are finished, I find the inside to be quite moist (which is great) however they seem almost not cooked! I’m not sure if they are meant to be an almost “uncooked” texture in the middle? I’ve never had them before!
        Thanks!

      • Eli K. Giannopoulos

        Hi Jasmine, the cookies meant to be soft in the middle due to the high oil content in the dough; they are not meant to be crunchy like your usual biscuits so from your comment I think you’re fine.

        Next time you make them though try using a higher rack setting in your oven and fan assist if available to get them to be more even in terms of colour.

        Ideally you need the top to be evenly light golden brown coloured and not pale. It takes roughly 15-20 minutes if your cookies are small, flat and pierced with a fork like the ones in my pictures 🙂

        Merry Christmas!
        Eli

  14. What can I use instead of honey to make them vegan friendly? 🙂

  15. Can someone please convert the ingredients into cups? ???? thanks!

  16. I’ve been making this recipe, every year, since 2015! Never failed me! It’s brilliant! Thanks a lot!

  17. Addie Toumazou

    So excited to use this recipe today. It was so well written and described. I believe it will turn out great.

  18. Katerina Maria Sophia

    I made this recipe last weekend and followed it exactly as it is written. Unfortunately many who tried my cookies complained the texture was grainy, almost like a sandy texture. I compared it to cornbread. Please give me advice on how to fix this. I used the fine semolina flour as well.

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      They may have needed a little bit longer in the syrup to soak it up and for the semolina to soften. Also possibly reduce the baking time just by a few minutes – the cookies need to be just about browned on the outside.

  19. Theodore

    Hi, I’m wondering how to use the “orange cut in half” for the syrup. Does that mean to juice a half an orange and use its juice in the syrup? Thanks.

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Its as simple as it sounds 🙂 Cut an orange in half and add the half orange in the syrup. Don’t juice it, peel it etc, just add it as it is.

  20. Mumtahinah Rashid

    I like it!! I love trying new types of food!

  21. Hi! If I omit the cognac does it make a difference? I will be making half of the recipe because 50 cookies are too many for my household! 🙂

  22. I tried this and I absolutely love this – thank you for sharing this! 🙂

    My only concern is that my cookies did not brown like the pictures in your recipe. I did bake them thoroughly as they did get slightly brown on the outside but not as dark as your image. Any tips on what could have caused that?

    For the soft flour I used cake flour because that’s the only soft flour I had on hand. Is it ok to use all purpose flour instead?

    Can I sub the vegetable oil with olive oil?

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Hey G

      Firstly, dont sub the veg oil with olive oil as they will become too heavy on the taste. Olive oil is very strong flavour wise.

      Flour wise, yes, of course, all purpose flour is perfect!

      Regarding the color, they should be a tiny bit brown when they come out of the oven and then when you dunk them in the syrup they will darken up like the images above 🙂

  23. Thank you for the wonderful recipe.
    Can I make the syrup the day before and leave it on the fridge for the night?
    Thanks for the help

  24. This is a wonderful recipe. Easy to follow, measurements are exact, and the end result is delicious! Thank you so much for sharing! Kala Christougenna!

  25. Please can you tell me: the Liquids (in this recepie) are measured in grams? Not in litres??? So we need 100g of orange juce – NOT 100 ml ?? This is very important please
    Thank You

  26. I loved this recipe! I am trying to recreate the cookies I remember from my childhood; my mother and yaya died when I was very young so I don’t have anyone to consult with! Their honey cookies were more dense and not as soft – I’m thinking maybe they used more semolina flour in them? Or is there another Greek cookie that is in a honey bath besides these? Thanks for your help!

    • Thank you very much, these turned out amazing. I hadn’t had melomakarona since I left Greece 10 years ago

  27. jim panagakis

    Best recipe ever! I took “soft flour” to mean cake flour, used fine semolina, weighed everything, fresh squeezed OJ. I love cooking with cognac, and I even put some in the cookies

  28. maria savva

    what can you add instead of cognac

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