Koulourakia are traditional Greek Easter Cookies that are always made around this time of year! This simple recipe uses basic ingredients to create a buttery crisp cookie that is ideal for dunking in tea or coffee!
Koulourakia are traditional Greek cookies that are made during the Easter season in traditional Greek households. These cookies are crunchy, buttery and downright addictive. My recipe, based on my mom’s family recipe, is my absolute favorite. It produces delicious, dunkable cookies which pair perfectly with a cup of coffee.
Orthodox Easter is quickly approaching and we are in full on baking mode baking up these traditional Koulourakia as well as Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread. Easter is a big deal around here and is the biggest celebration of the year. These traditional recipes are made annually to enjoy on Easter Sunday as well as to gift to friends and families this season.
Since we bake these koulourakia cookies during lent, we have to hold off on enjoying them (they contain dairy and egg). It gets pretty hard to resist them since they smell so good but they are totally worth the wait for Easter Sunday! To get through the lenten period, I often make these Greek Olive Oil Cookies (Vegan) – Koulourakia Ladiou.
While this traditional recipe is made during the Easter season, it isn’t uncommon to see koulourakia made throughout the year. I mean, once you taste one, you’ll see why you would want to enjoy them any chance you get!
My recipe for Koulourakia
The recipe I am sharing with you today is a blend of old and new. It is based on my mom’s recipe for koulourakia with a few minor tweaks.
- I used baking powder instead of baking ammonia.
Traditionally, these cookies are made with baker’s ammonia (ammonium bicarbonate or ammonium carbonate) which is used as the leavening agent. This is not a common ingredient to use here in North America as baking powder or baking soda is the usual go-to for leavening. Ammonia is used in Greece (and other countries) for dried baked goods and it is the leavening agent my mom uses for her version of koulourakia.
Although I can find this in the ethnic aisle of local supermarkets, I decided to swap it out and replace it with baking powder instead. This is partly because baking powder is something readily available and also because I just don’t like the smell of ammonia when it is cooking!
2. I used butter where my mom uses a mix of butter and Crisco vegetable shortening.
I personally like the taste of an all-butter koulouraki. Crisco is often used because it gives the cookies a nice, crumbly texture. Both versions are delicious so if you would like to go with my moms method, swap half the butter for shortening.
With these tweaks, my Greek koulourakia turn into an easy recipe that can be made with simple ingredients you likely have on hand already.
Ingredients for Koulourakia- Greek Easter Cookies
- Sugar: regular granulated sugar.
- Butter: softened butter. My mom’s original recipe uses half butter and half vegetable shortening but I opt for an all-butter cookie. If you wish, you could replace half the butter with shortening.
- Eggs: Large eggs are used in this recipe. The egg whites and egg yolks are separated to make the cookie dough. An egg is also used to make an egg wash to brush the cookies.
- Vanilla extract: Adds flavor. Can also be replaced with vanilla powder.
- Baking powder: as mentioned above, many Greek recipes use ammonia as a leavener but I prefer to use baking powder; I personally cannot stomach the smell of ammonia as it bakes.
- Flour: all purpose flour.
- Sesame seeds: optional. These can be sprinkled on top of the cookies.
Note: Ingredient quantities and full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post.
How to make Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies) Dough
- Beat the butter and sugar: In a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), place the butter and beat for 1 minute. Add the sugar. Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Separate the eggs: Separate the egg whites and yolks. Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Add the wet ingredients: Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture. Add the milk and vanilla extract as well and blend until everything is incorporated, being careful not to over mix.
- Add the dry ingredients and egg whites: Mix the baking powder and flour together in a bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture and egg whites a little at a time, alternating between flour and egg whites until everything is incorporated [do not over mix- once everything is incorporated, stop mixing].
How to Form Koulourakia Cookies
You can form this traditional koulourakia recipe into different shapes including circular rings or “S” shapes. I opt for the traditional shape (a twisted or braided cookie) as you see in the photos. I personally think its the best way to make them and to me, its the fun part! To form the cookies, follow the instructions below:
- Roll the dough into a rope: Scoop out dough balls that are about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Roll the dough out into a 8-9 inch long rope (about 1/3 inch thick) on a clean, dry surface. If your dough is sticking to your surface, lightly flour it (but be careful not to add too much flour or you will dry out the dough).
- Fold and twist the cookies: Fold the rope in half and twist it 3 times (see photos in the blog post above to see how to do this). Place the cookies on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving a 2 inch space between them.
- Brush with an egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and the water to make the egg wash. Brush the cookies with the egg wash. If you want, you can also sprinkle on some sesame seeds.
- Bake: Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes or until they begin to turn golden brown. You will likely need to bake them in batches in about 3 cookie sheets since the recipe makes a lot of cookies – about 36 cookies (enough to enjoy and gift).
- Cool: Let the Greek butter cookies cool on the baking tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
How to store these cookies
Like many other cookie recipes, you can store these in an airtight container at room temperature. They will last for about a week (likely even longer) stored like this. For longer storage, you can also freeze these Greek biscuits and just thaw them when you wish to enjoy them.
I like to enjoy this traditional Easter cookie recipe with a cup of Greek coffee or afternoon tea! They are definitely a dunking type of cookie!
I hope you enjoy these delicious cookies as much as I do! They are the perfect treat to enjoy for Easter!
Wishing everyone celebrating Easter soon a Kali Anastasi!
Looking for more traditional Greek Easter recipes? Check out:
Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread
Tsoureki French Toast
Greek Lemon Potatoes (Patates Lemonates Recipe) (often part of our Easter Sunday Meal)
Tzatziki Sauce (to accompany the traditional lamb served for the Easter meal)
Authentic Pastitsio Recipe (we often serve it on Easter Sunday)
Taramosalata Recipe (enjoyed during lent)
You may also like these other traditional Greek Cookies:
Greek Olive Oil Cookies (Vegan) – Koulourakia Ladiou (unlike many other variations of koulourakia, this vegan one can actually be enjoyed during lent too!)
Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies)
Amygdalota Recipe (Greek Almond Cookies)
Recipe for Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)
Koulourakia – Greek Easter Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup butter softened
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract can also substitute vanilla powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
- sesame seeds optional, can be sprinkled on top of the cookies
- Preheat oven to 350F and line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper [I do this with 2 cookie sheets and then reuse one of the cookie sheets for a 3rd batch].
- In a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), place the butter and beat for 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Separate the egg whites and yolks. Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture. Add the milk and vanilla extract as well and blend until everything is incorporated, being careful not to overmix.
- Mix the baking powder and flour together in a bowl.
- Slowly add the flour mixture and egg whites a little at a time, alternating between flour and egg whites until everything is incorporated [do not overmix- once everything is incorporated, stop mixing].
- Scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough. Roll the dough out into a 8-9 inch rope (about 1/3 inch thick) on a clean, dry surface. If your dough is sticking to your surface, lightly flour it (but be careful not to add too much flour or you will dry out the dough).
- Fold the rope in half and twist it 3 times (see photos in the blog post above to see how to do this). Place the cookies on the cookie sheet, leaving a 2 inch space between them.
- In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and the water to make the egg wash. Brush the cookies with the egg wash. If you are using them, you can also sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of the cookies.
- Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes or until they begin to brown on the bottom (and lightly brown on top). Let them cool on the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
I’d wait to preheat the oven until after the cookies have been braided. This is a very time consuming process. The butter can’t get too warm. I’d also do a blend of salted and unsalted butter.
For the egg wash…use egg and milk. It sticks better.