This recipe for Kourabiedes is a family favourite producing the most delicious traditional Greek butter cookies. Easy to make, studded with roasted almonds and always a favorite during the Christmas season, although they are also enjoyed year-round!
In a Greek home, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until traditional Greek Christmas cookies are baked. It goes without question that Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies) and Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies) will make an appearance in Greek households this time of year and they are easily my favourite family tradition this time of year. And I, for one, look forward to making them (and devouring them) every year!
Every household has a favourite recipe and for me, that one is my mom’s. I remember making these cookies with her every holiday season and on other special occasions and now I continue the tradition in my own home.
These tender, buttery cookies melt in your mouth. They are also surprisingly easy to make and do not require too much time. Totally worth the effort, kourabiedes also keep for awhile meaning you don’t need to wait until the last minute (i.e. the day before) you intend to serve them. I love having these on hand, ready to serve up to surprise guests over the holidays!
If you haven’t had Kourabiedes before, chances are you have had similar cookies by a different name. Popular all around the world, these buttery cookies go by names such as Snowball Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes.
How a Recipe for Kourabiedes differs from similar cookies
As mentioned before, Kourabiedes cookies are similar to other cookies popular around the world. There are a few ingredients, however, that make these a bit different and distinctly Greek:
- Toasted Almonds: while many other versions include pecans as the nut of choice, kourabiedes are almost always made with toasted almonds
- Greek liquor: Metaxa (a Greek amber spirit similar to cognac or brandy), Mastixa, or ouzo are often incorporated into the dough and add to its delicious flavour
- Rose water or anthonero: Although typical in many kourabiedes recipes, my mom’s recipe doesn’t actually use anthonero (orange blossom water) or rose water. If you choose to use it, it is often sprayed onto the baked cookies before they are powdered with sugar.
How to shape your kourabiedes
Kourabiedes are traditionally made in two different shapes- round shapes (aka balls) or crescent shapes.
These cookies are made year-round but especially around Christmas time, so Christmas shapes can also be used. To do this, you roll out your dough into a thick rectangle and use cookie cutters to make them into whatever shape you like (e.g. Christmas trees, stars, etc).
I usually just opt for a ball shape as I like the snowball look, especially around Christmas time.
In order to keep them from flattening, be sure to keep your butter as cold as possible. If your kitchen is particularly hot, you may want to pop the dough into the fridge to ensure it stays cold. I typically find that I don’t need to do this in my own kitchen since the recipe comes together pretty quickly, but if you think your dough is getting too soft, don’t skip this step.
Ingredients in a recipe for kourabiedes
- butter, softened (unsalted butter)
- vegetable shortening (Crisco)
- large egg + large egg yolks
- vanilla extract (if you want to up the almond flavour, you can also try replacing this with almond extract instead)
- Ouzo, Metaxa or Mastixa liquor
- lemon juice
- all purpose flour
- icing sugar (aka confectioners’ sugar or powdered sugar)
- baking powder
- baking soda
- toasted almonds
- Optional: rose water (I don’t actually use this but it is part of traditional recipes)
Note: Ingredient quantities and full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Step by step guide to making kourabiedes
This recipe for kourabiedes requires only a handful of simple steps:
- Cream the butter and vegetable shortening together: this provides a nice, fluffy base for these tender cookies. I use a stand mixer to cream them together at low speed using the paddle attachment but a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer can be used as well.
- Add the wet ingredients: the eggs, vanilla, liquor and lemon juice get blended in.
- Mix in the dry ingredients: flour, icing sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
- Stir in the almonds: mix in the toasted almonds.
- Form the cookie balls: Use a cookie scoop to form small balls of cookie dough in order to get uniform sizes and roll out the cookie dough into balls, pressing down just a bit. Place the cookie balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Bake the cookies: These cookies require about 25 minutes to cook in a preheated oven until they are only slightly golden brown.
- Powder them: After cooling the cookies, sift powdered sugar over top. Use a generous amount of icing sugar on top of each cookie. [Note: If you are using rose water, spray the cookies with rose water just before adding the icing sugar.]
That’s it! They truly are easy to make! The hardest part is not eating them all up before you get to share them with friends and family!
How do you store kourabiedes?
Kourabiedes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you are stacking them and the powdered sugar looks a bit flattened, you can easily sift them with a bit more sugar before serving.
Kourabiedes can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container. Be sure to wrap the container up with some plastic wrap for good measure, to prevent any freezer burn. These cookies can be frozen with or without the icing sugar. If the icing sugar gets brushed off, just dust them with more after you thaw them and they will look as good as new.
Kourabiedes and other delicious Greek holiday treats
These kourabiedes are the perfect holiday treat for this time of year and we make plenty of them to allow for us to satisfy our sweet tooth and still have lots to share with our family and friends. In addition to these cookies, Melomakarona (Greek Christmas Honey Cookies) are an absolute must on our cookie trays.
Don’t forget to also check out my Vasilopita (Greek New Years Cake) to help ring in the New Year!
I hope you enjoy this family recipe! Happy Holidays!
Looking for other Greek recipes? You may also like:
If you try and enjoy this recipe, I would love to hear about it! Leave a rating and/or comment below to let me know what you think!
Recipe for Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (if you want to up the almond flavour, you can use almond extract as well)
- 3 tablespoons Ouzo, Metaxa or Mastixa liquor
- 1/4 lemon juiced
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup icing sugar (aka confectioners sugar or powdered sugar)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- additional icing sugar for powdering
- 1 tablespoon rose water (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter and vegetable shortening until light and fluffy. [Note: I use a stand mixer but a hand mixer can be used as well.]
- Add the egg, egg yolks, vanilla extract, lemon juice and liquor and blend until incorporated.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, icing sugar, baking powder and baking soda. With the stand mixer running on low, slowly add the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Add the almonds and mix in.
- Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop out batter and roll them into a ball. Arrange the cookie balls onto a baking sheet leaving enough space for them to expand as they bake. Press down very lightly to flatten them out just a little.
- Bake until they begin to brown underneath and get a very light golden colour, about 25-28 minutes.
- Allow the cookies to cool on the rack for 5-10 minutes. Gently place cookies in a dish sprinkled with icing sugar and sift with more icing sugar until they are well covered. [If using rose water, spray the cookies with rose water just before adding the icing sugar.]