Melomakarona: Authentic Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

Melomakarona, the most popular Greek Christmas Cookie! Juicy aromatic cookies with a hint of cinnamon and orange drenched in a honey syrup and topped crushed walnuts. Get the authentic step by step recipe for this juicy, decadent and delicious Greek Christmas honey cookie.

Best Melomakarona Recipe

While the white pretty kourabiedes are more of a fancy type of cookie, melomakarona (pronounced melomakárona) are the dark, decadent, succulent cookies, juicy and dripping honey all over the place. I love eating melomakarona. I actually feel good about it because they really represent what the Greek Mediterranean diet is all about: delicious food made with good-for-you ingredients.

What is a Melomakarono

Melomakarona are Greek cookies that are made from flour, olive oil, sugar and orange juice, drenched in honey and topped with walnuts. They are traditionally made during the Christmas holidays. The word melomakarona is pronounced meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah and comes from the word meli, which mean honey in Greek and makaria which means to bless as this type of cookie was used in various religious ceremonies in antiquity.
Melomakarona and Finikia
Some people use the 2 terms interchangeably depending where they are from, although there are differences. Finikia usually contain semolina, or may be fried or stuffed as opposed to melomakarona.

Nutritional Value of Melomakarona

Melomakarona are vegan(depending on if you consider honey vegan) and made with olive oil, honey, orange juice, and walnuts but also flour and sugar. So on the one hand, yes, these sweets have plenty of sugar, on the other hand the olive oil, the honey, the orange zest and the walnuts are all sources of antioxidants. Most importantly the fat from the melomakarono comes exclusively from olive oil. A multitude of studies have shown that olive oil protects from many chronic diseases due to the type of fat (monounsaturated) but also due to its antioxidant content. 

Calories in Melomakarona

Having said all this, I have to note that yes, melomakarona do have calories, more than the kourabie, but at least you can enjoy them knowing that you are doing a bit of good to your body. Be warned these cookies are rich, and they should be sweet, as with the kourabie, one is enough.

This is the authentic recipe my mother has been making for decades, made with olive oil and honey and we can’t resist them-they are so good!

Note: there are no vegetable oils in this recipe. Unfortunately, if you look at other so-called “traditional” recipes you will see corn oil or other vegetable oils present instead of olive oil, avoid them- as that is not traditional or authentic or healthy.

Melomakarona Ingredients

  • Dry Ingredients: We just use regular flour, sugar and baking powder and baking soda.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: It is very important that you use fresh olive oil. Any off taste or old olive oil will come out and ruin the flavour of these cookies.
  • Orange juice: I use fresh orange juice with no pulp
  • Cognac or brandy: This gives the melomakarona that special aroma, however if you wish to omit alcohol then just substitute with additional orange juice.
  • Honey: Ideally you want to use thyme honey. Most greek honey is thyme honey.

How to Make Melomakarona

In a large bowl mix the olive oil, cognac or brandy, orange juice, sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and orange peel. Set aside.

Best Melomakarona recipe

In another bowl sift flour and mix with the baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour gradually to the olive oil mixture, while stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not add all of it at once, stir with the spoon and add flour until you have soft and shiny dough, it should not be dry. Knead the dough just a bit until it comes together. Do not over knead.

How to make melomakarona

Roll into a large bowl cover with plastic and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Step by step melomakarona recipe

Roll the dough in little balls about the size of a walnut. Using your fingers press one side of the ball on a grater flattening like a small pancake and then fold over so that the cookie is in a oval shape, with the top having the design of the grater or you may pierce with a fork. This is done so that the honey will be better absorbed as opposed to just shaping the cookie in a solid oval shape.

Melomakarona step by step

Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for about 25 minutes. Until golden. Do not overbake otherwise they won’t absorb the syrup.

Melomakarona

Once all the cookies are baked, transfer to a large casserole dish and flip them so that the bottom part is facing up, let them cool down. You want to make sure they are cool before you pour the hot syrup on them. Start making the syrup once the cookies have cooled. * (Some people prefer to do the opposite: Make the syrup and let it cool off, than pour the syrup over hot cookies, instead of letting them cool down. However, this is usually done when the recipe also contains semolina-this one does not).

Melomakarona

For the syrup bring to a boil the honey, syrup and water and let it boil for 3 minutes. Remove the foam.

Melomakarona Recipe
Best melomakarona recipe

Once the syrup is boiled, while it is hot, pour it over the cookies, making sure all cookies are covered with syrup. Let the cookies sit for at least 2-3 hours with the top side facing down so that they absorb the syrup.

Greek melomakarona

In the meantime mix the walnuts with cinnamon.

Turn over on the melomakarona right side again, sprinkle the walnut mixture over the melomakarona.

How to make melomakarona

Place the melomakarona on a large platter.

Melomakarona Recipe

Storing Melomakarona

  • Melomakarona last a long time, at least 3 weeks. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. The more they sit the better they taste.
  • You may freeze them, but do that before adding the syrup. Just let the cookies cool completely and then store in airtight container for 6 months.

Make Ahead

You can make the cookies a day ahead. And the next day make the syrup and pour hot over the cold cookies.

Best Mediterranean Diet cookbook for beginners

You may also like these traditional sweets

Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Honey Cookies

Greek Christmas Honey Cookies-Melomakarona Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
A Greek traditional Christmas cookie. Made with honey and walnuts, Melomakarona are juicy and delicious and vegan.
Course: Dessert, holiday
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean, Vegan
Keyword: Melomacarona Greek honey cookies, Melomakarona, Recipe
Servings: 60 cookies
Calories: 200kcal
Author: OliveTomato.com
Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup cognac or brandy
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Orange zest from 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 7 ½ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the syrup

  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick

For the topping

Instructions

  • Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl mix the olive oil, cognac or brandy, orange juice, sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, ground clove and orange peel.
  • In another bowl sift flour and mix with the baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour gradually to the olive oil mixture, while stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not add all of it at once, stir with the spoon and add flour until you have soft and shiny dough, it should not be dry. Knead the dough just a bit until it comes together. Do not over knead. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
  • Roll the dough in little balls about the size of a walnut. Using your fingers press one side of the ball on a grater flattening like a small pancake or pierce with a fork and then fold over so that the cookie is in a oval shape, with the top having the design of the grater. This is done so that the honey will be better absorbed as opposed to just shaping the cookie in a solid oval shape.
  • Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for about 25-28 minutes. Bake the rest of the cookies.
  • Once all the cookies are baked, transfer to large casserole dish and flip them so that the bottom part is facing up, let them cool down completely.
  • For the syrup bring to a boil the honey, syrup, water, cinnamon stick and slice of lemon and let it boil for 5 minutes. Remove the foam.
  • Once the syrup is boiled, while it is hot, pour it over the cold cookies, making sure all cookies are covered with syrup. Let the cookies sit for at least 2-3 hours with the top side facing down so that they absorb the syrup * (Some people prefer to do the opposite: Make the syrup and let it cool off, than pour the syrup over hot cookies, instead of letting them cool down. Another way is to place the melomakarona in the pot with the syrup for a few minutes and removing them with a slotted spoon.)
  • Mix the walnuts with cinnamon turn over on the melomakarona right side again, sprinkle over the melomakarona.
  • Place the melomakarona on a large platter.

Notes

You can also substitute the orange juice and brandy with beer. Instead of using ½ cup brandy and ½ cup orange juice, use 1 cup beer.
Nutrition Facts
Melomakarona: Greek Christmas Honey Cookies
Serving Size
 
1 g
Amount per Serving
Calories
200
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Leave a comment or share on instagram and mention @greekdiet

SAVE FOR LATER AND PIN IT!

Melomakarona Greek Honey Cookie

Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

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21 Comments

  • Reply Connie December 11, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    Came out delicious!5 stars

  • Reply JohnS December 1, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    My wife doesn’t drink alcohol, nor can she have any citrus – alternative substitutions for brandy, cognac, beer, and orange juice? (We have successfully substituted champagne vinegar for lemon juice, if that gives you any ideas.) Thx!

    • Reply OliveTomato.com December 1, 2021 at 6:33 pm

      Hi John!
      You could try apple juice or alcohol free beer. Vinegar would not work in this case.

  • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN March 28, 2021 at 7:48 am

    Hi Tina, Yes it’s a rich recipe. Using butter would make it a completely different recipe so I wouldn’t recommend it. Olive oil is an important part of the flavor (and nutritional value), other oils would not provide that flavor or good fats but you could use it.

  • Reply John Fanella March 26, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    Update on my last negative review. The cookies did soften after sitting a while in the syrup. That definitely helped. My apologies for saying they were dry too quickly. Don’t eat them too quickly. They need time to soak and soften.

  • Reply Joanne December 7, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Very good recipe! Reminds me of my yiayias. Happy Holidays Elena5 stars

  • Reply Sofia December 28, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Great recipe! Reminds me of our yiayias. Thank you for sharing Elena.

    • Reply Barbara Witte January 1, 2019 at 2:36 pm

      I have always been reluctant to make these (Mom called them finikia) because of all that oil! But you made me feel so much better about it! We just need to control our rate of consumption. Thank you for sharing this recipe! Barbara Elefteriades Witte, Floria

  • Reply Nancy January 8, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    So is this recipe the same as the Finikia that I see at church festivals in America? Also, the recipe calls for olive oil – I presume you mean NOT extra virgin. Would I buy “light” olive oil?

    Also you might find it interesting, this video/article about the Mafia’s involvement in the Italian olive oil industry, from Dateline, and how most of the olive oil we receive in America from Italy is diluted with other oils, and other chemicals added. They call it Agro-Mafia.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-agromafia-food-fraud/

    I get more confused all the time, which olive oil will give me the non diluted, fresh benefits of hearth healthy olive oil. Are they only available in the olive oil boutiques? (I have one a mile away, and a couple more within 3-45 minutes away). Or are there grocery store brands that I can trust?

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-agromafia-food-fraud/

  • Reply Patt December 17, 2014 at 3:19 am

    I am not Greek but had a Greek landlady who gave me a recipe for the cookies she made every holiday. My recipe is a little different, having a walnut filled filling (mixed with a little syrup) in a spice laden cookie. My recipe is called Phoenikia. They are so similar to yours, I’m wondering if they are the same or are there really 2 different cookie recipes that are this similar?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN December 17, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Yes, they are definitely similar and more common in Northern Greece. Some Greeks consider them melomakarona as well with the main difference that in some recipes they fry them or they fill them (as is the case with the recipe you have).

  • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN January 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks Pauline! And Happy New Year!

  • Reply PAULINE GOULIONIS December 31, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    YOUR VASILOPITA RECIPE IS DELICIOUS! IT WAS EASY TO MAKE AND HAD MANY COMPLIMENTS!

  • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN December 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks Anna. Yes, these recipes are for the whole season, they would make a big batch and it lasted throughout New Year’s. You can even make smaller bite size servings as well. Good Luck!

  • Reply anna xanthacou December 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    The recipe sounds wonderful but a bit too big. Planning on halving the recipe as a starter and see if it passes my mother’s scrutiny. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Reply Gerry Valente October 8, 2017 at 10:52 pm

      Hi Anna, Did you go to Dawson?

  • Reply Dina Toulaki December 13, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Just a few words, to wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the upcoming New Year!!!!
    Both recipes are easy to make, so, bake and enjoy!!!!!!!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN December 13, 2012 at 8:38 am

      Happy Holidays to you too Dina!

      • Reply Evy December 17, 2021 at 6:34 am

        These sound delicious!
        Wondering what might work as a substitute for the nuts on the topping, my daughter has a nut allergy. Would pine nuts work? (Seeds are ok)

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