Melomakarona – traditional Greek Christmas honey cookies are flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and orange, soaked in honey syrup, and topped with crushed walnuts.
Christmas wouldn’t be, well, Christmas, without Melomakarona. Melomakarona are my ABSOLUTE favorite Christmas cookie. Every year, I look forward to these delicious cookies, and after you try them, you will too!
What Are Melomakarona?
Melomakarona (sometimes called Finikia) are traditional Greek Christmas cookies which are flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and orange. After baking, they are soaked in an aromatic honey syrup and topped with crushed walnuts. There are many different versions of this classic recipe. These cookies are naturally egg free, but some recipes call for a combination of butter and oil while others use only oil. The recipes using only oil make Melomakarona ideal for the Greek Orthodox Nativity Fast (eggs free & dairy free). My recipe calls for some butter, but it can be substituted with oil to make the cookies dairy free (see notes*).
Melomakarona are traditionally an oval shape, and some people stuff them with walnuts or dates. I prefer mine plain. And cut into festive shapes – like trees, stars, snowflakes. You can even do mini gingerbread men!
These cookies keep very well for a few weeks (if you can resist eating them all), and their taste actually improves over time as all of the spices and flavors soak together.
Making Melomakarona may seem intimidating and like a lot of work, but with a little bit of planning and organization, they come together in a breeze. Let’s break these Christmas cookies down into three components:
- Cookies: The cookies alone are not too sweet and are flavored with cinnamon, ground cloves, and orange. The dough is simple to make and doesn’t require any fancy equipment.
- Honey Syrup: The honey syrup is what makes Melomakarona so special. It is a quick simple syrup that is flavored with orange rind, cinnamon stick, and cloves. The syrup can be made ahead of time, but make sure to heat it back up before soaking your cookies.
- Crushed Walnuts: The crushed walnut topping adds the perfect crunch to the soft cookies. It is a mixture of walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.
The ingredients that you need to make melomakarona are pretty simple. They are made with pantry staple ingredients you probably already have on hand!
- Unsalted Butter
- Vegetable Oil
- Orange Juice
- Orange Zest
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
How To Make Melomakarona
Step One: Prepare the dough.
To make the dough, beat the butter, oil, sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and spices. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and then slowly add them into the wet ingredients. You may not need to use all of the flour that the recipe calls for. Once you have a soft dough that is easy to shape and is not sticky, stop adding flour.
Step Two: Shape melomakarona and bake.
Next, it is time to form the cookies. You can either roll the dough into oval or round shaped cookies, or roll it out with a rolling pin and use cookie cutters to form your cookies. Please note that the baking time will change depending on how you shape your cookies. Oval and round cookies will require a slightly longer baking time.
Step Three: Make the syrup.
While the cookies are baking, make the syrup. To make the syrup, combine all of the ingredients into a medium heavy bottom saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside until you are ready to use.
Once the cookies are golden brown with slightly crisp edges, remove them from the oven and immediately soak them in the syrup. Work in batches (3-5 cookies at a time) and allow the cookies to soak for about 30 seconds. (If you are doubling this recipe, you can soak 6-8 cookies at a time in a large heavy bottom saucepan). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cookies to a tray or platter.
Step Five: Top with crushed walnuts.
Once all of your cookies have finished their syrup bath, top them with crushed walnuts. In a bowl, mix together walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Sprinkle the mixture over the soaked cookies and enjoy!!
Frequently Asked Questions
Melomakarona freeze well! To freeze, store them in a freezer-safe container in layers lined with parchment paper. When ready to enjoy, remove the cookies from the freezer and let thaw at room temperature. Melomakarona will keep for up to a year in the freezer.
More Christmas Recipes You’ll Love!
Melomakarona – Greek Honey Spice Christmas Cookies
- 1 cup butter melted
- 1 1/2 cups oil safflower, canola, or a light olive oil work great
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice freshly squeezed, or bottled
- zest from 2 oranges
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground cloves
- 10 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 3 cups water
- rind from 1 orange
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 8-10 whole cloves
- 2 cups walnuts
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Add melted butter, oil, and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer or with a whisk until combined. Mix in orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, and ground cloves.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking power, and baking soda. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, a cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. NOTE: You many not need to use all of the flour. Once the dough is easy to handle and holds its shape, stop adding flour.
- Shape cookies, by rolling out dough and using a cookie cutter to cut out cookies, or shape into 2-inch ovals. Place cookies on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake 30-40 minutes, depending on size of cookies, or until golden brown.
- While cookies are baking, prepare the syrup. Add sugar, honey, water, orange rind, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves into a large heavy bottom saucepan over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Remove and discard the rind, cinnamon stick, and cloves just before you are ready to soak the cookies.
- When ready, remove cookies from oven, and immediately place in warm syrup. Work in batches of 6-8 cookies at a time and allow to soak about 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove cookies from syrup and transfer them onto a tray or platter.
- To make the walnut topping, pulse the walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer walnuts to a bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Mix to combine. Sprinkle cookies with walnut mixture and enjoy!