Maamoul Recipe (Middle Eastern Cookies with Dates or Nuts)

5 from 10 votes
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Maamoul cookies are sweet, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth Middle Eastern cookies with dates or pistachio/walnut fillings. They are perfect for enjoying at Easter and Eid celebrations or year-round!

Maamoul cookies in different shapes on a tray

What is Maamoul?

Ma’amoul (also spelled m’aamoul and m’amul, meaning “filled”/”stuffed”) is a popular Middle Eastern cookie. It has a buttery shortcrust dough often made with semolina flour (as I have here). And it is filled with dates (or figs) or nuts, like pistachios and walnuts. They come in several shapes thanks to special wooden maamoul molds (called “table”). But they can also be made into balls or as flattened cookies.

They are particularly associated with Easter holidays, Eid (following Ramadan), and iftar, perfect for sharing with friends and family. However, they can be enjoyed year-round.

Within this maamoul recipe post, I’ve included the instructions to make the traditional maamoul with dates as well as pistachio maamoul and maamoul with walnuts. The ingredients are simple, inexpensive, and easy to prepare, no matter which you choose.

Maamoul cookies on a tray with some of them half eaten

Once baked, enjoy the maamoul cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar alongside a cup of tea or black coffee!

The Ingredients

This maamoul recipe contains just a handful of ingredients and three potential fillings for either date maamoul, maamoul pistachio, or walnut maamoul!

The Maamoul Cookie Dough

  • Flour: I use all-purpose flour, though it’s also possible to use a 50/50 blend of regular AP and white whole wheat pastry flour.
  • Semolina: you’ll need both fine semolina and coarse semolina for the cookies.
  • Ghee/butter: you can use either, though I love the nuttier flavor of the (homemade) ghee.
  • Milk powder: I use homemade milk powder, but store-bought will work too.
  • Water: to bring the dough to the correct consistency.
  • Powdered sugar: you could also make your own by grinding the granulated sugar in a coffee/spice grinder. For less sugar, use a sugar-free alternative like powdered erythritol.
  • Kaak spice: refer to the add-ins section below for alternatives. This spice mix contains anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, sesame seeds, cloves, and black caraway seeds for aromatic maamoul cookies.
Ingredients for maamoul cookies

Date Maamoul Filling

  • Dates: use soft Medjool dates for the best flavor and texture in the date maamoul. Other dates will work, but will probably need to be soaked first. Alternatively, you could use store-bought/homemade date paste.
  • Butter/oil: this will help smooth out the paste and make it easier to roll. Use any neutral oil (vegetable, etc.).

The Nut Fillings

  • Walnut maamoul: for walnut maamoul, you’ll need a combination of walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar syrup (homemade or store-bought; check the FAQs for alternatives).
  • Pistachio maamoul: for pistachio maamoul, you’ll need pistachios, cardamom, and sugar syrup (homemade or store-bought; check the FAQs for alternatives).

Optional Add-ins and Variations

  • Vanilla extract: add a small amount of (homemade) vanilla extract to the dough for extra flavor.
  • Almond extract: a few drops added to the maamoul dough tastes wonderful.
  • Anise: a small amount of anise would work well within the maamoul with dates.
  • Rose water: a small amount (1-2 Tbsp) of rosewater can be added to either the maamoul dough or the fillings.
  • Orange blossom: instead of rose water, you could use orange blossom water.
  • Mahlab: mahlab is a popular addition to maamoul cookies. The spice is made from ground cherry pits with a cherry-almond-anise-like aroma/flavor. Almond extract and anise are sometimes added as replacements.
  • Ginger: a small amount of finely chopped crystallized ginger added to the maamoul with walnuts is a popular addition in Turkey. It will also work with the date filling too, though.
  • Vegan: you could try the recipe with dairy-free milk powder and butter (or use coconut oil). I haven’t tried this yet, so I can’t guarantee the results.

How to Make Maamoul Cookies?

Step 1: Prepare the fillings

Date filling: add all the date filling ingredients to a small food processor and grind into a paste consistency. (Check the FAQs for an alternative method.)

Steps for making date filling for cookies

If you aren’t using Medjool dates, you will probably need to soak the dates first. Simply cover them with hot water in a bowl and leave to soak for 10 minutes.

Then, divide the mixture into 1 ½ tablespoon-sized portions and make them into balls. Then transfer them to the refrigerator.

This mixture will be sticky. It may be helpful to slightly oil your hands OR use kitchen gloves while rolling.

Date cookie filling shaped into balls

Nut fillings: in a food processor, roughly process the nut of choice until slightly chunky. Then mix in the spices and sugar syrup and pulse until combined. Separate into 1 ½ tablespoon portions of the walnut/pistachio filling, shape into balls, and then set aside or refrigerate.

Step 2: Prepare the Maamoul Dough

First, sift the flour in a large bowl. Then mix in the semolina and ghee, mixing with your hands. After a while, the semolina will soften as it soaks up the ghee.

Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in the fridge to rest for at least 3 hours or overnight (8-10 hours). It’s best to gently stir the mixture every few hours, too (if possible).

Steps for mixing flour semolina and ghee

The following day, add the kaak spice, milk powder, and powdered sugar. Then gradually add water, just a tablespoon at a time, until a dough that holds together is formed.

Step 3: Assemble the Cookies

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC.

Scoop around two tablespoons of the dough at one time. Form it into a ball shape, then flatten the dough ball and hold it in the palm of your hand to form a “well.”

Press your filling of choice in the well and then carefully close it by bringing the edges of the dough together and sealing. Then smooth it out with your fingers.

Transfer the dough to your wooden mold of choice and press gently, but enough to take the shape well. Alternatively, use a fork to make your own patterns by hand. To remove it from the mold, tap it hard against your kitchen counter. Then repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Steps for making maamoul cookies with a mold

Adding a small amount of flour to the mold or using a layer of plastic wrap can make it easier to remove each cookie from the mold.

Step 4: Bake Them

Transfer the filled maamoul cookies to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with 1-2 inches of space between each cookie.

Then bake for between 20-25 minutes until the maamoul cookies are lightly golden.

Move the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool, then dust over some icing sugar and enjoy! I love mine with a cup of tea or black coffee.

Freshly baked maamoul cookies on a baking tray

How to Make Ahead and Store?

Make ahead: the flour, semolina, and ghee mixture can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before continuing with the recipe. All the fillings can be prepared and shaped 2-3 days in advance, too.

Store: store the cookies in an airtight container on the kitchen counter for 3 days for the best flavor. You can also store them for up to 2 weeks (in the refrigerator).

Freeze: flash freeze the cookies on a baking tray. Then transfer them to an airtight container/Ziplock bag and store them in the freezer for 2 months. Allow them to thaw either on the counter and optionally even lightly warm them in the oven before re-serving.

FAQs

Where to buy maamoul molds?

They will be available in many Middle Eastern stores or online. I’ve even found them on Amazon.

Can I make these gluten-free?

I’ve never tried it, though it may work with a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (like Bob’s Red Mill). Let me know in the comments if you try.

Why are the maamoul cookies cracked?

This is usually either because you’ve overworked the dough, not allowed it to rest for long enough, or have overstuffed the cookies.

Can I substitute the sugar syrup?

Using a strained jam (like apricot jam) in place of the syrup within the pistachio and walnut fillings is possible.

Can I make the date paste without a food processor?

While it’s possible to finely chop the dates and grind them with a mortar and pestle, the process is slow and takes a lot of arm power. So instead, boiling the dates until soft will make them a lot easier to grind into a “jammy” consistency.

Homemade maamoul cookies on a tray

Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Don’t overstuff maamoul: otherwise, they’re more likely to crack while baking.
  • Molds come in different sizes: I used a larger one. Smaller ones will require only around a Tbsp of the dough and 1- 1 ½ tsp of the date/pistachio/walnut filling.
  • Use different molds per filling: this will help you tell them apart. In fact, commercially, different shapes are used to signify different fillings. For example, round with a flat top is often date maamoul, a cone shape it maamoul with walnuts, and oblong are pistachio maamoul. You can use whichever shapes you prefer, though.
  • Avoid overworking the dough: as we’re using wheat flour, the gluten can become overworked. This is why we deal with it over several hours and rub the ingredients into the dough rather than kneading it. That way, you’ll end up with wonderfully crumbly, tender maamoul cookies.
  • Don’t skip the chilling stage: this helps make the dough easier to work with and form and prevent cracking while the cookies bake.

More Middle Eastern Sweets

If you try this Middle Eastern/Lebanese maamoul recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Maamoul Recipe (Middle Eastern Cookies with Dates or Nuts)

5 from 10 votes
By: Samira
Maamoul cookies are sweet, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth Middle Eastern cookies with dates or pistachio/walnut fillings. They are perfect for enjoying at Easter and Eid celebrations or year-round!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 55 minutes
Servings: 20 cookies

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

For the cookie dough (for 15-20 cookies)

  • 1 cup flour all purpose or 50/50 blend AP and white whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 cups fine semolina
  • 2 cups coarse semolina
  • 2 cups ghee or melted butter; use dairy-free butter/coconut oil for vegan
  • 2 Tbsp milk powder or dairy-free milk powder
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2.5 tsp kaak spice ½ tsp of each: fennel seed powder, cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, ginger powder, anise seed powder
  • 1 Tbsp water added a little at a time – only use as much as is needed

For dates cookies (for 5-7 cookies)

  • 1 cup Medjool dates or use homemade date paste.
  • 1.5 Tbsp butter any neutral oil like vegetable oil

For walnut cookies (for 5-7 cookies)

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar syrup

For pistachio cookies (for 5-7 cookies)

  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar syrup

Check the Notes section below for optional add-ins and variations!

    Instructions 

    Step 1: Prepare the Fillings

    • Date filling: add all the date filling ingredients to a small food processor and grind into a paste consistency. (Check the FAQs for an alternative method.)
      If you aren't using Medjool dates, you will probably need to soak the dates first. Simply transfer them to a bowl, cover them with hot water, and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
      Then, divide the mixture into 1 ½ tablespoon-sized portions and make them into balls. Then transfer them to the refrigerator.
      This mixture will be sticky, so it may be helpful to slightly oil your hands OR use kitchen gloves while rolling.
    • Nut fillings: In a food processor, roughly process the nut of choice until slightly chunky. Then mix in the spices and sugar syrup and pulse until combined.
      Separate into 1 ½ tablespoon portions of the walnut/pistachio filling, shape into balls, and then set aside or refrigerate.

    Step 2: Prepare the Maamoul Dough

    • Sift the flour in a large bowl. Then mix in the semolina and ghee, mixing with your hands. After a while, the semolina will soften as it soaks up the ghee.
    • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in the fridge to rest for at least 3 hours or overnight (8-10 hours). It’s best to gently stir the mixture every few hours, too (if possible).
    • The following day, add the kaak spice, milk powder, and powdered sugar, and then gradually add water, just a tablespoon at a time until a dough that holds together is formed.

    Step 3: Assemble the Cookies

    • Preheat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC.
    • Scoop around two tablespoons of the dough at one time and form it into a ball shape, then flatten the dough ball and hold it in the palm of your hand to form a "well."
    • Press your filling of choice in the well and then carefully close it by bringing the edges of the dough together and sealing. Then smooth it out with your fingers.
    • Transfer the dough to your wooden mold of choice and press gently, but enough to take the shape well, OR use a fork to make your own patterns by hand. To remove it from the mold, tap it hard against your kitchen counter. Then repeat with the remaining ingredients.
      Adding a small amount of flour to the mold or using a layer of plastic wrap can make it easier to remove each cookie from the mold.

    Step 4: Bake Them

    • Transfer the prepared maamoul cookies to a parchment paper-lined baking tray, with 1-2 inches of space between each cookie.
    • Transfer the tray/s to the oven and bake for between 20-25 minutes until the maamoul cookies are lightly golden.
    • Transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool, then dust over some icing sugar and enjoy! I love mine with a cup of tea or black coffee.

    Make-Ahead and Store

    • Make ahead: The flour, semolina, and ghee/butter mixture can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before continuing with the recipe. Likewise, all the fillings can be prepared and shaped 2-3 days in advance, too.
      Store: Store the maamoul cookies in an airtight container on the kitchen counter for 3 days for the best flavor. However, you can often store them for up to 2 weeks (in the refrigerator).
      Freeze: First, flash freeze the cookies on a baking tray, transfer them to an airtight container/Ziplock bag, and store them in the freezer for 2 months. Allow them to thaw either on the counter and optionally even lightly warm them in the oven before re-serving.

    Notes

    • Don’t overstuff maamoul: Otherwise, they’re more likely to crack while baking.
    • When rolling the date paste: Using some oil or kitchen gloves can help avoid too much sticking to your palms/fingers.
    • Molds come in different sizes: I used a larger one. Smaller ones will require only around a tbsp of the dough and 1- 1 ½ tsp of the date/pistachio/ walnut filling.
    • Use different molds per filling: This will help you tell them apart. In fact, commercially, different shapes are used to signify different fillings. For example, round with a flat top is often date maamoul, a cone shape it maamoul with walnuts, and oblong are pistachio maamoul. You can use whichever shapes you prefer, though.
    • Avoid overworking the dough: As we’re using wheat flour, the gluten can become overworked – which is why we deal with it over several hours and rub the ingredients into the dough rather than kneading it. That way, you’ll end up with wonderfully crumbly, tender maamoul cookies.
    • Don’t skip the chilling stage: This helps make the dough easier to work with and form and prevent cracking while the cookies bake.

    Optional Add-ins and Variations
    • Vanilla extract: Add a small amount of (homemade) vanilla extract to the dough for extra flavor.  
    • Almond extract: A few drops added to the maamoul dough tastes wonderful.
    • Anise: A small amount of anise would work well within the maamoul with dates.
    • Rose water: A small amount (1-2tbsp) of rosewater can be added to either the maamoul dough or the fillings.
    • Orange blossom: Instead of rose water, you could use orange blossom water.
    • Mahlab: Mahlab is a popular addition to maamoul cookies, but one I’ve actually never tried. The spice is made from ground cherry pits with a cherry-almond-anise-like aroma/flavor (which is why almond extract and anise are sometimes added as replacements).
    • Ginger: A small amount of finely chopped crystallized ginger added to the maamoul with walnuts is a popular addition in Turkey. It will also work with the date filling too, though.
    • Vegan: You could try the recipe with dairy-free milk powder and butter (or use coconut oil), though I haven’t tried, so I can’t guarantee what the results would be.

    READ THE BLOG POST FOR FAQs AND OTHER INGREDIENT NOTES!
    Course: Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine: Lebanese, Middle Eastern
    Freezer friendly: 2 Months
    Shelf life: 3 Days

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1cookie, Calories: 440kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 12mg, Potassium: 208mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 58IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 3mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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