Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Kourabiedes

Since we all managed to survive the Mayan apocalypse and we're still alive, let's enjoy our holidays now, okay?

For me, the holidays officially begin on the day I make the first Christmas cookies. These are of course the traditional Greek kourabiedes and melomakarona.

The moment they go in the oven and my apartment begins to fill with their sweet buttery and spicy aromas, my festive mood kicks in.

I can't believe that after three Christmases writing this blog, I haven't yet posted a traditional Greek Christmas sweet recipe. (Oops, I have!). The time has come though. The time for kourabiedes.

Kourabiedes/κουραμπιέδες (singular: kourabies/κουραμπιές) are shortbread-type cookies that are made with chopped toasted almonds and are covered with lots and lots of icing sugar. This time of year, they're made in every single household around Greece and are greedily eaten by everyone.

As is the case with all traditional Greek recipes, almost every family has their own version of kourabiedes, and in my family they're always made with sheep's milk butter or a combination of goat's and sheep's milk butter. Unfortunately, I can't find it in Holland so I swapped it for cow's milk butter, I made some adjustments to my original recipe since the two butters have different consistencies and my kourabiedes were delicious and buttery and everything a good kourabies should be.

Kourabiedes are generally shaped into crescents or balls, either large or bite-sized ones, and are dusted with copious amounts of icing sugar, which makes them look like little snowy mountains. There's nothing like these Greek cookies to make you feel like Christmas is here. Go on, make them!

Kourabiedes - Greek Christmas Shortbread Cookies with Toasted Almonds and Icing Sugar

The secret to good kourabiedes is in the beating of the butter with the icing sugar until it becomes as fluffy as whipped cream. The result is the most light and airy cookies you'll ever have.

It's best if you use an ice cream scoop to shape the cookies because they will all bake uniformly.

Do not substitute the cow's butter for sheep's/goat's butter in this recipe because they have different consistencies (sheep/goat butter is more liquid) and you won't have the desired result.
You can double the recipe to make more kourabiedes but don't double the vanilla extract but just add 2 tsp.

Yield: 17-18 kourabiedes

250 g cow's milk butter, at room temperature
70 g icing sugar
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
65 g almonds, either with or without skins (I use almonds without skins)
265 g all-purpose flour

200 g icing sugar for coating

Special equipment: stand mixer (preferably) or hand-held mixer, small food processor, plastic wrap, spring-release ice cream scoop like the one pictured here (optional), large baking sheet, baking paper

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and icing sugar and beat, using the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), on medium-high speed for 18-20 minutes or until you have a very creamy and light mixture, resembling whipped cream. Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate.

Note: If you have a powerful stand mixer then the butter will be ready after 12-13 minutes rather than 18-20.

In the meantime, prepare your baking sheet by lining it with baking paper, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit and toast the almonds.
In a small frying pan, add the almonds and set the pan over medium-low heat. Toast them, stirring often, until they start releasing their aromas. Be careful not to burn them though. Remove them from the pan and place in a bowl to cool down. Then place them in a food processor and chop them coarsely.

Add the chopped almonds to the beaten butter and mix for a few seconds on medium-high speed until incorporated.
Add the flour and beat on medium speed until just incorporated and you have a soft and fluffy dough that will be ever-so-slightly sticky. The dough mustn't be firm.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 25-30 minutes in order for the dough to firm up a bit.

Using a (preferably spring-release) ice cream scoop (5.5 cm in diameter) scoop balls of dough and shape into balls. If you don't have an ice cream scoop, use your hands. Place each ball on the baking paper-lined baking sheet, spacing 3cm apart because the cookies will spread a little while baking. Press the top of each ball lightly to flatten it a bit and place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven.

Bake the kourabiedes for 17-20 minutes until they take on a light golden color and cracks appear at the top. Be careful not to burn them, they catch easily. Also, if they're a little soft in the middle, it's okay. They'll firm up while they cool.
When the kourabiedes are ready, take them out of the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a large bowl, add the icing sugar and once the kourabiedes have cooled, add 3-4 at a time and coat them well all over with icing sugar.
Place each cookie on a large platter and dust with more icing sugar to cover completely.

You can keep the kourabiedes covered, at room temperature, for 2 weeks. They taste even better as the days pass.

Pin It


  1. I love these! My mother always made them every Christmas shaped into crescents. I really am gad for the tip on creaming the butter and sugar till it's like whipped cream!

    Merry Christmas to you and S. I hope your holidays are fine and peaceful! ~ David

    1. Thank you David! Merry Christmas to you too!

  2. This cookies are yummmy!....Pasaba a desearte lo mejor y que tengas junto a tu familia una hermosa navidad, mucha paz y armonia.....y lo mejor para el 2013!.......Abrazotes, Marcela

  3. My friend gave me some kourabiedes the other day. Man, I was instantly reminded how incredible they are. Have a great Christmas!

  4. Your kouriabiedes look beautiful! Whenever my aunt sends them from Greece (always in a sketchy looking shoebox with masking tape) they arrive with white powder bursting at the seams. Therefore, we call them cocaine cookies. Kalo Xristougenia Magda!

  5. My mother pinches hers a bit at the top and bakes with clove in. She removes clove before icing sugar. Definitely my favorite! Can't make to make my own batch this year.

  6. thank you very much for recipe, I was living in Cyprus for several years and this are my favorite Christmas cookies, i will make them this year back in Slovakia just to remember, hope my family will love them too....

  7. I've been baking hundreds of these for a friend's wedding using your recipe. They are absolutely delicious. I wished I'd discovered these years ago. Amazing. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    1. I'm glad you like them Frances and it's nice to know that my recipe will reach so many people!

  8. Hi Magda. My daughter's class is currently studying Greece in their social studies curriculum. They are going to have a Greek theme for their Christmas party. I immediately thought of your blog. Is it acceptable to make this recipe nut free and still have it be traditional?

    1. Hi Yvonne! Traditional kourabiedes are always made with almonds but since you can't use nuts, go ahead and make them without. I don't think anyone will notice, unless they are Greek :)

  9. This recipe turned out to be a disaster. I believe the ratio of butter to flour is wrong here; there needs to be more flour than what is mentioned above.

    1. I'm sorry to hear it didn't turn out well for you. I have made these cookies numerous times with consistent results so I can assure you the ratio of butter to flour is correct. Keep in mind however that not all butters and not all flours are the same. Different humidity levels and types of wheat (for flour), and different butterfat content (for butter) plays its role in the result. That is why I have photographs of the process so you can see how it should be texture-wise, and also I describe how the texture should be. When you realized that your dough was too wet, then you could have added more flour. Measuring the ingredients correctly is also crucial. Anyway, I wish you good luck next time.

  10. Thank you for your reply. I concur with you and will try again next weekend! I used plain flour which I think is the same as all-purpose flour.
    Anyway, I do love your site and the way it has been put together; in fact this was the main reason for trying your recipe over others. Regards

  11. I'd love to try this out with pistachios - have you done that before? Just wondering if they'll still come out good!

    1. Hi Mary. I have never tried them with pistachios, I always make the traditional Greek Christmas cookies that are with almonds. I think they will work with pistachios though as with any sort of nut.

    2. Thanks a lot for your response! Looking forward to trying them out. They look and sound delicious :)