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Ma'amoul (Date-Filled Cookies) (Syria)


Ma’amoul are shortbread cookies, filled with a sweetened date puree, baked until just golden, and dusted with powdered sugar. They are traditionally served for Eid, as a welcome sweet reward following the fasting of Ramadan, and for Easter, as a welcome sweet rewards following the fasting of Lent, for Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year… Basically, no matter what your religion, in the Levant, if you want a sweet treat, these cookies are your go-to.


Making them traditionally requires two things you likely don’t have, but I’ve got ways to work around those. First, you probably don’t have the traditional wooden mold that you use to shape the cookies - but that’s OK. You can use your palm or anything else you have on hand to mold small cookies. Or you can order one online.


Second, traditionally, these cookies include mahlab, a spice made from cherry pits, which gives an amaretto-like flavor. Easy to find at a Middle East specialty market, but not accessible anywhere else. You can substitute almond extract or just leave it out.


Building the cookies are easy. Mix up the dough, knead it and let it sit. 


Pit and chop the dates - I like medjool dates for this, but if you have deglet noor, those work too, they just aren’t as sweet. Letting the dates cook a bit helps to break down the fibers, enrich the spices, and build up the sweetness.


Roll out the dough into little balls, then take one, press it out in your hand, add some dates, and fold the dough around it. If you have a mold, put the cookie into it, press gently to get the shape, and then whap onto the counter to release it. If you don’t have the mold, it’s fine - consider using a fork to make indentations to form a pattern.


Then bake until just golden - do NOT overbake - and dust with powdered sugar.


So good. IF you like dates.


Makes 20




  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • ½ cup butter melted and hot

  • ½ teaspoon Mahlab or almond extract (optional)

  • 4 tablespoons oil

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 4 tablespoons sugar

  • ½ cup milk


  • 1 ½ cup pitted and chopped dates

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon



The dough:

  1. Mix the vanilla with milk and oil, keep aside.

  2. In a bowl add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour the hot butter into the flour and mix using a whisk until well combined.

  3. Add the milk and knead for at least 5 minutes. Cover and leave in a warm place for one hour.


The filling:

  1. In a saucepan, add all the ingredients and stir on medium heat. The date will soften and will form into a dough like texture. This process and depending on the type of dates you are using might take 3 minutes to four minutes.

  2. Let the mixture cool completely then form 10 equal balls.


The cookies:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease a baking pan with butter and keep aside.

  2. Form 20 equal balls from the dough previously prepared. Take one ball and flatten it slightly in the palm of your hand. Place a ball of date in the center and close the dough forming a sealed ball.

  3. Place the ball in a mold, press it gently until the surface is even.

  4. Slam the edge of the mold on folded towel, a clean kitchen counter, or cutting board few times to release the dough from the mold.

  5. Place the cookies on a nonstick or greased baking sheet.

  6. Bake for 20 minutes. When it cools dust with confectioners’ sugar if you wish.


Recipe adapted from 


Image from the Guardian

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