Almond cookies are very popular in Greece. There are many different varieties as each island, city, and region has its own version. In Crete, this is a very special cookie to serve to guests and at special occasions, including weddings, baptisms, and engagements. Bursting with almond flavor and dusted in powdered sugar, these snowball-like cookies are also often made during the holidays, like Christmas and Easter.
Almonds are abundant in Crete and we love to use them in many ways, including in baking. These cookies are not only delicious, but they are very simple, made with only three ingredients: almonds (to create homemade almond meal/almond flour), egg whites, and sugar. They’re so quick and easy to make, taking only 15 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to bake, with 30 minutes in-between to chill the cookie dough.
These soft and chewy almond cookies are destined to just melt in your mouth, like shortbread biscuits. Some people call them the Greek version of macaroons if you substitute the coconut for almonds. No matter what you call them, I hope you bake a batch of my Greek almond cookies recipe to celebrate your next special occasion.
You can use orange essence or orange blossom water instead of rosewater in the cookie topping.
For more flavor, add one teaspoon of pure almond extract or pure vanilla extract to the cookie dough.
Would you prefer to make chocolate almond cookies? If so, melt seven ounces of dark or semi-sweet chocolate and dip in just the bottom of each cookie. Alternatively, mix one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the cookie batter.
Another option is to make cookie sandwiches and pipe pastry cream in the middle.
Traditionally, many recipes for Greek almond cookies included a tablespoon of alcohol, like ouzo, amaretto (this perfectly enhances the almond flavor), or brandy.
If you like, you can use sliced almonds to decorate the cookies instead of whole almonds.
What do you call Greek almond cookies?
Greek almond cookies have a couple of different names and can be called Amygdalota (“sweets from almond”), Ergolavi, Kourambiethes, or Kourabiedes (Greek almond butter cookies). Because there is an abundance of almonds in Greece, they symbolize happiness, prosperity, and new beginnings. This is why you’ll find a plate of them, alongside other almond sweets, at most Greek celebrations.
Greek almond cookies also come in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re simple and round like this batch, sometimes they’re shaped like crescent moons (this is a tradition remaining from the Ottoman Empire days), sometimes they’re piped onto the baking sheet, and sometimes they’re unbaked and shaped like pears. But what do they all have in common? They’re all delicious!
Can you blanch your own almonds?
If you have extra time and want to channel your inner Yaya (Greek grandmother), you can use whole raw almonds instead of store-bought blanched almonds and you can blanch them yourself. To do this, boil a pot of water, drop the almonds in, and boil for exactly one minute. Then drain and rinse them with cold water. Once they cool, peel them by hand, spread them out, and let them dry completely. Then you can put them in the food processor. Peeling the almonds by hand takes a long time though so consider yourself warned!
How do you store almond cookies?
Store leftover Greek cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. You can also freeze the cookies for up to three months. Wrap them in plastic wrap before placing them in a freezer-safe bag or an airtight container. Bring them to room temperature before enjoying.
Are Greek almond cookies gluten-free?
Yes, because we use homemade almond flour, this Greek almond cookie recipe is naturally gluten-free. Check out 21 more of our Gluten-Free Recipes here.
For the dough, pulse the almonds in a food processor until they are the consistency of coarse sugar (not a fine flour consistency).
Pour the processed almonds into a large mixing bowl, add the egg whites and confectioners’ sugar, and mix well.
Cover the dough, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll 1-ounce portions of dough into 36 balls.For topping the cookies, roll the balls in the confectioners’ sugar. Dip one almond in egg white and stick it in the center of a cookie. Repeat with the remaining almonds. The cookies will not spread out on the baking sheet as they bake, so you don’t need to space them out too much.
Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, or until they are lightly browned at the edges. They will be very soft when they come out of the oven, but as they cool, they will begin to hold their shape better. You can bake them a bit longer if you prefer a crispier cookie, but traditionally they are very soft.
If you like, spray the cookies with the rose water and sprinkle them with more confectioners’ sugar.
Koula Barydakis was born into a long tradition of eating and living Mediterranean on the Greek island of Crete. She is a chef who has worked in many of the top restaurants in Crete and in Greek Town in Toronto, Canada. Koula is the co-author of “Foods of Crete, Traditional Recipes of the Healthiest People in the World” and is currently completing her second cookbook. Koula teaches cooking classes to tourists in Crete and has been hired to teach classes in other countries as well.