These buttery cookies have a soft melting texture and delicious date filling. Maamoul cookies are a little crumbly and not too sweet. The beautiful design and dusting of powdered sugar make them well-suited for holidays. And they're so good you'll want to eat them year round.
Mammoul cookies are beloved throughout the Middle East. Some households like to keep a stash on hand to serve to guests. The cookies go especially well with coffee and tea.
These cookies are popular during the holidays of multiple religions including Eid (at the end of Ramadan), Easter (after Lent), Christmas, and Purim. They are a great addition to a holiday cookie platter or gift bag along with Chocolate Peanut Butter Hanukah Cookies, Honey Cookies, and Italian Chocolate Chip Cookies.
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Maamouls are sometimes served during Purim because they have an enclosed filling, which matches the theme of serving dishes with hidden ingredients to symbolize Queen Esther’s hidden identity during the Purim story. Other dishes with hidden ingredients that could be served as well include bourekas or kreplach.
What Are Maamoul?
Maamoul are special Middle Eastern cookies made with a shortbread dough and filled with various fillings like dates, pistachios, or walnuts. They are deliciously scented with rose water or orange blossom water and often aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, or allspice. The beautiful designs on top are formed by pressing the dough into a wooden mold.
Floral water, like rose or orange blossom, and cardamom are used in this cookie to give it that intoxicating fragrance and irresistible flavor that is a staple of the Middle Eastern kitchen. If you plan on expanding your Middle Eastern cooking, then I recommend getting these ingredients. If not, I have suggested more common American ingredients as substitutes, like vanilla and cinnamon. Your cookies will still be so delicious.
I created this recipe at the request of my Jewish Cooking Facebook group after members asked for more Sephardic recipes. I selected mammoul because they are one of my favorite cookies. They are readily available in Los Angeles at Middle Eastern and Israeli bakeries and markets in the area.
My first goal was to design an accessible recipe where American home cooks could find the ingredients in the supermarket while still maintaining the Middle Eastern flavors. After researching, I decided not to use certain ingredients including malab, mastic, semolina, ghee, or yeast. These ingredients are not prerequisites for making the cookie, but some recipes do use them. In the end, I think the one ethnic ingredient that is still needed for true Middle Eastern flavor is rose water (or orange blossom water), which is available on Amazon if your local market doesn’t carry it.
Others have made similar recipe development decisions. My recipe is similar to Claudia Roden’s recipe in The Book of Jewish Food. Roden is a renowned authority in Middle Eastern cooking and wrote the first Middle Eastern cookbook in English in 1968.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
See the recipe card below for a complete ingredient list and measurements.Jump to Recipe
- Unbleached all purpose flour - For the most accurate measurement, use a kitchen scale. Alternatively, measure flour by stirring the flour, spooning it into the measuring cup, then leveling it off. See How to Measure Flour for a complete guide.
- Baking powder - Make sure your baking powder is still active by pouring boiling water over ½ teaspoon of baking powder. If it bubbles, the baking powder is still active.
- Unsalted butter - Make sure butter is at room temperature. If you need to get butter softened quickly, cut it into cubes then spread it out in a single layer.
- Rose water or orange blossom water - Floral water gives these cookies a subtle, lovely layer of flavor which is typical in Middle Eastern baking. Floral water is available at some supermarkets, Middle Eastern and Indian markets, and on Amazon. If you can't find it, substitute with vanilla extract which isn’t traditional, but will still be tasty.
- Confectioners powdered sugar - Adds a nice garnish to the cookies.
- Medjool dates - Dates are the most popular maamoul filling. Medjool dates are used for this recipe because they are the most moist variety and are usually widely available. If you use a different variety of dates, they will probably be more dry and need additional water. Filling variations include pistachios and walnuts.
- Cardamom - Cardamom is a warm, aromatic spice that is common in Middle Eastern baking. Other warm spices work equally well if you want to substitute cinnamon or allspice.
- Other ingredients - include granulated white sugar, fine sea salt, and milk.
Other traditional maamoul cookie flavors include pistachio and walnut. Get creative with maamoul fillings: try an apricot and pistachio combination or even Nutella.
If you don’t have a food processor, make maamoul the traditional way. The dough is commonly made by hand, and the date paste can be made using a grinder with a hand crank. The best solution for making the date filling without a food processor is to buy date paste where the dates are already puréed so you’ll have a smooth filling. In a pinch, you can finely chop the soaked whole dates, but you’ll have a chunkier filling.
Some families make their maamoul cookies with ghee or oil, instead of butter, but this recipe has only been tested with butter.
Step by Step Photos
See the recipe card below for complete directions.Jump to Recipe
How to Make Maamoul Dough
Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt (photo 1). Combine the dry ingredients with cubed butter (photo 2).
If mixing by hand, use your fingertips to rub butter into the flour mixture (photo 3) until it looks like a sandy, scraggly mixture. Next add in floral water and milk. Mix the dough together with your hands until a cohesive ball of dough forms, and it feels soft and pliable, not crumbly, dry, or sticky. (photo 4). The dough feels similar to Play-Doh. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap to rest and hydrate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
How to Make Date Filling
Cover dates in boiling water and allow them to soak and soften (photo 5). Then transfer dates to a food processor and blend with cardamom until a smooth paste forms (photo 6).
How to Shape Maamoul Cookies
Scoop 1 ½ tablespoon portions of dough into a ball and place on a cookie sheet. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap to prevent the cookies from drying while you work.
How to shape the dough WITH a maamoul mold:
Select a cookie mold with deep and decorative grooves (photo 7). Press a dough ball into a flat disc with the palms of your hands, about 2" in diameter (photo 8). Press the dough into the maamoul mold (photo 9). Lightly press all the way around so that the design fully imprints into the dough.
Spoon 1 teaspoon date filling into the cookie dough cavity (photo 10). Then fold in the dough flaps to enclose the filling. Seal up the seams as best you can, and flatten out the dough on top. Tap the mold firmly against the counter or cookie sheet to release the cookie.
How to shape the dough WITHOUT a mold:
Flatten a dough ball with your hands so that the dough is about 2” in diameter. Hold it in the center of your palm, and add 1 teaspoon of date filling. Fold the dough around the filling to enclose, and shape into a ball. Place on a cookie sheet. Decorate the cookie by creating designs with the tines of a fork. Press the fork several times all the way around the cookie creating line patterns (photo 11).
Place the shaped cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet as you work (photo 12).
Bake and Cool
Bake until the tops of the cookies are very pale and light in color, and the bottom of the cookies are lightly golden brown (photo 13). Once cooled, sift confectioners powdered sugar over cookies as garnish.
- Use a maamoul mold with deep grooves to get the best looking decorative pattern on the cookies.
- If you make a variety of fillings, use different shaped molds to indicate the different flavors inside. I’ve seen date maamoul shaped into circles, either the flat or domed shape. The oval shape is most commonly used for the pistachio flavor.
- Depending on the size of your mold, the cookie yield may vary.
- Make sure the butter is at room temperature before mixing to get the proper cookie texture.
- Don’t overwork the dough or else the cookie may become tough.
- Don’t over bake the cookies. The tops should remain pale, and the bottoms are lightly golden brown.
- Cool the cookies completely before dusting with powdered sugar so that the sugar garnish does not melt into the cookies and disappear.
These cookies usually pop out of the mold easily, but if they don’t, here are three things to try:
- When holding the filled mold upside down, make sure to flick your wrist, and then bang the mold hard to release the dough. The best way to do this is to place a folded kitchen towel at the edge of the rimmed cookie sheet or counter, bang the handle against the towel at an angle, and the cookie will fall out.
- Try dusting your mold with powdered sugar (or flour).
- Make sure you season a new wood mold by rubbing a little cutting board oil (food grade mineral oil) on it. Follow the directions on the label.
Dough and filling can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1-2 hours before shaping and filling it.
Alternatively, shape and fill the cookies, and keep them raw in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before bringing to room temperature for 30 minutes and baking them.
Storage and Reheating
How to store: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
How to freeze: Freeze baked cookies in a freezer safe airtight container for up to 8 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours, then dust with powdered sugar before serving.
See more information from the USDA about proper storage of cookies.
More Israeli Recipes
Maamoul Recipe (Date Filled Cookies)
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour 390 grams, measure with food scale, or use the “spoon, stir, level” method.
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter equals 1 cup or 16 tablespoons, softened at room temperature, cut into ½” cubes
- 1 ½ tablespoons rose water or orange blossom water or substitute with vanilla extract.
- 2 ½ tablespoons whole milk
- confectioners powdered sugar as garnish
- 8 ounces medjool dates equals a ½ pound, pitted, or ¾ cup date paste
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom If your cardamom if super fresh, then use a scant ¼ teaspoon.
Make the Dough
- Be sure the butter is soft and at room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Either by hand or with a food processor equipped with the s-shaped metal blade, combine the dry ingredients with cubed butter. If by hand, use your fingertips to rub it into the flour mixture for about 2-3 minutes until it looks like a sandy, scraggly mixture.
- Add in the rose water (or orange blossom water) and milk. Mix the dough together with your hands or a food processor until a cohesive ball of dough forms, and it feels soft and pliable, not crumbly, dry, or sticky. The dough feels similar to Play-Doh.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and allow it to rest and the flour to hydrate on the counter for 30 minutes.
Make the Date Filling
- While the dough rests, prepare the date filling.
- Place pitted dates or date paste in a medium bowl, and cover with boiling water, and allow dates to soak for 10 minutes. Then transfer dates (discarding the water) into a food processor with the s-shape metal blade. No need to dry the dates. Add the cardamom, and blend on high speed for 3-4 minutes until a very smooth paste forms. The mixture should be smooth but also thick enough that it can be scooped, with a consistency similar to creamy peanut butter. Since date paste is usually drier and thicker, an additional tablespoon of water may be needed to achieve the proper consistency.
- Set the date mixture in the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to form the cookies.
Shape the Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two parchment-lined baking sheets. Set aside.
- After the dough has rested, scoop 1-½ tablespoon portions of dough, roll into balls, and place on a plate or cookie sheet. A #50 cookie scoop works well for this. Keep the dough balls and formed cookies covered with a towel or plastic wrap as you work to prevent dryness.
- How to shape the dough WITH a maamoul mold: Take 1 ball of rolled dough, and use the palms of your hands to press the dough into a flat disc about 2” in diameter. Transfer the disc to the maamoul mold, and lightly press in so it fits into the grooves. Spoon 1 teaspoon date filling into the cookie dough cavity. Fold in the dough flaps surround the dates to enclose the filling. Take your finger to smooth out and seal the seams. Flatten out the top of the dough so that the dough fills the cavity of the mold. Put a folded towel just over the rim of the baking sheet (or near the edge of the counter) to protect the pan (or counter). Bang the mold handle against the towel at an angle to release the cookie. Place the shaped cookie onto a parchment lined baking sheet about 1-½ inches apart from other cookies. Repeat with remaining balls of dough.
- How to shape the dough WITHOUT a mold: To fill the cookie, flatten a ball of dough with your hands so that the dough is about 2” in diameter. Hold it in the center of your palm, and add 1 teaspoon of date filling into the center, then fold up the dough so that it surrounds and covers the filling. Next, roll the dough into a ball shape. Place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat and form the rest of the cookies. Lastly, decorate the cookies by creating designs with the tines of a fork. Press the fork several times all the way around the cookie creating line patterns.
Bake and Cool
- Bake for 15-17 minutes until the tops of the cookies are very pale and light in color, and the bottom of the cookies are lightly golden brown. Do not overbake.
- Place the pan of baked cookies on a wire baking rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cookies from the pan, and transfer to the wire rack to finish cooling, about 30 minutes.
- Sift confectioners powdered sugar over fully cooled cookies as garnish.
- Can substitute floral water with vanilla extract.
- Make ahead: Dough and filling can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1-2 hours before shaping and filling it. Alternatively, you can shape and fill the cookies and keep them raw in the fridge for up to 3 days before bringing to room temperature for 30 minutes and baking them.
- How to store: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- How to freeze: Freeze baked cookies in an airtight freezer safe container for up to 8 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours, then dust with powdered sugar before serving.