Kourambiedes – Toasted Almond Cookies

Traditionally prepared for Christmas, kourambiedes are supposed to be delicate melt-in-the-mouth treats. You find similar cookies in various Middle Eastern countries, often sprinkled with rose water or citrus flower water just before they are rolled in confectioner’s sugar. 


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The old island recipes called for lard, as butter was not a common ingredient, while the special lard from the belly of the freshly slaughtered pork was used for these, and other festive winter sweets .

In most recipes from the mainland and the north kourambiedes are made with the strongly-flavored sheep’s milk butter, while there are also also somre Lenten versions made with olive oil.

Today most homes and bakeries prepare the cookies exclusively with butter, or a combination of butter, often with some sheep’s milk butter. I do love this old, Cycladic version which you can try if you can get good lard.


Makes about 30 large or 40 small cookies.


1/2 cup lard or butter, softened


1/2 cup light, mellow olive oil (not fruity)


1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus about 2 cups to sprinkle on the cookies


1 egg yolk


Zest of 1 large lemon


3 tablespoons ouzo, Pernod, or any other anise-flavored liqueur


3 cups unbleached cake or all-purpose flour


1 ½ teaspoon baking powder


½ teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)


1/2 teaspoon salt


1 cup coarsely ground toasted almonds (not skinned)


In a food processor or electric mixer, beat the lard or butter and olive oil with 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for about 6 minutes. Add the egg yolk, lemon zest, and ouzo and process for 2-3 minutes more. Sift the flour with the baking powder and the pepper, if using. Fit the processor with a dough hook and gradually add the flour. Process the mixture for 2-3 minutes, until a soft dough forms. Add the almonds and process until the dough is smooth again, about 1-2 minutes more.


Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).


Shape tablespoons of dough into round, oval, or crescent-shaped cookies, and place on a cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch between the cookies so that they won’t stick together as they expand.


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Alternatively flatten the dough on the work surface making a square about 1/4 inch thick, and with small cookie cutters cut rounds, squares or crescents. Collect and flatten the leftover dough, then cut into shapes.

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Bake for about 25 minutes, until pale golden. Cool for 10 minutes.


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Spread 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on a large serving plate. Very carefully, because they break easily, roll each cookie in the sugar, and place on a rack to cool. Proceed with all the cookies, adding more sugar to the plate as necessary.


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Finally, sift additional sugar on top of the cookies and let rest for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Carefully pack the cookies in boxes, spreading a piece of waxed paper between each layer.


Toasted Almond Cookies will keep in an airtight jar for 2 months or longer.





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