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What is Kourabiedes?

By Micki Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kourabiedes, also called almond crescents, are traditional Greek butter cookies served mainly at Christmas and other family-centric celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, and Easter. These cookies are similar to shortbread, but often have almond flavoring; variations on the cookie may contain other additional ingredients. Kourabiedes are commonly recognized by their shapes: a small circle, an “S” formation, or a long crescent. They are almost always dusted liberally with confectioner’s sugar as well.

Most recipes for these cookies call for basic staples, such as flour, sugar and butter, as well as such agents as baking powder and baking soda. Extract of vanilla and almond as well as ground or finely-chopped almonds, are also usually necessary. As kourabiedes are so popular for large celebrations, many recipes yield several dozen at a time. One may wish to carefully halve a recipe if fewer cookies are desired.

Almond crescents often require mixing by hand, as the flour is gradually folded in. The use of an electric mixer or beater may be an option with some recipes, however. The resulting texture of the cookies should be light and airy. Experienced bakers tend to recommend cooling the dough in the refrigerator first, then shaping the cookies into the desired shape with one’s hands. After baking, the cookies are often sprinkled with a thick layer of icing sugar.

Many Greek families will have kourabiedes on hand during the holidays, but each family may have specific variations that have been passed down through generations. At Christmas, one tradition is to include a whole clove on the top of the cookie. The clove symbolizes the gifts brought by the Magi to the Baby Jesus in the Bible.

Other flavorings may be added in lieu of, or in combination with, vanilla. Liquor such as brandy, Greek mastika, or mextaca — a blend of brandy and wine from Greece — are sometimes added to kourabiedes. Ouzo, which has an anise or licorice flavor, is also used occasionally. After the treat is removed from the oven and slightly cooled, rose water may be sprinkled on the cookies before dusting with sugar to help the coating to stick.

Many recipes can be found online and in dessert cookbooks. Traditionally, kourabiedes can be kept fresh for several months if stored properly in airtight containers. This is true for both the dough and the finished product. Extra layers of confectioner’s sugar may help to keep the cookies fresh and to discourage sticking to one another or to the container.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon945728 — On Apr 14, 2014

Super easy! These were amazingly good!

By snickerish — On Dec 22, 2011

Yuck! These kourabiedes cookies sound awful! I just don't like the taste of butter, so I am sure you can see why these cookies don't sound very appetizing to me.

When I want dessert I want to taste something sweet, not something mainly salty and just a hint of sweetness from the icing.

Sorry Greece, but this cookie will probably not make it on my favorite dessert list. One Greek dessert that does make it on my favorite dessert list is called baklava. It came from the East, like in Turkey and Arab, contrary to popular belief that this dessert originated in Greece.

Greece may have got most of the credit because their word for very thin dough, phyllo, which means leaf, or in this case as thin as a leaf, is/was used to describe the very thin layer of dough used.

Baklava used to be only a dish for the rich and royal, but now, luckily, anyone can enjoy it, as long as they have a little bit of money.

Most cultures/religions make baklava for special occasions in their particular sect. For instance, in Christianity, many have baklava on Christmas and Easter.

By tolleranza — On Dec 22, 2011

Every year my sister and I bake cookies and other desserts for our loved ones, as it saves money, and it also a tradition we have been doing for the past five years now.

We are doing a two different butter style cookie recipes, and after hearing these reviews, I am excited, as I think our loved ones will probably like the melt-in-your-mouth butter taste/feel as well.

We aren't doing these exact cookies, but similar ones, we just aren't going to take the time to make the "s" shape, as we have like ten other recipes to do all in that same day.

Butter-flavored cookies are one of the best tasting cookies, when made right, in my opinion. They are so good they can be eaten plain, but with icing or jelly, these butter cookies are even more scrumptious.

Icing is my favorite part of most cakes, so this Greek icing would probably be my favorite part of the whole cookie, as I could eat icing all day; or at least until I gave myself a belly ache.

There is no doubt in my mind, even though I haven't tried these cookies yet, that they are delicious! The next time I bake, I am going to try out these kourabiedes for myself and loved ones!

By myharley — On Dec 21, 2011

I have sampled several different kinds of Greek pastries, but must say that kourabiedes almond crescents are my favorite.

I make these delectable cookies every year because my family just loves them. They don't last nearly as long as I would like them to, so I always make a double batch.

I always like to add almonds to my cookies, and have had the best tasting results when I toast the almonds before chopping them and mixing in with the dough.

If you are in a pinch, you can use almond extract or powder, but for me, it just doesn't have the same flavor or texture as the real almonds.

By LisaLou — On Dec 21, 2011

@bagley79 - There is a knack to making great kourabiedes cookies. One of the best things to do is put your dough in the refrigerator for a few hours before shaping your cookies.

Many times I will just take a small section out of the refrigerator and work with that until it is gone. Then when I am ready to roll out some more, the next batch of dough is still cool and firm.

It just goes much easier this way and you will find yourself also using less flour.

Depending on the recipe you are using, I also like to add a little extra cloves and nutmeg. This just adds a little bit more kick that most people like.

By bagley79 — On Dec 20, 2011

One of my co-workers is Greek, and she brought the most delicious kourabiedes cookies to work one day.

They just melted in your mouth and I could have eaten the whole plate of them.

I thought they sounded pretty easy to make as there weren't many ingredients included in the recipes I saw online.

They turned out to be a little bit more work than what I thought. The hardest part was shaping them into an "S" shape because the dough was so sticky.

Does anybody have any good tips on making this any easier?

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