Ma’amoul cookies (aka Maamoul) feature a sweet spiced date filling stuffed into a rich, buttery, crisp cookie that’s somewhat similar to shortbread.
Different cultures have different rites of passage.
Like getting a driver’s license and graduating high school.
Other rituals are religious, such as Confirmation and Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Or tribal, like land diving, tooth sharpening, and facial tattooing.
There are also certain coming-of-age traditions that transcend cultural boundaries. Things like learning how to take care of yourself as an adult (such as cooking and house cleaning!). And learning a useful trade, whether it’s accounting, the practice of medicine, computer technology, hunting, etc.
When Mike and I first got married and were living in the Middle East, I got to experience firsthand several Middle Eastern traditions and cultural norms. One of which is that the vast majority of women are absolutely fantastic cooks.
Along with that, there are certain dishes that every Middle Eastern bride should have in her repertoire, at least in my husband’s family. Dishes like Kibbeh, which is a mixture of meat and bulgur wheat that can be fried, grilled, baked, or eaten raw like tartare. Mahashi, which includes all manner of stuffed vegetables. Maqluba, an upside-down Palestinian rice casserole. And of course Ma’amoul, which are date filled cookies.
These are the things I dove head-first into learning right away so I’d be able to replicate them for my hubby. Watching, learning, and finally making these things for my husband and his family was sort-of like a rite of passage for me. My in-laws were absolutely thrilled that I took so much interest and care in learning their traditions.
Ma’amoul – Middle Eastern Date Filled Cookies
Ma’amoul in particular was something I was interested in mastering. I learned how to make Ma’amoul from my Syrian mother-in-law, and she learned how to make them from her Palestinian mother-in-law.
These cookies, which can be stuffed with date, walnut, or pistachio filling, are as delicious as they are beautiful. They’re served as part of celebrations for Eid al Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking at the end of Ramadan) and Eid al Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice). However, Mike (my husband) loves them so much I knew he’d want them more often than just twice a year.
It took a while, but I eventually mastered the recipe. And I couldn’t have been happier when the day came that Mike told me that my Ma’amoul tasted just like his mom’s. She’s one of the best cooks I know!
Ma’amoul (Middle Eastern Date Filled Cookies) FAQs
What is Maamoul Made Of?
Ma’amoul means “stuffed” and these cookies are stuffed with a variety of different fillings! Each type of filling has its own mold. Date filling is traditional for celebrating holidays, but sweetened walnut and pistachio fillings are common too. My Syrian mother-in-law taught me this recipe, and it’s found in my cookbook.
Can I Freeze Date Paste?
Yes! If you have extra date filling, wrap it well and freeze for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Subsequently, knead a little bit of vegetable oil into it until smooth.
This is the Ma’amoul mold for date filling. I bought mine in Damascus, Syria; however, a similar mold is available on Amazon.
Maamoul is usually made with a special Maamoul mold, which can usually be found at any Middle Eastern grocery store or ordered online. However, these cookies can also be made and stuffed by hand.
How to Make Maamoul with Step-by-Step Pictures
Clarified butter, date paste, sugar, all-purpose flour, vegetable oil, water, powdered sugar, Cake Spice Mix (recipe is in the recipe card below), and instant yeast.
Make the Date Filling
Grind the pitted dates with oil, and add the Cake Spice Mix. Knead the date paste together until well-combined.
Make the Dough
Mix together the flour and yeast, and then stir in the melted ghee/oil mixture.
Stir the sugar syrup into the dough.
The final dough should look like the photo above!
Shape the Ma’amoul – How to Shape Ma’amoul With a Mold
Measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, and then press it into the bottom and up the sides of the mold.
Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it and gently press it into the dough in the mold.
Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture in the mold. Use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides.
To remove the cookie from the mold, hold the mold by the handle and tap the flat rim on a secure surface. The cookie will drop right out!
Shape the Ma’amoul – How to Shape Ma’amoul Without a Mold
- Measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball.
- Slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, then hold it in the palm of 1 hand.
- Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball.
- Slightly ﬂatten it and gently press it into the dough in your hand.
- Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture.
- Use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides.
Use your hands to gently shape it into a circle, and then use a fork to make a decorative cross-hatch pattern on the top.
Bake the Cookies
Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets about 1/2 to 1 inch apart.
Bake until light golden brown on the bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the trays once.
The Final Touch
Cool completely, and then dust with powdered sugar.
More Middle Eastern Desserts to Try:
- Gluten Free Coconut Almond Flour Cake (Inspired by Middle Eastern Cake Harissa)
- Ghraybeh (Middle Eastern Shortbread Cookies)
- Syrian Ice Cream
Did you make this recipe? Please rate it and leave a comment below because I love hearing from you! You can also tag @anediblemosaic on social media. To stay up-to-date FOLLOW ME on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Xoxo, Faith
Ma’amoul (Middle Eastern Date Filled Cookies)
Cake Spice Mix:
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/4 teaspoons allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mahlab
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground anise
- 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 pound date paste or pitted coarsely chopped Medjool dates
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Cake Spice Mix
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup clarified butter ghee
- 4 cups all-purpose ﬂour plus up to 4 tablespoons more for kneading
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Mix together the spices for the cake spice mix. You will only need 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mix for recipe; store the remaining spice mix in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
- To make the date ﬁlling, grind the dates and oil in a stand mixer ﬁtted with a food grinding attachment (ﬁne grind) or in a heavy-duty food processor. If using a stand mixer, alternate between adding the dates and oil. If you’re using a food processor, before you add any dates, rub oil on the blade and inside of the bowl. Once processed, oil your hands and knead the cake spice mix into the dates.
- To make the dough, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a full, rolling boil (occasionally giving the pan a swirl); boil 1 minute and then turn off the heat. Cool 5 to 10 minutes.
- Combine the oil and clariﬁed butter in a separate small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is just melted, about 2 minutes; cool slightly.
- Put the ﬂour in a large bowl and whisk in the yeast. Use a wooden spoon to gradually incorporate the oil mixture, then gradually incorporate the sugar syrup. Knead the dough until it comes together nicely into a shaggy dough, adding up to 4 tablespoons more ﬂour as needed (when done, the dough will be soft and should look smooth, shiny, and slightly oily). Cover the dough, put it in the freezer to stiffen slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes, and then knead it again for a couple minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F; line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
- To shape the cookies with a ma’amoul mold (see note below), measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, then press it into the bottom and up the sides of the mold. Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it and gently press it into the dough in the mold. Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture in the mold; use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides. To remove the cookie from the mold, hold the mold by the handle and tap the flat rim on a secure surface; the cookie will drop right out.
- Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets about 1/2 to 1 inch (1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cm) apart (if you use 2 half-sheet pans, the cookies should all ﬁt on 2 pans; if you use smaller pans you will need to cook them in 2 batches). Bake until light golden brown on the bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the trays once.
- Cool completely, and then dust with the powdered sugar. To store the cookies, package them layered between parchment paper in an airtight container.
- Ma’amoul Mold: In this recipe I give directions for how to shape these cookies with a ma’amoul mold, which can be purchased at Middle Eastern grocery stores or online. However, these cookies can also be shaped by hand. To do so, measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, then hold it in the palm of 1 hand. Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it and gently press it into the dough in your hand. Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture; use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides. Use your hands to gently shape it into a circle, and then use a fork to make a decorative cross-hatch pattern on the top.
- Mahlab: This spice is the seed kernel that comes from the center of St. Lucie Cherry pits. It has a lovely aroma and tastes like a cross between almonds and cherries. You can usually find mahlab at specialty spice stores or Middle Eastern grocery stores. If you can’t find it, although the flavor won’t be quite the same, for a similar flavor you could add a couple drops of pure almond extract.
- Extra Date Filling: If you have extra date filling, wrap it well and freeze for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then knead a little bit of vegetable oil into it until smooth.
- Clarified Butter (Ghee): I don’t recommend replacing the ghee in this recipe with regular butter because of the different water content. Clarified butter can commonly be found at regular grocery stores or easily made at home.
- Yeast in This Recipe: My mother-in-law always uses a little instant yeast in her Ma’amoul recipe. I’m not exactly sure why, as these cookies are quite short and don’t really rise or expand much (if at all) while cooking.
- This recipe is from my cookbook An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky; Tuttle Publishing (2012).
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on June 20, 2013. It was updated with more information on January 21, 2020.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I believe in, which means that even though it doesn’t cost you anything extra, I will receive a small amount of money from the sale of these items. Thank you for helping to support An Edible Mosaic!
Dianna Linder says
Thank you for the step-by-step instructions. I made as directed (except no yeast) using a mold purchased at Amazon similar to the one in your photos. I baked each batch for 23 minutes on a Silpat. The bottoms were a nice golden brown but the tops stayed white, which was the look I wanted. The recipe made 25 cookies, 2 dozen for holiday cookie boxes and 1 for my husband to try. I have about 1/2 cup of filling left and will freeze it to use in the future.
They are really perfect. Thank you so much!
I would love to try and make these cookies. Question for you, how long can they keep and what is the best way to store them? Are you able to make these and freeze them? Thank you for sharing this recipe.
Ruth, Thank you so much for your kind words! These cookies keep very well for quite a while. You can store them for up to 6 months in the freezer, or for up to 2 months in an airtight container at room temperature. I hope you enjoy the cookies if you make them. :)
Hi Faith, wanting to make these cookies however concerned about the yeast (I live in a small town) I cannot find “instant” yeast but able to get Fleischmann’s “Rapid Rise Instant Yeast” Am I able to use this instead? If not what do you recommend? I could order on Amazon
Hi Sonya, Yes, this type of yeast should work fine. I hope you enjoy the cookies! :)
Hi – I’m going to try to make these cookies but first I need to go to a Middle East Grocery to purchase the spice and the mold. Do you ever mix pistachios with the dates?
Thanks much Faith
Hi Sandi, I hope you enjoy these cookies, they really are something special. Were you able to find the mold and spice at the Middle Eastern grocer? If not, they’re also available on Amazon.
I’ve never mixed pistachios in the with the dates. I learned to make these in the Middle East, and there are typically 3 fillings: date, walnut, and pistachio, each with its own mold. That’s not to say that you can’t mix together the dates and pistachios, I’ve just never seen it done. But I think it would be delicious!
Please let me know how it goes if you give these cookies a try!
L.Citra K @myhomediaryinturkey says
I’ve been looking for this cookies recipe for quiet long time… and I’m glad I found this on your blog Faith. What a great treasure having recipe from the master it self, your mother in law must loves you much more :)
Great tutorial and so many different tips, it makes me want to bake. I am curious to know what region of the Middle East this recipe is from. :)
Maria, I learned to make this version of these cookies from my Syrian mother-in-law and she learned to make them from her Palestinian mother-in-law; many regions of the Middle East make their own version of this cookie though. Hope you enjoy them if you give them a try!
Flor de Maria says
Thank you so much for the recipe. I just got the mold from a dear friend of mine from Jordan and i am thrilled to be able to give them a try. Thanks!
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef says
I LOVE date filled cookies and I can’t wait to try these. Tomorrow can’t be soon enough. Gorgeous photos.
Joanne T Ferguson says
G’day! What a great compliment from Mike indeed, true!
I LOVE your cookbook and your Ma’amoul looks delight and would love to try one of these now too! :)
it can only be a good thing to have these cookies in one’s repertoire! :)
Faith, these cookies take me right home! I really need to make them. It’s been too long since I’ve had one! Your photos are stunning, as always!
Alyssa (Everyday Maven) says
So delicious – one of my favorite cookies (with dates or pistachios!) and the pictures are stunning!
Thanks so much, Alyssa! I had a ton of fun with this photo shoot – and of course enjoying the cookies afterward, lol. :)
Laura (Tutti Dolci) says
Beautiful cookies, I imagine they’d be perfect with tea!
Nora @ Buttercream Fanatic says
I used to inhale these from a local middle eastern bakery when I lived in NY, but here in Chicago they are harder to find. Obviously, it’s time to break out your cookbook and try my hand at them…
Your worldly experiences always impress the pants off me :). These cookies look totally divine. I want to taste one!!
Lol! So sweet, Erica! :)
Ma’amoul cookies are divine and yours look wonderful!