Middle Eastern Butter Cookies with Dates and Pistachio

I really love this season. Not only do I get an incredible sense of comfort from chilly weather and warm feet, but it’s cozy in my kitchen when the fire is on, and the house smells like sugar cookies. Baking for my fiancé is probably one of my favourite things to do in the world; and I always look for ways to incorporate his favourite (and culturally traditional) ingredient, dates, into sweet recipes. However, these two recipes are very Middle Eastern, and they are well-known in our culture. We tend to make them during special occasions, like Ramadan (the month of fasting) or Eid, or …any other time really 🙂

They are very buttery and crumbly, and could literally fall apart just by the attempt of picking one up. But that’s what makes them so good- especially with extra sugar dusting on top!

Ma’amoul (معمول) – Butter cookie filled with dates 

Total time: 1 hour (resting time) and 30 min


6 1/2 cups of flour

2 cups of butter

1 cup of oil

1/2 cup of Ashta (Ashta is Clotted Cream with Rose Water and Orange Blossom Water- it is known in North America as thick cream)

2 eggs

1 cup of powdered sugar

1 cup of dry powdered milk

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1 tsp of yeast

2 tsp of baking powder

a dash of salt


For the filling:

3 cups of pitted dates

1 tsp of cardamon

1 tsp of Anise (Middle Eastern spice)



  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. No need to line your baking tray, these cookies are buttery enough to coat the bottom.
  2. Whip butter, oil, and heavy cream in a stand mixer until you get a smooth texture.
  3. Start to add each egg at a time into the butter mixture, on a medium speed, then add the vanilla extract.
  4. Then add the dry mixture to the stand mix (flour, yeast, baking powder, and salt).
  5. Mix until smooth; the dough will come out soft and chewy like.
  6. Set mix to the side to rest for 1 hour in a warm place, covered.
  7. In a separate bowl, mix dates with spices, and make sure the mixture is soft. You might need to microwave the dates for 40 seconds, go ahead and do that.
  8. Form small balls with the dates, and take the dough mix and shape it around the dates. It should look like a small ball. Shape as you like. You can press the ball down with a spoon, or create designs.
  9. Cook for 12 min. They might seem uncooked at the start, but they firm up a bit after. Remember, these are butter cookies- they are meant to be super light and crumbly.
  10. Top with powdered sugar dust. LOTS of it too 🙂 Enjoy!

Lessons Learned: No lessons learned really. I always substitute from butter to Becel butter. I don’t think I have ever used butter in anything I’ve ever cooked. It reduces the calories, and I maintain the taste. However, for this recipe, do not reduce the quantity of any of the ingredients- totally interferes with the quality (though I know 6 1/2 cup of flour seems ridiculous–I agree–but this recipe needs it). The consistency will not turn out the same.


Al’ghorayba (الغريبة) – Butter Cookies with Pistachio 

Total time: 1 hour (resting time) and 30 min


1 cup of butter

1 cup of powdered sugar

1 egg white

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

2 cups of flour

a dash of salt



  1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. No need to line your tray.
  2. Whip the powdered sugar and butter together until the mixture turns creamy on medium speed.
  3. Add the egg white, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract to the mixture.
  4. Add the flour and salt to the mix; mix until you get a smooth looking dough mixture.
  5. Let the dough rest, covered, in a warm spot for 1 hour.
  6. When the dough has rested, you can use any shape you’d like for the cookies, and top with pistachio. You can also dip the cookie dough in pistachio.
  7. Bake for 12 min.

Lessons Learned: again, I substituted the butter to Becel butter. Other than that, that’s it. Simple recipe to follow! Resting time is the only hassle here.
















  1. Linda says:

    Delicious! We make something very similar – they’re my favorite cookies at our Christmas-time! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂 they are indeed delicious!

  2. Leigh says:

    As always, your pictures are fantastic . I am a firm believer of using the ingredient that the original recipe called for as in this case…butter. Butter is not the enemy here…..the amount of cookies you consume because of their deliciousness….that’s where the problem lies…..😉

    1. Hi Leigh, thanks for the comments (always appreciated). When I was making this recipe, the chef said: “please do not be afraid of the amount of butter I am using, simply go and exercise after”. Which turned me off. I agree that butter is not the enemy, and that perhaps going back to basics in ingredients could help us reduce many potential illnesses that might rise up in the future (god forbid). But, because food is revolutionary, and because we have been progressive in this incredibly, we could explore options to reduce our intake of basic ingredients, such as butter, while maintaining taste and health. Back in the days, people cooked with butter and walked. In fact, daily activities required much movement and mobility. Society required them to be physically active, and it was not a matter of choice. However, times have changed. Getting up to exercise is now a conscious decision, and an effort, and for many it is easier to cook lighter than make this effort. Of course that isn’t in my case as I adore working out, but, nonetheless, if I could enjoy food items that are reduced in calories and yet enjoy working out, I could somehow have my cake and eat it too? maybe?

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