Maamoul is a Middle Eastern cookie that's made during festivals and the month of Ramadan. It's a shortbread semolina cookies filled with dates and formed using a special mold.
When it comes to Ramadan recipes, sweets and desserts are a must. From Persian date walnut dessert (Ranginak) and qatayef to luqaimat (Middle Eastern sweet dumplings), there are so many delicious choices to try. A Middle Eastern date filled shortbread cookie, maamoul is another popular recipe for Ramadan and Eid. Follow along to see how to make this classic cookie.
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What Is Maamoul?
Maamoul, also spelled mamoul or ma'amoul, is a Middle Eastern cookie that's usually made for festivals and Eid as well as Easter, alongside other Middle Eastern sweets such as baklava. This cookie is a staple in many countries including Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The dough has a shortbread texture to it, filled with dates or nuts.
What's special about maamoul is the way it's shaped and presented. The dough is shaped into a ball and then placed in a special mold (usually wooden) with intricate designs. The mold comes in various sizes and you can make each batch differently.
- Semolina: For this recipe you need semolina which is made of durum wheat. It's yellow, has a grainy texture and comes is different forms including coarse and fine. To make maamoul, you need fine semolina.
- All purpose flour: The combination of all purpose flour and semolina gives these cookies their special texture.
- Sugar: You only need 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar for the dough.
- Butter or ghee: You can use unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter) to make these cookies.
- Milk: This maamoul recipe doesn't use eggs, but you'll need some milk to bring the dough together.
- Baking dates: Date paste or baking dates can be found in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean stores. Alternatively, you can make your own date paste using medjool dates.
- Spices: Cinnamon and cardamom are added to the dates to enhance the flavor.
How To Make Maamoul
- Make the dough: Mix the semolina, all purpose flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Add in the butter and mix it using a spoon or your hands to rub it into the mixture. Slowly add the milk and mix until the dough comes together. This dough is going to be soft and you should be able to easily shape it into small balls without cracks.
- Make the filling: In a bowl mix the date paste with oil, melted butter or ghee. Add in the cinnamon and cardamom and mix to combine. Rub some oil on your hands and palms, then shape the date paste into small balls (smaller than the mold you're using). You will need 35-40 balls.
- Shape the cookies: Roll the semolina dough into balls slightly larger than the date balls. Once all is ready, grab one semolina dough ball and flatten it in your hand, place the date ball in the middle and wrap the dough around it to cover it. Roll the stuffed dough ball in your hands to smoothen the cracks.
Place the ball in the mold and slightly press it for the pattern to print on it. Bang the mold slightly against a cutting board for the cookie to release and place it smooth side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange all the cookies on the baking sheet; there is no need to leave a lot space between the cookies since they won't spread. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges are slightly golden. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes, top then with powdered sugar and then move them to a serving platter.
How To Make Date Paste At Home
- Cut open 20 medjool dates, take out and discard the seeds.
- Place the dates in a bowl and top them with boiling water. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Discard the water and place the dates in the bowl of a food processor.
- Blend until the dates form into paste. Add cinnamon and cardamom if desired.
- Let it cool completely and then use it to make maamoul.
How Do You Shape Maamoul Without The Mold?
You can find the mold used to make maamoul at Middle Eastern and Mediterranean stores as well as online. However, it's still possible to make these cookies without the mold using the following instructions:
- Prepare the dough and date balls as instructed in the recipe and stuff the dough balls with the date filling.
- Place the balls on the baking sheet and press them slightly using your hand. Then Do a gentle crisscross on the dough ball using a fork.
- Proceed with baking an instructed. While this is not a traditional maamoul cookie shaping, it still works if you're in a pinch.
These Middle Eastern cookies are loved by many around the world for different occasions and are usually enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee. There are different fillings to use for maamoul and the most popular ones are date and nuts which could be pistachios or walnuts mixed with just a little bit of sugar and melted butter.
In some parts of the Middle East, the cookie dough is flavored with orange blossom water, rosewater or mahlab (a Middle Eastern ground spice with flavor close to raw almonds). You can add about a teaspoon of one of these additions if desired.
Store date maamoul cookies in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. To freeze, place them in a freezer safe bag or container and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw them in the fridge overnight or for a few hours at room temperature before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
These cookies use semolina, which is frankly rather difficult to substitute. Thus, there's not really a gluten-free option.
When testing these cookies, I came to conclusion that using only all-purpose flour won't result in an authentic taste. Conversely, if the cookies are made only with semolina they will be too grainy. It's best to use a combination of two flours to make this recipe.
You can store it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for 3 months. You can use them to make date balls, or add it to your smoothies and morning oatmeal.
I like my cookies slightly sweetened, so after all the tests I decided that only 2 tablespoons of sugar in the dough would be enough. Dates are naturally sweetened and make each cookie just sweet enough.
Yes, you can make the filling and the dough separately (or assembled) up to a day in advance. You can also bake the cookies and store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
As mentioned before, the dough should be soft enough for you to be able to shape it into small balls without it cracking. However, keep in mind that if the dough is too soft, then it won't release from the mold. It's best to test the dough before shaping all the cookies. If the dough is too hard, add a little bit of milk and try again. If it's too soft, add very little all purpose flour and shape again.
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Maamoul Date Filled Cookies
- 1 ½ cup fine semolina see notes
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ cup butter or ghee at room temperature
- ½ cup milk see notes
- 8 ounce date paste see notes
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- In a large bowl mix the fine semolina with the all purpose flour, granulated sugar and baking powder.
- Add in the butter and mix it well into the semolina mixture. You can use your hands to rub the butter into the mixture and make sure it's all combined well.
- Add the milk in two batches and mix well after each batch until the dough comes together. The dough will be soft and you should be able to form it into balls.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Make the date filling by mixing the date paste with the vegetable oil, cardamom and cinnamon. Rub some vegetable oil on your hands and palms and shape 35 balls (smaller than the mold your using) and set them aside. This will be the filling for the maamoul cookies.
- Roll the semolina dough into 35 balls slightly larger than the fillings.
- Grab one of the semolina balls and gently flatten it. Place a date ball in the middle and using your hands, gently bring the dough together to wrap the date filling without crushing it. Roll the ball in your hands to smoothen the cracks.
- Place the filled dough ball in the maamoul mold and press in ever so slightly to get the pattern on the cookie. Gently bang the mold against a cutting board to release the cookie. Place it on the baking sheet smooth side down. Repeat with the remaining dough and date filling. Place the cookies on the baking sheet with about 1 inch space in between.
- Bake the cookies in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes. The bottoms will be slightly golden.
- Top the cookies with powdered sugar if desired.
- Make sure the semolina you're using is fine and not coarse. Coarse semolina has larger grains which would not work for this recipe. You can find fine semolina at Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shops as well as online.
- You can use whole or 2% milk. I don't recommend using skim milk.
- You can find date paste at Middle Eastern or Mediterranean stores. However, if not available, you can make your own as well. Cut open 20 medjool dates and discard the seeds. Then soak them in hot water for 15 minutes. Place the dates (discard the water) in food processor and blend until the paste forms. Let it cool and use it to make the cookies.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze them for up to 6 months.