These Greek little balls of heaven are a Christmas special. My husband who is half Greek makes them every year. In the bakeries of Greece, the Kourabiethes are piled up high and deep and look like a mound of little snowballs. My trusty, old-school Greek cookbook reads, “Kourabiethes are the national cookies of the Greeks for Christmas and New Year’s Day.”

These are not unlike other powdered sugar covered cookies you find at the holidays like Mexican wedding cookies. However, this version has a Gerogiannis family twist added to it. My in-laws brush the cookies with orange flower water or rose water before covering with the sugar which gives them a wonderful light fragrance that you catch a whiff of just before biting.

Kourabiethes – Greek Butter Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plus 1 lb. confectioners sugar
1 egg yolk
1 T brandy
2 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
orange flower or rose water (optional)
1/2 cup almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and 1 cup sugar until very light and fluffy. stir in egg yolk and brandy. Mix sifted flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Mix in the flour and baking powder a little at a time until dough no longer sticks to your fingers. If you are adding the almonds, chop them up into fine pieces.  Mix them in while mixing in flour, accomodating for the extra ingredient and not letting the cookies get too dry.  Knead well until dough is smooth and can easily be rolled into balls. Take small pieces of dough and shape into balls or small crescents. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet or on a lightly greased sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until very light brown. While still warm, brush very lightly with orange flower or rose water. Roll in confectioner’s sugar and set on a tray or plate. Use the remaining sugar to sift over top until well covered.

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43 Responses to “Kourabiethes – Greek Butter Cookies”

  1. mary Says:

    I LOVE this kind of cookie! The orange flower or rose water sounds awesome.

  2. EB Says:

    Mmmmm snowman like goodness! There’s a greek bakery in my hood that has these but they flavor theirs with an ainse liquor instead of orange flower water. I think I’d like the orange flower better.

  3. Cakespy Says:

    This cookie is one that wears so many faces…the Russian tea cake, Armenian Sugar Cookie, Mexican Wedding Cake…all with these different variances that make each version unique. The rosewater sounds awesome.

  4. mav Says:

    oooooh. my favorite!!!!!

  5. Around the Web « Tamarind and Thyme Says:

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  6. Stephanie Says:

    YUM, and beautiful photograph Caroline!

  7. Allan Says:

    So … what does one do with the almonds? Are they ground, and added to the dry ingredients, or …?

  8. Caroline Says:

    Good question Allan – I am adjusting the recipe!

  9. Bohn Says:

    wow… evyone says these are so good im glad i took there advice now i lowe them im going to make them all the time…. lol..

  10. Jessie + Rachel Says:

    You saved our project from dying a terrible death. ( or at least get us Fs) THANK YOU!!!! We would like to repeat THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! Merry Christmas to you!!!!

  11. Jessie + Rachel Says:

    and a happy NEW YEAR!!!!!!

  12. Jessie + Rachel Says:

    You are nice people!!

  13. Paul Says:

    We’re looking for a similar recipe that has chocolate pieces put in the centre of the balls, before you bake them, as opposed to the almonds. Got any ideas?

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  15. gail Says:

    My son’s class is doing English paperos on different Countriess traditions for Christmas and my son got greece, so we added these for his oral presentation for a big hit. Thanks so much, Gail

  16. chris Says:

    gonna try the spiders..looks like the butters will be my next conquest :)

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  18. JD Says:

    These were delicious! Get a big glass of cold milk.

  19. Veronique Says:

    I truly love any type of Greek cookies. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  20. stephen Says:


  21. Kath Says:

    I voted Caroline and am going to try your recipe because I just happen to have some orange flower water around… Will use it in baklava too. Good luck in the contest.

  22. deborah Says:

    hello, i just wanted to pop in to say i’ll be making these cookies again, after making them last year during christmas.

    they were so lovely to make in their simplicity and even more delicious to eat with cups of tea. so they are now officially part our christmas gifting. thank you!

  23. Helen Says:

    I have been making these Greek cookies for 25 years. Being that I am Greek, I have the most authentic recipe from generations ago. A key to this cookie is the the right almond. Use slivered, no peel, and chopped. Rather than brush the rose water, I spray it on with a little pump spray bottle. (Always keep this little bottle in the pantry for the same purpose.)The rose water is distributed evenly and you don’t rish cracking the Kourabiethes. Also, if you don’t have rose water, you can use Ouzo. Enjoy!

  24. yokozuna Says:

    These things are incredibly delicious and I have already taught my son how to make greek butter cookies.

  25. Phillip Says:

    Who ever invented these greek cookies is a genius cause I tried one yesterday and felt like my taste buds went to heaven with a side trip to paridise!

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  27. Jerseys Says:

    So … what does one do with the almonds? Are they ground, and added to the dry ingredients, or …?

  28. Mary Says:

    Thank you,

    I had this recipe years ago but lost it. Now I can make themagan.

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  30. Stephie Says:

    Rose water and orange flower water, hm…maybe this is why I can never get my kourabiethes to taste like my grandmothers. I love this recipe, seems a little easier than some of the cook book versions (not 6 cups of flour and a table spoon of liquid, as some seem to be). I make butter balls (like Russian Tea Cakes) when my family wants these because they’re a lot easier to make, but maybe I’ll surprise my family with this recipe’s version of kourabiethes instead. I think they’ll love them.

  31. Anna Says:

    This is the best recipe. I don’t know where to purchase rose water or orange flour water. This is just like my Thea Maria used to make. The only problem is I can’t stop eating them. What a great recipe!!Love it!!!!

  32. caroline Says:

    how many does this feed

  33. Dani Says:

    Great cookies. I am thinking if Ouzo is used instead of brandy they might be nice too. I like your blog.

  34. Lauren Says:

    so yummie!

  35. Ari Says:

    clients of mine who are greek bake these every christmas and share them with me – they call them suicide cookies, if you sniff the powder sugar as you eat them they may just choke you up. never mind the butter they are made with. So delicious, I must try to make these myself.

  36. pj Says:

    For Almonds or Walnuts, I make a separate ,or divide the batch. Add spices to the dough and chop Walnuts fairly fine and roll the top in the nuts before baking. After they come out of the oven drizzle the cookies with honey syrup and let cool.P(these cookies have a different name-but I do not know what it is). for honey syrup just thin the honey a bit with warm water and if you like, add a touch of lemon juice.

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  41. stan Says:

    My mother may she rest in peace made the best kouribrethas you have ever tasted……But here is the problem.No one in my family has her recipe. When you tasted these they literally melted in your mouth.I would like to know what is missing in the online recipes that allow the cookie to melt in your mouth..NO EXAGERATION, THEY LITERALLY MELT IN YOUR MOUTH. If you know the secret please send to my email

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