Vegan Maamoul (Date Filled Cookies)
Maamoul is a traditional Middle Eastern cookie that is typically made during Ramadan and on religious holidays such as Eid and Easter. These buttery cookies are made with an aromatic semolina dough and are stuffed with date paste. These delicious Maamoul cookies are easy to make and they’re ready in less than an hour.
It’s Eid in a few days, so I wanted to share my quick and easy Maamoul recipe. Maamoul isn’t traditionally vegan as it contains ghee or butter, so I created a vegan version that tastes just as good, if not better. These cookies are surprisingly easy to make, and you can get as creative as you want with the filling. I’ve kept it simple by filling them with date paste, but you can also fill them with nuts such as pistachios and walnuts. I’ve used a mould to shape these cookies, but if you don’t have a mould, you can shape them by hand and add the patterns using a fork and knife. These cookies keep well for several days so they’d make the perfect homemade Eid gift.
WHAT ARE MAAMOUL COOKIES?
Maamoul cookies are popular Middle Eastern shortbread cookie which are typically filled with dates or nuts. They’re usually made during Ramadan and religious holidays such as Eid and Easter as a sweet treat at end of the fasting period. These cookies are also known as “Kahk” in Egypt and “Kombe” in Southern Turkey. It is believed that these cookies go back to ancient Egyptian times which could explain the tradition of creating beautiful patterns on the cookies. They were popularised in the 13th century by Mameluk Sultan Baibars of Egypt and Syria. Ever since these Maamoul cookies have been loved throughout the Middle East.
How does Maamoul taste?
These cookies are naturally sweetened with the date filling and the cookie dough has a deliciously delicate floral flavour from the rose water and orange blossom water. The addition of the mahleb adds a hint of almond of vanilla flavour to these cookies. I’ve kept the flavours authentic for this recipe, but if you’re not a fan of floral flavours, you can leave the orange blossom water and rose water out and use vanilla extract instead.
What dates to use?
Ideally, you should use soft Medjool dates. The medjool dates will blend easily to create a soft and chewy filling, which kind of tastes like toffee, but healthier and more delicious. You could use other varieties of dates, but you may have to add some water when blending them as some dates can be quite dry, making them difficult to process into a smooth paste.
How to store Maamoul cookies
Once baked, allow the cookies to cool down completely, then store them in a container at room temperature. They will keep well for up to 10 days, so they’re great for preparing in advance. I wouldn’t recommend storing them in the fridge as this can cause the date filling to harden and the cookie to become soft.
Can these cookies be frozen?
These cookies are ideal for preparing in advance as they can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. To freeze them, shape the cookies as you usually would, then arrange the unbaked cookies onto a tray and place in the freezer for about an hour. Once they’ve completely frozen, transfer them to a container with a piece of baking paper between each layer of cookie and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost the cookies, remove it from the freezer and leave out at room temperature for around 4 hours, or until it’s thawed then bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C.
Maamoul cookie Ingredients:
Here’s everything you’ll need for this recipe – consider it your shopping list!
Plain flour: Make sure to use plain flour and not self raising flour.
Fine semolina: You’ll need some fine semolina to make the dough. I wouldn’t recommend you use coarse semolina as it can make the texture of the dough too gritty.
Sugar: You’ll need just 1 tbsp sugar to sweeten the dough, but if you’ll like the cookies to be completely free from refined sugar, you can leave this out.
Vegan block butter: I used the Flora vegan butter block, but ant plant-based butter will do. I wouldn’t recommend using margarine as it won’t create the same outcome.
Mahleb: mahleb is a spice ground from the kernel of the St. Lucie cherry. It gives a delicate almond flavour. It has a scent and flavour akin to freshly ground raw almonds. It’s totally optional for this recipe, but adds an authentic taste to these cookies.
Orange blossom water: the orange blossom water adds a subtle floral taste and aroma to the cookies.
Rose water: You’ll need some rose water to flavour the cookie dough. if you’re a lover or rose water you might feel tempted to add a few extra drops, but don’t! Rose water, especially if it’s a good quality brand, can get overpowering really fast, so I would recommend you use the amount that’s listed in the ingredients.
Vanilla extract: The vanilla extract is optional. If you’re not a fan of rose water and orange blossom water you can use just vanilla extract instead.
Dates: Ideally, you should use soft Medjool dates. The medjool dates will blend easily to create a soft and chewy filling, which kind of tastes like toffee, but healthier and more delicious. You could use other varieties of dates, but you may have to add some water when blending them as some dates can be quite dry, making them difficult to process into a smooth paste.
Cinnamon: a small pinch of cinnamon will add a lovely warmth to the date filling. Other spices such as ground cardamom can also be used.
Almond milk: You’ll need some plant-based milk to make the dough. I’ve used almond milk, but any plant-based milk will do.
How to make Maamoul cookies:
To make the dough, add the flour, fine semolina, sugar, and ground mahleb to a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the orange blossom water, rose water, vanilla extract and almond milk, and bring the dough together with your hands. Tip out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead for 5 minutes, until smooth, then wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes, to rest.
For the date filling, place the dates in the bowl of a food processor with the rose water, cinnamon and mahleb and blitz to a smooth paste. Place the date paste in the fridge for about 20 minutes so that it becomes a little easier to handle.
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Take the dough and date paste out of the fridge. Divide the dough into 8 even-sized pieces and roll into balls. Roll the date paste into a cylinder shape and divide into 8 even-size pieces and roll into balls.
Use a small rolling pin or your hands to flatten each ball of dough to create a circle, about ½cm thick. Place a date paste ball into the centre of the dough circle and pinch the dough over the date filling to seal and roll into a ball. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and date paste.
Lightly flour the Maamoul mould and press one of the date-filled balls into the mould. Turn it out onto a lined baking tray. Repeat with the remaining filled balls. If you don’t have a mould, you can shape the cookies by hand by pressing them down and using a fork to create patterns on the cookies.
Bake all the Maamoul for 12–15 minutes, until golden on the bottom, but pale or very lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Notes and Tips
I recommend using the gram measurements, rather than the cup conversions. When it comes to baking, accuracy is key, and cups conversions are never as accurate as grams.
To give the cookies that perfect texture, don’t overwork the dough and make sure to use chilled butter.
These cookies can be made by hand or using wooden or plastic Maamoul mould to create different shapes - round like a ball, crescent form, shaped as a dome or flattened as a disc.