Greek Holiday Cookies Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 30 min. + chilling Bake: 10 min./batch
Koulourakia, traditional Greek Easter cookies, have a crunchy texture and subtly sweet flavor with a hint of warm vanilla and bright citrus flavor.

Updated: Feb. 09, 2024

Greek cuisine has no shortage of sweet indulgences. There’s baklava, of course, and delicious Greek butter cookies like kourabiedes or melomakarona, which are made with walnuts, Cognac and a bit of orange zest. Koulourakia are wonderful Greek Easter cookies for many families, and one of the most beloved Greek recipes in general.

These are the ultimate cookies. In fact, the word koulourakia means “cookies” in Greek! They’re traditionally made on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Of course, just like many favorite holiday cookies, koulourakia can be enjoyed at any holiday or celebration.

The buttery cookies have an elongated, twisted shape and a glossy egg glaze on top. Koulourakia are just sweet enough, with a crunchy, tender texture and beautiful hints of vanilla throughout. Aside from tasting delicious, these Greek cookies represent good luck and prosperity. It’s just one more reason to whip up a batch alongside other Greek Easter recipes for a full holiday spread.

Ingredients for Koulourakia

  • Butter: Creaming softened butter and sugar together incorporates air into the cookie dough, which will help the koulourakia rise and become light as they bake. Use unsalted butter for the best results. Here are the very best butter brands according to our Test Kitchen.
  • Eggs: Be sure to use room-temperature eggs. Egg yolks and whites break up more easily at room temperature, which means they will create a smooth, well-textured cookie dough.
  • Flour: This recipe calls for all-purpose flour, which, as opposed to other types of flour, has a balance of protein and starch that will result in cookies that hold their shape yet maintain a tender, crumbly texture.
  • Orange juice: Orange juice brings adds a bright, slightly tangy orange flavor that brings out the warmth of the vanilla and balances out the sweetness of the cookies.
  • Vanilla extract: You want each bite of cookie to have that lovely vanilla backdrop. Our Test Kitchen found the best vanilla extract brands for baking.

Directions

Step 1: Make the koulourakia dough

Cream, butter, sugar and eggs mixed in a bowlTMB Studio

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, and beat well. Beat in the orange juice and vanilla extract.

Flour, baking powder mixed in a large bowlTMB Studio

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Cover and refrigerate the cookie dough for one hour, until it’s firm enough to handle easily.

Step 2: Shape the cookies

A person rolling flour balls into different shapesTMB Studio

Roll the chilled dough into balls 1-1/4 inch in diameter. Roll each ball into a 6-inch rope, then fold in half and twist twice. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Editor’s Tip: Another classic way to make these cookies is to form them into an S shape. Mix it up!

Step 3: Bake the cookies

A person is preparing a tray of cookies with letters on it.TMB Studio

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, and brush over the prepared dough. Bake the kouloukaria for 7 to 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven, and transfer to wire racks for cooling.

Greek Holiday Cookies served with coffee in a large plateTMB Studio

Koulourakia Variations

  • Use traditional ammonia baking powder: Ammonia baking powder, also known as baker’s ammonia, was a common ingredient in classic cookie recipes like this (before baking soda and baking powder were created). Baker’s ammonia typically affects texture, and it makes a crispier, lighter koulourakia. It does give off an ammonia odor while the cookies bake, but it dissipates when they’re done. Find it in specialty baking stores, or buy online.
  • Add more citrus flavor: If you want a deeper citrus flavor for your koulourakia, top each cookie with fresh orange zest. Simply use a Microplane grater to shave some zest over each cookie before baking.
  • Top with sesame seeds: For a toasty flavor and a bit of added texture, sprinkle sesame seeds over these gorgeous Greek cookies before baking. The sesame seeds will toast in the oven and meld into the buttery dough.

How to Store Koulourakia

These cookies stand the test of time very well. Place cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Stored properly, they will remain fresh and crispy for up to two weeks.

Can you freeze koulourakia?

You can definitely freeze koulourakia. Allow the freshly baked cookies to cool completely, then transfer them to a freezer-safe resealable bag or airtight container. Allow the cookies to thaw to room temperature before serving. They will be fresh and delicious from the freezer for up to one month.

Tips for Making Koulourakia

Greek Holiday Cookies with black coffee on a tableTMB Studio

Why did my koulourakia crack?

Too much flour in the dough can cause koulourakia to crack in the oven. You want the dough to be soft and supple yet still have structure for easy shaping.

How else can I shape my koulourakia?

Traditionally, these Greek cookies are twisted into braids. However, they can easily be twisted into different shapes. Roll out the dough into thin strips as in Step 2, then roll the dough into spirals, round rings or S shapes.

Koulourakia

Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 10 min
Yield 6-1/2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add 2 eggs; beat well. Beat in orange juice and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
  2. Roll dough into 1-1/4-in. balls. Shape each into a 6-in. rope; fold in half and twist twice. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  3. In a small bowl, beat remaining 2 eggs; brush over dough. Bake at 350° for 7-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks.

Nutrition Facts

1 cookie: 79 calories, 4g fat (2g saturated fat), 19mg cholesterol, 53mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 0 fiber), 1g protein.

Koulourakia are a traditional treat in Greece, where they are usually made for Easter and other celebrations. I enjoy making these buttery, golden cookies to keep me in touch with my heritage. —Nicole Moskou, New York, New York
Recipe Creator