How to Make Kourabiethes (Greek shortbread)

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on November 1, 2011

Kourabiethes (pronounced koo-ra-bi-e-des) are a mainstay dessert on any Greek table during festive occasions. In other cultures it is known as a Russian tea cookie or a Mexican tea cookie but they are all basically the same with different ingredients like walnuts or pecans that make them unique for that particular culture or region.

This delicious shortbread is one of those recipes that every Greek family keeps close to the vest, and each family has their own secrets in making it tender and flavorful. Most of the time, you will find these cookies either plain or with ground almonds and flavored with a splash of rosewater, orange water or ouzo.

These cookies are so delicious and my biggest problem is that I could eat 100 of them in one sitting. I’ve tried many others over the years made by many different hands but they always tasted so different than what my mum made at home…and not always in a good way.

When making shortbread, there are a few things to remember. First, ALWAYS remember to use the best and freshest butter you can find, especially since the delicate nature of a great shortbread cookie comes from the butter itself. The next thing is not to use too much sugar in the cookie base itself, since kourabiethes are coated in a layer of powdered sugar after baking. Many recipes use powdered sugar which will create a stiffer and sweeter cookie. I prefer to use granulated sugar because it helps in the spread of the cookie itself when baking. The last thing to remember is that it’s important to use real vanilla or some vanilla paste from the inside of a vanilla pod. This will not only enhance the flavor but the smell of the baking shortbread is simply intoxicating.

A traditional shortbread does not use any eggs and most recipes you will find consist of butter, flour, sugar and vanilla and their texture is a little tougher. For an exceptional result, it is really important to add a few egg yolks which add to the overall tenderness of the final product.

Today I made one batch and split it into 2 flavors. To half the batch I added some roasted ground almonds and then I filled the other with an easy date nut filling that was simply delicious. You can dust some them with powdered sugar or drizzle on some white or dark chocolate, but the true deliciousness of this cookie will always shine through.

Mum’s Famous Kourabiethes
8 oz butter, softened (salted or unsalted) **if you use unsalted butter add 1 teaspoon of salt to the recipe
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla (.2 oz) (or vanilla paste from one pod)
2 ½ cups flour (12.5 oz)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar for dredging
½ cup hand chopped, roasted almonds**optional

Sift all of the dry ingredients together and set aside. Then add the butter to the bowl of your stand mixer along with the sugar and cream both ingredients together until light and fluffy. Next add the yolks and vanilla (or vanilla paste) and mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until it comes together into a ball. You may need to give this a little help by kneading it by hand a little in the end. The warmth from your hand will help form the stiff dough.

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out cookie dough and then roll them in the palm of my hand to smooth out the dough. If you are keeping them plain, roll them into a ball without any visible seams in the dough, then flatten slightly and place them onto a paper lined tray. If you are going to fill some of the cookies with the date filling, you will need to use a bigger scoop to allow for the filling. When I use the filling, I scoop out some dough then hollow out a hole, add some of the chilled filling, then add more dough to seal the base. Once you scoop them all out, roll them in the palms of your hands to seal the cookie well. If there are any visible seams before baking, they will be there after the cookie bakes, and it won’t look as pretty.

Bake at 325°F until the edges have taken on a golden brown color, about 20 minutes.

Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool slightly, but when they are still warm toss them into the powdered sugar. The warmth of the cookie with help the powdered sugar stick to the surface of the cookie.

Date Nut Filling
8 large medjool dates, pitted
¼ cup walnuts
1 teaspoon honey
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or walnut, grapeseed oil)

First add the walnuts to your food processor and let them go until they are a uniform fine meal, then add your pitted dates and honey and process together until it resembles a coarse meal. Next add just enough oil to bring the mixture together into a mass. Using the smallest scoop you can find (.5 oz preferably) scoop out the filling and freeze. Once frozen, cut each piece in half and roll into smaller balls that can be tucked into the dough. Make sure that each piece of filling is not too big because it will show or even break through the dough.

Print Friendly

Leave a Comment

Anti-Spam Quiz:

Previous post:

Next post: