Traditional Cretan Holiday Cookies and Pastry Recipes

On the Greek island of Crete, cookies and pastries are traditionally made and served over the Christmas and New Year's holiday season. They are enjoyed at other times of year as well, but in December and January, they come together to create a fabulous collection of tastes and textures.

  • 01 of 04
    Kalitsounia - Sweet Cheese Pastries
    Photo © N. Gaifyllia, licensed to, Inc.

    These sweet cheese pastries are a Christmas favorite on the island of Crete, where they are either baked or fried. Unlike many other Greek pastries, this recipe calls for an egg dough instead of phyllo.

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    Greek Sesame Cookies - Holiday Ring Shapes
    Photo © N. Gaifyllia, licensed to, Inc.

    Variations of these delicious small sesame cookies can be found all over Greece, in bakeries and at home. They are made without butter and eggs and can be stored for up to two months. In my little corner of Crete, we add yeast and form them into small wreath shapes once a year: at Christmas.

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    Melomakarona - Greek Christmas Honey & Nut Cookies
    Photo © N. Gaifyllia, licensed to, Inc.

    Melomakarona are a Christmas tradition in Greece (but enjoyed at other times of the year). All over Greece, kitchens will be filled with the wonderful smell of these spice cookies that will adorn tables, be given as hostess gifts, and eaten in huge quantities.

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    Kourabiethes - Traditional Sugared Almond Cookies
    Photo © N. Gaifyllia, licensed to, Inc.

    Kourabiethes (also kourambiedes) are traditional celebration cookies, served at Christmas, New Year's, weddings, and baptisms. Toasted almond shortbread-type cookies topped with a generous coating of confectioner's sugar, they melt in the mouth.