These gluten-free Moroccan ghriba cookies are crackly-chewy morsels that are not too sweet. A nutty, cinnamon-laced base is rolled in just a little powdered sugar for a gluten-free variation of a traditional North African cookie.
This recipe is a gluten-free version of a simple, wholesome Moroccan cookie recipe I wrote up several years ago called a ghriba. Ghriba can be made with walnuts or almonds and don't call for much flour which lends them perfectly to being adapted to gluten-free.
Morocco ... it's been eight years since we were about to leave, on to our next adventure in Saudi Arabia. It is starting to feel like a long time ago (and it is). But I am blessed - or cursed - with a very vivid memory and so sometimes the days there still feel very close. I can't say we ate ghriba in Casablanca but we probably did and I just didn't know what they were called.
The simplest ingredients are blended together in this recipe to create a dense, not-too-sweet morsel. Walnuts are the star so if you love walnuts you'll be very pleased. (If you don't, try almonds instead. This New York Times recipe for rose and almond ghriba looks lovely.) A bit - but just a bit - of powdered sugar makes these cookies into the little treats they are supposed to be, and I love one or two with a late morning cup of coffee.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Simple. Just a few ingredients are needed to make these cookies, including nuts, butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
Delightful texture. Ghriba are distinctive in that they are cracked on the outside and chewy on the inside. The nuts, either walnuts or almonds, contribute to the delectably noshable interior.
Not too sweet! You know I love a not-too-sweet baked item, and these cookies are exactly what I'm looking for. The cookie dough calls for just ¼ cup of sugar to sweeten the whole batch, and you can forgo the dusting of powdered sugar if you wish to keep them even less sweet (though may I suggest the powered sugar?).
What are Ghriba?
Ghriba are a traditional cookie found in Morocco made mostly from nuts. In this recipe I used ground walnuts, but you will also find them made with almonds or even coconut. They are obvious by their cracked exterior which gives way to a marvelously chewy interior. A shower of cool powdered sugar gives them just enough sweetness to qualify as a dessert.
What You'll Need to Make Gluten-Free Moroccan Ghriba Cookies
- Unsalted butter
- Ground cinnamon
- Almond flour
- Baking powder
- Powdered sugar
How to Make Moroccan Cookies
- Beat egg and butter. In a large bowl, beat the egg and butter together with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add sugar and cinnamon and beat well to combine.
- Whisk flour. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
- Mix in. Beat the flour into the batter and then add the walnuts. Mix on low speed until smooth.
- Chill. Place bowl in fridge and chill for 30 minutes.
- Prep pans. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place powdered sugar in a bowl.
- Form cookies. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar and place on baking sheet 1- inch apart.
- Bake. Place in the oven and bake for four minutes; then rotate sheets and bake cookies until they are golden, firm at the edges, and slightly cracked on top, another 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, and dust with more powdered sugar before serving.
For the almond flour - try oat flour or sorghum flour.
For the walnuts - try almonds or pistachios.
To make dairy-free - substitute your favorite non-dairy butter for the butter.
To make refined-sugar free - swap coconut sugar for the sugar and skip the powdered sugar or make homemade coconut powdered sugar.
- With coffee! Ghriba are so lovely with coffee, and for fun you can make Turkish/Arabic coffee to serve in little cups alongside.
- With tea, especially Moroccan mint tea. It's worth trying your hand - and pour - at making Moroccan mint tea, which is delicious and so fragrant.
- As dessert. You could serve glasses of lemon sorbet with ghriba for garnish, or a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and ghribas.
- On a cookie plate. You could absolutely tuck these cookies on a holiday cookie plate or on a general cookie plate when you have guests over (for tea or coffee ... of course!).
Store cookies in an airtight container on the counter for 5 days (between you and me they last longer than that). They also freeze well - place cookies in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature to serve.
Gluten-Free Moroccan Ghriba Cookies
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg large, at room temperature
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons almond flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 ¼ cups walnut pieces, coarsely ground in a food processor
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- In a large bowl, beat the egg and butter together with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add sugar and cinnamon and beat well to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Beat into the batter and then add the walnuts. Mix on low speed until smooth. Place bowl in fridge and chill for 30 minutes.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place powdered sugar in a bowl.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar and place on baking sheet 1- inch apart. Place in the oven and bake for four minutes; then rotate sheets and bake cookies until they are golden, firm at the edges, and slighly cracked on top, another 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool on the sheet, and dust with more powdered sugar before serving.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.
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