Join me in making Halwa Chebakia, fried Moroccan sesame cookies that are traditionally served during the month of Ramadan. These flower shaped treats are loaded with warming spices like turmeric & saffron, fried, then steeped in honey with orange blossom water. While definitely a labor of love, these Moroccan cookies are a treat that are perfect for sharing during the holidays.

a plate of halwa chebakia

Growing up, I was really lucky to have a strong sense of my Moroccan roots, despite being born and raised thousands of miles away. My dad made sure my brother and I never forgot that part of ourselves, saving up for regular trips to visit our grandma, aunts, and cousins.

And on the off years where we couldn’t be there in person, there was always a piece of Morocco in our kitchen.

I still remember the first time we made halwa chebakia (pronounced sh-ba-kia) together and what a production it was. My dad brought the special cookie cutters home from his recent trip, and taught us his mom’s technique, just in time for Ramadan.

These sesame cookies are usually made as a family, because in all honesty, they are a lot of work. My aunts and grandma usually dedicated an entire day to the production, and would freeze and save the leftovers for the entire year. But don’t let this discourage you, these aromatic, honey dipped cookies are worth every ounce of effort.

If you’re looking to enjoy these during Ramadan as a part of Iftar, be sure to also check out my dad’s recipe for Harira and Mint Tea. These are two Moroccan recipes that are traditionally served with these cookies.

bowls of flour, honey, vinegar, and more

Everything You’ll Need

Find the full ingredient list with exact quantities in the recipe card below.

For the Cookies:

  • sesame seeds + sesame seeds for garnish
  • saffron threads
  • orange blossom water
  • active dry yeast
  • sugar
  • warm water
  • all purpose flour
  • ground anise
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground turmeric
  • baking powder
  • white vinegar
  • egg yolk
  • olive oil
  • butter, melted
  • warm water
  • canola or vegetable oil

For the Toppings:

Prepping Ingredients

Optional: Traditional Moroccan recipes will add a pinch of ground mastic gum into the dough before mixing. This ingredient was difficult to find, so I left it out and found the cookies still stayed true to the original flavors. Feel free to add it to the dough if it’s available to you!

Making the Dough

Tip: Be patient with yourself when learning how to fold these cookies. They take many Moroccan cooks years of practice to perfect!

Frying & Finishing the Cookies

Warm the honey. In a saucepan, melt the honey with the orange blossom water over medium low heat, until liquid and no longer thick.

Storage Tip: Leftover chebakia can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer. My dad used to bring me these every year when he went home to visit family in Morocco, and I was always surprised by how long they kept when stored properly!

a plate of halwa chebakia

What To Serve With These Cookies

As mentioned above, these cookies are the staple dessert that we enjoy with Iftar (the meal that breaks the daily fast).

You will find this meal varies depending on the Moroccan household you visit. But the staples include a bowl of harira, a glass of milk, hard boiled eggs, baghrir pancakes, dates, mint tea, and these cookies.

You can also enjoy these cookies during tea time or for dessert any time of the year!

Special Equipment

  • Saffron: Saffron helps to give the cookies that golden color and a beautiful fragrant smell.
  • Orange Blossom Water: This ingredient adds an aromatic taste to the honey and to the dough. It’s commonly used in many Moroccan desserts.
  • Scalloped Pastry Cutter: Although you can find a cookie cutter specifically made for halwa chebakia in Morocco, they’re nearly impossible to find elsewhere. Thankfully, a scalloped pastry cutter will do the trick!
  • Food Processor: This tool is a life saver in turning the toasted sesame seeds to dust in no time.
  • Spider Strainer: I use this gadget in so many different recipes, particularly fried ones. It’s a great help in transferring these sesame cookies from the oil into the honey orange blossom mixture.
a plate of halwa chebakia

More Tasty Moroccan Treats

Bismillah,

Salima written in cursive
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Halwa Chebakia (Moroccan Sesame Cookies)

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  • Author: Salima Benkhalti
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 40 cookies 1x
  • Category: Dessert, Cookie, Snack, Side Dish
  • Method: Fried
  • Cuisine: Moroccan, North African
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Join me in making Halwa Chebakia, fried Moroccan sesame cookies that are traditionally served during the month of Ramadan. These flower shaped treats are loaded with warming spices like turmeric & saffron, fried, then steeped in honey with orange blossom water. While definitely a labor of love, these Moroccan cookies are a treat that are perfect for sharing during the holidays.


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds + 1/4 cup sesame seeds for garnish
  • 68 saffron threads, crushed
  • 2 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground anise
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 34 cups canola or vegetable oil

For the Toppings:


Instructions

  1. Toast & process sesame seeds. Toast & stir the sesame seeds in a pan over medium low heat until light golden brown and fragrant. Measure out the 1/2 cup of them and transfer to a food processor and pulse until the seeds become a powder. Set remaining toasted seeds aside for garnishing later.
  2. Prep saffron & yeast. In a small bowl combine the saffron & orange blossom water. In another small bowl combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Give these ingredients at least 5 minutes to bloom.
  3. Mix dry ingredients. Add the flour to a large bowl with the sesame seed powder, anise, cinnamon, turmeric, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. 
  4. Mix wet ingredients. In a small bowl combine bloomed saffron, bloomed yeast, vinegar, egg yolk, olive oil, and melted butter. Whisk together to combine.
  5. Make the dough. Pour all of the wet ingredients in the dry ingredients bowl. Then add small amounts of the warm water into the bowl at a time, mixing with your hands. Continue to knead adding only enough water until it’s no longer sticky, then transferring the dough to a clean surface. Continue kneading until the dough is soft and stretchy.
  6. Roll out the dough. Divide the dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Roll out lengthwise into a narrow rectangle, until 1/8 inch thin.
  7. Cut out the dough. Using a scalloped pastry cutter cut the dough into small squares. Cut 3 lines in the center of each square, being careful to not slice through to the edges (see images above). 
  8. Fold the halwa chebakia. Gently hold the 1st and 3rd row of the cookie with one hand, and hold the 2nd and 4th rows with the other hand. Carefully open the 1st and 2nd rows and fold the 3rd and 4th into the gap, creating that signature flower shape (see images). Continue this process until all of the dough is used. Let the cookies rest for at least 30 minutes before frying.
  9. Warm the honey. In a saucepan, melt the honey with the orange blossom water over medium low heat, until liquid and no longer thick.
  10. Fry. Heat your oil over medium heat in a pot. Fry the cookies until golden brown all around. Transfer them directly into the warm honey mixture to coat all around, then transfer to a plate. Top with a sprinkle of the toasted sesame seeds and enjoy!

Notes

Tip: Be patient with yourself when learning how to fold these cookies. They take many Moroccan cooks years of practice to perfect!

Optional: Traditional Moroccan recipes will add a pinch of ground mastic gum into the dough before mixing. This ingredient was difficult to find, so I left it out and found the cookies still stayed true to the original flavors. Feel free to add it to the dough if it’s available to you!

Storage Tip: Leftover chebakia can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer. My dad used to bring me these every year when he went home to visit family in Morocco, and I was always surprised by how long they kept when stored properly!