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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


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.


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:


  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!


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!