Sweet holiday fritters (Ma’karoon)

January 6, 2015  •  Category: ,


The French have their macarons, the Italians their macaroni, theLebanese  their ma’karoons. Closer to the Italian version, Lebanese makaroons are made with flour (semolina or plain flour) and water into a dough and can be savory or sweet.

You will get a sweet version today; these are also called “Zeinab’s fingers” assabeh  Zeinab. Flavored with anise, fennel and mahlab, fried and coated with syrup; these sweets are served on religious holidays or anytime someone drops by for a visit (with a cup of Turkish coffee). They are light and sweet.

Their texture, resembling beeswax, is obtained by pressing the dough against a sieve.

Makaroons will keep for at least a week  in a tightly closed jar in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS: Quantity will yield 75 to 100 pieces, depending on the size.

  • 3/4 cup of semolina flour (125 g. or 4.5 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour (125 g. or 4.5 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of anise seeds and 2  Tablespoons  of fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of ground anise
  • 3/4 teaspoon of mahlab
  • 1/2  cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of a mixture of olive oil and melted ghee (can be all ghee or oil-just a light olive oil)
  • 1 cup of prepared syrup flavored with orange blossom water and rose water (thick syrup)
  • 4 cups of oil for frying the makaroons



  1. Place the fennel and anise seeds in a small saucepan with the water. Let the boil boil for a few seconds, then turn off the heat and cover the pan in order to infuse the spices for 15 minutes or longer. Strain the water.
  2. Place the semolina flour and all-purpose flour in a mixer bowl; add the baking powder and mahlab. Mix well for a few seconds and add the oil and melted ghee. Add the strained and flavored  water and mix until the dough obtained is firm but soft and shiny, adding more water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time (or more flour if the dough is too wet). The dough should be firm but moist.
  3. Cover the dough and let it rest for a few minutes; pinch pieces of dough the size of an egg, roll between the palms of your hand until a rope is formed. Cut into one inch pieces and press each small sausage into the basket of the fryer or any colander or sieve with a perforated pattern (keep in mind that the imprint is more defined using a plastic colander). Remove the dough by pinching it a little, forming a small “tunnel” in the back of the cookie. Lay the makaroons side by side on a piece of wax paper and fry them in batches for 3 minutes or until they become golden in color.

  1. Dry them in the basket for a few seconds, then dip them in the syrup for 3 minutes or until they are well-coated with syrup. Remove with a perforated spoon and let them air-dry for a few minutes. Serve or store in a tight container in the fridge until ready to offer to guests.


For makaroons, the syrup needs to be  a bit thick so that it will cling to the cookie, forming a shiny fragrant coating. Place 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a saucepan and pour 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring from time to time and boil for 15 minutes. Add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice to the syrup and boil one minute longer; add one teaspoon of orange blossom water and one teaspoon of rose water to the syrup, boil a few seconds and turn off the heat. Let the syrup cool.

TIP: If the syrup is too thick, add some water (1/4 cup or more) and boil a little bit to dissolve and lighten the syrup.


57 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. john@heneedsfood says:

    They’re almost like little gnocchi, just sweet. They look great!

  2. Adele says:

    These look really delicious. I’m not into fiddly desserts, or any dish, for that matter, but I think they look absolutely worth it. Great flavours.

  3. Devaki says:

    Dear Joumana – Don’t these remind you of the struffoli from Naples that I just fixed over Christmas? You being ace cook and all obviously did not go through my trials or tribulations 🙂

    Lovely and light and flavorful 🙂

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  4. Susan says:

    They must taste wonderful judging from the ingredients and preparation. I love the textured design!

  5. Christine @ Fresh says:

    Those makaroons are such cute bite-sized goodies! They must be so good!

  6. Marcela says:

    These makaroons look really yummy!!….I promise myself not to eat sweets in January, but this recipe is making me think not to keep that promise…….Abrazotes, Marcela

  7. Anita says:

    So addictive, can never have just one, or two or… oh well. They look so so good, I can just taste them.

  8. Magic of Spice says:

    These look like heavenly little bites…I love the way the pastry looks when broken in the last photo, I can not think of the word lost in my head…But it reminds me of a childhood favorite pastry. Delicious!

  9. Banana Wonder says:

    These are like the Greek loukomades! YUM! Love that fried doughy goodness. Never had homemade ones – I wish I could try yours!

  10. Nuts about food says:

    I always find it interesting when words depiciting similar things from different cultures resemble each other, meaning there must be a common denominator. Since maccheroni originated in Southern Italy, I imagine their name stems from an arabic word…must go and research…

  11. Nuts about food says:

    Wrong, it apparently derives from the Latin maccare (to squash, compress) or from Ancient Greek macron (big) or Makaria (flour and broth based dish). Who knows?

  12. Rosa says:

    OMG, those look so addictive! A gorgeous treat.



  13. valerie de familyblo says:

    c’est magnifique, merci pour les explications
    bon mercredi
    val de familyblog

  14. oum mouncifrayan says:

    belle technique de façonnage, bravo

  15. Miriam says:

    Wow… your makaroons look amazing!

  16. Priya says:

    Makaroons looks yummy and sooo irresistible, absolutely divine..

  17. Jamie says:

    Mmmmm these are nothing like macarons and don’t tell anyone I said this but these are so much better (to MY taste) than macarons! The exotic flavors make these just wonderful! Another great recipe to try!

  18. Pamela says:

    Dear Joumana: How could I resist from trying this beauties! I’m imagining that taste of orange blossom and rose water. Lot of work, but worthwhile. Big hugs

  19. Michaela says:

    It looks yummy. I just don’t know what is “mahlab”??

    • Joumana says:

      @Michaela: mahlab is a spice derived from the seeds of a black cherry; it is available either in seeds or in powder form. You can omit it from the recipe here. Mahlab is used a lot in Lebanese breads and pastries and in other mediterranean countries like Greece, I am told.

      @Valerie: the chocolate cake is my mom’s. It probably comes from a French recipe as she always loved French food and culture.

  20. Christine's Recipes says:

    Haven’t tried makaroons before. They look like sweet gnocchi too. Very good looking.

  21. Dimah says:

    Lovely clicks..looks so yummy!!

  22. PJ says:

    Wow such delicious bites 🙂

  23. blackbookkitchendiar says:

    wow! this looks so cute and addictive.. i am loving the spice in this little darlings!! yum!! thanks you for shairing, i will give this a shot.

  24. A Canadian Foodie says:

    Stunning. Gorgeous. So interesting and an easy tutorial. I love how the marks are made. This is a beautiful tribute to your culture and I will absolutely dig into these the next time I am at the local Lebanese Bakery!

  25. Marysol says:

    Oh dear. They look deliciously rich!

    The only problem I see with this recipe is that it only makes 100 pieces.

  26. Katerina says:

    Mahlepi as we call it, gives a very beautiful taste and aroma to everything that is put in. We use it to make tsoureki which is something like a sweet bread and I love the taste. These look almost like our melomakarona, only you use some different ingredients. I am sure they taste heavenly.

  27. My Carolina Kitchen says:

    No matter what the country, makaroons are the best. What gorgeous treats you made for us today.

  28. Nadji says:

    Beaux et gourmands, ces macaronis valent le détour.
    J’en aurai bien mangé quelques-uns.
    A très bien.

  29. peter says:

    I too see how they look like gnocchi but thats where it ends. The spices are familar, the box grater method as well but this firmly a Lebanese treat…I’ll take a box!

  30. Oui, Chef says:

    These look like little baby glazed donuts….YUM!

  31. T.W. Barritt says:

    I would love to snack on these! They remind me of a pumpkin gnocchi I got from a street vendor in NY – the combination of sweet and warm spices was wonderful.

  32. Dana says:

    I love the pattern that the sieve leaves on them. These look so cute!

  33. Lentil Breakdown says:

    I am salivating! They look like donut holes, and donuts are a weakness of mine.

  34. Fragolina says:

    I love maacroun, I found them so delicious… perfect. I just made a batch at the Epiphany day.

  35. Lena says:

    lovely, looks like dates too!

  36. FOODESSA says:

    Joumana, your first paragragh made me laugh out loud for real.
    Love the technique and surface you used for rolling your lebanese treats ;o)
    As you may know, I’m really not much of a fan of frying…I leave that to my MIL…and will be passing this along…especially for making Italian gnocchi.
    Thanks for the inspiration once again.

    Ciao for now,

  37. grace says:

    these have an interesting look about them, and i’m sure the flavor and texture are unique too. that syrup would be good enough to guzzle! 🙂

  38. Three-Cookies says:

    This looks delicious, was planning to try other similar sweets but makaroons look simple to prepare and very tasty, will try this soon. Thanks for the recipe. You say it will last for a week, I doubt it!!!

  39. Banadoura_b says:

    I Attempted to make these makaroons last night. I put in a little more water than you had suggested because the sugar syrup formed a hard candy like coating around the makaroons. It took me three tries using different combinations of frying times to get the perfect makaroon and my lebanese boy friend loved it! Thanks for the recipe!

  40. Mathai says:

    I love this stuff, think its the same version that they serve here during Eid.

  41. Lina says:

    Wow this is mouth watering! I will try it this weekend.
    Do you have any idea how make a baked version of it?

    • Joumana says:

      @Lina: just bake it for 10 minutes in a 325F oven. Then dip in syrup. I have always fried them. I will try the baked version soon and report back.

  42. Bill says:

    I bake them and eat them without the syrup. They are great with coffee.

  43. Kathy says:

    Joumana, My mother use to make these every year for my aunts birthday. They were my aunts favorite. I did not have a recipe for them, until I saw yours. I will definitely give them a try. Thanks so much for sharing! Love your blog!

  44. Phoebe Chung says:

    I was looking for the Zeinab’s fingers recipe a few weeks.
    There are some recipe I can find, but your recipe’s sounds great.
    I should try it. Thanks for share this recipe.

  45. Mary says:

    Cant wait to make these childhood favorites. Please one question, we are preparing for a church festival, can you freeze the makaroons before frying them.
    Thank you.

    • Joumana says:

      @Mary: I have never frozen them so just from experience with pastry I would say you could without a problem; I would simply not freeze them for longer than 2 weeks if possible.

  46. Reeni says:

    These look wonderful! I love anise! I think I could nibble my way through the entire batch.

  47. Sylva T. says:

    Oh my goodness! These look so delicious! I’m definitely going to have to try these.

  48. mariam says:

    Mis abuelos eran libaneses .. mi abuela los hacia siempre …y hasta recuerdo donde los pasaba , para marcarles el enrejado ja ja ja ….y encontrar esta receta fue muy emocionante …algun dia se los haré para mis hijos y mi nieto !!! gracias !!!

  49. Stephanie Canada says:

    God bless u for posting this recipe… I’m Lebanese and my grandmother use to make these for me when I was little… They tasted and looked just like hers… I just made them and will diffently quatrouple the recipe next time… Thank u big time !!

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