Gluten-Free Maamoul – Lebanese Easter Pastries

Gluten-free Maamoul

by Fouad Kassab

As Easter approaches, one great way for me to connect with my memories of growing up in Lebanon is to make our traditional Easter sweets, maamoul. I remember being in the living room as a child, with my mum and four or five of her friends, making huge quantities of this delicious shortbread. This community of women would get together to collaborate on this mammoth project, entertain each other through hours of baking, and to supply their individual households with kilos and kilos of this highly sought-after delicacy. The ladies would have each prepared their pastry and fillings the night before at home. This is the easy part: the pastry is semolina kneaded with butter and scented with rosewater, and, sometimes orange blossom water. The fillings could be dates mixed with butter, or a variety of nuts – pistachios, almonds or walnuts – mixed with sugar and rosewater. The labour-intensive part is making the individual pastries. Though not particularly back breaking work, filling the pastry with dates or nuts, placing them in the specially designed maamoul moulds (different designs for different fillings) and then knocking the mould on a wooden board and filling up over a hundred trays requires patience and company.

We had a round, flat portable oven that we used especially for these occasions and though the smell of freshly baked maamoul would be intoxicatingly beautiful and almost impossible to resist, we would have to wait until Easter day before we got a chance to try any. Lent is a period of contemplation and prayer, and sweet delights such as maamoul were not to be consumed. Can you imagine how much discipline and parental pressure it took for us kids to not steal some when the parents weren’t looking?

Gluten-free/grain-free maamoul tray

I miss these communal gatherings I experienced as a child. The coming together of neighbours and friends to keep each other entertained and motivated is a beautiful thing to take part of, and life in Australia seems too busy for such an event to occur. And since I quit eating gluten, I also miss maamoul. This year, however, I took it upon myself to make the impossible possible. The challenge was, could I create a gluten-free maamoul that was as good as the real deal? Inspired by my macadamia and currant shortbreads which I included in our cookbook, Life-Changing Food, I have created this recipe for gluten-free/grain-free maamoul. The result, I promise you, is as good if not better than the originals. And if you don’t believe me, bake a batch and see for yourself. The only thing is, do you have the self-control to wait until after Easter to dig in?

Gluten-free maamoul made with another mould

Maamoul Moulds

Maamoul moulds can usually be found at most Middle-Eastern food shops. They can also be found online on websites such as e-bay. You can choose to use Asian pastry moulds too, if these are more readily available where you live, or you can shape the dough as per the recipe, then flatten slightly and decorate with a fork (see photos below). We have also provided a method for baking these as a slice, so if you can’t find the moulds, there’s no need to miss out!

Gluten Free Maamoul, Quirky Cooking

Gluten free maamoul, Quirky Cooking
Making maamoul without wooden moulds – hand made biscuits or slice

Gluten-Free Maamoul - Lebanese Easter Shortbread
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  1. 200g tapioca starch*, plus extra for dusting
  2. 200g blanched almond meal
  3. 190 cold salted butter, cut into cubes (if using unsalted, add 1/8th tsp fine salt)
  4. 2 Tbsp rosewater
  1. 260g medjool dates, pitted
  2. 100g cold salted butter, cut into cubes (if using unsalted, add 1/8th tsp fine salt)
Also needed
  1. Wooden maamoul moulds, baking trays and baking paper
  2. OR a 20x30cm (or 25x25cm) flat baking dish and baking paper
Thermomix Method
  1. Place all ingredients into TM bowl and blend 15 sec/speed 6. Set aside while making filling.
  2. Wash and dry TM bowl.
  1. Place dates and butter into clean TM bowl and blend 10 sec/speed 7.
  2. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula and blend again 10 sec/speed 4.
Assembling pastries
  1. Preheat oven to 150C.
  2. Divide and roll dough into 24 balls of 25g each, dusting with tapioca starch so dough doesn’t stick to your hands.
  3. Divide and roll date paste into 24 balls of 15g each.
  4. Lightly dust a ball of dough with tapioca, flatten out with fingertips into a circle, and place a ball of date paste onto dough. Wrap dough around the date ball and roll into a smooth ball, then place into a mould, pressing in gently. Knock the pastry out of the mould onto lined baking tray, and repeat with remaining balls of dough and date paste. . (Alternatively, you can make the balls of dough with date paste inside, press down slightly on a baking tray, then decorate the edges with a fork if you have no moulds.)
  5. Bake pastries for 30 minutes. They will still be pale in colour. Remove carefully to cooling racks after 10 mins.
  6. These can be served warm or cool, but they will hold together much better after being in the fridge for a day.
Baking as a slice
  1. Divide dough into two equal balls and chill in fridge for 30 mins. Leave the date paste to sit out at room temp so that it is soft enough to spread.
  2. Grease a 20x30cm or 25x25cm baking dish, and line with baking paper.
  3. Preheat oven to 150C.
  4. Press one ball of dough into lined dish to form the base of the slice, patting with fingers to even out surface of dough. If the dough has softened over this time, return to fridge to chill for 10 mins before proceeding with filling.
  5. Place spoonfuls of the date paste onto the base, and spread out with a spatula or back of a spoon to evenly cover base. (You may need to wet your hands and use your fingers to press paste down so that you can get it smooth and even.)
  6. Roll out second ball of dough between two sheets of baking paper, to fit baking tray exactly. Remove top sheet of paper and turn dough over into the baking dish, pressing down gently onto the filling. Carefully remove paper from top of dough, then smooth dough with fingers as needed.
  7. With a very sharp knife, slice into squares, cutting the whole way through. (Cutting the slice before baking makes it easier to cut after it’s cooked.) If you like, decorate top of slice with a fork to make patterns.
  8. Place slice into oven and bake 40 mins, or until cooked through. Slice will be pale in colour.
  9. Allow to cool then chill in fridge to completely set before serving. (If you can wait! Slice will crumble more if served while warm.)
Conventional Method Tips
  1. Dough: Mix in a food processor or by hand until smooth.
  2. Filling: Mix in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed.
  3. Continue recipe as above.
  1. Store in an airtight container in fridge for up to a month, or freezer for up to 4 months.
  2. * Note: Tapioca starch is preferred to arrowroot starch in this recipe, as arrowroot gives a more delicate and crumbly result.
Quirky Cooking

62 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Maamoul – Lebanese Easter Pastries

  1. Deena Ragless says:

    Thank you so much, Fouad. My mum stopped making Maamoul once I could no longer have grains. She didn’t think it was right for the rest of the family to enjoy them, when I couldn’t. I will sneak her wooden moulds from her kitchen and make some for us all 🙂

  2. Judy says:

    The Macadamia & Currant Shortbread is awesome, so I can’t wait to try this recipe. I’ll be doing it as a slice I think.

  3. Anne says:

    Can’t wait to try this, thank you for sharing this recipe. My son would love this specially when he finds the filling. Awesome job sir, please do continue to share delicious recipes.

  4. Judith says:

    Just went out and bought a mould … will have a go at making them for Easter. They look amazing!

  5. Neri Melsmith says:

    thats pretty straight forward for something so fancy and glutne free!
    im going t try it neri

  6. Annette Evans says:

    Hi, These look delightful, but as I am also dairy free can I use Nuttelex instead of butter.


    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Annette, thanks for your question. 🙂 We can’t recommend Nuttelex – coconut oil would be a healthier option, but we haven’t tested the recipe for that. If you give them a go, please let us know how they turn out. xx

  7. Chelsea says:

    They look so delicious and the interesting thing is that it’s gluten free which made me so excited. Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe 🙂

  8. Lisa says:

    Can coconut oil or coconut yoghurt be used instead of butter to make a dairy free version of Gluten-Free Maamoul – Lebanese Easter Pastries?
    Please give advice for a dairy free version.

    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Lisa! 🙂 Coconut oil should work but we have not yet tested them ourselves. You may find the dough very soft to work with as we recommend using cold butter so perhaps try using cold (set) coconut oil or place the dough into the fridge for a while after making it, before shaping into pastries.

    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Lisa, rosewater is water infused with rose petals. To find rosewater near you, I would do a quick google search (you can buy it online but you may not have it in time for Easter). 🙂

    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Katie, as there is no sweetener in the actual dough, they would be very bland. Is there a reason why you don’t want to use the filling? 🙂

  9. Taryn says:

    These are absolutely beautiful! My family loved them, I think they’ll be an Easter tradition in our house! Thank you for sharing, happy Easter 🐣 🐰🐥

  10. Vic says:

    These look delish! Can’t wait until we can have butter and nuts again, and these will certainly be on the list!

  11. Sonia says:

    I was so happy to find your recipe last week and couldn’t wait to try them. I did today but replaced the butter with cold ghee butter since casein doesn’t sit well with me and my son. I also added extra 50 grams each of almond flour and tapioca since the dough was extremely sticky and I refrigerated it before working with it. I substituted one of the tbsp rose water with orange blossom. The taste is amazing and I’ve been missing it so much but… I felt that maybe it’s too much tapioca. Could the ghee have changed the texture? Have you experimented with more almond flour than tapioca?

    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Sonia, thanks for your message! 🙂 Glad you found the flavour amazing! We extensively tested this recipe. Did you use tapioca flour or arrowroot (quite often these are used interchangeably) as we found using arrowroot really effected the end result (more soft and crumbly). We also found chilling the Maamoul was preferable in texture to eating them warm.

      • Sonia says:

        You are right, they are better enjoyed chilled. Yes I have followed your advise about using tapioca. I must confess that I’ve made them 3 times already (they don’t last 😉) but have now exchanged the amounts to 350g almond flour and 150 tapioca.. This works great for us. I also made the walnut/honey stuffed Maaloul. Delicious!!! Thank you so much for this recipe.

        • Giulia says:

          I’m making these in few days time with ghee. Thank you Sonia for experimenting and posting your changes. I too am better without the dairy part of butter. Thanks

  12. Laura says:

    Hi, I made these last Easter and they were wonderful. My husband has requested them for his birthday…and I was wondering whether anyone has tried a pistachio filling instead (just to try another traditional version)? Wondering how much pistachio/sugar/orange blossom to mix up to fill this much pastry?

  13. Tala Barakat says:

    I am so keen to try this!!!! I’m palestinian and do no gluten+dairy+excessive sugar so finding an arabic dessert recipe i can do is amazing. thanks so much for this….please post more

  14. Elsy says:

    Thank you for this recipe, I tried it yesterday but used ghee instead of butter, very tasty! Happy easter !!

  15. Anita says:

    Hi Jo, any ideas for a nut-free dough ? My 7yo son is making them for school show and tell and he can’t use nuts. (We’ve made them many times with nuts for home and they are awesome). Thanks, Anita

  16. Jenny Corbett says:

    Hi Jo,
    Do you think this pastry could be used as a grain free one for sausage rolls or pasties please?

    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Jenny, I haven’t tried but this is more like a shortbread dough and quite delicate, so probably not ideal for sausage rolls. The Life Changing dough in our recipe book and app (and also available ready-made through our online store) is often used for sausage rolls and pasties and provides a fantastic grain free alternative to pastry.

  17. Samia says:

    Not sure what happened to mine. The shortbread tastes like starch, no flavor at all, and they crumble apart. Not comparable to real Maamoul at all.

    • Quirky Cooking Team says:

      Hi Samia. We are so sorry to hear that. Fouad did not put any sweetener in the shortbread mixture so possibly you could add some sweetener to add some more flavour into the pastry?And yes, the mixture itself is quite crumbly so best to follow the steps mentioned in the recipe -cool it down then transfer and store in the freezer. Hope this helps:-)

    • Quirky Cooking Team says:

      hi. I have used tapioca and blanched almond meal in this recipe and it turned out delish;-).

  18. Eman Ottallah says:

    Is the crust crumblu or does it have some elastisity? I am not a fan of crumbly crust. Was wondering if a GF pie crust mix could be used instead of the Tapioca powder? I tried a GF crust recipe with Almond Flour and Oat Flour and tried to make it as if it was mamoul crust… it was okay…just more delecate than I wanted. The premade crust mixes have xanthan gum added and I have read that helps with elasticity.

    • Quirky Cooking Team says:

      Hi Eman. Unfortunately we have not tried it with he GF pie crust so I am not really sure-it may or may not work. This dough gets quite crumbly hence it is a matter of playing around and testing whether this would work. Good luck:-)

  19. Lina says:

    Hi Jo, We made these & followed the recipe to the letter, but they were very crumbly and didn’t hold. The shortbread just fell apart. We used the conventional method. Do you have any ideas as to what may have gone wrong? We’re so committed to getting these perfect!

    Thanking you in advance.


    • QuirkyJo says:

      Hi Lina, did you use blanched almond meal (no almond skins)? It will be more crumbly if you use whole almond meal. Also, did you use butter or coconut oil? They work best with butter. I cool them down on the trays then pop the trays into the freezer and freeze them, then remove to a dish and store in freezer.

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