These are my favorite vegan dessert recipes for Christmas. Most of them are the vegan versions of some Greek traditional Christmas desserts such as kourambiedes, melomakarona and vasilopita but there is also a delicious Christmas pudding, my recipe for the perfect, sticky cinnamon rolls and of course -for the chocolate lovers- rich, raw vegan chocolate cheesecakes with white or dark chocolate! If you avoid gluten or refined sugar, don’t skip reading this article as you will fing some delicious gluten free and sugar free options. Whatever you choose to (un)bake this year I am sending you my best wishes for love and peace this Christmas.
Christmas is about love and compassion to all creatures, human and non-human. Simply by making conscious choices regarding our personal shopping, the gifts we choose as well as our Christmas recipes (vegan recipes that do not contain animal-derived ingredients are harmless and peaceful, just as christmas should be!), we can transform ourselves, our lives to that light and the love we call for. It’s not difficult, it’s not unhealthy, it’s not expensive. It’s just a way of life.
As I’ m a little bit obsessed with baking, these days I experiment with new vegan recipes for my favorite Christmas baked goods. In order to be aligned with our traditions, these days I like to bake vegan kourabiedes (traditional Greek shortbread) and vegan melomakarona (vegan Christmas small no-honey balls) not only for my family but also for our friends, neighbors, colleagues. More or less I know what my friends and family prefer or what special diet each one follows and so I adapt my recipes accordingly.
As some of my beloved persons do not consume gluten, when I prepare their Christmas batch, I choose to make either gluten-free and vegan melomakarona, or these crunchy snow balls or kourabiedes, made with vegan butter, lemon zest and a mix of organic corn flour and whole rice flour. In fact, although we consume gluten, this recipe is so delicious that I usually make one more batch for us too (two or three of them are left since the other day 🙂). Moreover, instead of dusting them with the icing sugar, I use coconut or almond flour which makes them even more delectable!
When I make baked goods that call for butter, I like to substitute it with homemade vegan butter which works amazingly in baking, tastes amazing and is much healthier than most store-bought vegan butters out there. The one I made this time contains olive oil and coconut oil, both of which are resistant to baking. To anticipate any question, no, olive oil does not alter the taste of the vegan butter to a point that is unpleasant as the amount used is relatively small and of course coconut oil does the magic. They work perfectly together!
(for 30 small kourabiedes)
- 120 g vegan butter (homemade or store-bought)
- 140 g (about 3/4 cup) of whole rice flour
- 140 g (1 cup) whole corn flour
- 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar (of choice)
- 2 tbsp cognac or whiskey
- 2 tbsp plant-based milk
- 2 tsp baking powder
- zest from one lemon
- vanilla (I used 1 tsp natural, homemade extract)
- 3/4 cups almonds finely chopped
- natural rose water (optional)
- coconut flour or almond flour or powdered sugar
1. Melt vegan butter and pour it in a bowl along with the sugar, cognac and milk. Stir well until the sugar dissolves.
2. Add the baking powder, zest, corn flour and rice flour and knead until a soft, non-sticky dough has been formed. Add the almonds and knead a little more. Let the mixture in a cool place for at least half an hour to rest.
3. Preheat the oven to 170 oC. Take walnut-sized pieces of dough and shape small, thick discs or balls. You can also make bigger kourabiedes (in this case double up the recipe to get around thirty pieces). Line a baking tin with baking shit and arrange your kourabiedes, leaving at least two centimeters between them as they increase in volume during baking.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Spray with a little rose water (if you’ ll use) while still warm and let them cool completely in the baking dish (if you try to get them out while hot they will fall apart).
5. When completely cool, sprinkle with coconut flour or almond flour or powdered sugar and serve.
Kourabiedes (plural: kourabiedes / singular: kourabies) – named after the Turkish word “kurabiye” which means a cookie made of flour, butter and sugar – are delicious “snowy” almond cookies, similar to shortbreads, that are traditionally prepared in almost every Greek house just before the Christmas holidays! Usually, nowadays, they are made with butter, flour, sugar and almonds, they are baked until golden, sometimes they are flavored with rosewater and then they are rolled in icing sugar so as to form their white, snowy coating. However many years before, when the butter was not easy to find in each and every part of Greece, people still enjoyed this treat but they used virgin olive oil instead of butter as olives are abundant in our country.
Actually the recipe that my grandma used to make contained olive oil, spices and orange zest and every time she baked them, the whole house was permeated by their aromas, making us even more impatient to have our first snowy treat. Since I went vegan I always prefer to make her recipe, although I have made some tiny changes, as kourabiedes made with olive oil are much healthier and foremost they are cruelty free. So instead of white sugar I like to use the unprocessed brown sugar and instead of the icing sugar I use coconut or almond flour for a healthier snowy coating, which also gives to the recipe a distinctive aroma and taste.
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup brandy
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 cups (about 450 g) all purpose flour
- ¾ cup peeled almonds, ground
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 ½ cups (200 gr) unprocessed brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
for the filling
- 1 ½ cups peeled almonds, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unprocessed brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- ¼ -½ cup rosewater (optional)
- 1 ½ cups (150 gr) coconut or almond flour
1. In a bowl, add the oil, sugar, brandy and lemon juice and stir until sugar is dissolved.
2. Add in the mixture the baking powder, cinnamon, ground almonds and finally the flour, kneading with a spoon or with your hands until a soft, oily dough is formed. Usually it takes about 3 cups of flour but if the dough is not firm enough you may need to add a little more.
3. Mold the dough into a ball, cover it with a damp towel or a film and leave in a cool place to rest for at least 1 hour.
4. For the filling: In a bowl mix all the ingredients until they bind together.
5. Take small pieces of the dough (in the size of a small tangerine) and with each one of them form a disk of about ½ centimeter thickness with your hand. Place in the center 1 teaspoon of the filling and pull the ends of the dough to the center, so as to enclose the filling. Mold a little bit with your hands to seal and get the shape of a small bun.
6. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the buns, leaving 1.5 to 2 cm between them as they increase in volume during baking. Bake in preheated oven at 175 oC for 35-40 minutes or until they get a nice golden brown color.
7. Let them cool slightly and brush them with the rosewater. This step is not necessary but it is recommended.
8. When kourabiedes are completely cool, put the coconut flour in a bowl and dip them one by one so as to form a white coating. Place them on a platter and dust with the remaining coconut flour. Keep them for several days in an airtight container or in a platter covered with film.