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Iraqi Date Cookies (Kleicha)

Course Dessert
Cuisine Iraq
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 24 cookies
Author International Cuisine


  • For the dough:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk warmed
  • 1 cup butter melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground mahlab
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp black nigella seeds
  • For the date filling:
  • 2 cups dried dates. seeded
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp powdered cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds optional
  • 1 egg beaten, for brushing


  • To make the date paste, heat the ghee in a pan or pot, add the fennel seeds and the cardamom and the dates. Stir often until the dates soften.
  • Add the sesame seeds (if using) and stir to incorporate. Set aside to cool enough to handle.
  • To make the dough, stir the the flour, mahlab, salt, and nigella seeds to equally distribute.
  • Whisk the yeast and sugar in half a cup of the warmed milk, set aside for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
  • Pour the yeast-milk mixture, and the remaining half cup of warm milk, and the melted butter over the flour mixture. Knead for 5 minutes. Let rest and rise for 20-30 minutes.
  • Alternatively, blitz everything in a food processor and knead in the nigella seeds manually.
  • Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Place the date paste between two large parchment sheets or clean plastic sheets and roll out to about the same dimensions of your rectangular rolled dough.
  • Remove the top sheet from the rolled date paste, then invert over the dough. Peel off the other sheet.
  • Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then roll each half from the middle long side into two long rods.
  • Flatten each rod slightly, brush the surface with egg wash, then cut the rods into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Place, seam-side down on a baking sheet.
  • Bake in a preheated 360F oven for 15 minutes, then broil to a golden brown for a minute or two.
  • Delicious straight out of the oven, with a hot cup of tea.