Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

This Community Recipe is Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies. Also known as Kurabiyes, these sweet nutty shortbread-like biscuits have a melt in the mouth texture. These elegant vegan cookies are a mainstay in many Sephardic homes. In Ladino, Kurabiye could translate to “good medicine”.

Community Recipes is a recurring feature where we share your vegan recipes on the Jewish Food Hero blog. When you want to share a recipe in this series, pitch us your idea here. This series is all about sharing healthy plant-based and vegan recipes. We are creating a positive community around food and sharing.

Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

A surprise email about cookies

On 7 December, I got this email from Marlene:

I just won a cookie contest at the local upscale grocery store where I worked doing culinary services for 17 ½ years. I submitted a vegan Turkish cookie recipe that I refined. In time for Hanukah!

So, of course, I asked her to share her recipe with us. Here it is!

The origins of Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

This cookie has as many different spelling variations as it does flavors, ingredients and shapes! Versions of the sand cookie are found in countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire. Early recipes similar to Kurabiyes were recorded in the 10th century. Kurabiyes officially arrived in Ottoman cuisine in the 15th Century. 

Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

Becoming a Sephardic classic

According to The Global Jewish Kitchen, Sephardim adopted Kurabiyes from the Greeks.

Pareve or non-dairy versions are common. Others – such as the Greek variety – are made with butter. For those who observe Kosher, non-dairy versions are versatile, since they can be eaten for dessert after any meal.

Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

All about Marlene Souriano-Vinikoor

Marlene is a first generation American. Her parents were born in Turkey and she was raised on Sephardic cuisine. Some of the recipes she grew up eating were labor intensive. Sephardic foods were usually unavailable outside the home.

Nowadays, Marlene lives in Seattle. She is married with 3 grown children. Her two daughters also live in Seattle and her son lives in Phoenix. She and her husband have 5 grandchildren and another one on the way! 

Marlene has a BFA from the University of Washington in painting/drawing, with a minor in Romance Languages (Spanish, Italian and French). Marlene recently retired from nearly 18 years with culinary services. As you can tell from her education and work history, Marlene loves doing anything creative!

Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

Marlene’s cooking style 

When she’s preparing dishes in the kitchen, Marlene feels accomplished. She’s happiest when she’s being creative. She looks forward to sharing what she has made!

Her favorite cookbooks are:

Sephardic Cooking by the Sephardic Bikur Holim Ladies Auxiliary of Seattle

To order a copy of this classic cookbook, write to the synagogue on Facebook here.

The Israeli Cook Book: What’s Cooking In Israel’s Melting Pot by by Molly Lyons Bar-David (Author), Charlotte Adams (Editor)

How were Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes) created?

Marlene was raised in a Sephardic home with her parents and grandmother who immigrated from Turkey. They spoke Ladino and made the foods they enjoyed in “the old country”. Growing up, this cookie was always a favorite treat at home – yet it is so simple to prepare. 

Marlene updated to revise the recipe to make it more delicious. She did this with spices, nut butter and a gluten free option. Guests find it elegant and wonderful. As it melts in the mouth, the spices become aromatic. It can be served with “Turkish Delight” (lakum candy), membrillo (quince confectionary), susam (sesame candy), and Turkish “cafe” made in an “Ibrik”.

Essential Ingredients for Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

Creamy Peanut Butter or creamy almond butter

Cream of wheat or semolina


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Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

Marlene’s Vegan Turkish Sand Cookies (Kurabiyes)

  • Author: Marlene Souriano-Vinikoor
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20-24 minutes
  • Total Time: 31 minute
  • Yield: 30-36 cookies


1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 Tbs creamy Peanut Butter (or nut butter of your choice)

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour

¼ cup semolina or cream of wheat

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ – ½ tsp cardamom, optional

¼ tsp salt

Optional garnishes:

Walnut pieces, powdered sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Combine the flour and spices, then add the oil, sugar and peanut butter mixture. Stir slowly by hand, or with an electric mixer on low speed. 

  3. If the dough looks dry, add a little more peanut butter

  4. Shape the dough into walnut-sized balls. Place them about 1 inch apart on the lined baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly and press a nut into the center of each.

  5. Bake cookies on the middle rack of the oven until set and light brown – around 20-24 minutes. 

  6. Remove from the oven. They will harden as they cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm!

Keywords: Kurabiyes, vegan, Sephardic, gluten free, Hanukkah

Adapt to suit different needs and tastes

This cookie recipe is easy to adapt when you need to suit various dietary requirements: 

  • Gluten free: replace the flours with 2 cups of gluten free flour and ½ cup coconut or almond flour
  • Peanut free: use almond or cashew butter, even seed butter will work here

More Community Recipes

Sometimes we all need new ideas to mix up our regular recipe rotation. Our Community Recipes feature is for just that! We share our favorites and hear from a variety of people in our community.  Since you’ve read Marlene’s, do you feel inspired to share your own recipe? Don’t forget to get in touch when you’re ready to share your vegan recipe too!

When you’re looking for ideas, check out these other recipes from our community

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