These chewy Halva Cookies with candied orange peel are out of this world! They are nutty, chewy, sweet and slightly tangy. They are everything I want in a cookie, and I think you’ll agree too! The halva takes center stage as it melts into the cookies creating nutty pools of goodness. Then to balance out the nuttiness and browned butter flavors, chipmunks of tart candied orange are mixed throughout to create a harmony of flavors that are undeniably delicious.
What is Halva?
Halva (also spelled Halawa) is a sweet and nutty confection originating from the Middle East and Central Asia, known for its rich and dense texture. Made from tahini (sesame seed paste) and sugar syrup, halva has a unique texture that’s crumbly and creamy all at once.
Halva often incorporates additional flavors including cardamom, pistachio, chocolate and rosewater, among many other flavors. Halva can be enjoyed in crumbly slices as a sweet bite as well as incorporated into doughs and batters.
Ingredients Needed for Halva Cookies
- Unsalted butter: I always recommend baking with unsalted butter so you can control the seasoning. You’ll need 14 tablespoons.
- All-purpose flour: you’ll need 1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour for this recipe. I always recommend buying unbleached.
- Bread flour: a secret ingredient that is KEY to making chewy cookies. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which means it more readily creates gluten. And gluten means chewiness! So by using both types of flour you’re getting the best of both world—a light yet chewy cookie. Use bread flour to make our Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies or Milk Bread Rolls.
- Baking soda: baking soda is important in this recipe for a few reasons. For starters, it lifts the dough but doesn’t hold the dough up, which means the cookies deflate and create rippled edges and chewy texture. Secondly, it contributes to browning which means flavor!
- Spices: grated fresh nutmeg and ground cardamom are the two spices you’ll need for this. Both are added in small amounts and are intended to enhance the flavors of the cookie instead of being at the forefront.
- Dark brown sugar: dark brown sugar is key here (though light will also work). It adds mild molasses flavor and makes for chewy cookies.
- Granulated sugar: a bit of granulated sugar is added for structure and to create crisp edges.
- Kosher salt: kosher salt is in the dough and then I also finish them with kosher salt. Feel free to finish with flaky sea salt if you’ve got it.
- Vanilla extract and orange extract: both infuse this cookie with tons of flavor. You’ll need 1 tablespoon of vanilla and 1 teaspoon of pure orange extract.
- Egg + egg yolk: use eggs labeled as “large” for this recipe. If you use eggs that are smaller, the cookies won’t be as chewy. One egg, out of shell, should weigh 50 grams.
- Candied oranges: I get my candied oranges at Trader Joes, you can also buy them here.
- Halva: I recommend using pistachio halva (I get this pistachio halva) if you can find it—it adds a bit more flavor and visual appeal. If you can only find regular or vanilla, that works too!
- White Sesame Seeds: I like to dip one half of each dough ball in sesame seeds—this adds texture and also makes it clear that sesame is in the cookie. Plus, it’s a beautiful addition!
How to make Halva Cookies
- Brown the Butter
- Combine the Dry Ingredients
- Whisk the Sugars into the Butter
- Whisk the Eggs into the Butter Mixture
- Add the Flour and Mix Very Well
- Fold In the Halva and Oranges
- Portion and Chill
- Bake the Cookies
Add 11 tablespoons of butter to a skillet and heat until it’s melted. Start to swirl the butter occasionally until the milk solids start to brown and become fragrant. Keep an eye on the process! Butter can go from golden to burnt quickly.
Add the browned butter to the bowl with the remaining softened butter and mix it until all of the butter is melted. The addition of softened butter adds back in a bit of moisture that is lost during the browning process.
Whisk together the flours, spices and baking soda. You’ll add this a bit later on, so set this aside.
Add the dark brown sugar, white sugar and extracts to the melted butter mixture. Whisk vigorously to combine, about 1 minute.
Add the egg and egg yolk to the butter mixture and whisk as vigorously as you can until the texture resembles frosting. You want to be able to hold the bowl upside down without the batter moving. This will take about 3 minutes.
I like to say that this dough needs to be over-mixed to come out correctly! The key is to mix the dough for 3 minutes to encourage gluten development which will make, and keep, these cookies chewy.
Add the halva and the chunks of candied orange and fold just to combine.
Divide the dough into 18 three-tablespoon portions. Or, if you have one, use a #24 scoop—this is the easiest way to divide the dough. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet.
If the dough balls are so soft that you can’t pick them up very well, chill them briefly in the fridge until they firm up a bit. Then you can stud the dough balls with additional halva chunks and candied orange chunks.
Now freeze the dough for 30 minutes.
Arrange the dough balls on baking sheets, giving them quite a bit of room and bake. After 12 minutes of baking, lift up the baking sheet and drop it back down onto the rack. This will deflate the cookies and create rippled edges and chewy centers. Finish with sea salt and enjoy!
Expert Tips for Making Halva Cookies
- When browning butter, I recommend removing the skillet from heat slightly before it achieves the depth of browning you’re looking for. The residual heat in the skillet will continue to cook the milk solids. By removing the skillet from heat, you are giving yourself more control over the browning process and slowing the rate of the browning.
- Once you have scooped the dough, if the dough balls are so soft that you can’t pick them up very well, chill them briefly in the fridge before studding the dough balls with chunks of halva and candied orange.
- Be sure to mix the dough well! This is counter intuitive since most cookie recipes tell you to add the flour and mix just until it’s combined. Not this one—the key to getting that exceptional chew is to mix the dough well and to give the flour a chance to form some gluten (aka chew)!
How to Store Halva Cookies
These halva cookies stay chewy for quite a few days, but to give them the best changes, store them in zipper-lock bags at room temperature.
You can also freeze the baked cookies for up to 1 month. Allow to thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours before enjoying.
Additionally, you can freeze the scooped and topped dough balls for up to 3 months. Do not thaw the dough balls prior to baking, simply place them on the baking sheets and bake as directed, adding a few minutes to the bake time as needed.
More Cookies to Try
Our Pistachio Shortbread Cookies are a favorite of my friends. They’re short and tender, lightly spiced and not too sweet.
If you’re a fan of bold, chewy cookies, then you’ve gotta try my Hermit Cookies. They are insane!
If you love a peanut butter cookie recipe, then you’ve gotta try Nancy Silverton’s Peanut Butter Cookies.
Halva Cookies Recipe
- 14 tablespoons (200g) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups (134g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (65g) bread flour*
- ¾ teaspoon (5g) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¾ cups (150g) packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, or 1 ¼ teaspoons Diamond Crystal
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure orange extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ⅔ cup (95g; 2.5 oz.) chopped candied oranges
- ⅔ cup (93g; 3.2 oz.) ¼-inch cubes plain or pistachio halva
- 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- ½ cup chopped candied orange peel
- ½ cup cubed halved
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat 11 tablespoons (142g) butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is golden brown and fragrant, 4–5 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl with remaining 3 tablespoons (58g) butter; using a rubber spatula to scrap butter and solids into bowl. Stir until completely melted; let cool 15 mins.
- Meanwhile, whisk together 1 ¼ cups (134g) all-purpose flour, ½ cup (65g) bread flour and ¾ teaspoon (5g) baking soda, ½ teaspoon nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon cardamom in medium bowl; set aside.
- Add ¾ cup (150g) dark brown sugar, ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar, 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon orange extract to bowl with butter and whisk until fully combined.
- Add 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk and whisk vigorously until mixture is light pale in color, fluffy, and thickened to a near-frosting consistency, 3 minutes (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down and the batter not move).
- Using a rubber spatula, stir flour mixture into butter mixture and stir constantly for 3 minutes. Stir in ⅔ cup (95g) candied orange and ⅔ cup (93g) halva.
- Divide dough into 18 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop) and arrange on a baking sheet (no need to space them out yet). If dough is too soft and not holding a firm shape, chill dough balls in refrigerator for 30 minutes before moving on.
- Top each dough ball with additional ½ cup candied orange and ½ cup halva. Dip one half of each dough ball in sesame seeds; transfer baking sheet to freezer and chill at least 30 minutes.
- Arrange 6 frozen dough balls, 3-inches apart, on a prepared sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require multiple batches. Bake 2 cookies at a time on quarter sheet pans).
- Transfer sheet to oven and bake until edges are set but centers still look raw, 12 minutes. Lift sheet pan up and tap pan against rack twice, rotate pan and continue baking until edges are golden and centers look underbaked and puffy, 2–3 more minutes.