Kaak Warqa

These delicate, doughnut-shaped, rosewater-scented almond flour cookies hold a special place in Tunisians’ hearts.

Kaak Warqa

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
4 hrs
Total Time:
6 hrs 50 mins
2 dozen cookies

My immigrant parents were not cookie people. My French mother found chocolate chip cookies a peculiar American curiosity, and my Tunisian father, in typical Mediterranean fashion, preferred to offer me oranges for dessert. In retrospect, it was no surprise that I developed an outsize fondness for cookies, one that only grew when I discovered kaak warqa.

Each summer, my parents would send me off from Philadelphia, where we lived, to visit my Tunisian family halfway across the world. I didn’t like most of the desserts in Tunisia. They came off as overly sweet and were usually studded with whole nuts, while I was more interested in chocolate. I can’t remember the first time I ate a kaak warqa, but it must have been its smooth, doughnut-shaped appearance that first caught my attention; I could slip one onto my finger like a giant confectionery ring. And then there was the taste: The circle of silky-smooth, buttery dough was wrapped around a barely sweetened, rosewater-scented filling of ground almonds. I was in love.

In Tunisia, kaak warqa are considered the choicest of sweets — and the most expensive. They’re offered at weddings and during Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and the Prophet’s birthday. When special guests come over, kaak warqa are accompanied by pine nuts and served with tea boiled with mint. They’re sold only at specialty patisseries and are bought by the kilo. The kaak warqa is a cookie of opulence, and such extravagance demands quantity.

Perhaps because of its lofty place in the Tunisian dessert pantheon, I had never considered making kaak warqa at home. In Tunisia, the cookies are made with a special kaak warqa flour that you can find in the supermarket. (White food coloring is added to make the dough extra snowy.) It seemed like one of those treats that could be made only in an industrial kitchen by a professional pastry chef. But during the pandemic, when I couldn’t travel to Tunisia, I found myself getting desperate for a kaak warqa. Even in my temporary home of Marseille, France, where a sizable Tunisian population has lived for generations, I couldn’t find anyone selling them. So I decided to take the plunge and attempt baking them at home.

While kaak warqa aren’t the simplest cookies to make, I was surprised by how easily I lost myself in the process. I learned to knead the white dough and roll it thin, to slice and measure with a surgeon’s precision, to wrap the dough around the marzipan, and to roll it into little doughnuts. The smell of clarified butter and rosewater filled my kitchen, and, in the end, I was left with several dozen cookies — slightly lumpier than the patisserie ones, perhaps, but with that same delicate, fragrant taste.

By now, everyone in my family knows that kaak warqa is my favorite sweet. Last October, I finally made it back to Tunisia after several years away. At the end of my visit, I went to see my grandmother, who handed me several boxes of kaak warqa — one from each of the aunts and uncles, who know that, despite my age, cookies are still the surest way to my heart.

Back home, after a week of gorging myself, it became clear that I would need to start giving away some kaak warqa. One night, I met some friends at a bar with the last box of cookies. There were still too many for our group to consume, so I made my way through the crowded patio as strangers juggled cigarettes and glasses of natural wine to reach into the box.

“What is this?” they gasped upon their first bite. “I’ve never had anything like this before. What’s it called?”

“Kaak warqa,” I replied with a smile. “The best cookie in the world.” — Sarah Souli


Clarified Butter

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 ounces)


  • 2 scant cups unbleached cake flour (preferably King Arthur) (about 8 3/4 ounces), sifted

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 1/2 teaspoon white food coloring gel (optional)

Almond Paste 

  • 1 1/2 cups superfine blanched almond flour (about 5 1/4 ounces)

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons rosewater (such as Cortas)

  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Additional Ingredient

  • Dried rose petals (optional)


Make the clarified butter

  1. Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-low, and simmer, undisturbed, until white milk solids rise to the top, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Skim off and discard white layer on top. Chill clarified butter in refrigerator until just warm to the touch before using, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside at room temperature.

Make the dough

  1. Stir together flour and 7 tablespoons clarified butter in a medium bowl using your hand until combined. Gradually add 1/3 cup lukewarm water and food coloring, if using, stirring with your hand until well incorporated.

  2. Knead dough on a clean surface by folding dough over itself and punching out any air bubbles, about 15 minutes. (Dough will be supple and tacky but not completely smooth and will bounce back slightly when pressed.) Wrap dough in plastic wrap; chill at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature until slightly softened before using, about 30 minutes or, if refrigerated overnight, 2 hours.

Make the almond paste

  1. Stir together almond flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl using your hand until combined. Gradually add rosewater and almond extract, stirring with your hand until combined. (Paste will be sticky and wet but will become firmer as you work with it.) Divide into 24 equal portions (about 1 1/2 teaspoons each); shape each into a 2 3/4-inch log. Cover logs with a damp towel; set aside.

Shape and bake the cookies

Kaak Warqa

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Roll out softened dough into an 18- x 12-inch rectangle on a clean surface. Cut dough into 24 (3-inch) squares; cover loosely with plastic wrap.  (Use a dampened towel to keep hands slightly moist throughout the rolling process.) Working with 1 dough square at a time, place 1 almond paste log along bottom edge of dough square. Roll dough around almond paste. Gently stretch and roll until filled dough tube is 4 1/2 inches long, pressing almond paste back inside tube as needed. Bend dough tube into a ring, widening one end so it can slide over opposite end to form a ring shape. Lightly grease hands with clarified butter; shape cookie until smooth. Repeat with remaining dough and almond paste, keeping rings covered with plastic wrap while working.

  2. Place cookies 1/2 inch apart on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Brush tops with clarified butter, and garnish with dried rose petals, if desired. (Reserve any remaining clarified butter for another use.)

  3. Place baking sheet in preheated oven, and immediately reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake at 300°F until outsides of cookies feel dry and bottoms are very lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature.

Make Ahead

Unbaked cookies can be placed on a baking sheet, wrapped well with plastic wrap, and refrigerated up to 12 hours. Baked cookies can be stored in a single layer in an airtight container up to 5 days.


Though time-intensive, these Tunisian treats make for a great weekend project and can be assembled and held before baking. A barely crisp exterior gives way to a soft almond paste interior laced with a gentle floral aroma and flavor from rosewater. For artist Rafram Chaddad Boaz, who shared this recipe, the key to a perfect cookie is a smooth and unified texture. To serve with the cookies, a jasmine tea with its delicate flavor pairs nicely or a mint tea which is a staple in Tunisia.

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