Kiliçe: A spice-heavy, celebratory pastry


The southeastern provinces in Turkey, such as Mardin, have been a melting pot of multiple cultures and religions over the centuries. Naturally some cookies and pastries, and of course many other dishes, have spread throughout these cultures, assumed different names but stayed mostly the same. One of these is the Kiliçe.

What is Kiliçe?

Kiliçe is a pastry leavened with yeast and made with a variety of spices such as anise, mahaleb and gum mastic. The addition, removal and combination of the spices changes depending on the traditions and groups making them.

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The origin

While looking into the origins of the kiliçem one of the first things you’ll find is that it has many names. Kliçe, ikliçe, Mardin çöreği (Mardin cookie) and Bayram çöreği. While the second to last makes sense as a descriptor of a place, similar to Gevre in Diyarbakır, the Bayram part leads you down a rabbit hole of traditions. “Bayram” means “festival, festivity” and can refer to holidays such as the Islamic Ramadan and Sacrifice feast. But the original beginnings of this pastry in particular is the Assyrian Christians that were and still are to this day living in and around Mardin. The pastry is referred to as “Easter cake” as well and is made with roasted anise, gum mastic and mahaleb. (1) Aside from the Easter celebrations, this cookie is also served at Christian wakes.

With the cultures intermixing, it was only natural that the Muslims in the region took the recipe and served it on similar occasions as well. The Islamic tradition of a wake called “mevlid”, where the Quran is recited, became one such occasion where the pastry was served and dubbed “mevlid çöreği”. (2)

While such occasions used to be the only time you could find the cookies, in recent decades the pastry has gained popularity and can be found in pastry shops in Mardin throughout the year. Another aspect for the availability around the year has been the spread of ovens to all homes. (2)

Another name for this pastry is “Hayat çöreği”, literally meaning “cookie of life”. The addition of all kinds of spices symbolizes the many “tastes” of life, both sweet and savory, hot and mild. Another tradition attached to this is that the cookie is given to the bride and groom to be cracked together to symbolize them sharing a life.

The shared border with Iraq means that the cookie has found its way there as well, or it might have been an exchange, as the cookie, though a different version, can be found as “kilece” there. The spread from the Turks is though apparent as Turkmen call their version “külçe”.


The word “kiliçe” comes from the Persian “kuliçe” or “kulçe” meaning “round cookie, pastry” and was first mentioned in writing in 14th century in “Kıssa-I Yusuf”.

Kiliçe: A spice-heavy, celebratory pastry

Aside from the many reasons this cookie got so popular was how easy it is to make. The combination of spices varies vastly from recipe to recipe. Some add ground ginger, while others add cinnamon and yet other have both these spices but skip on the anise. The recipe given here just one of many of those combinations and we encourage you to seek out different combinations or even try experimenting with them yourself.


  • 100 ml warm milk
  • 120 gr sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 10 gr instant yeast
  • 500 gr flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fennel tea the dried version basically not the tea as a drink
  • 1 tsp anise
  • 1 tsp mahaleb
  • 1 tbsp nigella seeds
  • 1 egg


  • Add all the spices into a mortar and ground it with a pestle as finely as possible.
  • A coffee grinder might do the job as well.
  • Combine the sugar, milk, butter and yeast and gradually add the spice mix and flour until you get a soft, non-sticking dough.
  • Close off the dough with a damp towel and let it rest in a warm place up to an hour.
  • Take small pieces of the dough and shape them to your liking, making sure to have them about the same size.
  • Whisk the egg and brush the cookies with that.
  • Bake them at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes and enjoy them once they have cooled off.



(1) Çağla Özer, A monographic research on the Assyrian culinary culture in Turkey in “Journal of Ethnic Foods”, 2019
(2) Çiğdem Sabbağ, Mardin Yeme İçme Kültürü İn “Fırat’tan Volga’ya Medeniyetler Köprüsü”, 2015