Olive Oil

These Cookies Love Olive Oil Almost As Much As We Do

February  6, 2018

Cookies can be cakey or crispy, chewy or crumbly, round or square or squirrel. They can be jam-stuffed or caramel-drizzled, buttercream-sandwiched or chocolate-dunked. But most recipes, no matter how different, hinge on the same four ingredients: butter, sugar, salt, flour. This one doesn’t.

I stumbled upon it mid-Insta-scroll—a blur, a backtrack, a crispy, sparkly, uh, cookie?

THESE are the #Portuguese sweet lemon-black olives #cookies. Link in bio.

A post shared by David Leite (@davidleite) on

They are crispy as a cracker—and almost as savory as one, too—rich with olive oil, marbled with torn, oil-cured black olives, fragrant with so much citrus zest. The recipe is from David Leite’s cookbook, The New Portuguese Table. There, he explains more:

“Cookies aren’t exactly a speciality of the Portuguese. The traditional ones tend to be crumbly and plain, more like a dunking biscuit. One day at a dinner party, though, I had a sweet thin cookie with a distinctive snap...I wanted to ratchet up the recipe, adding two iconic Portuguese ingredients to the mix, olives and lemons.”

I wanted to ratchet up the recipe a little more. Instead of lemon, I reached for orange. And I dropped the cinnamon; bring back a pinch if you want, or replace with ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, toasted fennel seeds or minced rosemary.

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Whereas most cookies call for room-temperature butter, to be creamed with sugar into marshmallowy fluff, these ask less of you. Whisk together the dry ingredients, drown them in egg-enriched olive oil, stir until a dough forms, done.

Pre-dinner snack? Don't mind if we do! Photo by Bobbi Lin

The shaping, admittedly, is trickier. Because the cookies want to be as thin as possible, you roll them with a pin on parchment or a silicone mat, then transfer that to a baking sheet. It sounds fussy—and sort of is—but after one tray, you get the hang of it, and it’s enormously worth it. (Alternatively, you could smush the sugared dough balls with a glass, but they won’t be as thin.) The cookies freeze perfectly, so make a batch, then reap the rewards for weeks.

Leite recommends serving them alongside tea or coffee, or with vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet. But my favorite pairing is a cheese plate, where you can smear them with something milky and creamy, like Taleggio or burrata or Brie.

What’s your favorite salty-sweet cookie recipe? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Laura415
  • PRST
  • FrugalCat
  • mela
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Laura415 June 11, 2018
Love this flavor profile. I've tried a version of these using the black olives in a shortbread cookie. Salty sweet is a great flavor.
PRST June 10, 2018
I've been making Leite's versions for years. They are absolutely delicious but finding a good olive oil cured olive is essential. They can sometimes be bitter. I'lll have to try the orange version :)
mela June 10, 2018
Thanks for the heads-up about cured olives sometimes being bitter. I'll sample the new packet in the fridge before baking with them.
Do you use lemon or orange zest in your version?
FrugalCat February 11, 2018
It sounded so crazy I just had to try it. I used lemon zest, turbinado sugar and sliced Kalamata olives. They were a big hit with us.