Somali Shortbread Biscuits (Qureebaad ama Icun)

Icun in Somali means ‘eat me’ and believe me you will eat and eat these crumbly shortbread biscuits that just melt in the mouth.  They are usually made for festive days, but in our household we don’t wait for a special day.  Any day and everyday is icun day!

I wonder how shortbread in this form came to the Somali people as shortbread is famously known as a Scottish treat. Did we learn this recipe from the British who colonised parts of our land?  Or is it a Somali invention as I’d like to believe?  I was intrigued to learn that in medieval Europe shortbread evolved from leftover bread dough to which some bright mind eliminated yeast, added butter and then baked.  Another story has it that shortbread was invented in the kitchens of Mary, Queen of Scots in the mid-16th century.

There are many Somali varieties of icun or qureebaad as we also call this delicious shortbread.  This version, which incorporates nutmeal, is my favourite.  Dust with icing sugar and serve with tea.


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Somali Shortbread Biscuits (Qureebaad ama Icun)

Recipe by:
Khadra Yusuf


4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup nutmeal (peanut, almond or hazelnut)
2 cups warm melted butter or ghee
2 teaspoons ground cardamom powder
A little milk if the dough requires more binding.


1. Grease a biscuit pan with some of the melted butter
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together
3. Make a hole in the middle and pour in the warm butter slowly, adding it a little at a time to make a soft dough. Add a little milk if the dough needs more binding.
4. Shape the dough into small balls with your hands and flatten into a small disc shape.
5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes in a medium heat oven or until golden brown.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 20+ people

14 Responses to “Somali Shortbread Biscuits (Qureebaad ama Icun)”

  1. Kim Savage

    I’ve made these cookies for three school events now and every time I’ve gotten a mass of compliments! I linked your recipe on my Facebook, and just wanted to let you know how much people are loving these cookies!

    • Abderazzaq Noor

      Hi Kim, I am so pleased to hear that you tried the cookies and you and your school loved them. Thank you so much for letting me know! Keep enjoying them.

      • Peggy

        I am hosting a book club next month after reading Infidel. I would like to serve some Somali treats and plan to serve the shortbread recipe. What other treats do you recommend to keep the Somali theme?

        • Somali Kitchen

          Hi Peggy, go with the Somali shaah (black tea with spices). I would also recommend the Malawah (pancakes) – you could mash up some bananas with peanut butter and use that as a spread on the pancakes and roll them up and cut into halves. This will make them a little bit more special. Somalis love banana! We eat it with almost every meal. How does that sound?

  2. Tondelaya

    Could you by chance send me an easy recipe for cookies so that I may share them with my new neighbors. I am an American Military Wife who just moved to a small town with a high Somalian population. I live in what’s called locally ‘Little Somalia’. I would like to bake a treat, such as cookies, to give to the kids, parents, & elderly neighbors that I live around without being offensive or disrespectful. I would really appreciate it.

  3. Angela

    I made these today for our neighbors, they are young somali refugees that moved in next door. Just a little something to help with the homesickness. I was helping with the German Language lessons and surprised them with the cookies, I was told they were good so I have you to thank for that. Greetings from Romrod Germany :-))

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Angela, thanks for your feedback! So glad that your neighbours enjoyed the biscuits. It is kind and thoughtful of you to extend that bit of welcome.

  4. Jthom

    Do these bake at 350F?

  5. Mary robinson

    What is the tiny decoration in the middle of these cookies?

  6. Muna

    Inshallah I want to try this recipe. Do I use plain flour or self raising?


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