It is an evergreen shrub-arboreal plant, usually 2-5 meters high but which, in ecologically favorable conditions, can reach 8 meters. In the typical form, young shoots and branches are almost completely hairless, with a few sparse hairs scattered only in the first year's twigs; in the eastern part of its range (from the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula to the Middle East), there is a particularly xerophilic morphotype, known as Palestine oak, which has young shoots and branches covered by a thick garment of yellowish hair; in the past this entity was considered a species in itself (Quercus calliprinos) but is currently considered a morphotype of Quercus coccifera.
The leaves are persistent for several years, leathery, briefly petiolate, glabrous on both sides and with few hairs scattered along the main veins. The leaf blade is small, generally 2-3 cm long, elliptical or ovate-oblong, with a toothed-thorny margin in the juvenile forms, whole in the adult habitat.
Acorns are solitary or paired. They ripen in two years so they are present both on the twigs of the year and on those of the following year. The dome is hemispherical completely enveloping, with initially conniving scales, then visibly patent.