It’s my favorite time of year again — Italian Christmas cookies season! Or, as most people know it, the holidays! Everyone has special Christmas cookies that define Christmas for them. While I love baking all types of cookies from November to December, this Italian Christmas cookies recipe is the dearest to my heart.
The smells of almond extract and fluffy flour, the light sugary icing — it all draws up memories of baking these Italian cookies in my Nonna’s kitchen as a child. For the holidays she used to make Italian wedding cookies, Italian fig cookies (aka cucidati), ricotta cookies, and amaretti cookies and so many more!
Turn on your favorite holiday soundtrack and let’s get baking!
What I Love About These Cookies
- Twenty minutes from start to finish
- Homey smells and delicious flavor
- Variations to please every palate
- Sprinkles galore!
Italian Christmas Cookies Ingredients
- All-Purpose Flour
- Granulated Sugar
- Whole Milk
- Baking powder
- Vegetable Oil
- Powdered Sugar
- Almond Extact
- Hot Water
- Rainbow Nonpareil Sprinkles
Italian Christmas Cookies Recipe Notes
Italian Christmas Cookies. Sciamellis. Anginette. The name may differ from household to household, but the result is the same: a delicious holiday cookie!
- Baking: If you’ve ever had these cookies and thought they were unimpressive and dry, you’re in good company. But with this recipe, you can create the best version of this awesome cookie.
- Moist and tender, nothing like the dry, crunchy things you may have had in the past. Just make sure you watch your baking time closely.
- The secret to making these cookies and having a wonderful texture is not to overbake them! While that goes for all baked goods, it’s especially important with these babies!
- The tops should not brown. I try to cook them just until they lose their rawness. In my oven, 9 minutes comes out perfectly.
- Icing: The glaze part of my Italian Christmas cookies recipe is optional. If you want to cut back on the sweetness, skip it but remember, these cookies are not that sweet.
- I double glaze these. The first glaze seals them while they’re warm so they have a tender texture. When that cools slightly, I add a second layer of glaze and add the sprinkles.
- When I made the batch in the photos, I added the sprinkles while the cookies were still warm and the sprinkles melt just a little creating this kinda psychedelic look. My kids love them this way.
- I show how to make them the traditional way that is Nonna approved, in the video. Then they come out looking like they’re made in an Italian bakery.
- You’ll want to make sure to add the water into the glaze mixture slowly. You want to get the glaze nice and thick—aiming for that familiar opaque look on the cookie. If the glaze gets too thin it won’t be white.
- Shape: Some versions of traditional Italian Christmas cookies recipes have the shapes coiled or in cones.
- For my recipe, I have you shape the dough into rounded drop cookies due to my dough being a bit wetter than normal. This is how I learned to make them and I love the simplicity of them!
- I use a small cookie cream scoop to form each cookie. This helps to ensure uniformity in size, which is important because the baking time needs to be very precise.
- Remember, if these overbake they’ll be dry. Shaping them consistently enables you to also bake them evenly.
- Space Savers: Thanks to the lack of butter, my Italian Christmas cookies recipe makes a dough that doesn’t spread as much in the oven as other cookies. This means you can fit more cookies per sheet, thereby saving time and space!
- Extract the Flavor: My recipe uses almond extract, but don’t feel limited to that flavor! There are so many delicious variations: orange, peppermint, anise, rum, and more.
How To Make Italian Christmas Cookies
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and sugar until combined. Make a well in the center and add oil, milk 1 tablespoon almond extract, and eggs. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, mix together until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth.
- Scoop up a one-inch ball of dough, and place on the prepared cookie sheet, with 1 inch between cookies. Slightly flatten tops.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven until cookies are cooked.
- Make, glaze. Dip warm cookies in glaze, then set on a wire rack and allow to cool. Dip cookies in glaze a second time then sprinkle with rainbow nonpareil sprinkles immediately, while glaze is still wet. Allow to set completely on the rack.
Why Are My Italian Christmas Cookies Dry?
If your Italian Christmas cookies are dry there is only ONE reason. They are over-baked! Remember, baking times are always approximate. Every single oven runs at different temperatures. Sadly, even if you have an oven thermometer, it can be seriously off. Honestly, even if you have it professionally calibrated! I learned this unfortunate fact from an appliance repair man. What I generally do, when I’m testing or trying a new recipe, I take the suggested bake time and check the cookies 1 or 2 before they’re supposed to be done, for doneness. The more you bake, the better you will know your how your own oven runs so you can adjust this or any other recipes accordingly! This recipe is tried and true by generations of my husbands family. It should NEVER have dry cookies. There are many comments confirming that fact on the site. If this recipe is new to you, please bake one batch and taste them, when they’re completely cooled. If they’re dry, I promise your oven is running hot and you need to reduce the baking time!
Storing + Freezing + Make Ahead
- Room Temperature: They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for two to three weeks.
- How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge? They will last 2 months in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Can You Freeze This? 8-12 months. When storing in the freezer I would opt for storing them in 1 gallon resealable bags with as much air as possible removed.
- Food Safety: If you’d like more food safety info check out this article.
After serving Christmas dinner, it’s time to bring out these cookies and serve with a large, cold glass of milk or sip a glass of Apple Pie Moonshine or a cup of spiked hot chocolate!
More Italian Cookie Recipes
Italian Christmas Cookies
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoon hot water more as needed
- rainbow nonpareil sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and sugar until combined. Make a well in the center and add oil, milk 1 tablespoon almond extract, and eggs. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, mix together until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth.
- Using a small cookie scoop, scoop up a one-inch ball of dough, and place on the prepared cookie sheet, with 1 inch between cookies. Slightly flatten tops. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven until cookies are cooked. They will not brown.
- Meanwhile, make, glaze. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and hot water until smooth. The glaze should remain thick like the consistency of molasses.
- Place a wire baking rack over a rimmed cookie sheet. Dip warm cookies in glaze, then set on a wire rack and allow to cool. Dip cookies in glaze a second time then sprinkle with rainbow nonpareil sprinkles immediately, while glaze is still wet. Allow to set completely on the rack.
Fans Also Made:
- Do not overbake. The tops should not brown.
- Add the water into the glaze mixture slowly. If the glaze gets too thin it won’t be white.
- I don't suggest using flavoring oils instead of extracts.
Dora Cooper says
This recipe was so easy, plus delicious!
I made these cookies for Christmas and they were absolutely delicious. They are now among my favorite cookie recipes. I’m so glad I came across your recipe and thanks for sharing it with us!
I’m so happy you enjoyed these cookies, Erin!
Darlene Yuhas says
Can you use confectioners sugar in place of powdered sugar?
Okay, please tell me what I did wrong. I made these exactly as the recipe states, but not only were my cookies super oily, they tasted awful. I absolutely LOVE almond anything, but they just didn’t have the delicious almond taste I’m used to.
I used Nielsen-Massey’s pure almond extract. Do you think that could be the reason they tasted so bad? It was my first time using this extract, so maybe that’s the culprit. Or maybe I just stink at baking. 🤷🏼♀️
Hi Allyson. Gosh I’m sorry these didn’t come out right for you! Honestly, I have no idea what went wrong. This is, honestly, a really successful recipe. I’ve never used Nielsen-Massey’s pure almond extract so I can’t advise!! Sorry 🙁
Hi, you didn’t specify if the flour was sifted prior to adding it to the other dry ingredients. I sifted my all purpose flour and that’s probably why my dough was crazy sticky! No wonder my edges didn’t look like a biscuit. I’ll try again without sifting the flour first.
Hi Tanya. No I don’t sift the flour when I make these cookies.
Hi can you use Half and half in place of the whole milk?
Hi, Brenda! I haven’t tried that but I found this article to help with the ratio:
“Half and half can easily be used in place of whole milk with the addition of a little water. Combine ¾ cup half and half and ¼ cup water for every cup of whole milk you’re substituting. 1 cup whole milk: combine ¾ cup half and half and ¼ cup water.”
Diana L Nanci says
These cookies came out perfectly! Made a big batch for our cookie exchange. Just the right amount of Almond comes through!
Yaaay! Thank you, Diana 🙂 I’m glad you like these cookies!
These reminded me of my mom’s cookies when I was a little girl. Sadly I never got the recipe before she passed a few months ago. I tried your recipe and it brought back a little piece of my mom for me. So thank you for that
Thank you so much, Rosa! It’s our honor. I’m glad you found this recipe <3
Could the cookies be made ahead of time and then dipped later, like the next day (when help arrives lol)?
Hi Genevieve, ideally I like to dip the when they’re warm, then again when they’re cooled. But in a pinch, you could wait for reinforcements!
How many cookies does a batch make?
Hi Kim this makes about 50 cookies.
These are now my favorite Christmas cookie. Ridiculously good! My picky husband loves them too!
So happy this is your favorite Christmas cookies. That makes me so, so happy!
Lisa clayton says
Tried making these for the format time I’m amazed at myself… they came out delicious 😋 😍
So glad these worked out well for you Lisa! We LOVE these!!!
Marguerite Littrell says
Hi ! I can’t wait to try this recipe for my Christmas cookies this year ! Thank you for this recipe! I live in Georgia and my daughter and her family are traveling from Wyoming to visit! Has anyone tried them GF ?
Marguerite I’m sorry I haven’t made these GF.
I have made them gluten-free and used lactose free milk. Delicious
WOW! WOW! WOW!! I made these for our church Christmas mission project. You know we had to make sure they were good, so we tasted a few! 😁😁. These are ridiculously good and do easy to make!! Thanks for sharing this perfect recipe. They are now, officially, one of our Christmas cookies!!
I’m so happy you liked them and made them for your mission project! <3
Wow, thank you so much, Betty! I’m so happy it’ll be part of your Christmas cookies 🙂
Love these cookies. I noticed that sometimes the sprinkles bleed do you need to let the icing set a little bit before adding the sprinkles to prevent the bleeding?
Hi Michelle, I double glaze them. First, when they’re hot. The second time, yes make sure they aren’t too hot or the sprinkle will indeed bleed. My kids love when the sprinkles bleed though!
I’d never made these before. I’m Italian and almost 70, so it seemed like something for my bucket list. This recipe is so easy, and the cookies are delicious! I was definitely channeling my Noni when I made them. The first batch was a little dry so I cut back on the time by about 1.5 minutes the next day. I’m not a baker but suddenly I’m having so much fun keeping our family traditions alive
I’ll pass this on to my niece. Thanks for this amazing recipe!
Hi, Karen! That’s absolutely awesome! I’m so happy these cookies reminded you of your Noni. Make more lots and lots of cookies. Thank you so much! Enjoooy 🙂
Do you refrigerate if we make them the day before?
Hi Moniva! You can just store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
MARY A RONDA says
There is NO video. How can I get your video???
Hi, Mary, if it’s not visible on your end, here’s the FB video for this recipe: https://business.facebook.com/GWShomecooking/videos/400442584468293/
Thank you and I hope you’ll enjoy!
I love your sprinkles! What did you use??
Hi, Margaret! I use nonpareil sprinkles 🙂
I’m always on the look out for easy and delicious cookies!! WOW, these did not disappoint! I followed the recipe to the tee, and they came out beautifully! I love in North Central Texas and baked in my convection oven at 375 for 8 minutes. A few of the cookies (out of 50) edges were slightly brown just here and there (probably thinner sides since I pressed them with my fingers after rolling them in a ball like the video and they probably were not totally uniformed thickness) but they were still perfect! I tried both glazed and unglazed. The warm unglazed cookies was freaking amazing and super fluffy and pillowy! The double glazed ones are still absolutely amazing, but definitely sweeter. Hands down 5 STARS and I will be making these regularly! Thank you so much!!
OMG, Beth! Thank you so much for your positive review. I’m so happy you love these cookies. It’s a great idea that you have both glazed and unglazed cookies!! 🙂