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: I use Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar.
- Milk: I use whole milk.
- Eggs: Large eggs at room temperature.
- Baking powder: Give the cookie some rise. Make sure your baking powder is fresh, or you cookies may turn out flat.
- Vegetable Oil: Any neutral flavored vegetable oil.
- Powdered Sugar: Be sure to sift before using.
- Almond Extract: This is the classic but you can switch it up if you’d like.
- 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 repairman.
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 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 husband’s 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 them 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.
More Italian Cookie Recipes
- Almond Crescent Cookies
- Italian Wedding Cookies
- Anise Cookies
- Pignoli Cookies
- Almond Biscotti Recipe
- Chocolate Biscotti
See all of my Christmas Cookie Recipes!
TRIED THIS RECIPE?
Leave a review, I love hearing your feedback! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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.