It’s my favorite time of year again — Italian Christmas cookies season! Or, as most people know it, the holidays!
Everyone has special sugar cookie recipes that defines Christmas for them. While I love baking all types of cookies from November to December (chocolate cookies! Cookies!), 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 Fig Cookies, Amaretti Cookies, Pignoli Cookies, Lemon Ricotta Cookies, Ricotta Cookies and so many more!
Turn on your favorite holiday soundtrack and let’s get baking!
My Italian Christmas cookies recipe embodies all the most beloved parts of holiday baking!
- Twenty minutes from start to finish
- Homey smells and delicious flavor
- Variations to please every palate
- Tradition at its best!
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.
Don’t overbake! The tops should not brown. I try to cook them just until they lose their rawness. In my oven, 9 minutes comes out perfect. I look for the bottom edges to brown, and the second they do I pull the cookies out.
Icing or No? The frosting part of my Italian Christmas cookies recipe is optional. If you want to cut back on the sweetness, skip it; if you want to add that signature smooth glaze, do it (either while they’re warm or after they’ve cooled). Personally, I think the glaze sticks best to slightly warm cookies, but if you feel differently, feel free to do it the other way. You can also take it up a notch by adding a drop of extract of your choosing to the glaze. YUM!
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.
What’s in a 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.
I like to use an old-fashioned small ice cream scoop (not too big) to form each cookie. This helps to ensure uniformity in size, which is important because they 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. Which means you can fit more cookies per sheet, thereby saving time and space!
Extract the Flavor: My Italian Christmas cookies recipe uses almond extract, but don’t feel limited to that flavor! There are so many delicious variations: orange, peppermint, anise, rum, and more. One thing I don’t suggest using, though, are flavoring oils instead of extracts — oils have a much stronger flavor and are typically used in candies versus baking.
There’s a point during every holiday season when my kitchen is overflowing with cookies. Which is a great problem to have — but how do I store all these treats? I got you covered!
Can You Freeze This?
Yes! Whether in its finished version or just the dough, my Italian Christmas cookies recipe is very freezer-friendly. In fact, you can store the fully finished cookies in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a year. Yes, really!
The raw dough, on the other hand, will only last up to two months. Read on for my favorite make-ahead cookie tip!
Make Ahead Tips
To make my Italian Christmas cookies recipe ahead of time, follow the recipe through step 3 — only instead of putting the cookies in an oven, cover them, and pop them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, store the dough balls in an airtight container. Make-ahead magic!
How Long Can You Keep This?
If you’re not planning on storing these cookies in the freezer, you can safely keep them sealed in your pantry for up to three weeks. The frosting might get a little gummy after awhile, but they’ll still be yummy!
Classic recipes are made to be altered — and my Italian Christmas cookies recipe is no different! Try these delicious shake-ups.
Can I Add Lemon Flavor?
Italian Christmas cookies lemon added, are a match made in heaven. The cake-like texture of my Italian Christmas cookies recipe pairs beautifully with lemon’s light, tart flavor. Who doesn’t love lemon sugar cookies? If you’re looking for a different alternative, lemon drop cookies are a great option!
Can I Add Anise Flavor?
Anise cookies are a fantastic Christmas flavor tradition! My Italian Christmas cookies recipe is very similar to anisette cookies already — just swap the almond extract for anise, and voila! Italian Christmas cookies anise edition!
Can I Add Almonds?
Since my Italian Christmas cookies recipe already has almond extract, taking these cookies up to almond crescent cookies is a natural shift! Even going so far as buttery, dense almond shortbread cookies are a delicious change — swap the oil for butter and toss in some slivered almonds.
Can I Add Chocolate?
Always! Chocolate sugar cookies are a delicious holiday treat. On that thread of flavor thought, chocolate dipped coconut macaroons are a luscious, easy cookie pairing to Italian Christmas Cookies.
Or go for an unusual but delectable cookie-cake hybrid holiday treat: rainbow cookies! Once you have them, you’ll want them every year.
What Other Types Of Christmas Cookies Can I Try?
Got Italian holiday cookie fever? Italian Wedding Cookies are the light, airy cookies of your dreams. If you’re wanting something more in the vein of tradition, Christmas sugar cookies will make your memories soar. Or maybe you’re in the mood for something richer? Chocolate Christmas cookies got you covered!
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 prepared cookie sheet, with 1 inch between cookies. Slightly flatten tops. Bake for 8-10 minutes in 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. 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 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 complete on rack.
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I usually make anywhere from four to a dozen different types of cookies over the holidays. If you, like me, need more recipes, check out:
- No Chill Sugar Cookies. – All the flavor, less the time!
- Lofthouse Sugar Cookies – Everyone’s storebought favorite at home.
- Halloween Sugar Cookies – Cookies aren’t just for Christmas!
- Drop Sugar Cookies – Easy, yummy, done!
- Amish Sugar Cookies – Rich and luscious.
My Nonna passed this Italian Christmas cookies recipe to me, and I’m honored to be able to pass it on you. May your holiday baking feats be all the more delicious because of it!
What are some of your holiday baking staples? Let me know in the comments!