This easy recipe for Pignoli Cookies is the traditional way to make authentic Italian pine nut cookies. They are a soft and chewy cookie on the inside and have a slightly crispy texture on the outside. Easily gluten-free.
You probably already love Pignoli Cookies from your favorite Italian bakery. But now you can make them yourself at home from scratch!
Pine nuts, also known as pignolis, are a popular Italian nut that can be used in many different baking recipes (and is commonly in pesto).
This classic Italian cookie highlights pignolo's incredible flavor and the cookies are easy to make with the help of almond paste that can be homemade or store-bought.
The traditional Italian pine nut cookies are soft and chewy on the inside and have a slightly crispy texture on the outside.
They can easily be made gluten-free and are a perfect pairing with a cup of tea or as a tasty dessert.
They're a great cookie for the holiday season, whether eaten at home or given as an edible gift for a Christmas cookie exchange.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
It produces a cookie that has a perfect soft chewy texture that’s also slightly crispy and has loads of flavor from the pine nuts.
Can be easily made gluten-free since the flour is only for dusting your hands so the mixture doesn't stick.
It makes a wonderful gift for others, especially for a Christmas cookie exchange.
You can use canned almond paste to save time.
They bake up in just 15-20 minutes.
Ingredients & Tools
Almond Paste: Make sure it’s a stiff almond paste (ie Solo canned) rather than a soft one in the tube. Or, make your own Almond Paste in just 5 minutes!
Granulated Sugar: Gives the cookie sweetness and texture.
Powdered Confectioners Sugar: Helps sweeten up the cookie, provide structure and balances the texture.
Egg Whites: Egg whites will help bind the cookie together and contribute to the crispy outside.
Flour: You can use all-purpose flour or a gluten-free flour. The flour is only for dusting your hands so the wet dough doesn't stick to them.
Pine Nuts (Pignoli): These are added on top of the cookie for a nutty flavor and crunch. They make these the classic Italian cookie recipe.
How to Make Pignoli Cookies
This authentic pignoli cookie recipe is easy to whiz up, but is, admittedly, a little bit fiddly to shape due to the dough's soft texture.
I've given tips below to help you make the perfect traditional Italian pine nut cookies.
Follow this step by step photo tutorial, then scroll down to the recipe card for the full ingredients list and method.
Preheat the oven to 325F (165C) and line 2 cookie sheets with lightly greased foil, baking parchment paper or a Silpat.
Crumble up the almond paste and add it to a food processor with the granulated sugar, then process until sandy and combined.
Add in the powdered sugar, 2 of the egg whites and the salt, then whiz again until smooth.
Place the dough in a bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.
Tip: This helps it to solidify a little so it's more manageable
In a separate small bowl, whisk the remaining egg white. Put the pine nuts onto a side plate and the flour into a small bowl.
Tip: the flour is for flouring your hands when forming the balls so it doesn't stick.
Lightly flour your hands, then roll small spoons of the dough into balls. They will be loose and difficult to ‘roll’, but just get them into a ball as much as you can.
Dip them into the egg white, then roll in the pine nuts, or place onto the cookie sheet (1” apart - they spread) and sprinkle with pine nuts - whichever is easiest.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Tip: If the mixture is still too loose, place spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet, brush with the egg white and sprinkle with pine nuts.
Place the cookies into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.
Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Ensure you have a thick almond paste (such as Solo canned almond paste), rather than the thinner versions, such as Odense in a tube. Be sure to choose almond paste and not marzipan - they’re not the same! Marzipan is much sweeter.
Or make your own almond paste in just a few minutes. This is the one I use and it's a perfect consistency for pignoli cookies.
The dough for pignoli cookies is very loose and wet. I find putting it into the fridge for at least 20 minutes helps to make it more manageable. Overnight is even better.
It won't be possible to easily roll the dough into actual balls. Just pat it into a rough cookie shape with floured hands (so it doesn't stick to your hands).
If you're really struggling to get the balls into balls, then place spoonfuls onto your baking tray, brush with a little egg white and lightly press on some pine nuts.
Be careful, these cookies spread. Leave an inch between them on the cookie sheet.
If the pine nut cookies break up when removing from the cookie sheet, wait a few minutes and let them cool a little more before removing.
Pingolo spread, so space them well on the cookie sheet and cook in batches.
Pine nuts can be expensive, in order to use less, instead of rolling the cookies in the pine nuts, place them onto the cookie sheet, brush with egg whites and press pine nuts onto the top.
Make sure the almond paste and sugars are pulsed together completely before adding in the wet ingredients.
Have pine nuts to use up? Try this pine nut cake.
Serve with a glass of this Vegan Almond Milk Egg Nog.
Bring to a party with these Gingerbread Pumpkin Cupcakes.
Dunk into this Cardamom Cold Brew Iced Coffee.
Bring to a tea party along with these Lemon Berry Petit Fours.
Serve at brunch with these Cherry Bars with Oats and Almonds.
Crumble on top of this Walnut Granola Breakfast Parfait.
Add holiday sprinkles to the dough for a festive look.
Add a teaspoon of orange zest for a festive flavor.
Mix a teaspoon of vanilla extract into the dough for a warming vanilla flavor, or a teaspoon of almond extract for a nuttier taste.
For chocolate pignoli cookies, add 2 tbsp cocoa powder to the food processor when creating the dough.
To Make Gluten-Free: To make this recipe gluten-free, check the ingredients in your almond paste if you are using store-bought (it should be gluten-free) and replace the flour in this recipe with a gluten-free flour blend. The flour is only used while forming the balls so you can use any neutral-tasting flour.
To Make It Vegan: To make this Italian cookie recipe vegan, you’ll have to use an egg replacer or flax egg in place of the egg whites. This may change the texture of the cookie once baked and I haven't tested this method. Aquafaba is another alternative for the egg whites.
NOTE: I am not a certified nutritionist and make no claims to the contrary. If you have a food allergy or intolerance you should determine whether the ingredients in each recipe are suitable for you.
Storing: Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container in your fridge or pantry for up to 1-2 weeks.
Freezing: You can freeze the cookie dough for this recipe if it is wrapped up tightly in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. You can also freeze the baked cookie as well by placing them flat on a tray, freezing them overnight then transferring them to a container or bag. This helps keep them from breaking apart.
Are pignolis and pine nuts the same thing? Yes! Pignolis are the Italian name for pine nuts.
Why are pine nuts so expensive? Pignolis are expensive because it takes a lot of time and effort to make them. Since the oils in them are sensitive, they must be stored properly which takes extra time and expense.
Can you freeze almond paste? Yes! Almond paste can be frozen up to 4 months if it is wrapped properly. Let it come to room temperature before using by thawing in the fridge overnight.
Where do pine nuts come from? Pine nuts come from different species of pine trees.
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Get the recipe
Italian Pignoli Cookies (Pine Nut Cookies)
- 8 ounces (225g) almond paste
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup (65g) powdered confectioners sugar
- 3 egg whites divided
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (65g) plain all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
- 1 cup (135g) pine nuts (pignoli)
- Preheat oven to 325F (165C). Line 2 cookie sheets with lightly greased foil, baking parchment paper or a silpat.
- Crumble up the almond paste and add it to a food processor with the granulated sugar, then process until sandy and combined.
- Add in the powdered sugar, 2 of the egg whites and the salt, then whiz again until smooth.
- Put the dough in a bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill ( and become more manageable to handle).
- In a separate small bowl, whisk the remaining egg white. Put the pine nuts onto a side plate and the flour into a small bowl (this flour is for flouring your hands when forming the balls).
- Lightly flour your hands, then roll small tablespoons of the dough into balls. They will be loose and difficult to ‘roll’, but just get them into a ball as much as you can.
- Dip them into the egg white, then roll in the pine nuts, or place onto the cookie sheet (1” apart - they spread) and sprinkle with pine nuts - whichever is easiest.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Place the cookies into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely