Italian Pignoli Cookies

Pignoli Cookies, or pine nut cookies, are a classic Italian confection. They're chewy, sweet and only require 5 ingredients! This is one of my all time favorite cookies to bake during the holidays.

broken pignoli cookie on a gray surface surrounded by more cookies

Called Amaretti con Pignoli in Italian, these cookies can be found at just about any good Italian bakery, but not all are created equal. This authentic recipe for Amaretti con pignoli has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.

These cookies are really simple to make, but have this incredible texture - moist, chewy middles with crisp, toasty pine nut coated edges. They almost have a creamy quality even though they're not made with any dairy or gluten.

The pine nuts and almond paste give them a velvety, buttery texture that will melt in your mouth! They make an amazing Christmas cookie and gift because they keep for quite a long time, but I love these chewy confections any time of year. This is truly the BEST pignoli cookie recipe you will EVER try!

Italian cooking is my specialty, and these cookies are one of my favorite authentic Italian recipes of all time. It's up there with my meatballs, lasagna and chicken Milanese!

Why This Pignoli Cookies Recipe Works

  • 5 simple ingredients and 20 minutes of active prep time.
  • Amazing chewy texture, similar to a macaroon.
  • Uses a precise amount of pine nuts so that none go to waste.
  • WAY less expensive than buying at an Italian bakery.
  • Allergy friendly - They just happen to be dairy free and gluten free!
ingredients for Pignoli Cookies
  • Pine Nuts - Called Pignoli in Italian, these nuts are one of the most expensive, but they're worth it. Use Mediterranean pine nuts if you can find them - they're the best quality. Chinese pine nuts are more common, but lesser quality. Still, they will work fine for pignoli cookies.
  • Almond Paste - The best, most authentic pignoli cookies are made with almond paste and not marzipan or anything else. I recommend Solo brand.

Helpful Equipment

How to make Pignoli Cookies

1. Crumble the almond paste into a food processor and pulse until it's the texture of sand.

2. Add the sugar, egg whites and salt and process until smooth - about 15 seconds. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture into another bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This will help make the dough easier to roll into balls

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray all over with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Add pine nuts into a shallow bowl or dish.

4. Fill a small bowl with water and keep it at your work station to wet your hands. This will make rolling the dough easier.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and use a spoon to scoop out a small piece, roughly the size of a rounded tablespoon.

6. Wet your hands, then roll the dough into a ball.

7. Drop the ball into the pine nuts and press to coat and flatten into a disc. Be careful not to coat with too many nuts or you'll run out before finishing.

8. Lay the cookies on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart and repeat until all the dough and nuts are gone.

9. Bake for about 11-14 minutes or until they're golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool completely before serving.

side angle of Pignoli Cookies cooling on a baking sheet

Tips for success

  • Keep your dough chilling in the refrigerator until you're ready to start rolling to make it firmer and easier to work with. You can keep the dough refrigerated for up to 24 hours before making the cookies.
  • Keep a small bowl of water handy to wet your hands so that the dough doesn't stick while you roll them into balls.
  • Try to limit the amount of pine nuts that stick to each cookie, especially in the beginning when there are lots of them. It's easy to coat a ball of dough in too many, and you will run out before rolling all of the cookies and you will need to use more.
  • Baking times will vary by oven, and while some say Pignoli Cookies are best on the lighter, less-baked side, I prefer them more browned and toasted.
close up of stack of 5 Pignoli Cookies with fairy lights

FAQ about Pignoli Cookies

How to store pignoli cookies?

Pine nut cookies will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 10 days. They will gradually lose their freshness, but they keep much longer than most cookies. They can also be frozen in a zip top bag for up to 3 months. If you plan on feeding, undercook them slightly, then thaw in the refrigerator and re-crisp in the oven at 300 degrees F for about 5 minutes.

What can I do with the leftover egg yolks?

Definitely don't throw them away! Add them to your scrambled eggs or carbonara sauce to make it extra rich or save them for a custard or homemade ice cream. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then store in a zip-top bag for later use.

Can these cookies be made without a food processor?

Yes! I recommend following the same technique only using a hand mixer (with beaters) or stand mixer (with a paddle attachment) instead. Because of the thick texture of the almond paste, they are challenging to mix by hand, but with a lot of grit and elbow grease it can be done.

Can you use a different nut than pine nuts?

Almonds, pistachios, or really any other nut - even coconut - will make a nice substitution.

hand taking a cookie from a platter

Did you LOVE this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and comment to let other readers know! I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing your creations so please tag me on Instagram @ColeyCooks!

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broken pignoli cookie on a gray surface surrounded by more cookies
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Pine Nut Cookies

Pignoli cookies (pine nut cookies) are a classic Italian confection. They're made with almond paste and eggs, making them naturally gluten free. Chewy, sweet, and delicious!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 18 cookies
Calories: 95kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Almond Paste * recommended: Solo brand
  • cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raw untoasted pine nuts

Instructions

  1. Crumble the almond paste into a food processor and pulse until it is the texture of sand.
  2. Add the sugar, egg whites and salt and process until smooth - about 15 seconds or so.
  3. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture out into another bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This will help make the dough easier to roll into balls.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper, the spray with cooking spray.
  5. Add the pine nuts to a shallow bowl or plate and have a small bowl of cold water next to it.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and use a spoon to scoop out a small piece about the size of a rounded tablespoon.
  7. Wet your hands a little in the bowl of water, then roll the dough in your hands to form a ball. around to form a ball.
  8. Drop the ball on to the pine nuts and press to flatten and coat on both sides. Be careful not to coat it with too many nuts or you'll run out before finishing.
  9. Lay the cookie on the baking sheet and repeat until all the dough and nuts are gone.
  10. Bake for about 11-14 minutes or until they're golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool completely before serving - they're better that way.***

Notes

*Do not use Marzipan, it is not the same thing and will not produce good results. 
**Make sure you only use large eggs or the cookies may not turn out right. 
***Baking times will vary by oven so keep an eye on them. Some say  Pignoli Cookies should be on the lighter, less baked side, but I actually prefer them a bit more dark and toasted. 

Nutrition

Calories: 95kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 72mg | Potassium: 82mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 0.2mg

 

5 from 11 votes

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20 Comments

    1. I have never tried doing that so I can't say for certain how they would turn out. I'm not sure if the pine nuts would get toasted. Traditionally they are always on the outside. Let me know if you try it!

  1. 5 stars
    Perfect/. Taste was exactly as I hoped for and easy to follow recipe. Just would like to know how to make them darker in color. If you can respond with some tips, I would greatly appreciate it.

    1. So glad they turned out great for you, Pat! To get a darker color, just bake them for a few minutes longer. But keep an eye on them so they don't burn. I like mine a little on the darker side too!

  2. 5 stars
    I've been making this recipe forever and am finally leaving you a comment. My mother said on Easter they remind her of the ones they used to get from the bakery when she was little. She was thrilled! Thanks for such a special family recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    Made your recipe today. These are my sons favorite cookie! My one comment to you I’s that I found that if you just use parchment paper without any spray the cookies don’t spread as much. If you let them cool on the paper they can be easily peeled off without ant breakage.

    1. So happy you love the recipe! Great tip about the parchment - I will keep that in mind next time I bake them!

  4. 5 stars
    Love love love this recipe. My favorite cookies, they are easy to make and always come out so good. And they keep fresh for a long time!

  5. 5 stars
    Incredible - just like the pignoli cookies from the Italian bakery... but so much less expensive to make at home!!!!!