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Italian Butter Cookies

These classic Italian Butter Cookies are better than the ones you love from the bakery!

This recipe will make lots of delicious cookies for you to keep or gift! Follow all of my tips for making the dough and decorating these cookies like a pro!

Italian Butter Cookies with various toppings on a white plate.
Buttery and so good!

These mouthwatering Italian Butter Cookies, also known as “biscotti al burro” in Italian, are loved for their buttery flavor, delicate texture, and festive toppings. This is an Italian butter cookie recipe I’ve made many times with great success and one that everyone loves. All my notes are listed here so that you can have success too!

While Danish bakers probably made the first butter cookies the tradition has now spread throughout the world. Traditional Italian Cookies are found in bakeries throughout Italy. These butter cookies are popular in Italy but also in other parts of the world, particularly in the United States.

My Italian butter cookies are wonderfully tender and melt in your mouth. You can use a piping bag and an open star tip or a cookie press to form the cookies. The choice is yours. But I’m here to guide you all the way and give you tips for creating the prettiest cookies that you’ll be so proud of!

Butter cookies vs shortbread

Butter cookies are different to shortbread in that butter cookies contain eggs or egg yolks. Shortbread never contains eggs. The other difference is the ratio of butter to flour which is much higher in shortbread giving it the “short” texture. Generally, butter cookies also have more sugar than shortbread.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Simple Ingredients – You’ll have most of the ingredients at home like flour, butter, sugar and eggs. These cookies are also delicious without any adornment.
  • Buttery Flavor – While these authentic Italian Butter Cookies use basic ingredients, the rich flavor of butter is undeniable. You’ll love that such simple cookies can taste like an indulgent treat.
  • Homemade – Many bakeries make a wide range of Italian Butter Cookies and other types of cookies but homemade butter cookies always stand out.Your family will know the love and attention that you put into making these homemade cookies.
  • Variety – With just one cookie dough recipe you can make a wide variety of cookies that taste different depending on whether they’re left plain, dipped, topped or filled. Let your imagination run because the possibilities are endless.
  • Festive Gift Giving – This is the ideal recipe for gift giving and your next Christmas cookie tray. An afternoon in the kitchen baking and decorating will result in beautiful cookies you can give the ones you love. 

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.


Ingredients for this recipe as in the recipe card viewed from above.

Like all good Italian recipes, this recipe uses simple, basic ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Unsalted butter – European style unsalted butter gives the best results for butter cookies to achieve the perfect bakery butter cookie taste! I prefer to use unsalted butter in most of my baking recipe because I can adjust the salt. Use salted butter if that’s what you have but omit the added salt.
  • Granulated sugar – Regular white granulated sugar is great. If you can find superfine or castor sugar that woks well in this recipe.
  • Egg yolks – I only use egg yolks for this recipe which have a high fat content. This creates a smooth and velvety texture and superb flavor.
  • Vanilla extract – Look for vanilla extract and not essence for all your baking. If you’re using vanilla essence, make the switch and you’ll notice the difference in flavor. Plus vanilla extract is all natural.
  • Almond extract – Adding almond extract is totally optional. Some people have an aversion to the almond flavor so leave it out. The cookies will still be amazing! Otherwise just a little will add flavor.
  • All purpose flour – regular all purpose flour from the supermarket is used in these cookies. You don’t need self rising flour because there’s a little bit of baking powder included in the recipe.
  • Baking powder – Make sure that your baking powder is fresh. If you haven’t used it in a year or so, buy a new box.
  • Salt – just a pinch won’t make the Italian butter cookies salty but instead bring out the buttery flavors.

See recipe card for quantities.


Using a stand mixer or hand held electric mixer is the easiest way to make these bakery style cookies. However, a wooden spoon and a bit of energy still make really good Italian butter cookies.

Before you begin preheat the oven to 320ºF/160ºC and line two or three large baking sheets with non stick parchment paper.

Creamy yellow mixture in the bottom of a steel bowl along with two eggs and vanilla extract being poured in.

Beat together the butter and sugar. Add egg and extracts and beat to combine.

Flour on top of pale yellow creamy mixture in the bottom of a steel bowl.

Combine the dry ingredients with the butter mixture until the dough comes together.

Soft looking, pale yellow dough in the bottom of a steel bowl.

If the dough is too soft, chill for 15-20 minutes. Adjust the consistency if needed with a teaspoon of milk or a teaspoon of flour.

Cookie dough being piped out of a open star tip in finger long lengths.

Using a piping bag with an open star nozzle attached to pipe onto lined baking sheets in various shapes.

Circular piped cookies topped with candied cherries and choc chips.

Unbaked cookies can be topped with candied cherries or chocolate. Bake light golden brown underneath.

Baked cookies being dipped in chocolate and colored sprinkles.

Allow them to cool completely before decorating. See below for ideas for decorating before and after baking.

If you’re not confident with your piping skills, chill the dough and use a cookie press to pipe out the dough. Chill the dough for 30 minutes before using in a cookie press.

Hint: It may take a couple of attempts to be satisfied. Any misshapen cookies can be scraped up and returned to the piping bag. If the dough becomes too warm from your hands, stop and chill it for 15-20 minutes. See FAQs below for more piping tips. 


  • Vanilla Extract – Instead use the seeds from the insides of a split vanilla bean for an intense vanilla perfume.
  • Flavorings – Omit the vanilla and the almond extract and add finely grated lemon or orange zest to the dough.


  • Chocolate cookies – Substitute ¼ cup of flour for ¼ cup cocoa powder.
  • Cookie press – Instead of a piping bag, this cookie dough can be pushed through a cookie press. For the best result, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
  • Toppings – Press a candied cherry or chocolate chip into the middle of a rosette or star cookie. Or scatter with colored sugar, sprinkles or chopped nuts.

Cookie decorating

Close up of decorated piped cookies on a white plate.

Decorating Italian butter cookies is the best fun. There are so many different toppings and decorations for these cookies which are sometimes known as spritz cookies.

  • Chocolate dipped – Dip the baked cookies into melted chocolate. You can leave them plain or dip them in chopped nuts, coconut or colored sprinkles before the chocolate sets.
  • Italian Sandwich Cookies – Join two cookies together with jam, melted chocolate or nutella. These can be left as is or the cookie sandwich can be dipped in chocolate.
  • Drizzled – Use some melted chocolate (white, milk or dark) to drizzle over the cookies. So easy and so pretty!
  • Powdered sugar – Dust with powdered sugar.

Don’t limit yourself to making these cookies at Christmas time. By decorating according to the holiday or occasion you will be making these cookies all year round.

This dough can also be colored with food coloring. It’s best to use gel food coloring, though because too much extra liquid will change the texture of the dough.


An electric hand mixer or stand mixer makes beating the eggs easy, but you can make this Italian Butter Cookies recipe using a hand whisk or wooden spoon.

You will need the usual baking supplies of baking sheets, bowls, spoons, spatulas, and measuring cups and spoons. Plus to pipe these cookies in the traditional way you’ll need a large disposable piping bag and a large open star tip. Alternatively, you can use cookie press with whichever cookie plate you like the shape of.

A cookie press is a wonderful investment. I have two. One is a beautiful vintage one and the second I bought for about $50 in one of my local kitchen shops. However, they are widely available online. Each cookie press comes with a variety of plates that produce different shape cookies. In no time at all you can make heaps of cookies with a cookie press.


Allow the cookies to cool completely and for any added toppings to set then store in an airtight container in a cool spot in the pantry for up to a week. I like to put parchment or wax paper between each layer to keep the delicate cookies from being damaged or sticking to one another. If the weather is warm the chocolate dipped cookies may need to be stored in the fridge.

Italian Butter Cookies can be stored for longer periods by freezing. Arrange in an airtight container with layers of parchment or wax paper in between. Freeze for up to one month.

Top tip

Various shapes of piped cookies with various toppings.
  • Measuring – If using cups for measuring the flour, please follow these tips. First, stir the flour well so that it’s not compact. Then spoon the flour into the measuring cup; don’t dip the measuring cup into the flour. With the blunt side of a knife, level the flour off. Of course, the use of electronic scales eliminates any errors.
  • Temperature – Having the ingredients for the Italian Butter Cookies at room temperature is important. This ensures that the butter and sugar blend completely and the eggs don’t cause the mixture to separate. 
  • Techniques – Be sure to stop and scrape down the side of the bowl regularly so all the ingredients are incorporated. Sieving or whisking the dry ingredients also helps ensure that everything is well mixed. Once the flour is added, only mix until everything is combined.
  • Baking – Rotate the baking sheets halfway through the baking. You might also need to switch top to bottom depending on how your oven bakes. Bake until just pale golden on top and lightly browned underneath.
  • Cooling – Be sure to let the cookies cool completely before decorating.
  • Decorating – Use just a little bit of jam or chocolate when sandwiching cookies together. Too much will ooze out and the two cookies will slip and slide. Putting the jam or the melted chocolate into a small bag and then snipping the end helps keep the mess to a minimum when filling or drizzling.


How to pipe Italian Butter Cookies?

You need a piping bag and an open star tip nozzle to pipe out this buttery dough. I like to use a disposable piping bag. Just snip off the end and slide the piping tip right down so that the tip pokes out of the hole. Fold the top edge of the bag down and spoon in about half the dough. Don’t overfill the bag. 

Twist the bag just above the dough and keep twisting until the dough is pushed right into the tip. Continue to twist the bag as you pipe the cookies. Keep one hand at the top near the twisted bag and apply pressure evenly to push the dough out. Use the other hand to guide and steady. I keep the bag at almost right angles to the baking sheet. 

How to store Italian Butter Cookies

For plain undecorated cookies or cookies with just a dusting of powdered sugar, store in an airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days.

If you have used chocolate or ganache to decorate the cookies, allow the toppings to set completely. Putting the decorated cookies into the freezer for 5-10 minutes will make the toppings set more quickly. Then layer in an airtight container with parchment or waxed paper in between each layer. Store in the fridge for 5-7 days.

Can you freeze Italian Butter Cookies?

Yes, Italian butter cookies can be frozen. I prefer to freeze the cookies plain and then decorate them when thawed. Layer in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Serving Suggestions

Italian Butter Cookies are the perfect ending to any festive meal. Begin with Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells, Italian Sausage Meatballs and loads of Garlic Ciabatta Bread. Then enjoy these cookies with decadent Italian Hot Chocolate. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter – it’s free!

Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter – it’s free!

Italian Butter Cookies with various toppings on a white plate.

Italian Butter Cookies Recipe

These Italian Butter Cookies as just as delicious as they are easy. One big recipe make lots of cookies. And by using different cake sprinkles you can create many different Christmas Butter cookies! Use a piping bag and open star nozzle OR use a cookie press!
5 from 97 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Decorating Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
Servings:50 cookies
Author: Marcellina


  • 1 Stand mixer or electric hand mixer optional but makes this recipe quicker and easier
  • measuring cups and spoons (or scales)
  • Wooden spoon and/or rubber spatula
  • 1 Disposable piping bag
  • 1 Open star piping tip
  • 1 Cookie press if not using piping bag
  • Assorted bowls and dishes as required
  • 2-3 Baking sheets


  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8oz/226 grams) unsalted butter See Note 1
  • cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks at cool room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract optional
  • cups (295 grams) all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch fine salt
  • gel food coloring for coloring dough if desired

Decorating Cookie Options (quantities will vary depending on how you decorate)

  • candied cherries
  • powdered sugar
  • chocolate and chocolate chips
  • colored sprinkles
  • chopped nuts
  • desiccated or shredded coconut
  • Nutella or raspberry jam to fill cookie sandwiches


Italian Butter Cookie Dough

  • Read Tips for Success in the Notes section below plus the full instructions for best results.
  • Preheat the oven to 320ºF/160ºC and line two or three baking sheets with non stick parchment paper.
  • In a stand mixer, hand mixer or even by hand thoroughly mix the butter and sugar.
  • Add the egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract (if using). Beat well.
  • Set aside ½ cup of flour. Sift or whisk the remaining flour, baking powder and salt to combine.
  • With the mixer on low, combine flour mixture into the butter mixture until the dough is smooth and completely mixed adding as much of the flour set aside as needed. Take care not to over mix. The dough should be firm enough to hold a good shape but soft enough to pipe.
  • To have some colored cookie dough, remove a portion of the cookie dough to a separate bowl then stir in a few drops of gel food color until you achieve a color you like.
  • If using a cookie press, you may need to chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  • Spoon the ⅓ of the dough into an extra large, heavy duty piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. If using a cookie press, spoon the dough in the cookie press which has been fitted with the desired coo⅓kie plate. (check manufacturers instructions).
  • Pipe or press out cookies onto lined baking tray.
  • Repeat with ⅓ of the dough two more times.
  • Before baking, you can press a chocolate chip or halved candied cherry into the middle of circular cookies.
  • Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes. The cookies should be a pale golden color. If you've made larger cookies, they may take 12-15 minutes until pale golden. If you prefer darker, crispier cookies, bake until golden brown all over.
  • Cool for a minute or two on the baking tray before moving to a cooling rack.

Decorating Cookies

  • Cool the cookies completely before decorating.
  • Sugar dusting – The simplest and very effective decoration is a dusting of powdered sugar. Just spoon a little powdered sugar into a small sieve and dust over each cookie.
  • Chocolate dipped – Melt chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water, stirring regularly until completely melted. Dip cookies in the chocolate then set on non stick parchment paper until set. Before the chocolate has set, you can scatter on colored sprinkles or chopped nuts or dessicated or shredded coconut
  • Cookie sandwiches – Spread a little Nutella or raspberry jam on the bottom of a cookie then press a similar sized cookie onto the filling to sandwich the cookies together. These cookie sandwiches can also be dipped as above.


  1. Butter should be slightly softened so that it combines easily and quickly with the sugar. It should NOT be melted.
  2. Don’t over beat the butter and sugar. This isn’t a cake. Extra air beaten into the dough will cause the cookies to flatten.
  3. It’s correct that the dough will be firm to push out of the  piping bag. If impossible, mix a teaspoon or two of milk to the dough. Don’t overfill the piping bag.
Tips for Success
  • Be sure to measure correctly. Stir the flour to loosen before spooning into measuring cups.
  • Have ingredients at room temperature.
  • Scrape down the sides regularly when beating and mixing the dough.
  • This mixture does not need to be chilled if using a piping bag and an open star tip. Please chill if using a cookie press.
  • If you find the mixture is too moist, add small spoonful of flour.
  • Alternatively if too dry, add a teaspoon or two of milk
  • When using a cookie press, sometimes the mixture gets stuck. Simply use a small knife or your fingers, to release the cookies and place it on the baking tray.
  • Turn the baking sheets in the oven for even baking.
  • Cool completely before decorating.
See the full post for more information and FAQ.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 66kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 124IU | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

This updated and improved recipe was first published here on Marcellina in Cucina on December 18, 2018.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I followed the recipe to a “T” and the dough was very thick. I added more milk ..and extra yolk and it couldn’t pipe through the large tip. So I added more and more milk….I live in Ontario and made sure the butter was softened and egg yolks were room temp. I can use any pointers as I’d like to try and make these again

    1. Heather, the only think I can think is that the flour was packed into the cup which would be more than my “stir and spoon into the cup” method. I make these regularly and have no trouble and I’d really love you to enjoy them as much as I do. I would suggest only adding 3/4 of the flour to begin with then adding more until you’ve reached the correct consistency. In fact, I’ll add that suggestion into the recipe. It’s hard to go back when too much flour is added.

    2. This recipe is very disappointing. I’m having the same problem as Heather. I live in Montana and house is 65 degrees F. I measured the flour how I always measure flour for recipes. I wonder if the type of flour matters. The dough is extremely stiff. Are you sure two egg yolks and the vanilla/almond extract are enough moisture for this cookie? I added two extra yolks and a bit of milk and still it won’t go through my piping tip. Way too difficult. Looks like I’ll have to modify this recipe a lot so it works.

      1. Lynn, I can assure the recipe is correct and works if made as specified. You say you measure the flour how you always measure it. That doesn’t mean that it’s correct for this recipe. Please read the instructions and measure as this recipe specifies. Alternatively, use metric scales. There should be no need to add two extra yolks and milk to this recipe if made according to the instructions, even at 65 degrees F. The flour is the problem in this case. You have inadvertently added too much flour.
        Did you “set aside ½ cup of flour” as specified in Step 5? Then did you only add as much of the flour set aside as needed as specified in Step 6. If you have measure everything and follow all the instructions perfectly, it could be due the cold environment. If your house is extremely cold that it is almost freezing the dough, then that will cause the dough to be extremely stiff.

        To all my dear readers, please read the recipe instructions carefully. Not just with my recipes but all recipes. Instructions are there to help you succeed. No recipe developer wants anyone to be disappointed but it is important to read all the instructions. Don’t just revert to measuring the flour how you always measure the flour. It may not always work, particularly for baking.
        Marcellina xx

  2. 5 stars
    Perfect recipe! Tasted just like my favorite cookies from Jarosch Bakery in Elk Grove, Illinois. Did notice in your breakdown, before the recipe, you said to preheat to 350° but in the instructions, it says 320°.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the cookies! I’ve just baked myself another batch because we can’t be without these at this time of the year. Thanks for picking up the typo.

  3. 5 stars
    These are delicious, especially the dough, and the chocolate version is extra yummy.

    How do you pipe the cookies that are the round starburst shape, like the ones that have cherries and chocolate chips in the photo?

    I can kind of make them into a wreath shape but just from piping some dough out and looping it into a circle. The ones in the photo look like they were done differently than that based on how the texture looks.

    1. Kendra, I’m glad you’ve had such success with this recipe! To pipe the cookies in a starburst shape, hold the filled piping bag (with large open star tip) at right angle to the baking sheet and just above it. The tip needs to be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the baking sheet (you’ll need to experiment with this depending on what you’re looking for). Now squeeze the dough out while not moving the tip at all. As you press, the dough will squish out to the sides creating the starburst shape. Stop pressing, then lift the tip away. There’ll be a little rough spot in the middle where you can place a chocolate chip or cherry.

      The next time I make it I will take a video and add it to the recipe. It will take a bit of adjusting where exactly to keep the tip but the idea is that the tip of the piping nozzle should not be too high, don’t lift or move it around, just hold still and let the dough ooze out sideways. It will take you no time to learn it. Hope this helps.

  4. Help! I made these today and they smell Devine, BUT, they flattened out and lost their shape when I baked them. I used A piping bag and star tip and coming out of the oven, they look like just flat old cookies. What did I do Wrong?!

    1. Hi Danielle. Ooooh that’s a shame that they flattened out. There could be a few reasons but without being in the kitchen with you, I can’t be sure however I’ll give it a go. To begin with, did you measure everything correctly? Have a look at the process photos in the information section above the recipe. Did your dough look like mine? It should be a dough that can hold its shape. Was the butter at COOL room temperature? Once butter melts or is very soft, it won’t bake up the same. It’s something to do with the molecules and how that go together. Then that takes me to the next issue which could be the butter used in the recipe. Poorer quality butters have often been melted in the factory and sometimes have a lot of excess water added which causes problems when baking. I like good European butter for the is recipe because it has a lower water content and has been made with care. The final problem could lie in the oven temperature. Check your oven. It’s not uncommon for ovens temperature to be out. If any of these are not the problem, you may just need to add a teaspoon or more of flour until the dough looks similar to mine. Ingredients vary from brand to brand, country to country – so this could be the issue in your case. Hope this helps. These are amazing so I’d love you to enjoy them as much as other bakers have.

  5. 5 stars
    I made these last night for a cookies exchange I have today. They are spectacular. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe.

  6. 5 stars
    Marcelina, these cookies (aka ‘biscuits’) are so pretty and colorful! I have a cookie press but only used it once to make churros. I’ll have to use it again sometime soon!

    1. Marcellina, yours notes suggest the use of icing sugar but the recipe ingredients list granulated sugar. Could you clarify please. Thanks

      1. Thanks for picking that up Pauline. The recipe is correct. I’ve been retesting this recipe of late and am in the process of updating it. I have found that I prefer the variation I made with granulated sugar so I will be updating the post to reflect this. However, I will make notes that powdered (icing) sugar can be used.

        1. Cookies flattened out. Measured exactly. Need to add a ton of extra flour. Dough tasted delicious though.

          1. I’m glad that you liked the taste of the cookies. However, this cookie dough shouldn’t flatten out if made as instructed and there should be no need to add extra flour to this dough. One or more of four things could be happening in this case:- 1. poor quality butter used. Generic brand butter doesn’t work the same as quality brands. 2. The dough was over beaten. This causes too much air to be incorporated into the dough causes the dough to collapse and flatten in the oven. 3. The butter was too soft when the dough was made. The simple solution here is to chill the dough. The dough should be quite firm and need a bit of force to push out of the nozzle. I have just finished baking another batch of these cookies in an attempt to figure out what happened to your cookies. If prepared and baked as specified with good quality ingredients and following the instructions carefully you will have success.