These Italian Anise Cookies are soft and tender with a delicious anise flavor!
Topped with a sweet glaze and colorful sprinkles, these cookies are ideal for a Christmas cookie platter or any other festive celebrations!
Table of Contents
Why you’ll love this recipe
I know you’ll love these Italian Anise Cookies because they are delightfully tender and melt in the mouth. They are flavored with warming anise and vanilla extract, just like my delicious Sbrisolona recipe. If you’re not an anise lover, read on for variations.
Traditionally, Italian Anisette Cookies are enjoyed in December during the holiday season and go wonderfully on a Christmas Cookie tray with my Italian Butter Cookies, But these delectable cookies are not just Christmas cookies, they are perfect for any special occasion – Easter, weddings or birthdays.
Even if you prefer to snack on something savory like my Mozzarella in Carozza, I’m sure you’ll find these Italian Anise Cookies seriously inviting with an espresso! There’s a little warmth from the anise, sweetness from the vanilla and moorish quality from these melt in the mouth cookies.
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- Italian Anise Cookies are wonderfully festive cookies and are perfect for the holidays.
- The texture of these Anise Cookies is so soft and tender – almost cake like!
- You can easily freeze my Italian Anise Cookies unbaked, baked and even glazed.
- It’s the perfect recipe for those liquorice lovers in your life.
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
To make these you’ll need:-
- All Purpose Flour – Remember to measure correctly by stirring the flour to fluff it up and then spoon into cups without packing down. You’ll notice in the recipe card that I say to add extra if the cookie dough is too sticky. Mix in all of the dry ingredients and if you can’t roll a ball with the cookie dough wait 10-15 minutes. Then if the dough is still really sticky, add a little more flour.
- Baking Powder – Just a little to get the right amount of rise for these Anise Cookies.
- Salt – As always, salt is important in sweet recipes to bring out the flavor.
- Eggs – I like to use free range eggs but use whatever you normally like.
- Superfine Granulated sugar – Using fine sugar means that it will dissolve more easily and won’t be gritty.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This will give you the softness and flavor characteristic of the cookies!
- Milk – full cream milk is my preference for this recipe.
- Anise Extract – I use anise extract. Decrease or increase the quantity depending on you preference. Check the bottle because if it’s anise oil instead of anise extract it will be a lot stronger!
- Vanilla Extract – Adding vanilla extract along with the anise extract ensures the perfect flavor balance.
- Powdered Sugar – You’ll want to be sure to sieve this so you don’t have lumps in the glaze.
Before you start, gather ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and line two baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.
- In a bowl whisk together all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a stand mixer bowl, beat the eggs with the whisk attachment until frothy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until it is thick and pale. Continue beating whilst adding the oil.
- On low speed add the milk, anise extract and vanilla extract.
- Add the flour mixture in two parts and combine with a wooden spoon.
- Once combined, you may need to add a couple more spoonfuls of flour if it is too sticky.
- Roll teaspoonfuls of the cookie dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the tops have cracked and are lightly browned.
- When the cookies are at room temperature, mix together the powdered sugar, milk and anise extract in a small bowl until smooth.
- Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and place them upright on a wire rack. Sprinkle immediately with rainbow sprinkles. Allow to set.
Hint: When making the glaze, add the milk slowly. You may not need all the milk. Just enough so that the glaze is thin enough to thinly coat the top of the cookies but not so thin that it runs off.
- You can use anise oil if you can’t find anise extract. Anise oil is four times stronger than anise extract so use just ¼ teaspoon of anise oil for one teaspoon of anise extract.
- Full cream milk could be substituted with a skim, almond, oat or another milk of your choice.
- If you don’t have extra virgin olive oil, you can use regular olive oil instead. Or even light flavored olive oil.
- If you aren’t a fan of anise flavor, you could use vanilla, almond or citrus extracts instead.
- You can serve these Italian Anise Cookies without the anise extract glaze, however, they will be a little milder in flavor.
- Add some food coloring to the anise glaze for extra festive fun! Try pastels for Easter and different sprinkles at other times.
An electric hand mixer or stand mixer makes beating the eggs easy, but you can make this Anise Cookies recipe using a hand whisk (you’ll just get a bit of a work out!)
Italian Anise Cookies will keep well in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
You can also freeze these cookies in a few ways. The first is to freeze the unbaked dough after you roll it into balls. To bake, simply defrost on lined baking sheets and bake as per the recipe card. The second method is to freeze unglazed cookies in a sealed container for up to 3 months. To serve, defrost and glaze. You can freeze the glazed Anise Cookies, but just remember that the sprinkles could bleed into the glaze when they defrost.
Tips for success
Always follow my tips for measuring flour. Stir the flour to fluff it up and then spoon into measuring cups without packing. Use the blade of a knife to level off. Alternatively use scales and weigh the ingredients.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar really well. The mixture will be thick and light in color.
It’s correct that this cookie dough should be quite soft that’s what gives it the wonderfully soft texture. Avoid adding more flour unless you really need to. If the dough seems sticky, set it aside for 10-15 minutes. In that time it will thicken. If it’s still really sticky add a spoonful or two of flour.
Don’t worry when the Anise Cookies crack during cooking. This is exactly how they should be.
When making the glaze, just add the milk or water a little at a time until it’s just the right consistency. Be sure to top the cookies with the rainbow sprinkles while the glaze is still wet.
The flavor of anise is a lovely warm fragrance, very similar to liquorice. My Italian Anise Cookies taste like sweet liquorice in cookie form. Of course, this is a very polarizing flavor – you either love it or hate it! But if you don’t like anise flavor, I’ve included lot’s of variations for the anise extract in this post.
I prefer to use anise extract to flavor for this recipe as it is stronger and it only requires a small amount. But you could also use liquorice extract or an anise flavored liqueur like Anisette, Pastis, Ouzo, or Sambuca instead.
Absolutely! Italian Anise Cookies freeze very well. My preference is to freeze the unglazed cookies in an airtight container. When you’re ready to serve, defrost them and glaze. I have tried freezing glazed Anise Cookies and they did turn out fine. But just be aware that the sprinkles could bleed into the glaze when they defrost.
I love serving these as part of my holiday cookie tray or Christmas dessert table! They are perfect alongside other festive cookies like my Italian Knot Cookies, Norwegian Cookies, Italian Peach Cookies or Almond Flour Peanut Butter Cookies.
Of course, a traditional espresso pairs perfectly with these Italian Anise cookies but I also love these cookies with a warming cup of hot chocolate.
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Italian Anise Cookie Recipe
- 2½ cups (325 grams) all purpose (plain) flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup (130 grams) granulated sugar see Note 1
- ½ cup (120 mls) extra virgin olive oil see Note 2
- ¼ cup (60 mls) whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons anise extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon anise extract or to taste
- 5 to 6 teaspoons whole milk or water
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and line a two of baking sheets with non stick parchment paper
- In a bowl whisk (or sieve) all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a stand mixer bowl, beat with the whisk attachment the eggs until frothy, about 1 minute.
- Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Continue beating and gradually add the oil.
- Then on low speed add the milk, anise extract and vanilla extract.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the flour in two additions mixing with a wooden spoon. It may be too sticky so add a couple more spoonfuls of flour if needed. (See Notes below)
- Roll teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on the prepare baking tray.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the tops have cracked and are lightly browned. Don't over bake.
- Sieve the powdered sugar to ensure there are no lumps and so that your icing will be smooth.
- Mix in the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. You may not need all the milk so just add 4 teaspoons to start and then add more as you need. The glaze should be thick but not too thick that it doesn't drip a little.
- Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and place upright on a wire rack. Sprinkle immediately with rainbow sprinkles. Allow to set.
- Use fine white sugar. In some countries, castor sugar (superfine white sugar) is available which is perfect to use in this recipe.
- Regular olive oil or light flavored olive oil can be used instead of extra virgin olive oil.
- When measuring flour into cups always stir to loosen compacted flour then spoon into cups without packing down. Alternatively use scales and weigh the ingredients.
- Whisk the eggs with the sugar really well.
- Dough for these cookies will be soft. If it seems too sticky, set the dough aside for 10-15 minutes in which time it will thicken. If it’s still really sticky add a spoonful or two of flour.
- Anise Cookies will crack when baking – this is normal.
- Adjust the glaze with more milk or more powdered sugar until the correct consistency.
- Add the sprinkles while the glaze is wet.
Nutritional Estimate Per Serving
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 on June 23, 2016.