Here’s the festive cookie recipe you’ve been waiting for, my Italian knot Cookies! These delicious lemon flavored cookies are incredibly moreish, easy to make and use basic pantry staples!
A perfectly tender Italian cookie with colorful sprinkles and zesty bursts of lemon. What’s not to love?!
My Italian Knot Cookie recipe is loaded with lemony fragrance and produces wonderfully soft and almost cake-like cookies. These delectable Italian cookies are finished with lemon icing that is tangy and bright, before being topped with colorful sprinkles.
Italian Knot Cookies go by many names - Italian Easter cookies, anginetti, tarallucci, lemon drop cookies, Italian lemon knot cookies or more commonly, Italian love knots. Traditionally these Italian cookies were made for wedding celebrations and the shape signifies tying the knot. However, these cookies are perfect for any celebration!
I know you’ll love serving these Italian Knot Cookies on a platter with my S Cookies , Lemon Biscotti and my Italian Wedding Cookies for a sweet treat at the end of a delicious meal. They go so well with a cup of tea or strong espresso. But I love them most, straight out of the cookie jar as an afternoon pick me up!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- These cookies are finished with colorful rainbow sprinkles and are perfect for the festive season or gift giving.
- Deliciously soft and tender, lemon flavored Italian cookies.
- The ‘love knot’ shape of these cookies symbolizes tying the knot, so they are ideal for wedding celebrations.
- All you need are staple pantry ingredients to create these delightful Italian cookies.
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
The beauty of these cookies is that all the ingredients are probably already in your pantry or fridge!
- Flour - regular all purpose or plain flour is required.
- Baking powder - a small amount of baking powder is used in this recipe.
- Butter - I recommend using unsalted butter for making these cookies. But if you only have salted butter, it can definitely be substituted. Just be sure to avoid adding the pinch of salt.
- Milk - full cream milk is my preference for baking.
- Sugar - there are two different types of sugar need in this recipe. Granulated sugar (also known as castor or superfine sugar) is used in the cookie dough and powdered sugar (also known as icing sugar) is required for the lemon icing.
- Vanilla extract - I recommend using good quality vanilla extract for this Italian Knot Cookie recipe. Be sure not to use vanilla essence instead as this is a synthetic version.
- Eggs - large, free range eggs are best.
- Lemon - you will need lemon zest for the cookie dough, but be careful not to grate the white pith, as this adds a bitter flavor instead of lovely lemony fragrance. Lemon juice is used in the lemon icing.
- Salt - just a pinch of salt.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
- In a large bowl, rub together flour and butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the eggs, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt to the flour and butter mixture and incorporate together. Use your hands to gently knead the mixture into a smooth dough. Wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 48 pieces and shape each into knots as per the recipe below. Bake until light golden brown.
- Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled and at room temperature, dip the tops of the cookies into the lemon icing and top with sprinkles.
- Instead of lemon zest, you could use food grade lemon oil or lemon extract.
- You could substitute bottled lemon juice for freshly squeezed too.
- If you only have salted butter, it can be easily substituted but be search not to add the pinch of salt.
- You could flavor these Italian Knot Cookies with anise extract (which is traditional) or even almond extract.
- Instead of lemon zest and lemon juice, you could try using orange zest and orange juice.
- You could use a plant based milk, white wine or even water if you don’t have full cream milk. The cookies may not be as soft, but I’m sure they would still be delicious!
These Italian Knot Cookies keep well in an airtight container for at least 1 week, but it’s likely that they will keep for longer.
You can freeze the Knot Cookies in an airtight container after they have been baked but don’t dip them in the icing as this won’t freeze well. When you are ready to enjoy them, take the cookies out to defrost and dip them into the icing.
Tips and FAQs
Be sure to pop the dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes before shaping otherwise it will be too sticky and difficult to shape. If you are in a particularly warm climate or have warm hands, you may find that the dough becomes sticky as you are shaping the Italian love knots. If this happens just pop them back into the refrigerator for a couple of minutes.
Don’t over knead or over mix the dough, as it can become tough. Just knead it enough so that it comes together.
To shape these cookies, roll each piece into a log (measurements are provided in the recipe). Take one end of the log and bring it up to form a U shape. Cross one side over the other to form a loop in the middle. Finally, take one end of the log through the loop to create a knot. I find it easiest to imagine I’m tying a knot on a piece of rope or string!
Italian cookies generally last longer than regular cookies. These Italian Knot Cookies keep well for at least a week but usually can last much longer than this (depending on your climate, storage etc). For the exact storage time of other Cookie recipes, please refer to each recipe because they can differ.
This recipe can easily be doubled to make a larger quantity for bigger celebrations and weddings. As it stands this recipe makes 48 cookies so doubling the recipe would make 96 cookies.
These Italian Knot Cookies are the perfect addition to your cookie platter or to include in your cookie exchange for the holidays. Enjoy these cookies with coffee or sweet wine after a tasty meal of Italian pasta.
Whichever way you serve these cookies, they’re bound to become favorites so be sure to bookmark this recipe!
Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Please share a photo of your creation by tagging me on Instagram @marcellina.in.cucina!
Italian Knot Cookies Recipe
- 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour 450 grams (See Note 1)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup unsalted butter (chopped coarsely) 1 stick/115 grams
- ¼ cup whole milk 60 mls (See Note 2)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (castor sugar) 150 grams
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- finely grated zest of one large lemon or 1 teaspoon of lemon extract or to taste
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar) 240 grams
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice 45mls
- Colored sprinkles optional
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
- Cut the butter into small pieces.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and butter. Rub the flour and butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the middle and add the eggs, milk, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, lemon zest salt.
- Use a fork to beat the eggs and gradually bring in and incorporate the flour mixture.
- When it becomes too hard to use a fork, use your hands to gently press and knead the mixture until it forms a smooth dough. Form into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough ball into quarters then divide the quarters in half. You will have 8 even portions.
- Take one portion and roll it into a 6 inch (15 cm) long log. Cut the log into 6 even pieces.
- Roll each piece into 4-5 inches (10-12½ cm) long ropes and shape it into a knot.
- Transfer the cookies to a prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Don't overbake or the cookies will be dry.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- When cool, dip the tops of the cookies in the lemon icing. Place on a wire rack to allow the icing to set. If adding sprinkles, scatter on while the icing is wet so they stick.
- Sieve the powdered sugar into a small bowl, and stir in the lemon juice to make loose icing. If too thick, add a little more lemon juice. If too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
- Remember to measure the flour correctly by stirring it to lighten and fluff it up and then spoon into cups without packing down. Alternatively, use kitchen scales for greater accuracy.
- If the dough isn't soft and slightly sticky, add a little more milk.
- Be sure to pop the dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes before shaping otherwise it will be too sticky and difficult to shape.
- If the weather or your kitchen is warm, keep dough in the fridge while shaping one portion of cookies.
- Don’t over knead or over mix the dough, as it can become tough. Just knead it enough so that it comes together.
Nutritional Information 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.
Even after adding additional milk, dough would not roll out. Cookie has very little taste even with adding lemon extract to the dough. Very disappointing
That's unusual. I make these regularly and that has never happened. Did you measure the flour correctly? If the flour was packed into the cup, the ratio would be off and it could cause that problem. Be sure to always stir the flour to lighten it then spoon the flour into the cup measure without packing it. Alternatively, use scales for accuracy. The dough is meant to be almost like shortcrust pastry and the taste is slightly lemony and not overly sweet. Maybe you prefer sweeter cookies. In that case you should try my Chocolate Chip Cookies or Italian Wedding Cookies.
These cookies look and sound delicious, is it possible to substitute the butter for a mild tasting oil?
Hi Grace, I've never tried that but my guess is that the result would be a little different in texture and taste. However if you'd like to try then use only 1/3 cup of oil for the 1/2 cup of butter. The cookie dough may still be rather soft and the cookies may spread more that when using butter. If you try it, let me know how you go.
I can see milk in the ingredients list but then where is it used in the actual recipe?
So sorry, Vanessa. It's now corrected. The milk goes in with the eggs etc to form the cookie dough.
Ooooh, my mama used to make these for Christmas! Yours look exactly like hers. I can't wait to make them. Thanks for the recipe.
You're welcome, Josie! Be sure to send me a pic of your cookies!