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Pignoli Cookies

These Italian Pignoli Cookies are ideal for Christmas or any special occasion. These are simple cookies made of almond paste mixed with sugar and egg white and coated in pine nuts.

There’s just one problem with these cookies – they’re very hard to resist!

Pignoli Cookies on a white plate with a stand.
Chewy, sweet, and so good!

Coated in pine nuts, these cookies have a distinct almond flavor, which is really quite irresistible. Pignoli cookies, along with cuccidati, snowflake cookies, and gingerbread pizzelle deserve a place in your Christmas baking.

Besides being so delicious, this pignoli cookie recipe is incredibly forgiving. The dough can be prepared a day or two in advance and refrigerated.  And best of all, the finished cookies can be frozen for a month.

These Italian pine nut cookies are so easy to make with store-bought almond paste that they can be whipped up quickly. However, homemade almond paste is not difficult and can be made in advance. I’ve got the recipe for you below. 

Pignoli cookies remain moist in the center for about 5 days, then slowly dry out inside, becoming softly crisp but still super good! This recipe isn’t extra sweet. You’ll taste the almonds, but you’ll also taste the buttery pine nuts. The combination is divine!!

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • It’s so simple and quick to make!
  • The dough can be made in advance and baked in a day or two. Of course, you must keep the dough in the fridge. Plus, you can freeze pignoli cookies for up to one month.
  • These cookies are moist, chewy in the center, and wonderfully crunchy on the outside. 
  • Making bakery favorites at home is fun and much more economical.
  • These cookies are by nature gluten free so everyone can enjoy them.

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

Ingredients

Ingredients for this recipe viewed from above.

This Pignoli Cookies recipe is made with my Homemade Almond Paste. If you use store-bought, please be sure to buy a good quality that contains at least equal quantities of almonds and sugar. With differences in the qualities of almond paste, your cookies may flatten more than mine or have a slightly different texture. Be sure to check the notes in the recipe.

  • Almond Paste – As mentioned earlier, this recipe can be made with either store-bought almond paste or the homemade version. Depending on what you use, the pignoli cookies may look slightly different. They’ll also vary depending on the brand of almond paste. I made these with homemade almond paste (recipe below). However, if you choose to make these with store-bought almond paste, check the ingredients and choose the one with at least equal quantities of almonds and sugar.
  • Egg Whites – You’ll only use the egg whites in this recipe, but don’t waste the yolks. I have many recipes to use them up – Torta della Nonna, Zuppa Inglese, and Italian Rum Cake, just to name a few. 
  • Sugar – White granulated sugar is used in this recipe. If you prefer sweeter cookies, you can add more sugar.
  • Pine Nuts – These are available easily at supermarkets but are quite expensive. It’ll be cheaper in the long run if you buy in bulk. Store pine nuts in the fridge or freezer because their high oil content can make them turn rancid easily.

See recipe card for quantities.

Instructions

Four step process showing how to make these Italian cookies.
  • Break up almond paste and pulse in the food processor until crumbly.
  • Add sugar and egg white 
  • Pulse until the mixture forms a thick dough.
  • Use teaspoons to drop small amounts of dough into pinenuts. Coat in the pine nuts, then arrange on a lined baking sheet.

Bake until just pale golden brown.

Hint: Don’t overbake these cookies. Watch them carefully and take them out of the oven as soon as they’re pale golden brown. Depending on brands or types of homemade almond paste.

Substitutions

  • Granulated Sugar – this can be replaced with powdered sugar if that’s all you have. The texture will be different and the cookies may be more flattened but still delicious!
  • Egg Whites – you may prefer to use frozen store-bought egg whites if you don’t have a use for the leftover egg yolks. These will work perfectly in this recipe.
  • Pine Nuts – while these won’t technically be Pignoli Cookies anymore, chopped or slivered almonds or cashews can be used instead of pine nuts.

Almond Paste Substitute

If you can’t find it in the stores, use a homemade almond paste substitute. It’s easy to make and not as expensive as store-bought! While the homemade almond paste is not exactly the same, the results are still excellent. 

I like using a simple almond paste recipe that combines almond flour, powdered sugar, egg whites, almond extract, and salt. Using a food processor means that this almond paste substitute comes together very quickly. Be sure to make it in advance so that the flavors can develop.

Variations

  • Vanilla – add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract for a change.
  • Salty – a good pinch of salt can highlight the flavor already in the pignoli cookies.
  • Orange Almond – add a teaspoon or two of finely grated orange zest for an interesting variation.

Equipment

A food processor or stand mixer will make this recipe easy. Yes, you could make pignoli cookies without this equipment, but it would be much harder.

Storage

Store pignoli cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 4-5 days. If you’re keeping these for any longer, it would be best to freeze them.

To freeze, layer in a container like Tupperware that will seal really well, with parchment or wax paper between the layers. Seal and freeze for up to one month.

Tips for Success and FAQ’s

Cookies covered in pine nuts on a black wire rack.

Use a food processor or stand mixer to break up the almond paste. You’re looking for a crumbly, coarse, sand-like texture. This is the best way to achieve a smooth, even dough. Do this before adding any other ingredients!

Add the egg whites slowly. You might not need all. Hold some back and check the texture of the dough. It must be sticky enough for the pine nuts to adhere but not so wet that the dough quickly loses shape.

It’s very important not to overbake! These cookies will need to be watched carefully. Using homemade almond paste meant that these only took between 8-10 minutes to become pale golden. Overbaked pignoli cookies won’t have the much sort after soft, moist centers.

And once out of the oven, give the cookies a chance to set and cool a bit before moving them. Move the pignoli cookies too soon, and they’ll fall apart in your hands!

How many calories are in a pignoli cookie?

109 calories in each cookie if made exactly as specified in the recipe.

Why are pignoli cookies so expensive?

The ingredients in this recipe mean that pignoli cookies will be expensive to make and buy. Almond paste is not always easily available, and when it is, it’s quite expensive. This is understandable, considering the work of making a commercial almond paste. But the most expensive ingredient is pine nuts. The long and fiddly process of collecting and processing these nuts puts a high price tag on them. So because of these two ingredients, pignoli cookies are expensive.

Are pignoli cookies gluten-free?

Yes, pignoli cookies are gluten-free without any adjustments to the recipe. Everyone with gluten intolerances and health issues can enjoy these delicious cookies.

Are pignoli cookies supposed to be chewy?

Yes, pignoli cookies should be chewy on the inside but with a crispy outer. This is what makes these holiday favorites so popular!

Serving Suggestions

Cookies coated in pine nuts on white plate viewed from above.

Serve these with Italian Hot Chocolate after a traditional meal of Chicken Sorrentino and Sausage Broccolini Pasta and your family and friends will be begging for more!

Containing lots of almonds and pine nuts, Pignoli Cookies are definitely luxury cookies and very special to serve at Christmas. But because these are so easy, why wouldn’t you want to make them along with Savoiardi, Almond Biscotti, and Coffee Biscotti? 

Made this recipe?
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Pignoli Cookies on a white plate with a stand.

Pignoli Cookie Recipe

A simple but delicious Southern Italian Cookie of almond paste coated with pine nuts.
4.95 from 110 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings:30 cookies
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces (1 pound / 450 grams) almond paste homemade (see the recipe below) or store bought
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups (270 grams) pine nuts more as needed

Homemade Almond Paste (if using homemade)

  • cups (8 ounces / 226 grams) almond flour ground almonds/almond meal
  • 2 cups (8 ounces/226 grams) powdered sugar icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • teaspoons almond extract more if desired

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180º and line two baking sheets with non stick parchment paper.
  • Break up almond paste with fingers into small pieces. Pulse in the food processor until sandy texture. Add sugar and continue to pulse until well combined. With processor running add egg whites slowly through the chute until the mixture forms a thick dough. It shouldn’t be runny so you may not use all the egg white.
  • Place the pine nuts into a flat bowl.
  • Use a teaspoon to scoop up the mixture and with another teaspoon scrape it into the pine nuts and toss well to coat. Press in the pine nuts and shape to form a dough ball.
  • Place balls onto baking sheet leaving a bit of room for spreading.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating trays to ensure even browning until just beginning to become golden. Time take to bake will vary depending on the almond paste used. The cookies may take longer.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes until the cookies are firm. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Store in airtight container at room temperature for 4-5 days. If you’re keeping these for any longer, it would be best to freeze them.

Homemade Almond Paste (if using homemade)

  • Combine the almond flour, powdered sugar and salt In the food processor.
  • With the motor running drizzle in the egg white and almond extract.
  • Process for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture starts to come together. If it doesn’t look like it is coming together. Stop the motor, lift the lid and press some of the mixture together. If it sticks together like stiff dough then it’s perfect.
  • If it doesn't stick together, with the food processor motor running, drizzle in extra egg white a little bit at a time until the mixture sticks together.
  • Scrape the mixture onto a work surface and knead it into a dough for a minute or two. A lot of oil will come from it. That’s perfectly normal.
  • Form into a thick log or flat disc and wrap well in plastic.
  • Refrigerate for at least a day for the flavors to develop

Notes

Tips for Success
  • Use a food processor or stand mixer to break up the almond paste. You’re looking for crumbly coarse sand like texture.
  • Add the egg whites slowly. You might not need all.
  • If using store bought almond paste be sure to buy quality paste that has a high almond content. 
  • These cookies are made with homemade almond paste. Cookies made with store bought almond paste may vary.
  • If preparing homemade Almond paste allow for overnight resting or almond past can be made a 2 or 3 weeks in advance.
  • Don’t overbake.
  • These cookies are best fresh, however the cookies can be frozen for at least a month. Thaw them in their wrapping
For more tips and information, please read the full post.
This recipe has been adapted from Greg Patent’s “A Baker’s Odyssey”.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 109kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

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 on November 28, 2017.

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4.95 from 110 votes (98 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




37 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious cookies! My Italian family all said it was the best they ever had. One batch made 40 cookies for me. (I’ve had many amazing ones from many NY bakeries but these were better than the bakery!) LOVE the homemade almond paste. I will be making them every holiday now. Thank you for sharing!

  2. 5 stars
    These pignoli cookies are phenominal! My family could not believe they were homemade – they though they were from the bakery!!! I have already made two batches in two days. EVERYBODY LOVED THEM!!!

    Thank you, Marcellina, for this outstanding recipe.

  3. Made these with zest of half a grapefruit blitzed into your homemade almond paste, weighed out 35-40g portions of dough which made 18 cookies. Subbed vanilla for almond extract (not traditional but I didn’t have almond). Baked for 16min in 350deg convection oven, rotating trays once. (I prefer a more crunchy cookie and had baked them cold from fridge.) Floral grapefruit was very nice against the pine nuts. Interesting cookie for a new baker!! Thank you, Coda

    1. It depends on what you can purchase locally. Solo and Odense are the most common brands. All brands differ in their ratios of ingredients so all will give different results but all will be delicious. I used my homemade paste which again will give different results to the commercial brands. The difference will be in the thickness and texture of the cookies. The important thing is not to use marzipan which has more sugar than almond paste. It will make the cookies flatten and brown too much. They’ll be crunchy – this isn’t a bad thing but they’re not pignoli.

  4. I didn’t grow up with home made cookies. They were always purchased from expensive bakeries. I’ve searched for good recipes that remind me of my childhood so that I’d pass down the memories of home baked cookies “from Nonna” to my grandkids. These are the absolute best Pignoli nut cookies I’ve found! Thank you! They’re perfect!

  5. 5 stars
    Expensive ! But so easy to make and so less expensive than buying in an Italian bakery. A favorite in our family.

  6. 5 stars
    I was raised enjoying Pignoli cookies as my grandmother used to make them. Just reading your recipe, my memory brought me back to her kitchen and how delicious the cookies are.
    Thank you so much for that, and I cannot wait to make them for my family.

  7. 5 stars
    These wonderful cookies are easy to make. The directions are easy to follow. Guaranteed these will be a huge hit!

  8. Thank you for sharing a delicious looking recipe.They look really different and so delicious.

    1. Your welcome, Pauline!These are really yum and perfect for Christmas. Merry Christmas

  9. Terrific post! I love these cookies, but have never made them. I should try your recipe — so nice and clear. Thanks!

    1. I have only ever made these and never tasted other versions. I’d love to hear how this recipe compares with what you have tried!

  10. These look amazing! They’re now on my list as I’m really intrigued by the flavour of these. Could I add some orange zest or spices do you think? 🙂

    1. i think you will like these cookies, Lorraine! Definitely, a little pinch of cinnamon or some orange or lemon rind would be quite lovely! I’ve added that into the “Variations” section.

  11. 5 stars
    This looks SO GOOD!!! I’ve been looking for new Holiday cookies this year and those are totally on my to do list!! Thanks so much for sharing! What gorgeous photography too!

    1. Using good quality almond paste these are super easy and yum and a great addition to the Holiday baking! And thank you for your kind words!

  12. Lovely. Another childhood favorite! I’ve never attempted to make them at home, but the recipe doesn’t sound too difficult. May give it a try this holiday season.

    1. Yes, these Pignoli are easy with store bought almond paste. I know you will love them!