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Italian S Cookies

There’s a good reason why Italian S Cookies are such a popular recipe in Italy! These simple but delicious Italian cookies are ideal dunked in a coffee for breakfast or enjoyed on their own as part of a cookie platter or afternoon tea. 

So it’s time to preheat the oven – you’re going to want to bake my easy Italian S Cookies! It takes less than 30 minutes!

Italian S Cookies piled onto a small white cake stand.
These S Cookies are so dunkable!

My S Cookie recipe uses regular pantry ingredients that I’m sure you’ll have on hand. But these cookies don’t taste boring! Like my Lemon Yogurt cake, they are loaded with fragrant lemon, and delicious vanilla and sweetened with just the right amount of sugar. 

Some say that the S in Italian S Cookies or biscotti esse (as they are known in Italy) stands for Sicily, where they originated. But, it could also stand for the scrumptious, sweet, satisfying or seriously crispy cookie that they are!

I know that you’ll love that these tasty cookies are considered breakfast food in Italy! All you need is a warm mug of milky coffee, a fresh batch of my Italian S Cookies and you’ll be transported to an Italian breakfast table. Just like my Lemon Biscotti or Almond Biscotti, these cookies are so dunkable – you won’t be able to stop at one!

Why you’ll love this recipe:-

  • They are the perfect Italian breakfast cookies to dunk into your morning coffee.
  • This recipe is so simple and includes only basic ingredients (that you probably already have on hand).
  • You don’t need any fancy mixers or equipment to make these cookies.
  • These cookies are a guaranteed crowd pleaser amongst kids and adults. 

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 as in the recipe card.
  • All purpose flour – regular plain flour is required for this recipe. 
  • Sugar – I recommend granulated sugar (also known as castor sugar or superfine)
  • Butter – Unsalted butter is best for this recipe, but if you only have salted butter, feel free to use it (just don’t add the additional salt). Traditionally lard was used instead of butter, so you can easily substitute it if you like. 
  • Eggs – Large, free range eggs are always my preference for baking. 
  • Vanilla extract – Good quality vanilla extract is best for this recipe. Be careful not to use vanilla essence, a synthetic and lower quality vanilla flavor. 
  • Lemon zest – Just the zest of a lemon is needed to flavor the dough. When you are zesting the lemon, take care not to grate the bitter white pith. 
  • Salt – Regular fine salt is required for this recipe. 

Instructions

Four step process showing how to make these Italian cookies.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.

  1. Rub the flour and butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, lemon zest salt.
  3. Use a fork to beat the eggs and gradually bring in and incorporate the flour mixture. Use your hand to bring the dough together and form a ball.
  4. Roll small portions of the dough into a thin log and shape it into an “S”.

Place on lined baking sheets and bake until golden brown. 

Substitutions

  • You can easily substitute lard for the butter.
  • If you only have salted butter, you can use it instead, but be sure not to add the additional salt.
  • Instead of lemon zest, you can use a few drops of food grade lemon oil or lemon extract.

Variations 

Pile of s shaped cookies viewed overhead.
  • Makes these Italian S Cookies orange flavored, by using orange zest instead of lemon zest. 
  • You could make these spiced S Cookies by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon or a few drops of almond extract.
  • Try dipping one end of the cooled cookies into melted dark chocolate for a traditional finish.
  • Give these cookies a shiny finish by brushing them with an egg wash before baking. 

Storage

These Italian S Cookies will keep well in an airtight container for 3-5 days. If you’d like to make them in advance, you can freeze the baked and cooled cookies in an airtight container, with parchment paper in between to keep the layers from sticking. 

When you are ready to enjoy them, remove the container from the freezer and let it come down to room temperature. Alternatively, you could pop the cookies into a hot oven for a few minutes to refresh them. 

Tips for success

S shaped plain cookies on a white cake plate on a red checked cloth.

I recommend using cold butter when you are mixing the butter into the flour. You want the consistency of wet sand, not dough. To achieve this, use your just fingertips; your warm palms will melt the butter. You could use an electric mixer and pastry blender if you have particularly hot hands. 

Please be sure not to over knead the cookie dough as it will become tough. 

If you live in a particularly hot climate, you might need to pop the dough into the refrigerator for a short time so that it doesn’t become sticky. If the dough is particularly sticky add a little extra flour to bring it to the correct consistency.

FAQ

What are Italian S Cookies?

These cookies are simple and delicious Sicilian cookies that are now found all over Italy. The name S Cookies (or biscotti esse – as they are known in Italian) comes from their classic S shape. They are most commonly enjoyed for breakfast with milky coffee or strong espresso. 

What is Italian breakfast food?

You won’t find bacon and eggs (or almost any savory foods) in Italian homes for breakfast. Instead, it is quite a light meal, featuring homemade simple cakes and cookies or pastries purchased from the local pastry shop. These are always accompanied by a large mug of warm milk or cappuccino to dunk a piece of cake, cookies or pastries into.
I know what you’re thinking – cookies for breakfast?! But homemade, quality cookies are not all that bad for you. Especially this recipe which features only good wholesome ingredients and no preservatives or artificial colorings. 

Why are Italian cookies dry?

Traditionally, Italian cookies are more dry, crispy and crunchy than a classic chewy cookie because they are designed to withstand a dunking! My recipe is the perfect example of a classic Italian cookie that is made to be dunked in a warm drink or sweet wine. 

Serving

Typically Italian S Cookies are breakfast cookies that are excellent served with a coffee alongside my Nutella Bread for Spanish Almond Cake. Otherwise, you could serve them on a Christmas cookie platter with my Italian Sesame Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies or Lemon Biscotti

Made this recipe?
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Italian S Cookies piled onto a small white cake stand.

Italian S Cookies Recipe

These traditional Italian cookies have a lovely lemon flavor, a little bit of vanilla and are sweetened with just the right amount of sugar. As they are a dry (but not too dry) cookie, they're ideal dunked in a coffee for breakfast or enjoyed on their own as part of a cookie platter or afternoon tea.
4.99 from 51 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes
Servings:48 cookies
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour 375 grams (See Note 1)
  • 4 ounces cold unsalted butter 1 stick/115 grams (cut into small pieces)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 200 grams
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • 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, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, lemon zest salt.
  • Use a fork to whisk together the eggs and gradually bring in and incorporate the other ingredients and 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.
  • 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 inch (10 cm) long sticks and form the shape of an “S”.
  • Transfer the cookies to a prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  1. 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.
Tips for Success
  • Use cold butter and just the tips of your fingers when combining the butter into the flour.
  • Please be sure not to over knead the cookie dough. 
  • If your kitchen is warm, the dough may be sticky. In this case, pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes to cool. 
  • If still too sticky, add a little flour.
Scroll back and read the post for lots more hints, tips and information!
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 65kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 27mg | Potassium: 29mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 69IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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.

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Recipe Rating




30 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Perfection!! I only changed to convection bake as my oven does better at distributing heat when there are multiple pans in the oven. I set it at 325 degrees (convection bake) and I kept adding time (from 8 minutes to a total of 13 minutes). While they didn’t brown like yours did, they were absolutely perfect! Just a tiny browned on top and bottom but perfectly baked. Will make again for sure! Family loved them!!

    1. That’s great, Irene! My family loves these too. Yes, every oven is different. You obviously know your oven very well. Thank you for your feedback!

  2. 5 stars
    These cookies are fabulous! Just right for coffee or tea! Fun to make and very forgiving. I’m lazy so I put all the dry ingredients, except the sugar, and pulsed them in my food processor. I dumped the flour mixture into a large bowl, stirred in the sugar, the followed your instructions to add the eggs and flavorings. They took a bit longer in my oven, it’s difficult to tell the precise temperature in mine. They came out great! Just what I was looking for in a breakfast cookie! Although I might eat them all day. Thanks for the great recipe! I’m looking forward to trying more of your recipes.

    1. Yes, Caroline! S cookies are perfect for breakfast! Ovens vary so it’s good to keep an eye on them and adjust the timing depending on your oven. I’m glad you loved the recipe! Thank you for your details and lovely comment!

  3. I have found many Italian cookie reciepes call for either butter or lard. Can you please tell me when it states lard, do they mean margarine or crisco? My mother used to always refer to margarine as lard. Than you!

    1. I would use lard (animal fat usually pork). While I love the texture it gives to cookies, I’d rather use butter. I don’t use margarine in my cookies but I know that was common in years gone by. Hope that helps.

  4. I’ve tried this recipe twice and I love the flavor but I am struggling with the dough. There doesn’t seem to be enough moisture from the two eggs to bring it together. What can I do to help this? One time I added and extra egg and it changed the texture. I’m perplexed! 🙏🏼

    1. Thanks for reaching out, Sharon. Firstly check that the flour is measured correctly. I think the ratio could be out. Weighing the flour is ideal. If not the correct way to measure the flour is to first stir the flour to lighten it, then spoon the flour into the measuring cup without packing it in. If this isn’t the problem then I suspect it is the different climate we live in. The climate here is very humid so the flour would act differently than if the climate is dry and cold. Reduce the amount of flour to 2 1/2 cups and use the same amounts of the remaining ingredients. The dough should be firm. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more of the flour. I hope this helps and you get to enjoy this delicious Italian cookie!

  5. 4 stars
    I had a little trouble with extra flour that fell into the bowl so I doctored it and it was a success! I wanted to add my picture. Very pleased with the outcome! thank you ❤️

    1. I’ve love to see a picture of your S Cookies. You can email them to me marcellina[at]marcellinaincucina[dot]com my email address is also in the “Contact Me” details at the bottom of every page. Thank you for coming back to comment, Helena!

  6. 5 stars
    Recreating our beloved Italian mother’s S cookies became one of our pandemic projects, and my husband played around with many combinations of ingredients. This is THE recipe! It’s a dry (but not too dry), sweet (but not too sweet), and easy-to-eat cookie on its own or dipped in coffee. The lemon is a nice touch, too.

    1. This is the most heart warming comment ever! I’m so glad to have helped you find THE recipe for S Cookies. I’ve played around with this one to get it just right and my family gives it the thumbs up too!

  7. My Sicilian nonna would make the S cookies. I loved helping her make them. Want to make these!
    grazie
    Michele

  8. What fun to have S cookies Marcellina. I don’t tend to eat sweet things for breakfast, but these would be perfect for me later in the day. Although in Lisbon and Rome I remember eating something sweet with our morning coffee for brekkie. Looks like a great recipe.

    1. Thank you for sharing. Unfortunately, these did not turn out for me. The dough was too dry to come together, and it was too late to reduce the flour when I saw your suggestion about cold/dry climates in the comments. Perhaps you could add the suggestion in the recipe notes in case others are making these cookies in the winter? I will try again!

      1. Yes, that seems to be a problem with some bakers. I also think that it is very important to measure the flour correctly. Weighing is the best but following my method for measuring with cups is a good alternative. Did you measure the flour correctly? This is often the case when a recipe turns out too dry. Thank you for your suggestion. Do try again. These are a lovely simple cookie that we love to have all year round.

  9. You’re bringing my back to my childhood, Marcellina! My grandmother Angelina used to make these cookies, only she formed some into rings and others into S’s. Either way, though I loved them, especially as you point out, with my morning coffee. In fact, I wish I had some right now…

      1. 5 stars
        I made a batch of these S cookies today. I remember my grandmother making them. She also made them in different shapes like the Figure 8 or a zero. They are perfect for dunking. Nice recipe.

          1. Hi, I just made a batch of these S cookies. The taste is wonderful, but I too had a bit of a problem rolling the dough. Seems to fall apart a bit. I will take your suggestion that you gave to another and try with a little less flour. I’ll be making all different types of cookies for my granddaughter’s Christening and these will be one of them; with a sign that says S is for “Sofia”.

            avb

            1. Check your measurements especially check how you measure the flour. You need to stir and spoon the flour into the cups. Alternatively reduce the amount of flour. Congratulations to Sofia on her christening day.