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!
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 bottom of the page.
- 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.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
- 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 beat the eggs and gradually bring in and incorporate the flour mixture. Use your hand to bring the dough together and form a ball.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Top Tips and FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 S Cookies Recipe
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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.
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! 🙏🏼
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!
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 ❤️
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!
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.
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!
My Sicilian nonna would make the S cookies. I loved helping her make them. Want to make these!
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.
Yes, Pauline, these are also perfect for a little snack during the day!
Frank | Memorie di Angelina
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...
S Cookies were a huge part of my childhood too, Frank! I just love them!
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.
Thanks for taking the time to let me know that you loved the recipe! Yes, my husband's nonna did that too.
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".
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.