These 5 ingredient Italian almond cookies (amaretti cookies) are such an easy recipe to make, and so delicious! They are also known as Sicilian almond paste cookies, paste di mandorla, and ricciarelli. Made with egg whites, sugar, almond flour, and almond extract, these cookies have the perfect combination of crispy edges and a soft, chewy center.
Every bite of these delightful cookies with a delicate almond flavor will transport you all the way to Sicily. The cookies are naturally dairy free and gluten free. These Italian almond cookies are also made with only 5 ingredients! Super easy to make and my entire family are so obsessed with these. They are also the perfect Italian Christmas Cookie Recipe.
As I'm writing this post, I actually have more amaretti baking in the oven, and it smells so magical!
I’m so happy to finally share nonna’s (AKA, my mom’s)recipe here with all of you! You have all showed lots of love for my Sicilian "S" cookies and my Cuccidati-Sicilian fig cookies.
These Sicilian themed recipes are all part of a series I put together almost 10 years ago when my Sicilian father passed away. You can see other recipes in my Project Sicilia area of our blog.
By sharing recipes my dad used to make, or even ones that he loved, it helps keep his memory alive for all of us. And we hope you enjoy these Sicilian recipes.
Different names for these Italian Almond Cookies
There are many different names for these cookies. In Tuscany they call them Ricciarelli, they are a speciality in Siena where they tend to make them during Christmas time. They are very soft.
Amaretti cookies, are practically the same thing. They can be found in Northern Italy. They are sometimes called "Italian Macaroons" and are also very soft and chewy. They are sometimes made using amaretto liqueur or almond extract.
Since this cookie can be found all throughout Italy, they are also a speciality in Siciliy. Paste di mandorla (or pasticcini di mandorla), happen to be one of Sicily’s most famous and beloved cookie.
Sicilian pastry chefs work the almond flour with honey to make the paste that forms into delightful bites. So you could make these cookies with sugar or with honey. For this recipe, we used granulated sugar mixed with the almond flour.
If you happen to be in Sicily (and even Calabria), you can find these lovely cookies. They are very often wrapped individually, which keeps them fresh for even a couple of weeks. In Sicily you can also find hazelnut and the very popular pistachio version.
Since these cookies are naturally gluten-free, it's a nice idea to bake them if you have any gluten intolerant friends stopping by for a coffee!
- This happens to a very easy cookie recipe. If you are a beginner baker, this is the cookie recipe you need to try!
- Naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.
- They freeze well – making them a great cookie recipe for making in advance – and they defrost quickly.
- Makes for the most perfect coffee or tea break. Delicious with coffee or as afternoon tea.
- A great recipe to use up any leftover egg whites.
- Most importantly, these almond cookies are just so tasty!
- Since they are so simple and they are sturdy, they are great to travel and to gift to anyone you love!
We are going to travel way back in time. All the way back to to the end of 1100, to a very famous convent in a church in Palermo called Martorana. A simple cookie with a very long history.
These lovely cookies are made with just 4 ingredients (full printable recipe below).
- Almond flour – which is also known as almond meal or ground almonds.
- Sea salt- Just a pinch of salt is all that's needed.
- Granulated sugar -these cookies are sometimes made with honey, we made this cookie with sugar.
- Almond extract – adds extra almond flavor and makes the cookies a little chewier.
- Egg whites – make sure your egg whites are room temperature. Use leftover yolks to make my homemade lemon curd or pastry cream.
- Confectioner's sugar – also known as icing sugar (or powdered sugar). Rolling the cookies in the powdered sugar makes them so ethereal and makes it almost look like snow.
One of the easiest cookie recipes I make(The full printable recipe is below):
- First, mix the almond flour with the granulated sugar.
- Second, get the egg whites + salt whisked together to form soft peaks (with a mixer, hand whisk, or even with a fork).
- Add in the almond extract to the egg whites.
- Finally, slowly add in the almond flour mixture to the egg white mixture. Fold together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Use your hands to shape your cookie balls and toss them in confectioner's sugar.
- Place them on the prepped baking sheets and bake!
- The dough could be mixed entirely by hand with a wooden spoon. You could even whip the egg whites with a fork.
- Almond paste dough may seem dry. The texture should be like an actual almond paste, so do not worry if it's thick. You could even work the dough together with your hands (it will just be sticky).
- Prep your pans ahead of time. I like to line with parchment paper and spray with baking spray. You could also use a Silpat mat.
- Stick to the baking time I suggest, keeping in mind that they should turn light golden brown on top and on the bottom. If you overbake them, they won't have the signature soft and chewy center. They're not supposed to be dry and crispy.
- As the cookies bake, they will spread a little (there is no baking soda or baking powder, but they do rise and spread a bit). As they spread, it cracks and the top turns a little opaque from the powdered sugar.
- The baking time could vary from oven to oven, and even to the size of the cookie balls you roll.
- Highly recommend staying nearby the oven and checking on them. Set the timer for 15 minutes at first, and see how they look. If you rolled them very small, they could be ready faster.
No, you do not need a mixer! All you need is a bowl and a wooden spoon. The egg whites could be whisked together with a fork. This almond cookie recipe is that easy!
The exact translation in Italian of "paste di mandorla" is almond paste.
The island of Sicily is full of the most amazing almonds! Almonds made their way to Sicily via the Middle East is about 1,000 BC. Almond trees are second in popularity to the olive tree. If you’re lucky enough to make it to Sicily, you may even witness an almond festival.
There happens to be one in February in Agrigento (which is very close to my father’s hometown, and happens to be when almond trees blossom.
Yes, you could double this almond cookie recipe. Great idea for the holidays. Wrap them nicely and gift to friends or anyone you love.
Ricciarelli and amaretti are both traditional Italian cookies, but they have distinct characteristics. Ricciarelli are almond-flavored macaroon-like cookies originating in the city of Siena. They are soft and chewy with a sugar-dusted exterior.
Amaretti, on the other hand, are crunchy, chewy cookies made with almonds and egg whites. They are even sometimes flavored with a hint of Amaretto liqueur or almond extract. The texture is much firmer than that of Ricciarelli, making them ideal for dunking in coffee or other beverages. Overall, very similar recipes.
Amaretto is a sweet, almond-flavored liqueur; while amaretti are cookies made with almonds and flavored with Amaretto liqueur or almond extract. In other words, Amaretto is the liquid that flavors amaretti cookies.
Let the cookies cool down completely. Once they have cooled, store them in a cookie jar, or an airtight container with a layer of wax or parchment paper in between the cookies. They could stay at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Yes, these almond cookies freeze very nicely. Let them cool completely. You could freeze them in a large zipped lock freezer bag (squeeze all the air out before sealing the bag) or an airtight container.
Use a layer of parchment paper in between layers of the cookies. Freeze for 2-3 months. Thaw to room temperature when you would like to enjoy!
Some other Sicilian recipes to enjoy:
- Sicilian Pasta with Ground Chicken
- Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies
- Sicilian Scacciata with Cauliflower
- Sicilian Pignolata-Italian Honey Balls
Did you make this? Please RATE THE RECIPE below:)
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Sicilian Almond Paste Cookies
FOR THE COOKIES
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg whites room temperature
- 1 tsp almond extract
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 ½ cups almond flour
FOR THE COATING
- ½ cup confectioner's sugar
- Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 350F. Prep baking sheet with parchment paper and baking spray.
- Combine dry ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the almond flour with the granulated sugar.
- Whisk egg whites: In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and the salt until soft peaks form. You could use an electric mixer, a hand whisk or a fork. Gently whisk in the almond extract.
- Make the dough: Start to add the almond flour mixture into the egg whites in portions, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition. The mixture will seem dry, but keep stirring. Since they are gluten-free, you won’t get tough cookies from overworking the dough. You could even use your hands to combine the dough together.
- Roll in confectioner's sugar: Place some confectioner’s sugar in a bowl or a plate (this is to roll the cookie balls into).
- Roll out the cookie balls: Using a tablespoon, a spoon, or a small scoop, take out portions of the dough and use your hnds to form the dough into small balls. The dough is very sticky, so you could prep your hands with either baking spray or lightly dust them with confectioner’s sugar to help roll out the balls.
- Cookie size: The cookies should be small, so you should roll out about 1 ½-2 dozen cookie balls. It’s about 1-inch round (if you have a scale, you could measure each ball to be precise in the size/weight. I make so many that I can tell the size by eyeing it and feeling the weight of each cookie).
- Coat the cookies: Roll the cookie balls coating the cookies very well with the confectioner's sugar.
- Place cookies on baking sheet: Arrange the cookie balls on your prepped baking sheets.
- Flatten gently: Gently flatten the cookie balls with the bottom of a glass or even a knife. They will crack a bit on the sides, and that is fine.
- Bake cookies: Bake for 15-20 minutes. The cookies will slightly rise and form some cracks. Check on them at 15 minutes (every oven is different). They should be golden brown. Take care to not overbake them.The cookies will still be a little soft. Just make sure they are golden brown on top and on the bottom.
- Cool down cookies: Set them aside to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
A really easy and delicious recipe! So happy to have another cookie recipe for my family that is gluten-free. Happy Holidays, girls!
I discovered these cookies by accident and learned so much from their history! was able to recreate the them easily and they came out so delicious everyone in my family loved them.
Thank you for sharing this amazing treat!
Hi Wendy-Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Really happy you enjoyed learning about the cookies and that your family enjoyed them! XX
The main reason why the cookies crack on top is because the egg whites expand when whisked. The compressed air has nowhere to go, but is released at the cookies’ thinnest point (the top) with the change in temperature as they cool.
Excellent recipe, my mom used to make them a similar way by adding a bit of shortening.
Hi Michael-Thanks for your scientific explanation. How interesting that your mom used to use shortening. Do you happen to have her recipe? Would love to try it out. Happy you like this recipe! Happy Baking!
Sel Runn says
ciao, my question is this, how much honey would be used in place of the sugar?
ciao Sel-You could replace the exact amount of sugar with honey. Hope you enjoy these special Sicilian cookies! Happy Baking! XX
My question is when do you add the almond extract? Does it get added to the whipped egg whites before adding in the dry ingredients?
Hi Randi, It gets added to the egg whites. Happy baking!
My favorite with coffee!!
Hi Lana-Thanks so much! They're so easy to make! Happy Holidays xx
Can you use plain flour with almond axtract?
Hi Dorothy, No...you cannot substitute the almond flour with all-purpose flour. The cookies won't be the same.
Made the Almond Cookies as part of my Christmas cookie platter. They came out perfect. I did toast some sliced almonds and put them on top of the cookies while the cookie was still warm. That way, everyone knows exactly what they are getting. My husband absolutely loves these and I have to keep hiding them so he doesn’t eat them all.
I also substituted Truvia for the granulated sugar and Swerve for the confectioners. I always try to keep the added sugars down to a minimum and no one can tell the difference.
Thank you for sharing.
Hi Karyn-Thank you for taking the time to let me know in your comment. So happy you enjoyed the recipe and also that you toasted some sliced almonds to put on top. How great that your hubby loves them so much (I have to hide them here, too!).
Thank you for letting me know about the sugar substitutes that worked for you. Happy Holidays to you and your family!! XX
I am truly blown away by the Nutrition information. 1176 calories!?! 161 carbs!?! Tell that is for the entire batch, not per cookie!
Hi Terese-YES, it was an error. The nutrition calculator calculated the nutrition as it was written (for 2 dozen). Now it's been adjusted and calculated per cookie...check it out as it makes better sense now :))) Hope that helps!
Tim Elliott says
Made these for a party and they were a big hit! Easy recipe, great results. Mi piache tutto cosi Italiano. Grazie
Hi Tim-Thank you so much for letting us know you enjoyed our almond cookies!! Happy Baking!