Typically made at Christmas, these Italian Lemon Knot Cookies-Taralli al Limone are soft and full of lemon flavor. One of our favorite Italian cookies!
My mom and I would bake these Taralli al Limone-Italian Lemon Knot Cookies every Chrtistmas! We would roll out the dough together into the little strands that would be shaped one after another into their familiar knotted shape. It didn’t matter if they weren’t perfect. And now my kids have learned how to bake them with me and with our friends that have Sicilian nonni (grandparents).
Originally posted December 2019 and republished December 2021. These cookies make Christmas even more festive! I wanted to share them here again with you!
Christmas baking is at a feverish pace here at our Italian baking headquarters. We are baking fiends after Halloween leading all the way up to the week of Christmas. One cookie that is a staple in our home is taralli al limone, or Italian lemon knot cookies.
Italian Lemon Knot Cookies-Taralli al Limone
You may know them as tarallucci, anginetti-Italian lemon drop cookies, and even Italian knot cookies. I remember having them as a little girl at various Italian friends’ houses during the holidays and have fond baking memories of making them as a young girl. We also make these Cuccidati-Sicilian Fig Cookies. This post has been updated from Dec 2016.
My Favorite Italian Christmas Desserts
These Italian Lemon Knot Cookies are part of our Favorite Italian Christmas Dessert series. Our favorite Calabrese Christmas sweets are my my Italian mother-in-law’s cherished Nocatole-Calabrian Sweet Fritters recipe and also the Pitta ‘Impigliata-Calabrian Fruit and Nut Pastries. One biscotti that is made every Christmas is our Hazelnut and Dried Cherry Biscotti. Soon there will be more to come to make a sweet Italian Christmas!
Nonno Sal used to have a famous local pizzeria and was quite the bread baker and sauce maker. He is a calm teacher every year letting his grandkids make the dough by themselves and he taught them to roll out the strands and shape the little rings. Nonno Sal and his wife are from a small town near Palermo and they make a different shape than what I learned how to make.
How to shape Italian Lemon Knot Cookies-Taralli al Limone?
- scoop out the dough portion
- measure it out (about 4-inches)
- shape into your little knot
- place on baking tray
Italian Lemon Knot Cookies all lined up on the baking tray ready to bake!
(See the photos below) Nonno Sal makes sometimes the criss-cross taralli instead of the small knotted shape. You could do it either way, although I prefer to make it like a round knot. But maybe this simpler shape is easier to try out first with your kids or grandkids. The recipe I’m sharing here is nonno Sal’s sister-in-law Maria’s recipe. I took a photo of the faded recipe and adapted it to my way of making it.
Sal’s grandkids made their cookie dough a bit differently, as there weren’t really any true directions on the recipe. They mixed all the wet ingredients by hand and then mixed the flour in, eventually working the dough together on the clean tabletop by hand. I was curious how their dough would turn out, but the texture was fine.
Can I use lemon extract in my Italian lemon knot cookies?
Honestly, no. The only thing that wasn’t a hit with their batch was nonno Sal bought a pure lemon extract and added it to the lemon glaze. The flavor tasted a little off, even though he assured us by showing us the bottle that it was all natural.
I make my cookies all the time with fresh lemon zest and juice. You can’t beat the flavor of fresh lemon juice. I like the dough to taste lemony as well and sometimes add the zest of 2 lemons to the dough (if I bought enough lemons). It’s always better to use organic if you can find them.
Tips on how to make Italian lemon knot cookies?
The dough is super easy to put together. But these baking tips will help you make the BEST Italian Christmas cookies!
- As I mentioned in the post, the kids even put it together by hand, without using a mixer. It doesn’t have any fancy steps and it is hard to mess it up.
- When the kids made the dough with their nonno, they didn’t even rest the dough in the fridge, they started baking the cookies right away and they turned out great!
- As for the lemon flavor, I like my cookies with more lemon flavor and even add lemon zest to the glaze. That is up to you if you want to add zest to the glaze.
- You can make it as lemony flavored as you like it, but be sure to use fresh lemon juice and if you can use organic for the zest, that is the best for this recipe.
Which holiday do they bake taralli in Italy?
Taralli are baked in Italy during Easter in the Southern part of the peninsula. In Sicily, they are baked even at Christmas time. In Sicily you can find them in different provinces and they could be flavored with orange instead of lemon and also with anise.
The taralli I have enjoyed in Sicily are made more like little ciambelle (little ring shapes)instead of knots. The last time I got to enjoy taralli in the winter time the year my dad passed away. We buried my dad in his hometown in Sicily. My cousin Alessio would take us to all of the best pastry shops in his town and around his town and we would try every Sicilian cookie and pastry.
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My in-laws have just arrived form Italy to visit us for Christmas. We will be making every sweet and savory Christmas dish from Calabria. Follow me along on my Instagram stories.
BUON NATALE! XX
Some other cookies to enjoy:
- Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies
- Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Cuccidati-Sicilian Fig Cookies
- Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Italian Lemon Knot Cookies-Taralli al Limone
- 4 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- zest and juice of one lemon I used organic
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus more if necessary
- zest of lemon
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the shortening and the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time; mix well.
- Beat in the milk and the juice of the lemon; mix well.
- Add the flour one cup at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the flour.
- Refrigerate the dough for one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Line 3 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.
- Scoop out dough a small portion at a time and roll dough to the length of your dough scraper (about 4-inch long).
- Shape into little rings (wrap one side over the other and tuck the ends under the bottom of the cookie).
- Place cookies spread apart on the sheets and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom. (every oven is different. Mine were done at about 13 minutes).
- Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
Lemon Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary). If it gets too thin, add a little more confectioners' sugar. Drizzle on each cookie, add the sprinkles and let set, about 15 minutes.
- Glaze cookies with lemon glaze and sprinkles.