Pignoli Cookies

These holiday cookies have everything going for them - they are cute, easy to make AND delicious!

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Looking down on pignoli cookies on a silver tray with white and red napkins.

What are Pignoli Cookies?

A pignoli cookie is a chewy almond cookie with a crisp exterior edge that is studded with pine nuts (“pignoli”). It is a very popular cookie in Sicily and Southern Italy and frankly in most Italian-American or Sicilian-American communities. Of all the holiday cookies on platters around the holidays, pignoli cookies might be one of the easiest to make and they are flourless, which will please your friends who are gluten-free and looking at all the rest of the cookies on the holiday platter with envy.

Ingredients on a cutting board - almond paste, pine nuts, an orange with a zester, an egg with a bowl of egg white, sugar, a paring knife and a mini chopper.

What is Almond Paste?

Almond paste is the key ingredient in pignoli cookies. It’s a paste made of ground almonds and sugar along with a binding agent (often egg white). You’ll find almond paste in a box or a tube in the baking aisle, next to the marzipan. In fact, almond paste and marzipan are sometimes confused for each other, but marzipan is quite a bit sweeter than almond paste and doesn’t hold up in baking the way almond paste does. As a result, the two are not interchangeable in this recipe. You will need almond paste.

Looking down on a sheet pan partially filled with pignoli cookies next to a plate of pinenuts and a bowl of cookie dough.

How to Make Pignoli Cookies

To make pignoli cookies, you simply pulse almond paste in a food processor until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add the sugar and blend. Then add egg whites, a pinch of salt and the zest of an orange and purée again. That is your pignoli dough. Scoop out portions (a small ice cream scoop is perfect for this) and then roll it in the pine nuts, leaving one side uncovered. Place the uncovered side down on your parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 350˚F for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cookie are lightly browned. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. When they have cooled completely, dust with powdered sugar if you like.

Looking down on pignoli cookies cooling on a cooling rack.

How Long do Pignoli Cookies Last?

Well, that really depends on you, doesn’t it? 😉 They don’t last long in my house, but then no cookie stands a chance in my house. If you have good self-control, pignoli cookies can be stored in an airtight container for a week or two. 

Looking down on pignoli cookies on a cooling rack, dusted with powdered sugar over a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and a fine strainer of powdered sugar.

Freezing Pignoli Cookies

You could also freeze pignoli cookies if you prefer. Maybe you’re like me with low cookie self-control and the freezer is the best storage option. In that case, don’t dust the cookies with powdered sugar, but freeze them in airtight containers or bags and dust after they have thawed completely. They should last a few months in your freezer, but again… that depends on you!

Pignoli cookies dusted with powdered sugar on a marble countertop with a few on a green checkered bev napkin.

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Pignoli Cookies

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 30 m
  • Servings:


  • 14 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • Powdered sugar for dusting optional


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Crumble the almond paste in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the almond paste is broken up into coarse crumbles. Add the sugar and process until the sugar is incorporated into the almond paste. Add the egg whites, salt and orange zest and process until the dough is smooth.
  3. Place the pine nuts on a small plate. Roll the dough into balls about 1½ tablespoons in size. Roll the top and sides of the ball into the pine nuts, leaving the bottom of the ball uncovered with nuts. Place the dough balls, nut sides up, three inches apart on the parchment paper and transfer the baking sheets to the oven.
  4. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned and soft to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.
  5. When cookies are completely cooled, dust lightly with powdered sugar if desired.
  6. Store in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze (without the powdered sugar) for up to 3 months.
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