If you’re pining for the perfect companion to a cup of coffee, look no further than the Italian S Cookie. These lemon-infused buttery biscuit-like cookies are easy to make and a must for any holiday cookie platter!

Closeup of an Italian s cookie in white plate.


Italian S Cookies, or biscotti di esse, are lightly sweet biscuit-like cookies flavored with vanilla and lemon.

Some sources state they originate from Northern Italy, specifically the region of Friuli-Venezia, while other sources trace the S Cookie roots to Sicily.

While their origin lacks clarity, there’s no arguing that these cookies are delicious (and easy)!

Similar in taste and texture to sesame-coated reginelle cookies, Italian S cookies are even better when paired with a cup of coffee, latte, or cappuccino.

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: vanilla, sugar, salt, baking powder, lemon, eggs, flour, and butter.
  • Flour. All-purpose flour (I use King Arthur’s brand) should be used for Italian S Cookies.
  • Butter. Unsalted, cubed, and at room temperature.
  • Eggs. 2 large eggs at room temperature for the cookie dough.
  • Lemon zest and vanilla. These are the two main flavoring agents in S cookies. If you prefer an anisette-flavored cookie, you can add 1-2 teaspoons of anise extract and eliminate the lemon.
  • Egg yolks and turbinado sugar. Along with water for the egg wash, which is optional.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. In a small bowl whisk together 2 large room-temperature eggs, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. (Photo #1)
Italian S cookies recipe collage group one showing beating of egg and vanilla, and breaking butter with hands into flour in bowl.
  1. To a large bowl add 3 1/4 cups (400g) of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 cup (200g) of granulated sugar, and 12 tablespoons (170g) of cubed unsalted room temperature butter. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until small crumbs form. (Photo #2)
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix with a fork or your hands just until combined. (Photo #3)
Collage two showing mixing egg into flour and plastic wrap around formed dough ball.
  1. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, then use your hands to knead gently for a few seconds to form a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (Photo #4)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375f and set the rack to the middle level. Line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the S cookie dough from the fridge and use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to divide it into quarters. (Photo #5)
Collage three showing cutting of dough ball into quarters and forming lengths of dough in hands.
  1. Remove a chunk of dough and use your hands to roll it into a 1/2 inch thick by 5-inch long rope. (Photo #6) Note: If the dough is too crumbly simply let it warm up for 10-15 minutes or so. Rolling it in your hands will further warm it up and make it more pliable.
  2. Use your hands to shape each rope into an “S” and place each one onto a baking sheet spaced 2-3 inches apart. Repeat for the remaining dough. If using the optional egg wash, beat together 2 teaspoons of water and 2 large egg yolks and use a pastry brush to brush the mixture on each cookie, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. (Photo #7)
Collage four showing brushing of egg onto s cookies and baked cookies.
  1. Bake for 13-18 minutes or until golden brown. Let the S cookies rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further. (Photo #8) Enjoy!

Top tips

  • Don’t overmix. Mix the dough just enough until the ingredients are combined. Overmixing can lead to tough cookies.
  • Use a scale. When it comes to baking anything, pizza, bread, cookies, cakes, etc., a kitchen scale is one of the most useful tools. Measuring ingredients like flour by weight yields a more accurate and consistent product each time. Using cups and volume measurements are vulnerable to humidity, packing, spoon and leveling, and other variables.
  • Chill the dough. S cookie dough definitely needs to be chilled prior to shaping and baking. Do not skip this step.
Baking tray and screen with cookies.

Here are a few of my favorite Italian cookie recipes I grew up with. They’re loaded with flavor and nostalgia, and a must for any holiday (especially Christmas)!

  • Cuccidati – shortcrust cookies filled with figs, nuts, and chocolate and topped with a glaze and nonpareils.
  • Pizzelle – delicious ultra-thin waffle-like cookies dusted with powdered sugar.
  • Pignoli – a classic Sicilian cookie made with almond paste and pine nuts.

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Italian S Cookies

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
refrigerating time: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 36 cookies
Italian S cookies have a light and buttery texture, are flavored with lemon and vanilla, and are the perfect shape for dunking into a cup of coffee!

Ingredients 

  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups (400g) all-purpose flour
  • 12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter cubed and room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For egg wash (optional)

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl whisk the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.
  • In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, butter, and sugar until small crumbs form.
  • Make a well in the middle of the large bowl, then add the contents of the small bowl and mix until just combined.
  • Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then knead gently for a few seconds until a ball forms. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375f and set the rack to the middle level. Line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into quarters. Take a portion of the dough and roll an approximately 1/2" thick by 5" long rope. Form an "S" shape and place it onto the baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining dough.
  • Optional – brush the cookie with the egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  • Bake for 13-18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cookies rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to further cool. Enjoy!

Notes

  • It is recommended to use a scale to weigh the flour since a packed cup of flour could equal as high as 170g while a fluffed and spooned cup could equal just 120g.  That is a massive variation!
  • Don’t overwork the dough, just combine it gently with a few seconds of kneading or until it comes together.  Over-kneading will make tougher cookies.
  • S cookies can be saved for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Nutrition

Calories: 100kcal | Carbohydrates: 14.2g | Protein: 1.5g | Fat: 4.2g | Saturated Fat: 2.5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 62mg | Potassium: 45mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 5.6g | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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6 Comments

  1. Look good. An Italian baker I used in my catering business made a similar cookie rolled in sesame seeds. Is this the same cookie without the seeds?

        1. Hi Safia, we haven’t tested this recipe using olive oil in place of the butter so cannot say for certain how it would turn out. If you do try it, let us know.