Lemon ricotta cookies are wonderfully airy, loaded with bright lemon flavor, and have just the right amount of sweetness.  Topped with a creamy glaze and nonpareils sprinkles, these Italian cookies are always a hit for the holidays!

Baking sheet with baked lemon ricotta cookies.

Lemon ricotta cookies, also known as Italian ricotta cookies are a favorite in our home.

Along with pignoli cookies, reginelle, pizzelle, biscotti, linzer tarts, struffoli, and many others, we make them every year for Christmas (we discuss a bunch of Christmas cookies in podcast 27), and again at Easter, but each time I make them I wonder why I don’t make them more often.  I often feel the same way about tiramisu, but I digress.

These cookies are incredibly easy to make, are loaded with wonderful citrus flavor, and remind me a bit of a mini Italian cheesecake (minus the effort).

Depending on the season I’ll top them with different colored nonpareils, or even lemon zest.

These ricotta cookies, much like our lemon blueberry ricotta cake and our orange olive oil cake, are a must for the citrus lover in your life!

Ingredients shown: flour, sprinkles, butter, baking soda, baking powder, lemons, ricotta, vanilla extract, sugar, and eggs.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350f and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium-sized bowl combine 4 cups (500g) of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside.

Lemon ricotta cookies recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream 1 cup (226g) of room-temperature butter and 2 cups (400g) of sugar on medium speed (about 2 minutes).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.  Add two eggs, 1 at a time,  and continue to beat on medium until incorporated.  Add 15 ounces (426g) of ricotta cheese, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of lemon zest and continue to beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.  Add the flour mixture a little at a time while beating on a low speed just until everything is incorporated.
  2. The dough will be quite sticky and thick.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, begin to drop 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls of the dough onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheets and place in the oven for 12-14 minutes.
  2. The cookies should be lightly golden on the edges.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Repeat the process for the remaining cookies.

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. When the cookies are cool, begin to make your glaze.  In a large bowl whisk together 2 cups (240g) confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup (57g) melted butter, 1/4 cup (85 grams) heavy cream, 1 pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until well combined and smooth. The perfect consistency is not runny but also not too thick.  If the mixture is too loose, add a bit more sugar; if it’s too thick, add a touch more cream.
  2. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and place back on the parchment paper to be decorated.

Recipe process shot collage group number four.

  1. Decorate each ricotta cookie with nonpareils sprinkles or lemon zest, if desired.  Be sure to do the decorating before the glaze hardens so that they stick and hold.  Allow the glaze to firm up before storing the cookies. Enjoy!

Wood board with assortment of lemon ricotta cookies.

Top tips for lemon ricotta cookies

  • The ricotta. Ricotta can be very wet depending on the brand you buy.  Brands like Galbani tend to be on the drier side and work better for this recipe.  If the ricotta you do have is very moist, draining it through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve for a few hours will help eliminate the extra moisture.
  • Ingredients. For the most part, when baking it’s important to use room-temperature ingredients unless otherwise noted.  Ingredients like the ricotta, butter, and eggs should be at room temperature as this will allow them to join together more easily and help them produce a better, fluffier cookie. There are instances where you want to use a cold ingredient, like when making a pasta frolla dough for an apple crostata, etc. you’d use cold butter.
  • The dough.  Lemon ricotta cookie dough is very sticky and can be hard to work with if you’re using a spoon to drop the cookies onto the baking sheet.  For this reason, I suggest using a cookie scoop as it makes the process so much easier.
  • Decorating. These cookies look great when decorated with the glaze and a sprinkle of lemon zest or nonpareils.  Depending on the time of year or venue you can certainly get creative with how you decorate the cookies.  Make sure to get the decorations on before the glaze firms up otherwise they won’t stick.  And be sure to let the glaze harden before packing the cookies up for storage.

Closeup of lemon ricotta cookie on black plate with bite taken out of it.

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Lemon Ricotta Cookies

5 from 24 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 14 minutes
Total: 34 minutes
Servings: 48 cookies
Lemon ricotta cookies are wonderful little cookies filled with bright citrus flavor and airy texture. Topped with a creamy glaze and sprinkles, these cookies are perfect around the holidays but good enough to eat all year long!

Ingredients 

For the cookies

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 15 ounces (426g) ricotta cheese drained and at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest plus more for decoration if desired
  • 4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the glaze and decoration

  • 1/4 cup (57g) butter melted
  • 2 cups (240g) confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup (85 g) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons sprinkles optional

Instructions 

For the cookies

  • Preheat your oven to 350f and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  • Add both eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat on medium until incorporated.
  • Add the ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and continue to beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  • Begin to add the flour mixture to the ricotta and butter mixture a little at a time while beating on a low speed until the mixture just until everything is incorporated. Don't overmix. The dough will be sticky and thick.
  • Using a scooper or spoon, begin to drop 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls of the dough onto the parchment paper and bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges.
  • Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

For the glaze and decoration

  • In a large bowl whisk together the confectioner's sugar, melted butter, heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract until well combined and smooth. The consistency should not be runny but not too thick where it won't spread. If the mixture is too loose, add more sugar until you achieve the desired consistency. If too thick, add a bit more heavy cream.
  • Once the cookies have completely cooled, begin to dip the top of the cookie into the glaze and add sprinkles or lemon zest, if desired.
  • Allow the glaze to firm up on the cookies before packing or storing. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Some ricotta brands are wetter than others.  It's a good idea to drain the ricotta through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve for a few hours to remove extra moisture.
  • The dough will be quite sticky.  Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop will help the scooping process.
  • If the glaze is too thin, add more sugar; if the glaze is too thick, add a little more cream.
  • Be sure to use the sprinkles or zest while the glaze is still wet. 
  • Allow the glaze to fully harden before storing the cookies. Placing them in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes can help speed up the process.
  • This recipe was written for a conventional oven.  For convection ovens, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and begin checking for doneness at the 75% mark.
  • Lemon ricotta cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for 3-4 days and up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 148kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 2.4g | Fat: 5.8g | Saturated Fat: 3.5g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 126mg | Potassium: 37mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 13.8g | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg

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

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5 from 24 votes (9 ratings without comment)

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47 Comments

  1. Heather P says:

    5 stars
    The pressure was on to please the family and this recipe delivered for my pickiest critic! Thank you!

    1. Rosalie says:

      I made these and your almond cookies for our Christmas Eve party and they were a big hit. I have made several of your recipes and your step by step instructions make all the difference. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

  2. Jill says:

    5 stars
    Just made these for the first time and wow are they delicious! My husband and I both love them. Next time I will add a little more lemon zest for a more punched up citrus flavor. Love your YouTube channel!!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Jill, we’re so happy you enjoyed and appreciate the comment!

  3. Pam Mineo says:

    5 stars
    Beat cookie recipe ever. My husband raved and raved about these cookies. So easy to make and the icing is fabulous. ♥️

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Pam, we’re so happy to hear you and your husband enjoyed the cookies and appreciate your comment!

  4. Mary Pennello Phelps says:

    5 stars
    These cookies are delish! The recipe was fairly easy and took me around 30 minutes.
    The first 36 cookies came out in balls and look like yours. The last dozen flattened. They are delicious but are not round. (Almost like they melted)

    I am going to glaze them when they are completely cooled. I don’t have heavy cream so am going to use HALF/HALF. I think it will work.

    Thanks for ALL your recipes…they are so much like my family recipes.
    Buona Natale~

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Mary, we’re so happy you enjoyed the cookies. With regards to the last batch that flattened, is it possible you placed them on a hot cookie sheet to bake? That could be the cause. Half and half should work just fine for the glaze.

      1. Mary Phelps says:

        5 stars
        Thank you Tara…could be! I never even thought of that! Love your entree recipes!

        Great cookie recipe!
        Mary

  5. Lori Rocheford says:

    Do you have any treats that are egg free? Our grandson is allergic. Love to see all your recipes!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Lori, our walnut snowball cookies are egg-free. Hope you and your grandson enjoy!

  6. Donna Galan says:

    5 stars
    Easy to follow and delicious- I used lemon zest in the cookies and fresh lemon squeezed in the glaze.

    1. Tara says:

      So happy you enjoyed, Donna!

  7. Stacey says:

    5 stars
    Delicious cookies with just the right hint of lemon! Wonderful, explicit directions, thank you so much!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Stacey, we’re so happy you enjoyed and really appreciate the comment!

      1. Essie says:

        The cookies are good but the icing will not harden. I followed the recipe exactly and am not a novice baker. I did a google search and it said that adding fat (butter) causes it to not harden. Is this true? Normally for a glaze I don’t add butter so I’m assuming that is the case. I tried putting them in the fridge and they’re still wet.

        1. Tara says:

          Hi Essie, thanks for the comment. The glaze for these cookies doesn’t completely harden the same way it would with a royal icing. That being said, it will harden enough for you to store them, especially if placed in the refrigerator.

  8. Marilyn Jankowski says:

    Hi Tara & Jim… we ABSOLUTELY LOVE your recipes. I’ve become addicted to your Utube Channel. We’re from East Northport but relocated to Clermont Fla. Our weekly menu consists of your delicious shrimp & lemon pasta. And I’ve made many other recipes. I have severe celiac disease and appreciate when you mention Gluten Free. Whaddya think. Could I use GF flour to make these?

    Thanks… Marilyn

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Marilyn, thanks for the comment and we’re so happy you’re enjoying the recipes! I haven’t tested this one with GF flour, but I have heard great things about King Arthur’s Measure for Measure for most baking recipes. If you give it a try, let us know how it turns out.

      1. Marilyn Jankowski says:

        Thanks for the response Tara. I’ll give it a try and let you know. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  9. Christine Karp says:

    5 stars
    These cookies are amazing! I just made my third batch (the first batch for Easter). I and my husband are kinda addicted to them. I did give some to my daughter, but they’re mostly eaten by us. This recipe makes A LOT of cookies, but I don’t foresee a day when I don’t have one, or two, or three. Thanks so much for this deliciousness!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Christine, I’m so happy you like the ricotta cookies! I agree, they are hard to resist. Thank you for the comment!

  10. Amy says:

    5 stars
    Made these last night and followed your specific (perfect for me) directions exactly and they came out delicious! I made them for my husband who likes Lemon flavored desserts and he loved them. They are the perfect amount of sweetness as you said. Everyone loves them. I will definitely try the tiramisu next. Thank you!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Amy, I’m so happy you enjoyed the cookies! Thanks for the comment and hope you enjoy the tiramisu as well!