Pignoli cookies are a classic Sicilian cookie that’s soft and chewy on the inside and studded with pine nuts (pignoli) on the outside. Made with almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and pignoli, these are one of the easiest cookies to make, and eat!
As a kid, I can recall pignoli cookies being on almost every dessert table for every holiday.
I always gravitated toward the pignoli for their almond flavor and chewy texture but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how incredibly easy they are to make.
With just 4 ingredients, 5 if you count the optional confectioner’s sugar, pignoli cookies are proof that delicious treats do not need to be complicated!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Preheat the oven to 350f and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay 1 1/2 cups (200g) pine nuts (pignoli) on a plate and set aside. Crumble 16 ounces (454g) of almond paste into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 1 cup (200g) of granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until combined (about 2 minutes).
- Add 2 large room-temperature egg whites (about 60g) and continue to beat on medium for 2 minutes longer until a dough is formed. The dough will be quite sticky. Using a cookie scoop, make tablespoon-sized dough balls and roll them between your hands as you would a meatball. If needed, dip your hands into a small bowl of water to help prevent sticking. Place the balls onto a cookie sheet and continue rolling until there is no more dough.
- Roll the dough balls in the pignoli to coat lightly and transfer to a baking sheet.
- Using the back of a spoon, or a flat-bottomed glass or jar, gently press the balls slightly to help the nuts adhere to the cookie. Do not completely flatten them. Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown.
- When the cookies are done they’ll be slightly golden but still soft and springy in the center. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- If desired, lightly dust the cookies with confectioner’s sugar once the cookies have cooled completely. Serve and enjoy, or store for later in an airtight container.
Top tips for perfect pignoli cookies
- Prepping the ingredients. When preparing to make pignoli cookies, it’s best to use room-temperature ingredients. Removing the egg whites from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to using them The pine nuts do not need to be toasted ahead of time like you’d do when making pesto. The 15+ minutes they’ll spend in the oven will toast them up perfectly.
- The dough. Pignoli dough is super sticky! This is why I strongly suggest you use a cookie scoop as it will remove the dough from the spoon, and always create uniform-sized cookies. Keeping a small bowl of water to dip your hands in will also help with the stickiness.
- Pine nuts. Pignoli are not the cheapest cookie to make. These cookies are typically sold by the pound in Sicilian bakeries and they can be quite expensive! The almond paste is expensive as are the pignoli nuts. When rolling the dough in the nuts we rolled them on all sides but you can definitely just roll on the top side if you’re low on pignoli. Costco usually has a great price on pignoli, as does Trader Joe’s if you have one nearby. If possible, avoid buying the tiny jar of pignoli nuts from the regular grocery store as it’s not economical at all.
- Cook time. The cooking time for these cookies will vary depending on your oven. Begin checking for doneness at the 15-minute mark knowing that they may need a few more minutes. All ovens are different but we found that 15-17 minutes worked best in our conventional oven. For convection ovens, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and begin checking for doneness at the 75% mark. The cookies should be lightly brown or golden and slightly soft in the center.
More of our favorite desserts
- Flourless chocolate cake – just 5 ingredients and naturally gluten-free, just like these pignoli cookies.
- Orange olive oil cake – olive oil and bright citrus flavor in this delicious moist cake.
- Tiramisu – Layers of espresso-dipped lady fingers and a zabaglione-mascarpone cream topped with cocoa powder.
- Walnut snowball cookies – the easiest walnut cookies tossed in powdered sugar.
If you’ve enjoyed this pignoli cookie recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.
- 16 ounces (454g) almond paste sliced
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 2 large (60g) egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups (200g) pignoli nuts
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar optional, for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 350f and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the pignoli out on a plate and set aside.
- Crumble the almond paste into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until combined (about 45 seconds).
- Add the egg whites and beat on medium until the dough is formed (about 2 minutes). The dough will be quite sticky.
- Using a cookie scoop, make tablespoon-sized dough balls and roll them between your hands. If needed, dip hands in water to help prevent sticking.
- Roll the balls in the pignoli to coat lightly and transfer to a baking sheet. Using a spoon or the bottom of a glass, press the balls slightly to help the nuts adhere to the cookie, then place in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes. The cookies will be lightly brown but still slightly soft in the center.
- Move the cookies to wire racks to cool completely before serving or storing. If desired, sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
- The dough is extremely sticky. Keeping a small bowl of water on the side to dip your hands will help tremendously. Also, a cookie scoop comes in extremely handy here.
- The confectioner's sugar used is optional and is for decorative purposes only.
- Pignoli cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.