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!

Pignoli cookies on red plate.

As a kid, I can recall pignoli cookies being on almost every dessert table for every holiday.

Most of the time they were purchased from the Italian bakery and placed alongside rainbow cookies, Italian almond cookies, reginelle, ricotta cookies, cannoli, and a whole host of others.

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!

Ingredients shown: egg whites, sugar, flour, pignoli nuts, and almond paste.

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.  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).

Pignoli cookies recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. 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.
  2. Roll the dough balls in the pignoli to coat lightly and transfer to a baking sheet.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. 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.

Baked pignoli cookies on grey wire rack.

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.

Pignoli cookies with bite in black plate.

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.

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Pignoli Cookies

5 from 15 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 36 cookies
Pignoli cookies are a classic Italian cookie made with almond paste, sugar, egg whites, pine nuts, and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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!

Notes

  • 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

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 121kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 7.4g | Saturated Fat: 0.6g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 11.2g | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg

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

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5 from 15 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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41 Comments

  1. Bea Pascucci says:

    My favorite cookie is Pignoli cookies I purchased the nuts in BJ’s. Could not find almond paste anywhere. Amazon has 7 oz 3pack I ordered 4 giving me 28oz. Can I make two batches ? Using 14 oz instead of 16? It’s expensive ingredients and I want them to come out perfect. Ty 🐝

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Bea, thanks for the comment. For best results, I recommend following the recipe as written using the 16 ounces of paste. I haven’t tested the recipe using 14 ounces so cannot say for sure how they’ll turn out.

  2. Kathleen a Kolb says:

    I have been absorbing your information on your channel and loving it. Living in the south at this point in my life I miss Italian everything! Your stories remind me of my childhood growing up in a Polish home with most of my neighbors and friends Italian. Best of both food worlds. Brings back memories of my best friends house with the finished basement kitchen which always had something wonderful cooking. I have made many of your recipes, two of my favs are the eggplant and chicken saltimbocca, yum. The frozen pizza taste tests with your family is interesting as I find most of them quite bad and enjoy making my own as it is one of my favorite foods. Today I am making these cookies which I anticipate will come out so tasty. I did venture out and made my own almond paste. So we shall see. Thank you and your wonderful family! Tara is so sweet and what can I say about James, so entertaining. Enjoying your podcast as well.

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Kathleen, thank you so much for the great comment. We’re so happy you’re enjoying the recipes, videos and podcast. Thank you for following along with us!

      1. Kathleen a Kolb says:

        5 stars
        Thanks for your response. The cookies came out really good except they did not have enough almond flavor as I had hoped for and that could by my fault as I made my own almond paste. I will try again with the commercial paste. We did eat them and they got better as they got a little older.

        1. Jim says:

          Hi Kathleen, I’m so happy you liked the cookies and really appreciate the comment. We haven’t tested this with homemade paste, but please let us know if you notice a difference when you make store-bought paste.

  3. Maria Affronti says:

    5 stars
    I enjoy all of your recipes. Your instructions are so easy to follow. You are a genuine cook and as a fellow Italian Long Islander, I love everything you cook. Thanks.

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Maria, so happy you’re enjoying the recipes and really appreciate the comment!

  4. L says:

    5 stars
    Easy instructions perfect outcome!

    1. Jim says:

      Thanks so much for the comment and I’m so happy you enjoyed the cookies!

  5. Anna says:

    Recipe is on point. Best one yet!

    1. Jim says:

      Thanks, Anna! So happy you liked it!

  6. Betty Keneally says:

    Hi Jim
    I have a request.. Can you show us some gluten free cookies and cakes.. Need them for the holidays.. Thank you in advance..Love all your recipes.. You’re the best! Merry Christmas!πŸŽ„

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Betty, thanks for the comment! These pignoli cookies are gluten-free as is my flourless chocolate cake (also on the website). You can probably also make the Italian cheesecake gluten-free by replacing the flour that’s in there with 1 to 1 GF flour (there’s only 1/4 cup of flour), although I haven’t tested it personally. Hope that helps, and Merry Christmas!

  7. Mary Ann Rivera says:

    Hi there!
    I love all of your recipes and wondered if you have any cookie recipes without nuts. We have always made them with nuts but my daughter has developed severe allergies to them.

    She is the baker and I am not. Would like to put together a recipe book for her. Thank you for any help that you can offer.
    Mary Ann

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Mary Ann, our lemon ricotta cookies don’t have nuts. The Linzer Cookies can be made without the almond extract (use vanilla extract instead). The almond biscotti can be made plain as well, just don’t add almonds. Our reginelle cookies have seeds (no nuts) and our pizzelles have no nuts. Hope this helps!

  8. Florence says:

    I’ve been looking for gluten-free cookie recipes – thanks for this. Will double check if almond paste is gluten-free

    1. Florence says:

      According to google almond paste is gluten-free

    2. Jim says:

      Hi Florence, yes these are gluten-free and in most cases, almond paste is gluten-free. I hope you enjoy these!

  9. Marianne says:

    5 stars
    I love your recipe their good & simple πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Marianne, thanks for your comment and so happy you liked the recipe!

  10. Alana Magliocco says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe.πŸ‘©β€πŸ³

    1. Jim says:

      You’re welcome! Thanks for the comment, Alana!