Attention all bakers! You'll be surprised at how easy it is to make these delicious Italian almond cookies (soft amaretti). The recipe requires just a handful of ingredients and is made in 3 different flavors. Also known as ricciarelli or Italian macaroons, these cookies are gluten free and perfect for the holidays, especially Christmas.
Being on the list with our best Mediterranean recipes, these soft amaretti cookies (or amaretti morbidi) are truly incredible. Featuring crispy edges and chewy, marzipan-like interior, they're much better than the crispy amaretti version.
In Italy they're often called "paste di mandorla" which roughly translates to almond paste cookies. Their snowy appearance (due to being rolled in powdered sugar before baking) makes them the perfect Christmas cookies!
If you love Italian desserts, I have a feeling that you'll also want to make this easy jam tart recipe (Italian crostata di marmellata) with olive oil. And if you prefer baking cookies instead, make sure to try these 4-ingredient peanut butter cookies (also gluten free) and these simple vegan almond biscotti.
😍 Why I love this recipe
✓ Quick, easy and simple: With just a few ingredients and 4 easy steps you can have these traditional Italian cookies ready in just 40 minutes.
✓ Delicious: No one can resist to their flavor and chewy texture!
✓ Gluten free and dairy free
✓ Versatile: You can make different flavors of these chewy amaretti (like matcha-lime or coffee-hazelnut), you can add a maraschino cherry on top, or omit the icing sugar and roll them in flaked almonds.
To make these Italian almond cookies you'll need the following ingredients:
Egg whites. They should be at room temperature because they will whip up faster.
Almond flour. Also known as almond meal, it will give the cookies the traditional texture. You can also use blanched ground almonds (grind them in your food processor or a heavy duty blender, but stop before they turn into paste, otherwise you'll end up with homemade almond butter instead).
This recipe for homemade almond flour by foolproofliving provides all the needed details.
White sugar. Caster or granulated sugar will do. Don't use another type of sweetener because it will alter the taste or the texture of the cookies.
Icing sugar. Also known as powdered sugar. This is used for rolling the cookies before baking.
Almond extract. Made from bitter almonds, it gives gives the cookies their signature flavor (which makes them irresistible!).
What can you do the leftover yolks?
Alternatively you can freeze them for later use. This article for How to Freeze Leftover Egg Yolks (by thespruceeats.com) has some useful tips for how to do this the right way.
For this recipe I thought it would be useful to show you two different flavors even though the almond flavor of the traditional amaretti is my favorite one.
Matcha and lime (or lemon): A combination of matcha tea and lime zest is a refreshing variation. Matcha is not a traditional Italian ingredient but it gives a beautiful color to the interior of the amaretti. Instead of lime zest, you can also use lemon or orange zest. In fact, almond orange cookies (often called ricciarelli) are very loved in Italy.
Hazelnut - Coffee: I have tested this recipe with ground hazelnuts and a bit of coffee because coffee flavor pairs very well with the taste of hazelnuts. I used freshly brewed espresso, so more ground hazelnuts were required to compensate for the added moisture.
Other interesting variations:
With cherry on top. You can make another popular variation of these cookies by omitting the powdered sugar and placing a Maraschino cherry on top. Or you can place the cherries inside the cookies like a filling. These Italian cherry cookies can also be made with amarena cherries (a type of small, sour and dark colored Italian cherry).
Almond crescent cookies. Sicilian almond paste cookies can also be shaped like small crescents (however, this shape is more commonly used for Italian shortbread almond cookies). If you want to further differrentiate them, you can roll them in flaked almonds (instead of powdered sugar) before baking.
Follow this easy step by step guide to make the best soft amaretti cookies every time.
Step 1: Transfer the egg whites and the salt to the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on high until soft peaks form (you can also do that by hand, using a whisk).
Step 2: Add the almond extract and the vanilla and mix well. Smell the mixture and if the almond flavor seems too weak, add some more almond extract.
Step 3: Add the sugar and the almond flour and mix well with a spatula until a dough is formed. It may be a little sticky but that's normal.
Step 4: Transfer some icing sugar to a shallow plate. Take heaped tablespoons of dough the size of a small walnut (about 25 grams / 0.88 oz). Shape the cookies into small balls by rolling them between your hands. Transfer the balls to the icing sugar and roll them to coat well.
Step 5: Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and press them gently to flatten them a bit (you can do this by hand or use the back of a cup). Bake for 22-25 minutes.
👨🍳 Expert Tips
✤ Almond flavor is the signature flavor of these Italian gluten free biscuits. Because the potency can differ depending on the brand, always smell the cookie dough and adjust the quantity of the almond extract to your preference.
✤ In many cookie recipes with a sticky dough it is advisable to slightly wet your hands before shaping the cookies. In this recipe I DON'T advise to do that because the extra moisture can dampen the powdered sugar coating.
✤ Use room temperature egg whites because they will whip up much faster.
These Italian almond cookies will last for at least 5-6 days when stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
You can freeze amarreti cookies after they're baked, but you can also freeze the dough before baking.
Split the dough into individual cookies and omit the step of rolling them into icing sugar. Flash freeze them and wrap each portion. Thaw the portion you need and roll in icing sugar before baking.
I prefer freezing the dough rather than the baked cookies, because this way they are a tad fresher.
In Italian, the word amaretti is derived from the word amaro, which means bitter. In fact, the true authentic taste of amaretti cookies, comes ground bitter almonds (though nowadays almond extract is more commonly used).
Some recipes also use amaretto Disarono liqueur (or another almond liqueur).
Ground apricot kernel seeds will also give a very similar flavor to that of bitter almonds, so if it's easier for you to source these you can use a 1-2 tablespoons after you finely process them in your food processor.
(Please talk with your doctor before eating apricot kernel seeds. Though they can have some health benefits, over-consumption can cause cyanide poisoning).
Amaretti cookies are usually served with espresso coffee. They can also be served with dessert wines such as Vin Santo, Marsala or the bubbly Moscato D' Asti.
The soft kind are also known as amaretti morbidi. They have a crispy, crackled outside and a chewy interior.
The crunchy ones are made with the same ingredients but they're usually smaller and they're baked for longer time until they are golden brown with a crunchy texture.
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If you tried this Italian Almond Cookies Recipe (Soft Amaretti) or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
Easy Italian almond cookies recipe - soft amaretti
For the basic almond amaretti recipe:
- 2 (60 g) egg whites (at room temperature)
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cups (130 g) white sugar
- 2 cups (200 g) almond flour
- icing sugar for coating
- Preheat your oven to 325°F (160°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Transfer the egg whites and the salt to the bowl of your electric mixer and beat on high until soft peaks form. You can also do that by hand using a whisk.Add the almond extract and the vanilla and mix well. Smell the mixture and if the almond scent seems too weak, add another ¼ of a teaspoon almond extract.
- Add the sugar and stir until combined. Then add the almond flour and mix well with a spatula until a soft dough is formed. It may be a little sticky but that's okay.
- Transfer some icing sugar to a shallow plate. Take heaped tablespoons of dough the size of a small walnut (about 25 grams / 0.88 oz).Shape the cookies into small balls by rolling them briefly between your hands. Transfer the balls to the icing sugar and roll them to coat well.
- Transfer them to the baking sheet and press them gently to flatten them a bit. Bake for 22-25 minutes. You don't want them to brown.Let them cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Baking time will depend on the size of the cookies. Smaller cookies will need less baking time while larger cookies will need more.
- Depending on the brand of your almond extract you may need to increase it to ½ a teaspoon.
- Use room temperature egg whites because they will whip up much faster.